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Sniffing Around PetSmart With My Pup

After a move from North Jersey, this columnist views the sights, sounds, and tastes of Manalapan through fresh eyes.

My dog, she hates getting a shower. Every other week, me and her stand under the blasting warm water while I spread the shampoo over her wet dog hair. She stands still in the corner slightly shaking till it's all over. I tell her all the time while I'm spreading the shampoo through her hair that, afterwards, we'll get her a treat. Or treats. She looks up at me and turns her head like she's listening, like she understands.

So, today I tell her that I'll take her shopping since she's such a good girl. Maybe we'll even run into some other doggies and she can make a friend or two. After the shower, me smelling like wet dog and her smelling like wet human, we jump in the car and head to in Manalapan. . .to go shopping with my dog.

From the minute we pull into the parking lot she's all wagging tail and drooling mouth. She's pulling, pulling me into the store. The smell of wildlife emanating from PetSmart is so much more appealing than Bed, Bath and Beyond - for both of us.

We walk in and she tries to jump up on a black dog much bigger than her. The other dog wags it's tail and they stop and sniff each other. I tell her to come on, that she can pick out three things. For my dog, picking things means pointing her nose at something, sniffing and then showing interest for more than 7 seconds.

The first thing she careens towards are training treats. This is good and ironic for several reasons. I've been meaning to get some special treats for her to start clicker training. They tell you to find a treat that the dog just can't live without and will do anything for. Looks like we may have found it. Her nose rubs and she sniffs then looks over and up at me. Her tail wags. She waits for me to make a move. I grab the bag and she jumps up. Hopefully, by the end of this bag she'll have kicked that bad jumping habit.

She leads me down the toy aisle and I'm thinking we might be there for a while. There's a lot of brightly colored toys waiting for her nose to rub up against. Plus, an entire wall of stuffed animals which she loves to pull apart and then relax in a sea of white, fluffy toy animal insides. I'm ready to spend half the day in this aisle while she tries to pull every animal off the rack and sink her teeth in.

Instead, she leads me to the Kong section. Kongs are rubbery hollow objects that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They're usually used for putting treats inside of them and then watching the dog try to figure out how to get the good eats out. We used to have a little black Kong and we slathered the small opening of it with peanut butter and pushed treats inside. She used to push, pull, lick and chew this thing for hours. Then one sad day she found a weak spot, a small rip, and we came home one day to find the Kong become a lot of little rubbery black pieces.

Propped up on her hind legs, she reached forward and nudged a medium-sized red Kong. I looked down at her and asked if that's what she really wanted. She gave me a look like she didn't understand me and nudged it again. I pulled it off the rack and we made our way to the checkout.

Of course, there was a big bin of little stuffed animals just as we were about to get to the register. She darted her nose in and grabbed a dolphin, pulling it out through the wire bin. There is a stuffed dolphin at our house that she is not allowed to touch. And it looks just like the one she's pulling out of the wire bin. I lean down to say no and pull her away. As I do, I smell the shampoo on her fur.

And I say, "Ok, you can get the dolphin too."

If your dog is vaccinated and leashed it's welcome at in Manalapan located at 13 Rt. 9.

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