Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Natural Disaster

Ok, maybe that's a bit dramatic.  But anything that stops me from doing my job...could potentially be disastrous.  Well... OK, you've got me there.  I don't actually think a person forced to wait a bit longer than expected for their dog to be groomed, or even having to send a dog home without a haircut (or half a haircut) means the end of the world as we know it.  However, some clients would act as though it was. 

Things just happen sometimes.  The most obvious problem is electricity.  Sometimes, the city lets us know a few days ahead, and even a timeframe as to when they will be shutting our electric down for a while.  That is much more convenient than the severe storms that give no warning.  We get a sinking feeling when suddenly the clipper in our hand goes silent, and the only tool we can use is a brush and a scissors.  Of course, this sometimes isn't a big help, as good lighting is somewhat vital to how the groom turns out.  The electricity can be out for 10 minutes or 3 hours.  I've got no control over it, but a pet owner won't be happy if her dog isn't ready to pick up at our pre-arranged time.

One of the more interesting and scary  reasons for a break in electrical service was a wildfire in the forested area across the road.  The fire, which was easily viewed from the grooming room window, was fast moving.  We watched as it climbed up a powerline pole, which of course caused us to lose power. Luckily the Fire Department had it under control fairly quickly, and we didn't have to evacuate.  It took the electric company a bit longer to return power.  So long in fact I did end up having to send my final groom of the day home unfinished.  Thankfully, that owner was very understanding, and came back the next day for the finish.

One morning I had given two baths, when I realized, we were out of hot water.  Interestingly enough, dogs don't like cold showers any more than we do, also, cold water just doesn't get things clean.   I waited for the repairman to arrive, and sadly, the water heater needed replacing.  Of course, the gigantic super industrial  hot water heater was not in stock anywhere in town.  They informed us that the soonest they could get one to us was the next day. So, I had to call all my grooming clients for the day and give them a choice: cold bath or reschedule.  Most of them chose to have their dogs tough it out.  It was fine, and they all lived, but those were some of the quickest baths I've ever given. BRRRR.

Today, something new and interesting happened.  By interesting, I mean disgusting and really annoying, in case you were wondering.  I was bathing the 7th of my 11 dogs for the day, things were going smoothly.  As I was waiting for the suds to go down the drain so I could start rinsing, I looked down and saw water coming up the floor drain. Not good.  The maintenance man (who saves our bacon daily around that place) was trying to fix it, assuming there was a buildup of hair, and who knows what in there.  I walked back to the grooming room and saw this:

More nasty water coming up the drain in my grooming room floor.  Yuck.  It was then found in nearly every room in the building that had a floor drain.   This photo shows the dam I built with a towel to slow the flood.   Roto-rooter was called.  The 4 remaining pets would just have to wait for baths.

I continued grooming dogs, but soon I had to add to my dam:
As you can see, it wasn't exactly working.  As an added bonus, there was a very unpleasant odor accompanying the mess.  Luckily, Mr. Roto-Rooter knows his stuff, and it was fixed sooner than I dared hope.  Thank goodness, in this case more for the few pregnant individuals working in the building who had been told not to use the bathrooms. Not good.   All in all, disaster averted and no clients were the wiser.  Hopefully by the time I get to work tomorrow the Eau De Sewer will have dissipated, and my happy working environment will be completely back to normal!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The most popular question.

When people find out I groom dogs, there is one question that nearly all people ask.  "Have you ever been bitten?" 

My answer (thankfully) is no.  Not really.  Sure, I've had the odd puppy puncture wound, those sharp little teeth manage to get me sometimes.   Once, I was bitten by an Old English Sheepdog, but I wasn't actually the groomer on that one.  I was helping her lift the dog, and he wasn't impressed.  It was just one puncture wound.  That was probably 17 years ago. I carry a very faint scar from that one, but I didn't even go to the Dr. so I really don't count it. 

I normally can tell which dogs mean business and will actually bite, and which dogs are just bluffing.  I guess I just have a sort of "sixth sense" about dogs.  I'm so glad I don't see dead people instead.  This sense of mine really comes in handy..that sense is just creepy.  I also have a wicked fast reaction time. :)  I can get my hand out of the way of teeth amazingly well.

I still remember having a friend visit with me while I was grooming.  I was chatting away, and she said "that dog is going to bite you!!"  I just said, "no, he won't" and kept on with my job.  Yes, he was lunging at me, but I knew just how far he would go.  I know..crazy, right? (well, my friend  thought I was)   I start "reading" a dog the minute I meet it the 1st time.  The ones that give me problems, usually are already showing signs at that time.  Some, thankfully, lose the bravado the minute their owners leave. It's a protection thing.  I have quite a few dogs I can absolutely not touch if the owner is nearby.  I hand them a leash to put on their dog, and carefully take it from them.  As soon as they are on the table, they are my best friend.

Of course I have plenty of dogs that would actually bite me.  Most of them are bad for certain parts of the groom.  90% can't handle having their nails trimmed or their feet clipped.  Here is my plea:  Train your puppies to let you touch their feet!!!!!!!!!!!  The last 10% are bad for many different parts of the groom and some are bad for the whole thing. 

One of the reasons I don't get bit, is that I have multiple sizes and shapes of muzzles, and I'm not afraid to use them.  I work with the dogs to try and train them to be better about grooming, and many times  I succeed.  However, the bottom line is that I will not allow a dog to bite me.  I need my hands.  The muzzle stays in place, only as long as it needs to, as soon as we are through the part they disapprove of, it's off.

My co-worker J, once got very badly injured by a dog.  It was a new client (actually my client that day).  The owners were also new to the dog, they had just inherited it.  Immediately the Lhasa made it clear he wasn't too fond of me, and I couldn't even get near enough to pick him up.  I enlisted J's help in muzzling the dog so I could get it on the table.  As she was sliding the muzzle over his nose he turned and bit her.  She headed to the emergency room, where she ended up having surgery to remove a bone fragment in her hand.  She still has numbness in one of her fingers from nerve damage.  I felt horrible, it wasn't even her grooming dog.   The dog was sent home, and I did eventually groom it, but only under sedation for the rest of his life.  This was in the summer...peak season for us.  She was out for 6 weeks.  It was awful.  That day, we decided that we would never risk injury to groom a dog again.  It just wasn't worth it.

Dogs are aggressive for different reasons.  Some are cage shy, meaning they are fine everywhere else, but they feel trapped in an enclosed area and won't allow someone to reach in to get them out.  Some can't handle eye contact..of any kind. One Cocker in particular, I would put my hand over his eyes when I was clipping around  his head.  He was OK, if I did that.   I oblige these dogs. You can't bully some aggressive dogs, they will only get worse.  With some dogs, less is more, some just can't handle restraint.I do what I have to do to get along with them.     I can't change them all, when I'm only seeing them 4 hours at a time.  Most dogs warn with body language when they are at their limit.  Some growl, of course, or show their teeth.   The scariest ones of all give you no warning.  One very large dog suddenly decided he had had enough, lunged at me (his teeth were level with my head), and I had to walk sideways with my back against the wall to get away from him.  Thinking about it still makes me sweat.  Luckily that kind of thing doesn't happen very often.

I do my best to train difficult dogs.  It's a great feeling when a dog that had a past history of biting, is now perfect for his haircut.  I can't say enough how important it is to get puppies in early to see a groomer.  It make a huge difference.  When people ask me when should their puppy get it's first haircut, my answer is usually "yesterday".  Most of the difficult dogs I groom missed out on the early training that is so important.  And....if you have a pup that will eventually need a haircut, and you would like to trim it yourself.  PLEASE consider allowing a groomer to do the 1st few haircuts.  We know how to train these dogs for grooming. When they are trained, you can try your hand at it. (I'm really OK with that)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Yes, I groom cats too!

 This is one unhappy kitty!  She is one of the best cats I groom.  She lets me shave off her matted coat (yep, she used to have long hair), with no complaints, and puts up with the bath. (notice I didn't say enjoys the bath)  I love her. 

Normally, I don't enjoy cat grooming.  I'm a DOG trainer.  Guess what?  Cats don't really take to training.   Or water, for that matter.  Generally speaking,  they'd like to have me leave them alone.   I can reason with a dog most of the time, not so much with cats.

I am lucky enough to work  in a Vet clinic.  So, the fractious cats that no other groomer can safely do, come knocking on our door.  We have a handy little thing called anesthesia.    I actually groom these cats in the vet clinic area, with a  Doctor and Veterinary Technician monitoring them for the whole groom. 

I value my hands, they are pretty darn useful in my line of work.  If a cat bites me, they might not work as well as they usually do.  At the very least, a bite will send me to the doctor for the heavy duty antibiotics, which will definately put a wrench in my day.    A cat bite can actually put you in the hospital with a really bad infection, if you don't take care of it.  I'll take a dog bite any day.  So...some cats must go to nighty night land for their grooms.  For their own comfort, and my well-being.  Now, of course, just like dogs, many cats are neglected.   People expect their cats to take care of themselves.  That does work most of the time.  Sometimes cats just have too much coat to take care of themselves, like Persians or Himalayans.  Other cats are actually too obese or elderly to care for their own coats. 

Clipping off a very matted cat's coat is time-consuming, and dangerous.  A cat's skin tears much easier than a dogs, so they need to hold very still for the process.  Most cats didn't sign up for that.  They tell me in no uncertain terms, with claws and teeth, that it's just not happening.  I can respect that.

We do groom some cats that don't require sedation.  Some, just need minor restraint, and others like the cutie in the picture, don't appear to mind at all.

"Help me!"

Ok, maybe she does least this part!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

This is why you should never "fit someone in"

It's a running joke (well, it's not really that funny to us) between my co-worker and I,  that you WILL be burned every time you "fit" someone in on a day you are completely booked.  That "small" dog will be a Newfoundland mix that hasn't seen a bath since...NEVER.  The "easy" dog will have just a slight diarrhea problem, and the "face trim" will turn into a full blown haircut. 

Today, I fell into the trap.  It's "just a Lab".  Well, it was a Lab mix...mixed with a German Shepherd, but I knew the dog, so thought I was safe.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The receptionist let me know this client wanted to get in today.  Not tomorrow, when I actually HAD open appointments.  "They are getting their groceries today."  OK.. so I gave some criteria.  They could come in as late as 11:00, but would have to stay no less than 4 hours.  No exceptions, since I was fitting them in, and I knew the dog would be blowing coat.  The receptionist repeated this to the client exactly (thank you, S, I know you tried!).  They said that was fine, and they'd be in at around 11. 

10:55 AM:  Dog is dropped off...early.  BONUS...things are looking good.  I repeat to the client that I will need his dog until 3PM.  Simple, right?

12:30 PM:  Receptionist calls me, asking if the dog is done...uh...NO.  It'll be 3:00

1:30 PM:  I go up front to return a different dog to it's owner...the Lab's owner is there.  "When will my dog be done?"  Um...3:00.  Sorry.  (I just said I was sorry...I didn't mean it.) 

2:30 PM:  Receptionist calls back to me again.  "Is the dog done yet?" (They know the answer, of course, but have to ask, as the owner is standing right there) NO,  It'll be 3:00. 

I really didn't have the dog done yet...I had a ton of other dogs I was grooming..that actually made their appointment ahead of time.  Of course, now, even if I had been done..I wouldn't have let the dog go home before the agreed upon time.  He's really annoying me now.

3:10 PM:  He shows up for his dog...10 MINUTES LATE???  What is up with that??  Wow.

Surprisingly enough..he will have to make an appointment next time.  Go figure.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I'm not sure how that would work...

Me:  How do you like her hair trimmed?

Client:  I want it short, really short, so I don't have to do it again.


What I wanted to say:  Like...EVER??  That would be a big money saver for you, huh?? 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Breakfast in Bed

My friends on facebook have heard this one before, in fact it's one of the "sad but true" stories that caused a couple of them to encourage me to start this blog.  I felt it needed repeating on here.  I think you will agree.

Client:  I'm sorry she's matted today.  Someone put a pancake in our bed and the dog rolled in it.

Let's break this down.  Someone?  Like, you don't know who would've put it there???  What kind of household do you live in?  Just a pancake, no plate?   Most people at least blame the kids.  The dog rolled in it.  Huh.  I'm sorry she's matted today.  So, was it the syrup that caused the matting, or the actual act of rolling on the pancake that caused it?? 

I would've loved to ask all those questions, but it's really just easier to take the dog, smile and assure them it's no problem, so I guess I'll never know the answers.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hair, hair, everywhere

There's a reason why people pay me to bathe dogs.  I'm not talking about haircuts, just baths.  Yes, I trim their nails and clean out their ears, and they smell amazing, when I'm done,  but de-shedding is the big attraction.   Many people are shocked at how many Labradors, Pugs, German Shepherds, and any variety of short-haired breeds I groom in a week.    They pay me to do something they could totally do themselves, right?    I get it, and you are correct.  They could do it themselves.  Here are some photos that may show why they don't.

1st of all, my secret weapon!  I love this thing.  No really, I love it.   I will post details about this baby sometime soon.

The victim.  120 pounds of handsome German Shepherd boy.  How'd you like to wrestle him into your tub at home? 

Here he is after I used the high-velocity blow dryer on him.  Yes, that is hair sticking to the wall of the bathtub.

This is the tub after he exited.  Yes, it took me some time to clean that up.  I sure wouldn't want that in my tub at home.  YUCK.

He then headed off to a drying cage for a while.  Here is what he looked like when I got him back out to finish him.

Even after all that coat came out in the tub, check out all the loose hair hanging on.  Time for me to start brushing..and brushing, and brushing, and more blowdrying.

Here are the tools I used today.  Yes..our dryer is old and we used duct tape to fix the still works great!  For some reason my Furminator didn't make it into this photo.  I will have to post about that wonderful product soon as well.

Here is the hair I removed from him after the bath.  I'm thinking the client's vacuum cleaner thanks me today.

And, the finished product, such a beautiful boy.

He actually wasn't blowing his undercoat as well as I would've liked, they probably could've waited another 3 weeks or so, as the weather around here seems to be affecting the shedding cycle on some of these dogs. 
These dogs are pretty labor intensive, but it's a very satisfying finished product. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Confusing Client of the Day

Me:  How would you like her hair trimmed today?  It must be about time for her spring haircut.

Client:  Oh, I think it's too cold for that.  I want her buzzed up really short, but don't shave her.