So it seems that behind-the-scenes stories from workers in the service industry are all the rage right now, so I'm going to play around with some of my blog posts in that style. I have been particularly influenced by "Waiter Rant: Thanks For the Tip - Confessions of a Cynical Waiter" by Steve Dublanica and "Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality" by Jacob Tomsky. I highly recommend both of these books - they are funny and true-to-life. Not getting the service you want? These guys will fill you in on how to get the best service.
Anyway, I would like to be more honest about what it is REALLY like dealing with grooming clients - the ones with 4 feet as well as the ones with 2. I am not intending to demean or offend anybody, I just want to highlight some of the interesting things that have been said to me over the years as a dog groomer.
Yesterday was an especially interesting day at work, which is what gave me the idea for this particular blog post.
My first dog of the day was a middle-aged Lab with very thin hair, bad dander, and bald spots. A medicated shampoo and thorough blow dry got rid of the dander temporarily, but there was clearly something going on with this dog that the owners may or may not be aware of. Some dander is normal, but lots of dander plus thin hair plus bald spots equals (most likely) a food allergy at a minimum or a medical condition at the worst, such as a thyroid problem or Cushing's disease (an auto-immune disorder).
When the owners came to pick up the dog, I asked them if he had any medical conditions that they were aware of.
The wife's eyes got HUGE. "NO, why?!"
I explained about the bald spots and dander indicating some sort of problem, and she says, "Oh, well he's on thyroid medication..."
Thyroid problems can definitely cause dander and bald spots. Usually, though, it creates a really sticky dander that is impossible to rid the dog of, but this Lab had normal dander, just a lot of it.
I eventually convinced the people to consider the fact that the dog might have a food allergy. Apparently he's been this itchy his whole life. In my opinion, that is not normal.
The point of all of this, though, is that it would have been extremely helpful for these people to tell me about the thyroid problem when I asked if he had any medical issues. Just because he is on medication doesn't mean he doesn't have an issue. In any case, I'm just trying to help, so why wouldn't you provide all the information I need to try to help you?
So that was a little strange and a little irksome. I really do hope a food switch helps. It can't be a fun existence to spend your life scratching yourself bald.
My next dog of the day was a crazy Westie that I had done once before. The first time I groomed the dog, the man brought in the dog and said, "The terror, I mean terrier, is here."
That's not a good sign. The dog was about a year old at the time and had only been groomed once or twice before. He was absolutely wild and very difficult to groom.
I was thrilled to see him again yesterday (said half-sarcastically). Crazy dogs are no fun, but they generally benefit from seeing the same groomer every time they come in and frequently get used to everything and calm down. This particular guy also needed a little bit of a firm hand. Not that I hurt him in any way, just when he would struggle, I wouldn't let him struggle out of my grip. He just needs to learn the rules of grooming. He is young enough that I am hopeful he will become a good dog to groom.
Anyway, he did show some improvement yesterday, which is exactly what I want to see.
Then the man comes to pick up the dog and says, "He sure has an interesting personality."
I'm sure this man really believes that. I am sure he believes his dog is just crazy.
My thoughts? They own a terrier and have no idea how to handle him. Puppies in general can be very hard to handle if you don't know what you are doing. Terriers, though, really need to have experienced owners. They are very strong-willed and prefer to do their own thing over what you want. Sometimes they aren't even treat-motivated. If you don't know how to handle a terrier, they will run your entire household.
So this man's "interesting personality" is really just an out-of-control terrier who probably gets away with anything he likes at home. Not only is this not good for the dog or the owners, it's not good for me either. It is very difficult to enforce rules while grooming to a dog that does not need to follow any rules at home.
Anyway. That's my rant for the day. I won't claim to be the best pet parent in the world, and it might be hypocritical of me to judge others for their parenting skills, but it still amuses me to think that these people have absolutely no idea that they are enforcing that "interesting personality" every day.
Next I had a cute Pug and a Japanese Chin. No complaints there - both the dogs and the owners were good.
My last dog of the day was the icing on the cake. This lady comes in carrying this dog and this picture:
I'm already worried. Then she says something to the effect of "His mom was a Yorkie, so he must be something like this."
How do you figure? He looks like a Yorkie or Silky mix, and you bring me a picture of a Welsh Terrier? Not only is the dog shaped and sized wrong, but his hair is completely wrong. Welsh Terriers have very rough, wiry hair that stands up easily and might have a bit of wave or curl to it. This dog had very soft, silky hair that was as flat and straight as could be. There is no possible way I can make this dog look like this picture.
"Umm..." I say. "He doesn't have this kind of hair. I can't make him look like this."
"Just do the best you can."
"Uh, OK. So...You want me to shave his ears, take the top of his head short, and leave two eyebrows?"
"And...what sort of length are you looking for on the body?"
"Whatever is in the picture."
The entire time I washed this dog (oh, by the way, he was only 9 months old and had been groomed only twice before, so he was terrified and wiggly), I tried to decide what I would do. How am I going to make this Yorkie mix look like a Welsh Terrier?
I wound up leaving just over half an inch on his body and 1/4" on top of his head. I shaved his ears and trimmed two eyebrows. I also took the sides of his head really short and trimmed his beard short and scruffy.
Here's the final result:
You can't really see his eyebrows in this light, but I promise they are there. How do you think I did? I think I got the dog as close to the picture as I possibly could. Mom seemed happy and said she would come back with her other dog in the future.
I can't wave a magic wand and turn a Yorkie into a Welsh, but at least I have the skills after so many years of grooming that I can accomplish a close enough look to make the owner happy.
OK, opinion and comment time! Did you enjoy this blog post? Was I too insulting? What do you want me to write more about in the future? I look forward to hearing from you all!