3 February 2014 0 Comments

When Worlds Collide, Part II: What Did You Do To My Dog

Part II in a series about dog grooming, this will examine the ordeals of having a pet professionally groomed, tackling the point of view of grooming clients.

I must admit, as a groomer and as a pet owner/grooming client, I was appalled at some of the horror stories I’ve been told while researching this blog entry. It impresses upon me the previously-downplayed need to research a groomer as thoroughly as one should research a prospective veterinarian or a potential breeder.

Much like the perspective of groomers, a lack of communication is a huge problem for us groom clients. Not being sure what to expect at pick-up is both frustrating and sometimes scary! One person had a Cocker Spaniel in a LOVELY pattern (I saw photos, really adorable dog and a very flattering trim too), and when they picked him up, he’d been shaved all over! The groomer, who admitted to being new and not knowing how to groom a Cocker, said she shaved him because she thought his coat would be “too hot.” As the owner of a dearly deceased Cocker of my own, and as a groomer who knows that is utter bullshit, I was shocked and angry! I saw pictures of her lovely dog after being shaved, and I must say, that so-called “groomer” deserved a good tongue-lashing, and then some.

To my surprise, that wasn’t the only haircut mishap. Seems like many dogs were trimmed or even totally shaved without the owners knowing until they arrived to collect their pet! I’m just shocked…I can’t even imagine the mindset. One person’s dog, a German Shepherd, had the feathering on the backs of the legs shaved, which makes absolutely no damn sense! Again, because the groomer (STUPIDLY) believed that it would make the dog “too hot.” I’m beginning to wonder if this is some kind of bad groomer tactic, an excuse to chop off hair. Someone else had two dogs groomed, and asked for a sanitary (buttparts) trim on one bitch, and instead they shaved the thighs and flanks (NOT the sanitary area) of her OTHER bitch! On top of that were numerous reports of just badly botched haircuts, and trims that the owner didn’t expect. One person strongly advised, “look for a groomer who will ask questions for clarity at first till they know your style preference.” When there’s a lack of communication, nobody is pleased.

I have an anecdote for you. It is about my Cocker, but before he became MY Cocker.

His owner wanted him bathed but not trimmed, and I was told I couldn’t groom him unless he was a “haircut dog” too (management at that salon was fairly shitty). The bather who was to work on him was new, and had never worked on a Cocker before. She was told not to trim a hair on his body (his former owner was growing out his skirt at the time) but for some reason, she decided to trim the scragglies around his feet.

Then she trimmed UP the feet.

Then more.

She ended up giving him shaved Poodle-style feet…WITH SCISSORS. Miracle she didn’t cut him! I didn’t see it happen, so I was taken aback when his owner came to get him and lo, he had a hackjob of a scissors-shave on his paws. She looked me right in the eye and said “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!” Fortunately she knew I hadn’t done it, but she was pissed. Rightly so!!! Worse, they were still going to make her PAY for the groom; they finally agreed to refund her provided she tell no one. Fine, she can’t talk about it…I made no such arrangement!!!! It was hideous!!!!

More anecdotal idiocy: after I took in my dear, sweet Cocker Spaniel, Bingerton, I occasionally had other groomers work on him. Notably, whenever a new groomer graduated from Academy, it was only a matter of time before they’d have Bingerton on their schedule. I felt comfortable with that because I’d have watched them groom several dogs first, and because they loved my dogs. I overheard one gal bragging to a friend that they were to work on Bing, and that they were so excited and honored! As a dog owner and a grooming client, I want my groomer to like my dogs. I want them to be happy, because they will make the dog happy. I sneakily watched them groom him if I could, and each one was just lovely to my grand old boy. Until the cancer ate away his memory and ability to recognize people, he’d get super-excited when he’d see one of “his girls;” he loved the attention and he loved to be brushed and fussed over, and I knew they’d taken wonderful care of him.

One fine day, a new Academy graduate came to the salon.

I freely admit, I did not like her from the moment she arrived after her Academy session. She was cranky, irritable, and loud-mouthed. Every dog she groomed, she griped about. Ultra-negative, and not very nice to the dogs, either. Not long after she began grooming, I witnessed an incident where she was grooming a very elderly Cocker Spaniel. She would NOT shut up, and the things she said…!

“I hate this dog.”

“I hate Cockers, I hate Cocker hair.”

“I hate old dogs, they sit down all the time, STAND THE FUCK UP DOG.”

“I hate spaniel patterns.”

“I hate dogs with warts or tumors, ugly!”

I just stayed at my own table, seething, because my dog Bingerton was a Cocker. My dog was old. My dog had to sit down a lot when groomed, he was elderly and had endured multiple strokes which affected his balance. My dog was in a modified spaniel pattern. My dog had lots of lipomas and bumps.

Her berating that geriatric Cocker for being a geriatric Cocker really rubbed me the wrong way.

Later THAT SAME DAY, she came over to me and said, “So when do I get to groom Bingerton?” Now, I try to be polite. I really do. But I kind of lost it. I rounded on her, and told her straight to her face, “You HATE my dog, so you will not GROOM my dog. Ever.” I explained to her (a tad harshly) that not every dog is going to be a pristine show-dog, and that pets get old, and sometimes lumpy or easily tired, and that I didn’t approve of her lack of compassion.

Pretty sure someone told her “don’t bug that guy about it again” because she dropped it.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one in the salon who had a very nice dog in a pet-version pattern. A friend and co-worker’s Schnauzer was also a dog that was routinely worked on by the Academy graduates–when they were ready of course! This same obnoxious dog-hater basically did the same thing to her: bitched endlessly about how much she hates terriers, et cetera, then demanded to be allowed to groom the Schnauzer. However, this time she didn’t take NO for an answer, and began harassing the dog’s owner on a near-daily basis about it. It got so bad she had to report this asshole dog-hating groomer to the management to try and get her to stop.

It still makes me angry, years after the fact, when I think about it. People trusted her with their loved pet, and she’d never pet or praise the dogs…she’d just bitch and whine and verbally put-down all of them. She hated dogs and told them so in no uncertain terms. More than a few times, other groomers would have to finish dogs that she started, because the dogs would begin to refuse to allow her to touch them. They may not know the exact words she spoke, but they sure sussed out the meaning in a hurry!

Groomers who do not love dogs shouldn’t be groomers, end of story.

Bad haircuts, unexpected shavedowns, and dog-hating groomers are one thing. Injuries and even deaths…well, this blog is about to take a very unpleasant turn.

Injuries happen. Grooming tools are very, very sharp and dogs are dogs, they move around sometimes. One young thing was scared to become a groomer; she confided in me before she went to Academy that she was afraid she was going to cut a dog. I told her the truth: all groomers cut dogs. It WILL happen. The only thing you can do is to make sure it only happens as a fluke, a total accident, and not as a result of inattention or carelessness. I have nicked a couple ears in my time as a groomer, when dogs would suddenly shake their head while having faces or ears trimmed…I nicked a paw pad once when a dog jerked it’s foot as I was trimming it’s toes…and I had a dog who abruptly whipped his head around and licked the shears once, cutting his tongue. I average less than one injury each year…as it stands, I’ve gone two solid years without a single injury to a pet. But sometimes, it happens.

The problem arises when a groomer gets careless or rushes. Oh, the horror stories I could tell!!! I was there the day a fellow groomer chopped off an ear. I had the day off, but I found out another co-worker bifurcated a puppy’s tongue by several inches with shears. I was there the day a cat-certified groomer got loose skin caught in the clippers and tore a six-inch gash open on the cat’s flank, down to muscle and bone. I was there the day a dog had his paw broken; I was there when someone choked a Schnauzer until it passed out.

Some people shared anecdotes with me about injuries to their pets when being groomed; one poor dog didn’t just have one nail cut too short, they had ALL their nails cut off far too short, causing pain and limping. One dog lost an eye while being groomed.

All of those are preventable injuries. All of those happened due to rushing, or not paying attention.

I worked in the chop shop of grooming…I was one of the good ones, trained by excellent groomers and carefully instructed. Many others in that salon, sadly, were given a bare minimum of training and then given very challenging, difficult dogs right out of the gate. Many were young and not really very passionate about grooming, so they tended to have less attention to detail, less concern for the pet.

I thought those nightmare-injuries were the worst of the worst. I was wrong.

While researching for this, I was made aware of several dogs that were beaten by their groomers (some were caught on tape, to my shock and horror), and some who’ve died as a result of being groomed. A poor Bichon suffered such extensive burns, she passed away from complications after her groom. Others died on the premises…one little Shih Tzu puppy was literally cooked to death in a hot-boxed kennel dryer. Another dog was so maligned it suffered a heart attack.

The majority of deaths during the grooming process seem to stem from inappropriate use of kennel dryers causing fatal burns. I’m suddenly glad I don’t even own a kennel dryer…I can’t begin to imagine the suffering these poor dogs have endured. Horrifically, there are other, even more gruesome deaths, like the four-month-old Bulldog puppy who was strangled to death by her groomer, but death due to dryer-burns is the primary culprit.

It is beyond my comprehension how these things could have happened. I genuinely feel sick and distressed at the very notion! I’d planned on providing links to articles about the deaths and the abuse, but…some of the photos are extremely graphic. It took half a desert pizza and several shots of whiskey for me to be able to sleep after seeing them, so I don’t much feel like foisting them on others. Suffice to say they were incredibly sad and distressing.

I have to conclude that groomers should be licensed. At present, almost noplace in the United States requires anything in the form of training or experience to be a “groomer,” meaning that there are apparently a stunning number of incompetent, negligent, or even downright cruel so-called “groomers” out there. As said before, research is the key! Ask a lot of questions, be suspicious, be sure you are comfortable with the groomer. If you feel “off” for ANY reason, go elsewhere. I’m living proof there are good, conscientious, dog-loving groomers in this world…I just had no idea there is a minority of groomers killing their canine clients. Folks, if you find a good groomer, stay with them. Better safe than sorry!

Licensure would go a long ways towards making grooming salons safer for pets.

I do want to take a moment to discuss that these events are rare. I have found reports of half a dozen or so dogs killed by groomers over the course of several years. In other words, it is highly unlikely that your pet will ever suffer like this. However, the fact that it happens at all totally took me by surprise. As both a groomer and a grooming client, I would urge everyone to ask lots of questions of a potential groomer, especially about their use of kennel dryers. I personally prefer hand-dryers, and SOME kennel dryers are safe, but not all kennel dryers are.

Questions you may wish to ask are, will a kennel dryer be used on my pet? If so, for how long? Does it use a heating element or room-temperature air? If you have a brachycephalic dog, such as a Bulldog, Shih Tzu, Pug, et cetera…NEVER allow a groomer to use a kennel dryer. Most of the dogs I researched who were killed by them were brachycephalic and thus more prone to overheating.

Coming soon will be Part III: Fear and Loathing, which will tackle the subject of dogs who dislike being groomed; it will be an amalgam blog, citing both groomer and client sentiments alike.

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