Thursday, October 22, 2009

On Being Humbled by a Puppy

There's no doubt in my mind that I will, time and time again, repeat the statement that dogs make fools of us all. Hopefully we as humans can learn from these experiences, just like I did today.

Enter little Benson, a seven-month-old Shih Tzu. Really, he was very good for his groom. Only screamed for his first two nails, tolerated the stand dryer with just a few howls, and had little problem with getting a rescue smoothie. However, when it came time to trim his mustache and beard, he wasn't having any of it.

A lot of his protesting fell to me, as I'm not used to grooming dogs that require face trimming. Instead of working Benson through the process, I went right for his precious hairs. Luckily, Tim showed me how to gain his trust by holding his head, then petting him with the shears, then taking a few snips, and finally finishing the round expression.

The real kicker of it all was that I already knew how to do that, but wasn't applying it to his face! I introduced him to the clipper on his feet that way, as I learned to do at Groom Expo. Plus, I've trained dogs to accept the nail trimmers (including my own Xavier) the same way. Perhaps I'm too much like a dog, in that I don't generalize! It never occurred to me that I could apply similar techniques to the rest of the groom!

I can be a noodge sometimes. It's a very humbling feeling to realize you've got nothing in the ways of handling, even after a couple of years of theoretical study. However, an important lesson was confirmed today: steady introduction goes one heck of a long way!

Dogs make fools of us, and it's up to us in turn to shut up, listen, and learn from what they are trying to say.
...there's another one of my favorite sayings, hehe!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two Down

Hard to believe that it's already been two weeks since I first arrived here and began at Nash. I definitely noticed improvements in my techniques, and I'm excited to say that this week I get to use my clippers more. Wait, why am I not down there banging on the doors to be let in and groom? Haha!

There were some definite toughies this week. It's like I say: dogs can and will make fools of us all! I was defeated by a Pug with a deep-seated hatred of nail clipping. Perhaps that's where the term "pugnacious" comes from? I agree with Tim on this one: it should state that resentment for nail care in the breed standard!

At least Rocky the Pug wasn't like Princess, an elderly Maltese with an automatic bite response to anything that came near her feet. I got nailed twice! The Groomer's Helper (thanks again Chuck!) saved my hands from demise. In the tub, she was a real sweetheart, even for her feet! Was it a matter of an environment change, or just the fact that she was all wet? Haha!

I didn't know that a correct Golden Retriever coat is synonymous with "dense"! None of the Goldens back home can ever compare to miss Maggie's extreme coat, hiding mats and preventing a comb from being dropped through it! At least I got her head symmetry in perfect balance. I'm well on my way if I can do that successfully!

Again on the topic of dogs making fools of us, I've learned that I have some breed stereotypes. Labs back home are, nicely put, hillbillies! So whenever I see a Lab come in, I can't help but prepare myself for wigglies, drool, noise, and--of course--extreme smells. Of the Labs I've worked on so far, I've seen none of these. They are almost reserved and regal in temperament, a nice change from the rowdies I'm used to. They've made me feel humbled in a sense. As humans, our ability and need to categorize everything down to a T is undoubtedly one our greatest attributes, and simultaneously one of our biggest downfalls. See what I mean? Dogs DO make fools of us! At least this was a learning experience, as well as a pleasant surprise; I'm viewing Labs in a new light.

Picture time!
Check back next week for clipper work! Yeah!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Nice Surprise

In my previous entries, I've failed to mention that my other housemate, Emily, brought her kitten along for the ride. Sunny (who also lives with us and is my former online classmate) and I can't get enough of his wild kitty antics - from nice to naughty in a split second! Merlin the Kitten is not just a ball of energy, but also has a cuddly side.

Em went to visit family over the weekend and took Merlin along. They came back later this evening and we realized how empty the place felt without our four-legged friend. In addition, it was the first time I realized how long I'd been away from Xavier. Going through pictures on my phone, I began to miss him terribly. Next thing I know, Merlin is crawling on my lap and gently nuzzling my head. He went upstairs, and I stayed down to watch some TV, thinking all the while about my four-legged boy back home. When I got up to my room, I heard a strange sound. Turning to the bed, I was greeted by a pair of green eyes and a joyful purr.

Merlin has taken a definite liking to all of us, and in such a short time. This gesture of friendliness from a hyperactive kitty when I felt troubled confirms my belief: our animals do indeed watch over us. I still miss Xavier, but Merlin's surprise greeting let me know that I am in good paws right now! I can't help but feel that as a soon-to-be groomer, I am returning the favor to all animal kind. If only more humans could be so supportive. And people ask me why I chose to work with animals so closely, haha!

It's late, and tomorrow starts a new week. I hope I get a hairy Nordic dog to groom soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

First Week Out... Already??

I'm still trying to figure out how an entire week is already over - it's amazing! I've got thirteen dogs under my belt, granted that they're all either prep grooms, natural styles or silhouette tidies. Still, I've learned so much in the short time here. Holding my shears is becoming a breeze; the secret is to pull with your fingers and push with your thumb to secure and steady - clean cuts! Not to mention a few random breed factoids, such as the Chihuahua's soft spot on the top of the head or how the Bedlington's speed body build should never be pulled out of a foxhole like you would a Westie... unless you WANT to get bit by a very angry dog!

So far I'm a fan of bulk thinning, especially for those pesky featherings on Golden Retrievers. My beveled feet could use a little more work, but they're coming along. I even got to work on some first-time clients, the most noteworthy being Toto, the gas station Schnauzer mix. He actually made me get sappy and emotional; not only was he an angel for his groom, but we're really not all that different. We've just both been set on the path to begin a great life journey, and for me, it was an honor that our paths crossed.

I always wonder what Xavier is up to at home. So far no problems - we're both keeping busy, I suppose. As much as I want to enjoy my time here, part of me is anticipating the day I bust through the front door and give my best buddy a giant cuddle!

Oh! As promised, here's some doggy pictures!
Be sure to check it often for even more dogs!

Now what the HECK am I going to do all weekend? Haha!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Awesome first day!

OK, so I might be too exhausted some days to bring minute-to-minute coverage of my time at Nash, but that's a good thing - it's incredible here! We all introduced ourselves and then got out own tables... with cabinets! No more lugging around my big heavy blue suitcase, at least until I leave. I spent the majority of the morning marking my equipment with a distinguishing blue paw print; you never realize how much you actually pack until you spend so much time tagging it all!

Afternoon was great. My first day, and I got to team up with Sunny to bathe and dry... a black standard Poodle! The funny thing was that he looked like a gigantic Armani, the first dog I ever groomed - on this day last year to be exact! I think the Universe is trying to tell me that I'm in the right place, haha!

My hand has a small cramp in it from playing with my shears and the dryer, but it's a good feeling. It means I'm learning something new, and I'm going to need to acclimate to it. Speaking of which, I've learned that I adapt to changing environments a lot easier than I thought I would, similar to a dog! So far I'm feeling very at home here. The fact that I'm surrounded by other pet care pros helps - even with my grooming buddies, I don't get to talk this much "dog" at home!

Plus, I got to say hi to Xavier tonight - Mom said his eyes went wide when he heard my voice over the phone. I kind of wished he would've "Woo-woo"ed back, but I'm glad he still knows his mama's voice!

I'm going to be uploading pictures to Photobucket once I have the opportunity. Stay tuned for puppy pictures!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Howdy Y'all!

Hehe. I'm all set and moved in! After one night at the Ramada and another night in a smaller room, I've just put all my stuff away in a bigger room. Class starts tomorrow, and the anticipation is killing me! There are a few mixed thoughts right now, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see what's coming down the pike!

Mom called earlier and said Xavier was waiting at the door for me. He's my own little Hachiko, only his human is coming back someday!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The End of an Act

I don't remember when I first heard the line, "If life's a stage, it's time for the next act." All I know is that it's a really good way of looking at change. This act in my life has come to a close. Two years ago, I was unsure of my destination, but filled with determination. Now, I've got a new goal, that same drive, and a whole lot of something I didn't have much of before: confidence.

Most of the loose ends are tied up now. I sent a special thank you to the kennel for keeping an eye on Xavier for me while I was at Groom Expo. There were many fond farewells at the shelter on Thursday. I even printed out some pictures I had of Zeus and Trevor the Donut for my director to put on the urns--didn't have any of Raven, and I'd never seen Gypsie. Mere hours ago, I came out of a massive "food coma" induced by eating too much hibachi with some of my best friends from work--I'm gonna miss you guys like crazy!!

Seems like all that's left to do is finish packing, say a fond farewell to Xavier (sadly, he can't come), and hit the road. There's one thing I noticed though: it doesn't feel like tomorrow will be any different. Lately I've noticed a calm in the atmosphere, a sort of zen if you will; everything feels as it should. It's almost like I've just been a spectator in this town, watching and knowing that everything is going to be just fine. I'll admit I've had my worries, but they're all a thing of the past now.

If life's a stage, it's time for my next act. And for everyone I've met in this one and knew from previous ones, just remember another of my absolute favorite lines: "It's never really goodbye, because there will always be another dog show!"

School starts on Tuesday. Exit stage left, intermission, curtain up!