Monday, August 3, 2015

Tips For Grooming Difficult Dogs

When I was a new groomer, I HATED grooming difficult dogs. The wiggling frustrated me, the biting scared me, and I didn't yet have the tools to handle dogs that, for whatever reason, don't like to be groomed. It wasn't until I started my current job 4 years ago that I had the time and space to acquire the tools to handle the difficult dogs, and now, after 11 years of grooming, I actually seek out senior and difficult dogs. My favorite part of my job is figuring out how to make sure each dog has the best experience possible for their grooming.

It is my belief that in order to be truly comfortable grooming those difficult dogs, you need 3 things: time, patience, and experience. I can't help you find time or patience, but I can give you some tools that I believe can aid your experience level.

The biggest tip I can give you is to constantly pay attention to the dog's body language. With the possible exception of senile dogs, dogs don't bite for no reason. Usually they are biting out of fear or pain or even the memory of pain caused by a previous groomer, which I guess qualifies as fear. Once you figure out what a dog's trigger is, they are so much easier to handle.

Here are a few examples of dogs that had been labeled as difficult or aggressive that I have been able to work with and, in some cases, "rehabilitate."

My greatest success story is probably a Great Pyrenees that I've been grooming for over 3 years. The first time I met him, his owner told me that he had been muzzled by 4 previous groomers. One groomer had muzzled him for his feet, one for his butt, one for both, and one for the entire groom. That's interesting - usually dogs bite for the same thing every time they get groomed. What's going on?

The first time I groomed him, he was trying to climb out of the tub during the bath, which was a little frustrating but not a crisis because he was tethered. Since I wasn't sure how he would do for the blow dryer, I left him in the tub. As soon as I got near him with the dryer, he started doing what I call bite-barking. He was barking and snapping his jaws shut, but he wasn't aiming any bites at me; I was able to see that he was afraid of the dryer but didn't want to hurt me. 

When I wash and dry a large hairy dog, I like to put in my ear buds with hearing protectors over them and listen to my favorite peppy music. Usually this is just to avoid boredom, but during loud and/or difficult dogs, it helps me to stay calm and tune out distractions. With my music going, I was able to stay calm and I dried him the best I could from an arm's length away. We don't have kennel dryers, so I just did the best I could with the velocity dryer. 

Luckily I was able to coax the big guy up onto a table once he was as dry as I could get him. The first thing I do to (almost) every dog when they get on the table is nails. If you'll remember, feet is one thing he needed to be muzzled for previously, so I was cautious, but I wanted to give him a chance. 

He was a little bit fussy for his feet and nails, but he never once tried to bite. Interesting.

On to shaving his butt sanitary area. When I went to pick up his tail and move it out of my way, he sat and turned in order to yank his tail out of my hands. Fascinating. Maybe I'll leave that for last and have somebody hold him while I shave that area. Brushing went well, even for his butt - as long as I didn't touch his tail. Brushing his tail was a fight but I managed it OK. I had somebody hold him up so I could shave his butt and he tried to get away but never snapped once. 

All done and no need for a muzzle. Why didn't he snap at me when he had apparently snapped at 4 previous groomers? I believe it was a combination of things. Partly, I was able to stay calm and not get flustered by his bite-barking. Dogs are very sensitive to your energy; any groomer who's had usually good dogs act up when they are having a bad day can attest to that. By keeping my energy calm, he was able to stay calm.

Another thing that worked in my favor was not pushing him too far past his comfort zone. I uphold humanity over vanity above all and even extend that to: sometimes settling for "good enough" is exactly the right thing to do. I could have gotten that dog's head dry, but I would have lost any amount of trust he had developed in me, he would've gotten more stressed than necessary, and he would've been far crankier for the rest of the groom. I like to think long term - it was more important for me to earn his trust than to get his head dry.

These days, he doesn't bite-bark for the dryer any more. He'll even rest his head on my shoulder while I dry him, though he's starting to get spoiled and insist I scratch behind his ears any time I have a free hand while drying him. I can get his head most of the way dry. He even steps willingly into the tub and onto the table. He still doesn't like having his tail handled, so I handle it as little as possible. With a 120-pound dog, I think it's more important for him to like and trust me than to make sure his tail is brushed to fluffy perfection.

Now, I know some groomers will argue with my methods. Some groomers think it's better to force a dog through the things they don't like: "They have to learn to get used to it." I think in certain situations that method is warranted, particularly when dealing with puppies. But I don't think that's a one size fits all solution. After all, long term, if you force an already difficult dog through the things they don't like, they're just going to become more and more difficult and stressed. Stress can kill, so I try to avoid it as much as possible. 

Another dog I have been working with is a Silky that had become so aggressive for his face that previous groomers were hardly able to trim it at all. He had a lot of pin mats in his overgrown beard, so I am assuming that he had a naturally sensitive face and groomers had been somewhat roughly brushing pin mats out of his face for most of his life, so he naturally associated the brush or anything else coming near his face with pain. Naturally, the solution for this particular dog is to stop brushing mats out of his face.

That first groom, even trying to cut the mats out of his face as gently as possible was difficult because he was afraid of ANYTHING near his face. After the first two or three times I groomed him, I gained his trust and he learned that I wasn't going to hurt him. I recently groomed him for about the sixth time, and while he kept his eyes squeezed shut and occasionally tried to keep his face away from me, he didn't even give me any "Elvis lips," much less snap at me. 

I keep his face trimmed very short to prevent any mats and I use my thinning shears to cut out any mats that I do find, and he's actually become quite good for grooming. I still keep my guard up because he is still clearly fearful, but as time goes on and he trusts me more and more, he will relax even farther and become quite a pleasure to groom.

Many dogs are only difficult for one thing, such as nails. When this is the case, I try to save that one thing for last so that they aren't still upset over the one thing they hate while you are doing things they might otherwise cooperate for. Also, in dogs that hate having their nails done, I don't go for perfection. The longer you spend trying to get the nails as short as possible, the more stress you are going to cause the dog and the more they are going to hate it. Conversely, if you do the nails as fast as possible, they may learn to calm down a little bit because the calmer they are, the faster you can go, and the sooner the torture is over. 

I have been grooming a Westie for nearly 4 years who used to be so difficult for her nails that it required 2 groomers wearing aprons and standing in the bathing room, then cleaning up the mess she had made before washing her (for any non-groomers reading this unsure what mess she was making, she would pee and/or poop every single time while trying to bite anything that got near her). Over the years, she has struggled less and less and less, to the point where I can now do her nails by myself at the end of the groom with her head well-tethered, and if she snaps at all, it is a half-hearted attempt meant to show her frustration rather than aiming to injure me. I attribute her improvement in large part to the fact that I don't spend forever trying to get her nails perfect, I just do one clip per nail and move on. 

Sometimes dogs who were fine for grooming when they were younger develop issues in their older age. I go into much more detail on grooming senior dogs in this previous post. Some issues they might develop include "laziness" due to arthritis or hip dysplasia, fear biting when they start losing their sight, and dryer senility. 

The key to grooming difficult dogs, in my opinion, is always trying to figure out WHY they are being difficult and how to best work around the problem. Remember: humanity over vanity, and sometimes good enough is perfect.

I hope I managed to help you at least a little bit. I'm sure I have more tips rolling around inside my skull but this post is already quite long. Feel free to comment with your own tips for grooming difficult dogs!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Grooming Senior Dogs

In my opinion, groomers should not approach grooming senior dogs the same way that they approach grooming younger dogs. Senior dogs need special consideration; without it, they can become stressed out or even aggressive. Stress CAN kill a dog, and few people have the patience to groom aggressive dogs, so let's talk about how we can provide the best possible experience for each senior dog.

For starters, many older dogs, especially the larger breeds, develop arthritis, hip dysplasia, or other medical conditions that can cause pain. Many times, the owners may not even be aware of the changes in their beloved pet, as dogs are accustomed to hiding their pain. 

Would you force your arthritic grandparents to stand for an hour straight without a single opportunity to sit? Would you yell at them if they tried to sit or if the effort of standing caused them to shake? No, you wouldn't (or at least I hope not). So why do so many groomers do this to the senior dogs that they groom? I wouldn't use a butt strap to force my grandmother to stand for an hour, so I refuse to do it to a dog. 

Sure, it takes a little creativity to groom a dog when they are sitting instead of standing, but there are plenty of things you can do while the dog is sitting, such as their face and front feet. I know, I know, you have to do the whole body and feet before you can do the head (or however your specific routine goes; you get the point). Your senior dogs will benefit greatly from a little flexibility on your part. Humanity over vanity should be the groomer's credo, and that should apply to letting older dogs sit a little and not just to shaving matted dogs. So give that dog a break from time to time. They will appreciate you for it and so will their owners.

I work at a place where we groom every dog straight through; we don't do any kennel drying. Personally, I prefer this method over block scheduling, but that's a discussion for another day.  

Some dogs, as they get older, start to have problems with the velocity (HV) dryer. I've heard some groomers refer to it as a "dryer seizure;" I call it a "senior senile moment." Whatever you've heard it called, you know exactly what I'm talking about: You're drying a dog and they're doing fine...until they aren't. Something switches inside their brain and they start freaking out, barking, peeing, pooping...PANICKING. The best thing to do is immediately turn off the dryer, calm down the dog, clean up the mess, and if you choose to continue drying them, do it with the nozzle off.

After a senior dog I groom does this a couple of grooms in a row, I decide it is time to stop drying them. It just isn't worth the stress put on the dog. When I talk to the owners, I explain it like this: Imagine you're talking to your grandmother (yes, more grandparents) who has Alzheimer's. You're having a perfectly normal conversation until suddenly she looks baffled and says, "I'm sorry, who are you again?" And then you point a leaf blower at her. 

Since cage drying isn't an option where I work, I give my customers the option of bathing the dog themselves the day before their grooming and letting them air dry or else I will do the haircut on the dirty dog, then do the bath after the grooming and send the dog home damp. Yes, dirty hair doesn't cut very well and is difficult on your blades and shears, and yes, a dog washed at home may be curly and stringy instead of fluffy...but isn't that better than a dog who gets so stressed from the dryer that they die in your care? I could never live with myself if that happened to me, and most of my customers are so happy that I am concerned with their dog's well-being that they don't care that I can no longer get the haircut as nice as I used to.

Another thing to be aware of is that a dog's behavior may change as they start to lose their sight or hearing or acquire new pain. They may suddenly become snappy when they never used to be. This is not a time for force; you are not teaching a puppy that biting is not OK. Listen to what the dog is saying. 

Why did they snap at you? 

Maybe you moved their leg in a way that wouldn't bother a normal dog but is aggravating their hip dysplasia. Maybe they are developing cataracts and you approached their face too quickly. Maybe they are losing certain frequencies of hearing and now your clippers sound different around their head. Listen to what they are saying, and work around it the best you can, so that both of you can have a safe experience with the grooming process.

In the end, senior dogs still need to get groomed, but we can all ensure that they have the best possible experience and don't go home sore or overly stressed out. 

Do you have more senior dog grooming tips? Leave a comment!

The Not-So-Triumphant Return of The Writing Groomer

Well, Hello again!
It's been more than 2 years since my last blog post. A variety of factors have kept me away, but a renewed sense of passion and urgency about writing has brought me back. I have made myself a goal of writing at least 500 words per day, every day for one month. Now, that may not all be in the form of blog posts. It could be journaling or working on one of my novels. But in some form or another, I do intend to get back in the habit of writing every single day.

I've become a little shy about posting pics of dogs I've groomed until I get permission from the owners, so my blog may be a little text-heavy for a while. So what might I post about without the cute dog pics?

I am planning on writing in detail about my techniques for grooming senior and difficult-to-groom dogs. I might write about my daily life. I might write about current events. This blog is certain to expand beyond just grooming, so I hope you're up for the ride!

These are my dogs, Hailey and Dillin.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Don't Cry (A Poem)

"Don't cry, don't cry,"
she said,
"I can't help you 
when you cry.
Don't cry, don't cry,
we'll talk when
your eyes are dry."

So I
don't cry, don't cry,
I eat away 
my pain.
Don't cry, don't cry,
I don't want to 
feel the pain.

Don't cry, don't cry,
what a bunch of crap.
I want to cry,
I need to cry,
no more 
emotions kept
under wrap.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Groomfest Part 2

Okay, sorry it's been a few days, but I'm finally ready to give you Part 2 of Groomfest, which I attended last weekend. If you haven't read Part 1 yet, you can find it here.

The first lecture Saturday morning was Speed Grooming. I learned a few new tips and got a few product recommendations. Some of the tips I don't really feel comfortable with, such as this one: "clean, clipped, cute. cute face, short feet, short butt = happy cust". Those are my notes, verbatim. The lecturer was saying that as long as the face, feet, and butt look good, you can basically half-ass the body and the customers won't care. I know time is money, but I'm not really interested in sacrificing quality just to be faster and groom more dogs. I know this technique works - I used to work with a groomer who had a TON of requests - but her customers loved her personality, not her grooming. As an example, a Standard Poodle she had groomed was waiting to be picked up. I had to walk over and cut off an inch-long piece of hair from its clean face. Groomers who follow this blog: What is your opinion about/experience with the Clipper Vac? I've heard mixed reviews.

The next seminar was Grooming the Rough Coated Brussels Griffon. As I was in my seat between seminars, I saw somebody wave at me and come across the room. It was a groomer I used to work with and am still Facebook friends with, though we are not close and I hadn't seen her in person for a couple of years. Let's call her M. Here's where my day started to get interesting. As M and I are sitting next to each other and getting caught up, she tells me that B, who we used to work with but I had a bit of a falling out with, is competing and afterward she would join us in the seminar. I don't have especially negative feelings toward B, but I have no idea how she feels about me. So the thought of seeing her made me nervous. 

Anyway, the seminar, sadly, turned out to be a bit of a joke. The lady who was supposed to be teaching did not seem to be overly familiar with the breed; it sounded like she had memorized the breed profile out of a book the evening before. So she was awkwardly trying to talk about this breed and how to groom it (the dog was brought by somebody else, a retired show dog, he wasn't her dog). So she starts pulling out tools to hand strip him. She was quite tentative at first. I don't know if that is due to her unfamiliarity with the breed or if it had been a long time since she had hand stripped a dog. It really got fun when she pulled out a tool that some bigwig had recommended to her several years ago, but she had never tried it. As soon as she did, she exclaimed, "OHHH MYYYYYY. Wow. This is nice. This is incredible." Seriously? We're supposed to be learning from you, and yet here you are asking the owner of the dog to make sure you are stripping him properly? That does not inspire much confidence.

At some point B showed up. She had won the terrier competition by hand stripping a (I think) Norwich Terrier. We greeted each other with a half-nod acknowledgement and she sat on the other side of M and talked to her for a while. Eventually we decided to ditch the rest of the seminar and head down the hall to the actual trade show. There, J found us, another former coworker with whom I have had no contact for 2 years. We did the same half-nod, then started perusing the booths. I had tried to save up some money before GroomFest, but my dumb butt managed to show up broke, so walking around looking at stuff I couldn't buy had no appeal for me. I headed out to lunch alone and ate in my car so that my phone could charge.

After lunch, I made no special effort to find M, B, and J, but they didn't make any extra effort to find me, either. The next seminar was Tips & Tricks of the Trade with Marlene Romani. Any groomer will recognize the name Romani - it's maybe not quite as iconic as Ferrari, but I'd say pretty close. Can you imagine how a mechanic would feel taking lessons from somebody with the last name of Ferrari? That's how I felt during this seminar. I did learn quite a few things from Marlene, and some of her tips were similar to or the same as Mitzi's tips, so I can be confident that they are good tips. One that was particularly interesting to me was to put liquid baby powder on shaved faces and sanitary areas to prevent clipper burn. Has anybody tried this?

The last lecture of the day was an American Cocker Spaniel demo. I was hoping to see in person how beveled feet were done, but the lecturer ran out of time. I did finally learn how and why to do the small poof on the front of their heads - it's to fill in that divot in their skull to give the appearance of a "dome-shaped" head. That was worth learning. Also, she showed how you can thin out the coat with a Coat King to blend the skirt better without needing to use thinning shears (as much).

After all of this, I was exhausted. I am used to being on my feet all day at work, so sitting for 2 days straight sapped all of my energy out of me. I went home and took a nap, intending to go dancing afterward, but I decided to stay home and go to bed at a decent time.

I had already decided to skip the first two lectures of Sunday morning. The first was Kerry Blue Pet Trim Demo. I've only ever seen 3 Kerries in 9 years. Of those 3, 1 was groomed regularly by a coworker of mine, 1 I just did a bath on with no haircut, and 1 I groomed twice before leaving my last job. Whenever I happen to see another Kerry, I am perfectly capable of following the directions in The Book. I'm too tired to look it up right now, but I'm pretty sure other groomers know what I am talking about. The other seminar was Are You Lost in a Sea of Shears & Blenders. After 9 years, the answer is no. I know what I like and I know what works best for what. If there was something interesting before this seminar, I probably would have stayed through this one, but I decided I would rather have the morning off.

After what would have been lunch, the first seminar was Funky to Fabulous, which turned out to be really interesting. It was about finding a dog's faults and minimizing those faults through grooming. I had already figured out that I could make bent legs appear straight, but it never occurred to me that you can make long dogs look shorter and legs in any which direction or angle look straight. I've already tried a couple of the techniques that I could remember off the top of my head (this is the first time I have referenced any of my notes since taking them) and I was pleased with the results. 

The next seminar was Happy Dog/Happy Groomer, which sounded interesting but I just absolutely could not sit in those hotel hairs for another minute; I had to leave.

All in all, I had fun and learned a lot in those 3 days last weekend. I'm looking forward to attending next year (hopefully this time with money), and I highly recommend attending a trade show if you have the chance.

Monday, June 10, 2013

GroomFest Part 1

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend my first trade show, GroomFest. I had a lot of fun, I learned a lot, and I wanted to share some of that with you all.

The entire first day of the 3-day event was a seminar on creative grooming. This is something that I have just started doing with my own dogs, and I am definitely interested in learning more and potentially offering these services to clients. So I was definitely looking forward to this seminar.

I had no idea what to expect from the whole weekend. That first day, I brought with me a water bottle, snacks, 2 notebooks, and an entire package of brand new pens. I had no idea if there would be any restaurants near the hotel, so I had no idea what I was doing for lunch. I had no idea how many people to expect. I was curious/nervous about running into people I have worked with in the past that I no longer have contact with. I had no idea what to expect at all out of the entire weekend. So I was excited about this entire event, but I also had A LOT of anxiety going into it.

Friday morning, I got there plenty early and found my way to a smallish ballroom with tables set up in rows with pads of paper, pens, glasses, coasters, and pitchers of ice water. Oh, and Jolly Ranchers, which I don't like but thought was a neat touch. This hotel, the Crowne Plaza, is out near the airport and has its own small convention center. They clearly deal with events like this a lot. In fact there was another event going on this same weekend - more on that later.

Anyway, I picked a seat in the front row near the middle. I wanted to see as clearly as possible since I have practically no experience with creative grooming. I pulled out my water bottle even though there was water provided (if I had to carry it around all day, I would rather it be empty than full), a notebook, and two pens. When the seats next to me were taken, I introduced myself and we made some small talk, but this would be my first indication at how clique-ish the weekend would be. Most people either came with friends or coworkers, met up with people they see every year at this event, or made fast friends with people immediately, leaving my shy self feeling excluded. But that's okay, I came to learn, not to make friends.

Angela Kumpe was the teacher of the creative grooming seminar. This is out of the brochure for GroomFest: " Angela Kumpe is internationally known for her creative styling work and was named Creative Groomer of The Year 2011 and 2012 by the Barkleigh Honors Awards. Angela is also VP of The Creative Groomers Association (CGA)."
Needless to say, she was well-qualified to lead this seminar.
Anyway, the morning was predominantly a PowerPoint demonstration. I took LOTS of notes. I will need to re-write them into something that makes sense, because they are kind of a mess right now. (PS - Sorry I can't figure out how to rotate it. I still don't have a great way to upload pics from my phone to my computer, so I'm having to do everything in a backhand way.)


  I also need to pick through all my notes and make a list of what to buy and where. 

After the PowerPoint presentation and before the live demos, it was time for lunch. Luckily there were several restaurants nearby so I didn't have to have chips and Starburst for lunch. That day I went through the KFC drive through so I could charge my phone in my car while I ate. The girl who handed me my food saw my name tag and asked if there was a convention going on today. When I replied Yes, her face said, Great, the lunch rush is going to be TERRIBLE. Although really, I think there were around 50-75 women in the creative grooming seminar, and spread between all the nearby restaurants, each rush shouldn't be terrible. But what do I know.

I digress. 

Anyway, I learned a lot during the PowerPoint presentation, but there's just no substitute for seeing all of these techniques done on real dogs. The first thing Angela demonstrated was how to do leopard spots. With the right tools, it was actually surprisingly quick and easy. By the way, that's not her in the picture, it's one of her assistants.
 

If I recall correctly, without checking my notes, I think those spots were done with a semi-permanent dye that she gets from Sally's beauty supply. I kind of thought you had to be a hairstylist with some sort of license to shop at Sally's? I hope I'm wrong, because I don't know where else I would find these colors.

After demonstrating some of the Pet-toos and glitter on one of her human assistants, Angela brought out this cute Chinese Crested to demonstrate several different techniques. The blue streak in his mane is from a product she created called, I think, Touch of Color. It is designed specifically for just streaks. The neat thing about this color is that you MUST heat set it for the color to hold. So the streak you see, she heat set with a flat iron. What you can't see is the spot she put on his neck with the same dye. Since it wasn't heat set, it washed right out. Talk about fool-proof color!

She also did this koi fish. She had printed out several different images on paper, and after asking our opinions on which image we thought she should do, she created a stencil out of sticky foam, which she stuck right on him and airbrushed around the edges. If I remember correctly, the black, orange, and yellow were all done with the airbrush, and the green and blue were done with blow pens. I don't know that I am that artistic, but she swears that anybody can do it. Once you outline the design with a stencil, free-handing the other stuff isn't as difficult as you might think. I guess we'll have to wait and see about that...
 

Oh, look, here's an earlier picture with that blue spot in his hair that I had mentioned.This was before he got bathed.
 
And here is another airbrushed stencil that she did. I think it came out great, what do you think? Angela is the one with her back to the camera.

 

So I learned a lot during the day-long creative grooming seminar. It got done around 5, and there was a Career Start grooming competition at 7 that I wanted to see. With rush hour traffic both ways, it would not have been practical for me to drive home and come back, so my mom was kind enough to take my dogs out for me. I went to a restaurant a few miles away that has amazing calzones that I visit a couple of times a year.

The Career Start competition was really interesting. There were 4 women with less than 1 year of experience. They all had to provide their own dog and table. Coincidentally, there were 2 Westies and 2 Toy Poodles. As I watched everybody, I got a pretty good sense of who had relatively more experience and relatively less experience than the others. The poor girl directly in front of me was working on a Poodle, and I could tell that she was EXTREMELY nervous. It took her forever just to do the clean feet. They only had an hour and a half, and she spent easily 30-40 minutes just on the feet. She was clearly one of the less-experienced groomers.

The lady next to her was much older than the other girls. The way she groomed, I suspect she may have been a hairdresser before becoming a groomer. She looked reasonably confident and moved along at a decent pace. She finished much before everybody else and, not wanting to stand around doing nothing, used that extra 10-15 minutes thinning shearing the dog. He already looked good, but that extra time to blend everything may have made the difference.

Over on the other side of the stage, the other girl grooming a Westie looked incredibly nervous. I overheard some women in the seats behind me saying that they heard an opening in this competition hadn't been filled yet, and could they please try to find somebody to fill that hole. This girl was a bather in this lady's shop, so she decided to show her how to groom a Westie and that girl groomed every Westie to come in the shop that week. So if I heard correctly, she only had one week of experience doing anything aside from bathing. No wonder she was so nervous! 

Furthest away from me was the girl grooming the other Poodle. Once time started, she got off to a blazing fast start. I'm not sure if this led to a quality issue. The dog looked pretty good from my vantage point, but it was quite a ways away from me.

After all was said and done, the girl in front of me with the Poodle got 4th place (out of 4). The older woman with the Westie won 1st place. The other Westie, with potentially the least-experienced groomer, got 2nd place. The other Poodle came in 3rd.

It was really quite interesting for me to watch other groomers groom and how they are being taught to groom. It was interesting to see how their quality looked after less than a year of experience. And it certainly made me wonder how well I would be able to groom under such pressure and with several dozen strangers in the audience. Here is the winner with the judge to her left and the sponsor of the event to her right.  

 

OK, this is already way too long, so I'll write about Saturday and Sunday at GroomFest in a Part 2. Look for it soon!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My Head Forgot to Tell My Heart...

CAUTION: Extremely Long!

I had such a strange evening tonight, and I am so full of thoughts and emotions that I can't quite sort them out. Guess I've decided to let you all deep inside my brain. In order for that to work, I need to fill you in on some back story.

9 years ago, I moved back in with my parents after dropping out of college and trying to live on my own in the real world and maxing out my credit card. Shortly afterwards, I decided I needed a hobby that could get me out of the house. I had always loved to dance but I had limited exposure to it for most of my life. I was listening to country music at the time (more about my changing music tastes another time) and I found out that a local bar does a lot of dance lessons for both partner and line dancing. I started going regularly and I was hooked. For about five years, off and on, I was going out dancing as many as 2-3 nights a week. I was still overweight (around 180-190 pounds) but my legs were super toned and I built up enough endurance to dance for half an hour straight before needing to stop for water. Oh, I forgot to mention that several months after I first started going, I met my first real boyfriend there, L. That whole relationship, if that's what you could even call it, was sort of messed up. I don't remember everything, but one of the breaking points came when I wanted to get hold of him but he didn't have a phone, for whatever reason, so I had to wait for him to call me from a pay phone. That was the first of several one-sided relationships I would have. We were only really together for a month or two, but at 21 or 22 and having my first real relationship, it was pretty significant. I should also mention, for an unrelated story, my Purple Shirt Guy, who taught me at least half of what I know about country partner dancing. I guess the short version is that he taught me a lot, I enjoyed dancing with him, I was fond of him (though he is my parents' age), and I spent more time dancing with him than anybody else. Most guys I would get a song or two, but it is with Purple Shirt Guy that I built up my endurance enough to dance for half an hour, nonstop. Anyway, all good things must come to an end, and about 4 years ago, I ended a relationship, changed jobs, and changed hours. Having to be at work at 7:30 5 days a week did not lead me to want to stay out late. So I gave up dancing for a while. This past Januaryish, I decided to get back into it again. I started with a line dance class, where I met my female friend, K. It was her first time at that bar ever, and it was my first time back in several years. Through female K, I met male K2. I was intrigued by him at first, a young single guy taking dance lessons, but I was much too shy to talk to him, especially with other acquaintances hanging around. Then one night, female K had to leave early, and our other acquaintances weren't there, so I decided to go out of my way to talk to K2. He turned out to be really interesting once I got him to open up. We had danced several times before that evening, and I had helped him out a little bit, which he

crazy dogs trying to bark at people at 11:40 pm. ugh

Anyway, K2 always went out of his way to introduce me to his acquaintances as "The one who helped me find the beat." That felt pretty cool. OK, back to the night in question. Both Ks were taking an advanced two-step class together, and I told K2 he could throw the move they had learned that night at me to see if I knew it. I didn't so he taught me and was impressed that I picked it up so quickly. Then he randomly asked me if I wanted to play pool. Uh, sure, why not? Turns out he's sort of a pool shark, so I said, in my sarcastic attempt at flirting, "Oh, I see, you wanted to show off that you're good at something other than dancing, right?" He just tilted his head to the side and shrugged his shoulders in a noncommittal but totally admitting way. I figured he must have wanted to show off for me because he was interested in me. So that's the night I became definitely interested in him and wanted to get to know him more. So exactly 3 weeks ago, we had that chance. Few of his other acquaintances were there and neither was female K. So we spent the better part of 2 hours just talking to and dancing with each other. He was going out of town for 2 weeks for a business trip, so as I was leaving, I slyly said, "Hey, maybe you might want my number in case you get bored out there..." He took it, although I didn't have a ton of hope that he would actually call or text. As I got home and mentally reviewed everything that we had talked about, I realized that we would be much better as friends and would not do well long-term as a romantic couple. So my brain has known this for three weeks. And he never called or texted, so I knew he felt the same. My head knew things would never work between us. But my head forgot to tell my heart...

So tonight was the advanced Cowboy Cha-Cha at 7:15. The advanced class is offered the first Saturday of every month. I went for the first time last month and got to dance with K2 the entire time. Female K was there with male acquaintance R who has helped all 3 of us become better dancers. It was a lot of fun, so I made sure to go tonight. Female K was taking lessons somewhere else tonight, and R is out of town, so it was just K2 and I. It was a lot of fun. It was really hard, and K2 was on the verge of quitting at one point, but I was able to encourage him enough that not only did he stay with it, but he finally got it, and I did too. Class ran late and we stayed after class to practice some more, so I probably had an hour and a half alone with him. So then we went up to the main bar area and met up with some of his other female acquaintances. Now here's where things get really weird.

I noticed a guy who looked a heck of a lot like my ex from 8 or 9 years ago. I wasn't sure it was him, and it took me most of the night to decide to go up to him. Meanwhile, K2 is busy dancing with all of his other female acquaintances or having conversations with other people that it is too loud for me to be able to hear and participate. I did get to do one Cowboy Cha-Cha with him out on the crowded dance floor to practice the new moves that we had learned, but that was it. I didn't even get a single two-step - not just with him, with ANYBODY. I did 2 or 3 solo, crowded cha-chas and a few line dances in, but not much. Around 10ish, K2 was off dancing with one of his girls and I decided to be brave and walked up to the guy who looked like my ex-boyfriend and said, "Excuse me, are you L?" He just smiled and said, "How have you been doing? It's been a long time." "You remember me?" "Yeah, Jennifer, right? So how've you been?" We chatted for a while, and I had this weird dynamic in my head alternating between "Man, he is so obnoxious, how did I go on more than one date with this man?" and "I really hope he asks for my number, it would be nice to go on a date." Confusion, confusion. Oh, and it turns out he had been married for 7 years but got divorced last fall. Not that it's relevant. Anyway, the conversation was nearing its natural end, and a song with a Cowboy Cha-Cha beat came on and I told L that I needed to go find my cha-cha partner. L understood and said "Go, go" in a friendly sort of way. I couldn't find K2 in time to dance with him - he wound up at the edge of the pack with one of his other girls. After the song ended, I said hi to them and made a joke, then left the dance floor to find L. He wasn't where I had left him. I saw him talking to a sound person, but he didn't turn my way when I approached, so I kept walking. What more was there to say? After another failed attempt to find K2 for a Cha-Cha, he and the girl he was dancing with directed me to the table they were sitting at. I had already confirmed to myself that K2 was not romantically interested in me because not only did he not call or text me when he was gone and had my number, but he also forgot to ask me how a couple of things went that I had told him 3 weeks ago were coming up. If he were interested, he would have at least remembered to ask about those events. So I know I'm just another friendly dance partner to him. Well, my brain knows, my head knows...So he gets up to dance with M, and the lady at the table who I had just met and I don't remember her name asked after a while where K2 was. J replied (I think, it is so loud in there) "He's probably off to the side talking to M, that's the girl he likes." My heart crashed to the floor. I think it was OK for him to not be interested in me, but for him to be interested in somebody else - somehow that hurts more. I don't know why, except that my heart definitely did not get the message from my head that we aren't supposed to like him anyway. Unfortunately, my heart despises logic. A few minutes later, L came up and asked J, who was sitting right next to me, to dance. I don't know why, but mentally I just snapped. My ex-boyfriend has this whole long conversation with me and then asks the lady next to me to dance? What the heck? Why do I care? I shouldn't care, he's obnoxious. And K2 was nowhere to be seen from my seated location. It was creeping close to 11 pm, and I have already been up since 5:30 and I have to get up at 5:30 again tomorrow (well, technically later this morning now that it's after midnight), so it was definitely time to leave. I saw K2 before I got to the exit, so I said good night, and, I'm not sure I heard this right, but it sounded something like, "Thanks a lot for tonight, Pal." Pal? I mean, yes, I guess that's what we are and should be, but it was just the icing on the cake to leave me feeling unwanted, unloved, loaveable, unLIFE. Most of the time I am OK being single, but then crap like this happens and...I feel like the scum of the earth. I'm only worthy of talking to or dancing with? I'm not worthy of actual time, real time, not bar time? I'm not worthy of kissing, of loving? Is it all because of my weight? Is it my insecurity about my weight? Maybe there's something inherently wrong with my personality that nobody can connect to. Of course not, it's my weight, most men are turned off by my weight (I guess since I told you I was 180-190 before, I am currently just under 230). Which makes me want to get back on my diet. Except then I'm losing weight for the wrong reasons, which never lasts. I need to want to lose weight because I'm tired of my back hurting and I'm tired of being tired all the time. But DAMMIT I should NOT have to lose weight to fall in love! There are some guys out there who prefer bigger women. I just have to find one who neither has nor wants kids, is okay with and not allergic to my dogs, and would be okay with the fact that I am bipolar. I have other criteria, of course, but these are those MUST HAVE/CAN'T STANDs. Can't stand. I can't stand myself sometimes. How can I eat so much? How did I let myself get so fat? Why don't I have better will power? I don't even like myself half the time, much less love myself, so how in the hell am I ever going to find somebody to love me when I don't love myself? But how can I? I'm gross and fat and lazy. I can barely even keep up with my laundry. I have two novels just waiting to be finished, but neither has been touched in months. And I have to deal with myself, all of myself, for the rest of my damn life. Depressed, manic, whatever, it's all me. You're supposed to love all the different parts of yourself, right? Fat lazy still borderline depressed WG does not feel very lovable right now. I have a lot of customers who love me because I am good at my job. I have family who loves me because they are supposed to. But what the hell. I feel like such a waste of space sometimes. No, I'm not suicidal, nobody panic, I'm just so terribly FRUSTRATED right now. I want to change. Why can't I change? I've gone 4 years without placing a bet of any kind (I'm a compulsive gambler) but I can't go a day without chocolate/sugar/junk food? What's that all about? And I want to be a writer but I can rarely even be bothered to write blog posts, much less work on my novels. Is this what my life will be like for the rest of my life? Lazy, unmotivated, ALONE and miserable? Man, I certainly hope not. I should be able to change. But how? How. How?!?!?! I don't know. I really kind of hate myself right now. If I hadn't tried to find K2 for the cha-cha, how much longer would I have chatted with L? Does it matter? He was obnoxious, why would you want to date somebody that obnoxious? You're not that desperate. Are you? Are you?! I don't know, maybe...it has been almost 2 years since my last attempt at a relationship, and that was a nightmare.Ugh. What do I want? What do I want from life? What do I want from myself? Why am I writing this all? Why am I sharing it? NOBODY is going to find this interesting. It's a boring journal post! Nobody is going to read it aside from your mother. Ugh. Why do I even have the urge to share this? Maybe somebody out there can relate and be happy that they aren't alone in these thoughts? Maybe somebody will read this and tell me I'm crazy? Is that a good thing? I don't even know.

X Bar and men. Then. Now. Always.

And my stupid head forgot to fill in my clueless, dumb, useless heart.

If you managed to read this far, THANK YOU, and if you have any advice or other comments, I would be happy to hear them. Sorry about the spam filter, I was up to my eyeballs in spam. Also it is now 12:43 am so forgive me for any typos I missed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Me Again

40 minutes ago, I got out of a massage and was so compelled to write a blog post that I could hardly focus on anything else. I finally got home, took the dogs out, and sat down at my keyboard...and now my mind is blank. Hopefully I can get those creative juices flowing again.

Again, it has been a month since I have blogged. I sincerely apologize for my absence. There are many reasons why I have not written for so long, but in the end, they're all mostly excuses, aren't they?

I used to love writing about my job and searching through pictures that I had taken. I think part of the fun has been taken out due to all of the computer problems I've been having lately. Just getting photos from my phone to my computer is a nightmare, much less sorting through them. Still, more excuses, right?

My depression has certainly been a factor for several months now, but I have been trying to force myself to do the things I used to love. Why haven't I been able to force myself to do this, when I have been able to force myself to do other things (like going dancing)?

I have been much busier than usual for the last three or four weeks (which is certainly a good thing), but I have still had some time where I could have written a blog post.

So what is the answer? What is the solution? I don't know. For today, the solution is to write about myself (again) rather than about grooming.

As I sit here and think, I am supposing that the extraordinarily slow growth of this blog may be a factor. For quite a while, I spent hours every week writing for or managing or promoting this blog. I worked and I worked and I promoted - and in the end, less than 100 people were reading my blog on any given day. I knew this would be a slow process, but I think my depression may have made growing this blog any farther seem like a monumental task. So I think I need to re-evaluate why I am even writing this blog.

I think at first I just wanted to express myself, but then I discovered that I could make money with advertising, so my blog became my ticket out of grooming. They say it takes 2 years to actually be profitable with a blog, and most bloggers quit before that. I think I got a little distracted by the money - I've "earned" $34 since about August - but Google doesn't write you a check until you've earned at least $100. So of course I really wanted to hit that $100 mark.

Maybe the answer is for me to stop caring about the money. And really, now that I haven't been blogging much, I only check my earnings report once a week or so, simply out of curiosity. Maybe I need to just write whatever I want, whether or not it relates to grooming, and if nobody reads it, that's just fine. Because the other reason I started the blog was to get in the habit of writing every day. So if I'm avoiding writing because I can't find passion for the subject that day - it should be more important for my long-term goals just to make sure I am writing a blog post about something, anything.

Hm. So maybe I need to allow myself more freedom about writing topics in order to write more, and care less about my audience or profit.

Well, if you have read this far, you deserve a dog picture, so here is a pic of Hailey and Dillin after their most recent grooming.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Creative Grooming Attempt 1

Oh my goodness, I am SO SO late in posting this! I've had the idea for a couple of months, and it's been two weeks since I actually did these grooms; I've just been working so much that I'm constantly exhausted. I'm talking 11-hour days :-P   Those long days should be done with soon, though we're still in the midst of busy season.

Anyway, I've decided to try my hand at some creative grooming. I've never really tried any before, and I figured I should probably try it on my own dogs first before trying it on customers' dogs.

I was inspired by this blog post to try using sidewalk chalk to do some temporary color on my dogs. I thought I would also try to create my own stencil and attempt to shave it onto Dillin and color it onto Hailey.

Here is Hailey before any sort of bath, haircut, or color. Doesn't she just look thrilled?


Here she is after. I actually did Dillin first, so I knew that trying to fill in that stencil with chalk color was never going to work. It was the end of a very long day and we were both tired, so I just colored her tail blue really quickly with the chalk.


Here's a better view. Her eyes are saying, "Can we PLEASE go home now?!"


I got the quick dog out of the way first here, even though I groomed her second. There is SO much more to say about Dillin because there is more that I did (and attempted) on him than on Hailey. Here he is before. His Mohawk was really out of control!


Here he is after the bath and haircut and with his Mohawk trimmed up nicely and dyed blue. Why did I go for blue on both Hailey and Dillin? Simply because I am a huge Denver Nuggets fan, and their colors are blue and yellow, and I suspected (correctly, as you'll see) that the yellow wouldn't look very good. Also they are in the playoffs right now and I wanted to show my team spirit.


Here's a side view. I REALLY like the way his Mohawk looks colored in - I think I'll need to make that part of his permanent look, and maybe change the color every time I groom him since chalk is so washable.


So then I attempted the stencil. I had printed out a logo of the Nuggets' that spelled out "Denver Nuggets" and cut out the letters carefully with a razor blade. It didn't seem overly intricate - until even my small toe blade was having problems fitting into the spaces. The snow-capped mountain peak turned out OK, but the rest was a wash, so I decided to free-hand a large DN into his side instead. Here's how that turned out. (Oh, and if you're keeping track, this is Plan B...)


Um, it kinda looks like I took a weed whacker to his side. That's not a good look. Can I cover it up with color?


Before I show you how that turned out, here is his other side. I had attempted to free-hand a DN on his side with the yellow chalk, but as you can see, it just looks like he rolled in mustard. Oops.


Anyway, Plan C was to color in the DN like a different logo - the bottoms of the letters are yellow, the tops are blue, and parts of the top right of the D and the top left of the N are a white snow-capped peak. I can manage that, right? Yeah, not so much. No matter how long you soak chalk, you still have to apply quite a bit of pressure to use it, which makes it difficult to work with in small patches. Here's Plan D.


And another view with him looking at the camera. I'm really looking forward to those shaved patches on his side growing in a smidge so I can take him back in and shave him down so he doesn't look like such a wreck. This is why I plan to experiment on my own dogs first!


As a side note, the color has worn off pretty quickly; the chalk on Dillin's sides had rubbed off within a day or two and his Mohawk and Hailey's tail have faded to a very pale pastel blue.

I definitely plan on trying more creative grooming, and I am going to a day-long seminar on it in June, which I am looking forward to. I will definitely plan on sharing all of my creative grooming experiments, both good and bad, with you all. Thanks for being so patient in between blog posts!

Friday, April 5, 2013

OAY

OAY.

Those 3 letters will make a groomer cringe every time.

What in the world does it stand for?

Once A Year, as in a dog that only gets groomed once a year, usually in the Spring. Some dogs get groomed twice a year and are in just as bad of shape as the once a year dogs. Either way, you know you are in for a mess - lots of undercoat, lots of mats, and sometimes lots of attitude because these dogs aren't as used to grooming as those who are groomed more frequently.


I groomed this dog yesterday. I had done her one other time - in September! So she's a twice a year dog, but she had enough undercoat to represent an OAY, so she's the dog who gave me the idea for this blog post. 

Anyway, in her before picture, you can see that there is a ton of undercoat packed in there and falling out in clumps.


It took a lot of scrubbing to get her clean underneath all the undercoat she had and a LONG time (well over an hour) with the velocity dryer to get her dry and remove most of the undercoat. Here is how the bathing/drying room looked when I was done, before I even swept all of the hair into a nice pile.


And here's all that hair swept into a pile. For you non-groomers who read my blog, imagine all of that hair flying around in that small room (I was standing in the doorway to take the picture) with a hot dryer and you can picture how fun that is. I'm going to be fishing Golden hair out of my eyes for days.


Here is the final haircut - nice and short and blended and smooth.


Here she is with the pile of hair on the floor below her...


...and next to her on the table. Luckily she was really sweet and really well-behaved. Still, this entire process took almost 2 1/2 hours - and she was only scheduled for 2 hours. This is one way OAY dogs can really screw up groomers; they usually take much longer to do than dogs who get groomed more frequently.


I really wish I had taken before and after pictures of the Golden/Australian Shepherd mix I groomed a couple of days ago that really does only get groomed once a year. He had a ton of undercoat and a ton of mats, and the owner wanted a very short haircut. It was a dramatic difference - but sadly the owner was late dropping off and I knew the dog would take longer than scheduled, so I shaved a couple of minutes off of the grooming time by skipping the pictures.

Anyway, here is a Saint Bernard I did a couple of weeks ago. He is a twice a year dog - between the shedding undercoat and the fact that he has skin allergies and constantly chews on himself caused some matting on his butt/hips that needed to be dealt with. Here he is before the bath.


And close up.


Between his chewing and my dematting, he did have some holes in his rear, but I still think he turned out nice.


Next we have a Bearded Collie. It had "only" been 3 months since I groomed him, but the extent of matting I saw was representative of what you would expect in an OAY, so I chose to include him in this blog post. I groomed him a couple of weeks ago.


The owners had been doing an OK job of brushing out his body, but his legs and face had completely gotten out of control. Here is a close-up of the matting on one of his legs.


Here he is after the bath and blow dry, which took FOREVER because his hair is unnaturally thick for a Bearded Collie; it more closely resembles an Old English Sheepdog, and, being matted, it really took a long time to get it all dry.


He also had some nasty skin problem - it was orange and greasy. Yuck! I wish I had noticed it before the bath, though: I think medicated shampoo would have been more effective if I had shaved him before the bath.


Here he is after. As you can see, I had to shave his body pretty short to get under the mats; I also had to shave his ears - they were so badly matted that I couldn't tell what was skin and what was mat.


I also had to take his muzzle much shorter than I would have liked, but trying to demat that area would have hurt him, so I just used the longest blade I could to get under the mats. This is a pretty typical look for an OAY: shaved body and ears, short face, and let's-leave-some-hair-on-top-of-his-head.


I'm just at the very beginning of OAY season, so I may very well have sequels to this post in the future. Also, please note: I am not trying to judge people who do not get their dogs groomed frequently, I am simply presenting a groomer's POV on what it is like to groom these types of dogs.