Sunday, June 15, 2014

In Which My Dogs Get Covered in Tar

Off the coast of Santa Barbara, there are natural oil seeps that dribble crude oil out into the ocean. The Native Americans used to gather this tar as it washed up on the beaches, they used it to waterproof their boats. This is important to know because, as I have learned in adulthood, tar is not a ubiquitous beach experience.
The dots running parallel to Brisbane's pawprints are tar.

On Friday the dog beach was tarry as hell. I'm used to getting a few spots of it on my feet, but this was nuts. I had to stop periodically to scrape tar sandals off my feet. There were wave-shapes squiggles and dots of tar outlining the maximum reach of each wave upon the shore. I have never seen that much tar on the beach before. We do have active oil fields off our coast, and people like to blame those for the tar on the beaches, but the truth is that the oil slicks and beach tar predate European records of the area. It's a feature.

Tar all over my feet.
By the time we left the beach, the bottoms of everyone's feet were completely covered in tar. Fortunately this isn't a huge issue, and locals all know that the solution for tar-removal is baby oil. Mineral oil, vegetable oil, and olive oil are also popular solutions. Basically, oil is the solution to sticky. I've heard of people scrubbing their dogs' feet with Goo Gone and rubbing alcohol, but those are overly harsh and completely unnecessary. Trust me, oil is where it's at. Around here it's not unusual to see people at the grocery store buying a case of beer, some ice, maybe some chips, and a bottle of baby oil.

Tar all over Ru's tiny feetsies.
To remove tar from a dog's (or person's) feet, pour baby oil on a rag or paper towel or something else that can be thrown away because that thing is never going to get clean. Rub the feet with the oil, and switch to a new towel/rag and fresh oil whenever the old one gets completely gross. The tar is literally being transferred onto the rag so there needs to be a liberal supply of rags to get all the tar off. Keep working at it until the big black deposits are gone and only a light brown residue remains. Brisbane isn't crazy about me scrubbing his feet with oil, so I like to cup the rag in my hand and pour a small reservoir of oil in which to dip his foot.

In the case of dogs, "rub until the tar is gone" actually means "rub as long as they will let you". In either the case of humans or dogs, the result will be brownish oily feet. The next step is to wash those with soap and water. I like to use dish soap because it cuts grease so well. I used a wet and very soap rag to scrub Brizzy and Ru's feet until they got tired of me messing with their feet. After that, I just rinsed their feet off with the hose.

My feet came perfectly clean with minimal effort. Brisbane and Ru both still have slightly tarry feet, but are no longer caked. In any case, the best way to remove tar from a dog's feet is baby oil and lots of rags or paper towels, followed by normal soap and water. 

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