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Note: The nails

I sat at the kitchen island with two fingers on my pulse. My husband William rubbed his biceps and kept stretching his back, so, every few minutes, it became parenthetical. The clippers were on the counter, open, unladylike, abandoned. I looked at them and nearly audibly felt my pulse quicken. I took a long sip of water and exhaled slowly, like they show you how to do in yoga so your breathing is liable to get whistly through your nose.

But it was done. Over.

The dog sat in his bed unabashedly licking his penis, in every way unfazed.

William got up and performed downward-facing dog pose.

My nose skirled like a bagpipe.

And so this is how it goes when little Mr. Fitz needs his nails clipped.

I’m not sure what we did wrong, but we definitely took a bad left-turn somewhere when it came to this part of dog-parenting. Fitz fights getting his nails cut with such ferocity William actually admitted last night he felt lucky he didn’t get his ear bitten off. He’s been like that since he was a baby-puppy and, now that I think about it, his nails were long when we picked him up the first day we got him.

It wasn’t until he was about eight months old that we really recognized what kind of problem we had on our hands (he’d largely been getting clipped at the vet when he’d get his shots). Basically, he will allow you to touch his nails, no problem; “Sure, mom, sure.” But as soon as he sees even the glint of the clippers, it’s like Whac-a-Mole with those paws. He’s also coupled this maneuver with wildly jumping upward in a fish-like fashion.

I’ve tried clicking and treating. I’ve tried touching the clippers to his claws but not cutting. I’ve even cut my own nails in front of him to show him how painless it is (pretty sure that experiment either went over his head or he had a good time laughing at how naive I am). We finally took him to the groomers to get a bath and a clip and were politely told that maybe we didn’t want to come back.

At any rate, the only way we’ve been able to get the job done is by holding him down and forcing the issue. Otherwise, he tip taps around the house like Fred Astaire and we’re forced to call him Mr. Clippety Cloppety.

The problem is, aside from my worry that long nails will hurt him and scratch the floors and furniture, is untidy nails are my biggest pet peeve. Ask poor, little Gabrielle Baker about it if you don’t believe me. Ever since she was little, I would grab the baby clippers and that little kid’s hands and get things trim and neat, yes sirree Bob. To this day — and she is 17 and, God bless her, she takes it — I still tell her to go upstairs and cut her nails or file them or do whatever she has to do to make her hands look like they’re ready to model blusher in a Revlon commercial.

It started back when I was in Brownies. I’m not sure if it’s still this way, but the beginning of the weekly meeting always started with a uniform and personal hygiene inspection.

Well, it was my first meeting and, earlier in the day, I had been playing with blue modeling clay. I hadn’t been extremely successful in my effort to shape my very own handsome prince (she was always boy crazy, that one), but I had had a good time. That good time had resulted in 10 blue crescent moons under my ratty nails.

The Brownie leader took one look at my hands and tsked so loudly it forced all the other girls to look too. I was devastated. Not only did I feel like Pig Pen, I could feel the woman’s judgment of my own mom, whom I fiercely wanted to protect.

Needless to say, I never again attended a meeting without my nails in perfect shape. Of course, my life as a Brownie didn’t last long — turns out I loved the badges on my sash more than I liked doing the activities to earn the badges — but the lesson was learned. No kid of mine would ever, ever have unkempt paws.

So, what to do with little Fitz-Bitz? Have any advice, dear readers? Because we are tired, war torn and, unlike his claws, stumped.

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