Hair(s) of the Dog

By Amy Chavez

For The Bali Times

I am covered, head to foot, in dog hair. It’s as if it had rained cats and dogs and I splashed through a puddle of them.

I just came back from visiting a friend who has dogs, the kind that live inside the house. It made me realize how long it had been since I had even seen dog hair that had abandoned its owner, laying in wait on the sofa to hitch a ride on the next person who sits down.

But in Bali, you just don’t get dog hair, let alone the chance to have it permanently adhered to your clothing. This is probably because dogs in Bali live outside. In addition, due to the tropical climate here, dogs never develop a winter coat to shed. Until this day, I had never realized how just nostalgic dog hair can be. Like the taste of your mother’s home cooking or the smell of your father’s steaks on the barbecue, dog hair is imbued with a sense of place. It makes me yearn for the house I grew up in.

I grew up with dog hair in the US. The neighbors called our house “The Zoo” because we had so many animals. The neighbors were right. We should have charged admission.

Nowadays my mother only has a dog. But still, there’s enough dog hair in her house to fully attack anyone who happens to walk through the front door with a trace of static cling. I think this is my mother’s way of avoiding vacuuming.

Unfortunately, there is no way to get rid of dog hair completely. You can try washing your clothes, but dog hairs have a way of floating around the wash water and reattaching themselves to cuffs, linings, armpits and drawstrings, lodging themselves permanently, cleanly, into your garments.

My mother has dog hair in her house dating back to my childhood and the family beagle. One can find a stray hair resting on the chandelier, stuck between the paneling in the wall, lying inside a wine glass stored high up in a cabinet, protruding from a cushion on the sofa, among the dirt under the plants, hiding between the cables of a knit sweater, stuck to the end of a roll of cellophane tape, on the bottoms of shoes, pasted to the honey jar, adhered to the lamp shade, or resting in the corner of the pantry. Or sometimes something in the air will catch your eye – a floater.

There is no place dog hair cannot transport itself. Once, I found a dog hair nestled in my scarf while standing atop Mont Blanc, in France.

My father has a game he plays when he sees me. It’s a type of quiz. “Aha! Who might this be from?” he says as he removes a hair from the lining of his coat and holds it up to the light. I examine the length, color and condition. I pass the hair under my nose to check for a trace of a scent, then try to guess which dog it once belonged to.

Was it the family beagle of 20 years ago? The emotionally charged, irritating little mutt who finally died at 18? The dog who loved to go sailboarding? The three-legged spaniel? Or was it a hair from the dog who used to wake us up in the mornings with his singing? Then again, it could have belonged to that dog we found tied to our mailbox one morning…

Every evening when I was young, there was the ritual “dog cocktail party” held at my mother’s house. After dinner, the humans sit in the living room sipping cocktails and socializing, while each dog chooses a person and sidles up next to him or her. The dog cocks his head to the side and gives an expectant look. This is often followed by a joyous tail wag, designed to convince anyone who is truly human to break down and say, “Good dog. Yes, you’re a cute dog; yes, you’re the best dog,” and other grandiose, inane comments while furiously patting him on the head.

Soon another dog, overcome with jealousy, sidles up next to you, forcing the other dog to move on to the next human. The dogs move around the room, from person to person, schmoozing with every one in the room.

“Ms. Chavez? Are you Ms. Chavez?” my daydream was suddenly interrupted.

“Ms. Chavez,” said the deliveryman holding a package. “Are you OK?”

“Oh, uh, yes,” I said, standing at the front door, still mesmerized by the package that was addressed to me in my mother’s handwriting.

“Ah, a package from US. You must be homesick,” he said.

“Well, yes, maybe a little,” I admitted.

He handed me the package. But I couldn’t stop staring at the address label. Stuck between the label and the package was a long brown hair with a black tip.

“The bow-legged basset hound!” I exclaimed, as the deliveryman made a speedy exit.

Amy Chavez divides her time between Bali and Japan and has on occasion been known to resort to the hair of the dog. Contact her at

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