Friday, November 27, 2009

The Worst, the Best, and Everyone In Between!

First, apologies are once again in order - twenty plus dogs in the school per day can get crazy insane!

Anyway, between this week and last week, I've seen the full spectrum of temperaments. There were jumping dogs, sitting dogs, prefect dogs, and yes, even biting dogs! A tiny little Shih Tzu named Star gave me my first hard bite when I tried to do her nails, yet her temperament listing said there were no surprises! It really hurt--I still have the bruise--but more than anything, it scared the crap out of me.

Go figure that next day, Tim gave me a dog named Cooney (who I nicknamed "The Coon Bird" after my highschool vice-principal) a little dog with a nasty temperament. Every time you tried to pick him up, his teeth came out in full force. No Groomer's Helpers. No set of clippers. Just me, the Coon Bird, a pair of thinners, and his sharp little teeth. He only got me once, and he didn't even break the skin, unlike Star. We had a system going for a while: I held his beard gently in order to control his head (and his teeth), and gently lifted and supported his butt. Occasionally I'd get a warning growl, to which I slowly and deliberately held more of his beard, stood him up, and rocked him when the growling ceased. Of course, someone suggested that holding the beard would set him off more and proceeded to tap and shush him repeatedly. Now that set him off worse! Forget the beard holding after that, it was game over.

There's one of the few things I really dislike so far - I come from a different school of thought. I don't shush dogs, I don't torment dogs who are already moody about being pulled from their normal surroundings to get their hair wet, butt squeezed, paws prodded, and hair shaped differently from what they're used to. It's rather disturbing to see how deeply this "pop culture" handling runs in the grooming community.

Just like in any relationship, both sides must compromise for each other; that is what defines the relationship as a healthy one. Without a working compromise, the scales tip in favor of one side. In the case of human to dog, the scale rarely tips to the dog. I'm not saying that it should, but it should never tip to the human either. As a whole, we've somehow got it in our heads that we must always push ourselves onto the dog whenever things aren't going our way. In a playground setting we call this bullying.

We are already in control of our dogs. We provide them with shelter by paying our bills, go out to the store to buy their food, take them to the vet for medicines... and the list goes on. When they misbehave, they can be removed from the situation easily with a leash. On the table, they can be handled slowly until they relax, and gradually built up to have a tolerance for things that they, for what ever reason, find scary. Why do we feel the need to get so physical with our dogs? I guarantee that if I saw you standing around and I didn't like it, and I went up to you and started shoving you around, you'd probably get aggravated and push back at some point!

The dog is already removed from his environment. My job is to make him feel at ease as much as possible with these weird new surroundings, not to shush and shove him until he shuts down and grows to hate being on the table. Grooming must be enjoyable for both parties involved. This is where I love the bathing systems and completely adjustable force dryers and tables at the school. We can compensate for the dog, all while doing the job humanely.

Speaking of being humane, I learned how to handle both deaf and blind dogs. Deaf dogs are a little easier, because they can still see the edge of the table as well as where you are standing. I just wish I could tell them how good they look! Blind dogs are very special. I talked almost nonstop to my little blind Poodle, Butler. He actually followed the noise of my clippers at one point - noisier clippers really aren't so bad after all, haha! There's a deeper bond to be formed with a blind dog, as they are completely reliant on you in order to be safe on the table. I had a hard time giving the little guy back to his owners; I could tell that they loved their dog deeply, but I knew that was probably going to be the only time I ever got to work with him. Wherever I end up, I want to work with a blind little Poodle!

New this week was Schnauzer faces and body work. One day I had three dogs, the last of which was an actual Schnauzer. The first two were Yorkie mixes, and the cut really suited them well! I need to convince my aunt to let me give her Yorkie, Wheezer, a Schnauzer face!

As for the best? I'm home for the holidays, with my best friend in the world! Xavier was very excited to see me, but didn't throw all 57 pounds of himself at me - Mom doped him with turkey, haha! His winter coat is forcing his old summer coat out of the follicles, so he looks similar to when I first brought him home! He's getting groomed tomorrow, as well as a shelter dog, and my uncle's Golden will probably be getting groomed today... don't tell anyone, but I might be a workaholic, haha!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Horsin' Around After a Crazy Week

I totally needed this!

...not to say that week number six was a train wreck, because it definitely had its ups and downs. Let's start with the good stuff!

Tim showed us some scissor exercises--although a far cry from SCISSORCISES--early in the morning, and told us to lead with the cutting blade for smooth finishes. It's already helped with my shear control. Pun definitely not intended; just think how much better it would be if we finally scissorcised! If this week's not too bad, I'm gonna get on his case about it, haha!

Let's see... I learned I have a natural knack for Poodle topknots. Tim seemed impressed when I told him I did a topknot completely unassisted, and the only thing wrong was that it was a little flat in the back. Snow blindness is a pain, but the final product looked good!

So that brings us to the not-so-great. The same Poodle I did the rockstar topknot on acted like a brat for her face. I got frustrated and caught myself, seconds before Tim did. Apparently, when I hit that point, I start to shout. I didn't mean to get so flustered with Gigi. Good thing Tim's so incredibly level-headed; I hope to someday be like him, in that regard.

Also, Shih Tzu faces were my recurring demise. I just wasn't able to get into the corner close enough to remove those pesky little hairs--all out of fear of cutting the dog--and ended up with clean, bulldog-ish faces. At least I watched a grooming video today that showed me how to do it. And even though I was told (don't remember who the heck said it) to trim the outside corners of the eyes first, you're supposed to go from the inside corners, to the visor, and do the outside dead last! I hate getting thrown off...

One more thing that's been bothering me is how many kennel trims I've been doing. I'm tired of putting dogs up on sticks, as it's commonly referred to. You can definitely leave a little bit of hair on the legs to give a minuscule amount of style to a short trim. Kennel trims are for matted dogs!

At least I wasn't in the position of one of my classmates, who cut a dog's ear. Both Tim and the owner were extremely forgiving; it's not like she meant to do it, after all. Kind of makes me wish my first mistake would be here, in a place where no one is going to leap down your back about it. Still, it was a reminder to all of us how careful we must be with our "moving targets"!

The sixth week was more pressure-filled than any other week so far. I'm very appreciative to Michelle and her husband for inviting us down to their little ranch in the country and letting us ride their two horses. Novi definitely had the most fun, you could tell when he said he wanted a faster horse! Being out in a place like that, where the roads were winding and all of the stars were out when dusk fell, made me feel like there is still a bit of surreal magic hidden within the world's corners.

Speaking of stars, I could've sworn I saw a shooting one as we drove home. Sure hope my wish comes true!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Busy Week and Weekend

There's no doubt about it, week five was the busiest so far. It started with a topknot and ended with a tight tidy on a Pomeranian and a Schnauzer's brick-shaped face! Tim even started timing my work; there's an area that's downright shabby. I admit, I nitpick. I'm a perfectionist, right down to the last detail! Tim definitely confirmed it when he took care of four paw pads AND nails in the time it takes me to do one! I know there's no comparison, as he's been doing this for fifteen years, but I still wish I was faster; it'll come in time. Rather coincidental, no? Haha!

Two fellow classmates graduated on Saturday: Vanessa and our roommate, Emily. I have a feeling that both of them will be great groomers. Vanessa has calmed down a bit with her handling this week (patience is a virtue, after all), and Emily is just so darned creative... kudos to both of them!

That also means that Merlin has left the building. Already, it's unnerving to not have a four-legged furbaby running around the house; I've caught myself several times looking for him when I know darn well that he went home! Perhaps I can see about bringing Xavier down here for the last two weeks...

Some of Sunny's relatives came for a visit, so we went on the town. Lexington is beautiful! We both ate so well; I know I went into "hibernation mode" on Saturday night. Guess I need a sign that says "Don't feed the groomer," haha!

Today we were supposed to go horseback riding with Novi, but the weather is gray and miserable. I took this opportunity to hole myself up and study. Not only am I getting through Diane's book on canine body language, but I've also read some fantastic articles in Neptune. Armed with Jean Donaldson's new advice, I feel inspired... I'm gonna need that doggy center that I dream about, haha!

We're supposed to scissorcise this week too! I hope number six pans out to be the best yet!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Things are getting interesting this week! So far we have three new people with us... well, four, but one quit. Anyway, there's a new air of excitement in the classroom. I hope that part of it came from me introducing myself to everyone beforehand as well as saying that they could come to any of us for help whenever they needed it. I think I would've liked to hear that more from my fellow students my first day.

Tim is no longer the only guy in the school as he now has Novi (from Serbia) and David to back him up - and he's already let fly with a few lines he's been saving, haha!

Right now the big concern is tables - not everyone will have their own this week! Talk about a full house!

As for me? I had a project and a half today: a severely matted Cock-A-Poo named Bella. I find it inexcusable and appalling that the first dog I ever groomed, a puppy mill rescue Poodle, had less mats than she did! If Mommie and Daddie want her to have a long coat someday, might I recommend that they make an effort to brush her once in a while?

...whew. OK, I feel a little better now. Bella did too, once I got her "straight jacket" off. At least we were able to save her ears, beard, and topknot; I was pretty impressed at how cute I made her face look, despite the large divots in her coat from de-matting!

Whaddaya think?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New Month, Different Outlook

The past week was certainly full of its ups and downs, both weighing in heavily. Let's start out with the good. On Wednesday, we were blessed with two very special visitors: two of the three Bedlingtons in the entire state of Kentucky came in for a groom! Even thinking about them now, I can't get over how cool they were! Both brothers were very used to being groomed; it was fun to watch, and even more fun to play with them afterwards. What sweet dogs! You'd never guess they were originally bred to square off in a battle royal with each other.

Now, not everyone was interested in seeing them, one of several things that prompted our instructors to blow everything out of the water, rather out-of-the-blue, the next morning. While it changed the atmosphere into a friendlier one, everyone felt the tensions the episode caused, including myself. Eventually a part of me just collapsed inside; I had to step out and recollect myself. I really hate that feeling. At least Tim came outside to give me a pep talk and help me build my spirits back up.

I feel incredibly blessed to have Tim as one of my instructors. He feels less like a teacher, and more of a buddy, which I find rather beneficial considering some of my past "schooling experiences". I have a lot to learn, now I just need to figure out how to pick his brain to get that information out!

Back to the good, Sunny and I decided to go to BW-3's last night with one of our other classmates, Dianne. We talked about a lot, and I feel like it was a huge relief to get things off our minds. Food was great, the restaurant was buzzing with football excitement, and there was lots of good beer! Plus, they both took some playful shots at me when I told them about the salsa-dancing dream at Groom Expo... that's all I'm saying, hehe!

We've come to the conclusion that there is indeed some trouble in paradise, but we're going to steer clear of the storms as best we can, or at least ride them out. As I said yesterday, we've got to keep our eyes on the prize. Knowledge, technique, expertise - it's all going to our future salons! We're here to learn, and nothing is going to get in our way!

Once again, I'm already looking forward to the end of the weekend. In the meantime, I've set up a goal to read one article a day from Jean Donaldson's Dogs are from Neptune. If I'm going to be a pet pro, I'd better know all the best!