December 22, 2008 Counting your blessings

Counting your blessings

If you watch the news it’s just so depressing to see the economy and the problems of the world and I know so many of us that have our own issues with our own personal economy and job loss or lay offs, but I want to give you a little reminder and an assignment to help keep the blues away. My mom gave me an idea to make a blessing jar. Throughout the year, whenever something nice happens, no matter how slight, write it down on a piece of paper and fold it up and stick it in the jar. We can all think of a few blessings right now. Whenever life is getting you down, open up your blessing jar and read your blessings. You’ll be surprised to see how many blessings you have at the end of next year.
You can put things as simple as a letter from a friend, something cute a child said, a friendly clerk at the store, someone who was polite and let your go in ahead of them in line, someone who held a door for you, maybe a starry night or a beautiful sunrise or sunset could be in your blessings.
Make a daily habit of writing down your blessings. Focus on the positive things in life, even when life isn’t so positive. I know how hard this is to do sometimes, but we really must. Everyone is entitled to feel sorry for themselves for a little while, but that really doesn’t get you anywhere does it? The economy is like the weather, there isn’t anything we can do about it but weather the storm.
It’s so easy to become a Grinch this time of year. We need to focus on what we have instead of what we want or can’t afford to get, or can’t afford to give. Of course, one member of your family who is always happy to see you and doesn’t worry about the lack of Christmas cheer is your dog, or pets. There is no better psychiatry in the world than a puppy licking your face. Dogs won’t let you feel bad for long. They will sit by your feet, look at you with worried eyes, lick your hand, nudge you as if to say, “it’s okay, I’m here for you.”
You can always go to your dog and complain about the world; right the wrongs of politics and your dog will always agree with you and support you no matter what. No wonder dog is man’s best friend! My human friends don’t do that!
If you have a pet, give them a hug and tell them how special they are! If you don’t have a pet, consider one! Visit a humane society or rescue near you, or check out to find some pets that are looking for a forever home. The best way to feel better about your own situation is to do something nice for someone else.
If you can’t adopt a pet, volunteer to help at an animal shelter. They are always looking for cleaning supplies, towels and food if nothing else.
If you have a well-behaved dog who likes people, take it to a nursing home so the residents can get a little 4-legged loving. Animals put smiles on faces, no matter what age. You may be surprised to learn how much that visit will mean to someone.
Christmas is a time for giving, but nobody said it had to be something monetary. Time costs nothing and is the right size for everyone! Giving your time is the best gift. Give your time to a neighbor, friend or even a complete stranger. Who knows, your name may wind up in their blessing jar!
I wish you all a very merry Christmas and happy new year! May your blessing jar overflow!

December 8, 2008 Bathing Beauty

Bathing Beauty

As a groomer, I use professional equipment to make my job easier. One of them is called a “bathing beauty” which is essentially a sump pump that recirculates the water and shampoo to get the dogs squeaky clean without hand scrubbing them. It also massages the dogs and they all really like it, even if they don’t particularly like to have a bath. This handy machine saves water, shampoo, time, and most of all my hands and body. I’ve had it for about 5 years and frankly, I’m spoiled.
Trying to bathe dogs without it after all these years is like heating up stuff without a microwave, how do you do that again? I feel completely inept at grooming without it. You know that feeling, you don’t know what you have ‘til it’s gone, well I’m in serious mourning over losing my friend the bathing beauty. I called the company that makes them and they offered to perform an autopsy on it to see if they could resurrect it with some new parts, but I need it NOW! I ordered a new one and it should be here any time, but I can assure you that isn’t fast enough!

We gather today to say goodbye to a dear friend, the bathing beauty. She was a workhorse, tirelessly spraying the gunk, hair, and debris from hundreds of dogs and saving her owner’s hands and body.
She never complained, or whined about her job. She withstood the rigors of daily shampoos and conditioners, bodifiers and yes, even dyes. She comforted the old, stressed and ill and made them feel loved and massaged.
She made every dog feel like a million bucks and go out of the salon looking and feeling wonderful.
She faithfully murdered flea vermin and protected the doggies from their bites. She was a faithful companion.
She showed her users a better way to bathe pets and did it with grace and style. She was easy to operate; even a child could do it. She made time fly as she worked happily beside us day after day. She never complained when you stepped on her bubble, and she happily emptied the tub with speed.
She made The Groom Room Pet Spa a better place and she will be dearly missed.
She was a giver, and she has even sacrificed herself and become an organ donor, selflessly donating her parts so that other bathing beauties in the future may have needed parts when the time comes.
She leaves behind her owner Sandy and her sons Drew and Lane in tears over her sudden and unexpected demise.
Let us all bow our heads and pray....
Dear Lord, thank you for the bathing beauty and all she has done for us. We pray you will keep her spirit in your loving arms, and we pray the UPS man comes quickly and safely with her replacement. Though no other bathing beauty could possibly take her place, we know You realize how inept we are at bathing dogs without her and don't want to ruin our reputation, not to mention our hands, arms and bodies. Please get that UPS man here quickly! Amen.

Well, I think after talking to other groomers online, that I killed it. I didn’t know you could take it apart and clean out the insides of it. After all, it has a very fine screen on the bottom and ran fine until the other day when it refused to turn on. I’ve never removed the screen and cleaned out the insides or back flushed it, but I run disinfectant through it regularly. Therefore, I’m going to put on my Dr. Frankenstein hat today and see if I can resurrect her myself. I’m sure I can’t do any more damage to it than what’s already been done.
The lesson I’ve learned is to do regular maintenance on all my equipment so that these things won’t happen in the future. I’m planning to have a weekly maintenance day to take apart and clean out all the essential equipment in my salon. Maybe that will prevent future funerals.

November 24, 2008 Dear Jasmine

This week Jasmine, Sandy’s Poodle, has taken over the column and wishes to answer the burning questions dogs have asked her.

Dear Jasmine,
I’m a Labrador retriever, and I love to play in water, but my humans think this means I should like the stuff with the bubbles they force me into!
How do I make them understand playing in water is not the same as that B-A-T-H thing they keep whispering about? Besides, just when I’ve worked so hard at "getting that smell I like" on me, mom takes me to the groomer and stinks me all up again?Signed,
Bubble Hater

Dear Bubble Hater,
I totally understand your predicament. I too am a water dog and my human doesn’t even have to spell the word, she just gets this “look” and I know what she’s thinking. I do my best to hide from her when that happens.
The best advice I can give you is to get revenge. When you are really good and wet and they get close to you to wash your paws, give a good shake and get them wet too!
That should show them it’s not fun to have water forced on you. After you are clean and dry, run outside and find the nearest mud puddle or pile of manure or better yet, a dead animal and roll all over it! That will make you feel better and smell like the dog you are.
Good luck!

Dear Jasmine,
I’m a Chihuahua and holy frijoles am I having human trouble! My Mamacita got very mad at me. All I did was lift my leg on the new sofa to mark that it belongs to me. She came running after me with a rolled up newspaper! Aye yi yi! I ran out the door to get away! Why is my Mamacita so mad?
Paco the petrified!

Dear Petrified,
For some reason humans don’t understand that dogs, especially male dogs, like to show how macho they are by marking things. Do yourself a favor Paco; mark the area outside of your house instead of inside. If you don’t, you may have a visit to the vet soon for something they call “neutering”. Just trust me Paco…don’t mark in the house anymore.

Dear Jasmine,Why do my mom and dad think that just because I haven't learned something *yet* it doesn't mean that I *can't* learn? It's like they think I can speak English and just choose not to. Will you ask them to put more effort into learning how to speak dog so we can communicate more easily? They totally misunderstand "chewed shoe" language, and "butt sniffing" is simply beyond their comprehensive capabilities, but I'm determined to keep trying! Please help.
Feeling Foreign

Dear Feeling Foreign,
There isn’t a canine in the world who doesn’t relate to you my friend. However, humans are very different. It’s funny, they call us dumb animals, yet they can’t speak dog! I’m the greeter at my house and for some reason; nobody appreciates my “warm nose in your rear” greeting. After all, that’s just like a handshake to them. Dogs sniff, humans shake. Humans can’t help their ignorance. Humor them with an occasional lick on the cheek and wag your tail a lot. That seems to keep them happy.

Dear Jasmine, Why can people can walk around with treats in their pockets and not share with us. We're told to play nice and share, why doesn't this apply to those sweet little round things called "candy"? Why does my Mom say chocolate is bad? She eats it (oh boy, does she ever!)
Signed, Coco the deprived dog

Dear Deprived,
I feel your pain my friend. When they do give you a treat they make your work for it and do tricks. Nobody makes THEM do tricks to eat a piece of candy! Chocolate (the dark bakers kind especially) is bad for us, trust me, you do NOT want to go to the vet after you’ve gotten into the brownies! What they do to you at the vet is much worse than avoiding the stuff.
Dear Jasmine,
Why do humans get so upset at the things we eat? I love “kitty crunchies” from the litter box! They eat stuff that we wouldn’t touch all the time like lettuce, celery, and other stuff that has no flavor.
Cat Lover

Dear Cat Lover,
Humans just don’t get that we like to eat stuff that smells and has some strong odors! What we eat is directly related to how it smells. The stronger it smells, the more we like it! My mom put the litter box up high where I can’t get to it anymore. Darn!
Humans are just simple-minded creatures and we have to learn to live with them. We have to eat boring stuff to keep them happy. It’s a dog’s life.

November 10, 2008 To breed or not to breed, that is the question...

November 10, 2008

To breed or not to breed, that is the question….

So you want a new puppy. You have a certain breed in mind and you comb the newspapers for ads of puppies for sale. You find the breed you are looking for and go to see the puppies. Here's where you have to keep your heart out of things, not easy to do. Who could resist those sweet little balls of fur? You of course, fall madly in love with the puppy, buy it, and take it home. After a while, you think your new best friend needs a best friend of his own kind, and hey dogs are like potato chips, can't have just one! So you go through the newspapers again and find another breeder of another litter of the same kind of breed and it hits you, hey why not get the opposite sex so that we can breed them and have puppies of our own to sell? After all, we bought dogs with "papers", so we can make the most money possible right?
Just what do papers mean?
There are four main breed registrations for most breeds. There may be specific breed registries for rare breeds that the larger groups haven’t recognized yet. It’s “buyer beware” when you’re told the puppy you are buying has “papers.” If you are planning to breed this puppy, you need to know a lot more about it.
AKC - American Kennel Club
Established in 1884, this is the oldest breed club. This is the most well known breed registry and widely accepted by dog shows. This is not to say that if your puppy has AKC papers that its parents are truly AKC dogs. The mother may be, but who is the father? That information is on the “honor” system, which asks if the breeder witnessed the breeding. What if your breeder isn’t honest?
Did you know that more than one male could breed a female in the same heat cycle and she can have puppies from each male? If your dog is a German Shepherd and she is bred to another German Shepherd, and the neighbors Doberman, and to the stray Basset Hound mix, she can have some puppies that are 100% German Shepherd, some that are German Shepherd /Doberman, and some puppies that are half German Shepherd / Bassett Hound mix. You can’t always tell when they are born what you have. Unfortunately as the puppies grow and one has unusually short legs, it becomes apparent!
The papers are a birth certificate only. The person breeding the dogs is the one with the integrity. They have to be responsible enough to ensure the female didn’t come into any contact whatsoever with another dog! At this time, AKC does not require DNA testing on all breeds but it is coming.
UKC – United Kennel Club
Established in 1898, the United Kennel Club is the largest all-breed performance-dog registry in the world, registering dogs from all 50 states and 25 foreign countries. More than 60 percent of its 12,000 annually licensed events are tests of hunting ability, training, and instinct. UKC prides itself on its family-oriented, friendly, educational events. The UKC has supported the "Total Dog" philosophy through its events and programs for over a century. As a departure from registries that place emphasis on a dog’s looks, UKC events are for dogs that look and perform equally well.
Their shows do not use handlers other than the breeder. They focus on form and function, conformation and performance trials. Dogs can be doubled registered AKC and UKC when they meet all the criteria. This club is as reputable as AKC, and is a good registration to have. Again, they do not require DNA testing of all breeds at this time.
CKC- Canadian Kennel Club
This kennel club is in Canada and registers all purebred dogs similar to the AKC. The Canadian Kennel Club is a national, member-based, non-profit organization, incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act of Canada. It provides registry services for all officially recognized breeds of purebred dogs, provides governance for all CKC approved shows, trial and events. Finally, the CKC is a communication organization informing all people interested in dogs. This CKC is not to be confused with the next kennel club.
CKC – Continental Kennel Club
This organization will register any dog without proof of heritage for a small fee, including mixed breeds and dogs of unknown parentage. They do not require DNA testing for parentage. Dogs that cannot be registered by any other breed registry are often “registered” by the Continental Kennel Club in order to provide registration papers with puppies.
Buyer Beware!
It is buyer beware with any dogs that have any registration papers unless there is DNA testing that proves scientifically, the parentage of the puppy you buy. Registrations are birth certificates and do not guarantee the health, breed standard, or quality of any puppy that it registers. It’s up to you to research the breeder and know your breed standards if you are looking for a purebred dog.
There are numerous genetic disorders that dogs have. If you are buying a puppy, you want to make sure you know the possible genetic disorders that your breed has screening for and that the puppy’s parents, and other generations have been tested and certified free of these disorders.
OFA is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals that test dogs for bone disorders such as hip dysplasia, knee, and elbow disorders that are genetic in origin. You should have testing performed on breeds prone to these disorders before breeding and creating litters. The organization works with your vet for testing, and dogs are graded as to the degree of their fitness and certified so you can breed them. This certification does not guarantee the dog will never have these disorders; however, they won’t be genetic.
CERF - The Canine Eye Registration Foundation is a registry that keeps dogs tests for PRA on file with the breed registries to prove the dogs had testing for PRA and do not carry the gene for it.
Some of the disorders OFA and CERF test for are listed below. In my opinion, ALL breeders should have their dogs tested and certified BEFORE breeding them, and only dogs that pass the test 100% should be allowed to be bred. This would cut down the enormous problems we face now paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars for surgery to repair these problems, not to mention the pain and suffering by the innocent puppies who were born with these defects.
Hip dysplasia
Many large breed dogs develop hip dysplasia in their lifetime, which can be genetic. You can oftentimes manage hip dysplasia with pain medications, and surgery may be necessary to correct the malformation. This disorder is extremely painful and debilitating, and the dog’s quality of life is impaired.
Luxating patella
This is more common in small breeds such as Yorkies and Toy Poodles and its symptoms include, the dog holding up a hind leg to walk, showing lameness, and the knee joint making a popping sound when you lift the hind leg up. This usually requires surgery to correct and you need to make sure the dog doesn’t jump off furniture or spend lots of time jumping and potentially re-injuring the knee. This is a proven genetic disorder, and if the parents of the puppies have the disorder it’s very likely, the puppies will too. This is a painful and very disabling genetic defect.
Growth Plate Problems
Dogs and cats under one year of age have growth plates, which are located near the ends of the bones of the limbs. These growth plates are responsible for the growth of the bones. They are much softer than other parts of the bone, and are more prone to injury and fracture. Growth plates normally fuse and close as the pet matures, usually by age one year. This is a genetic problem and if fracture occurs, surgery is necessary.
Epilepsy can be genetic, due to chemical allergies such as heartworm or flea medication or it idiopathic, meaning they don’t know why the dog has seizures. Usually you can control epilepsy with medication. However, sometimes the seizures become worse as the dog ages, medication no longer helps, and the dog is euthanized.
PRA- progressive retinal atrophy
This eye disorder causes early onset of complete blindness, usually before the age of two. It is genetic and you can have the parents of puppies tested to see if they are carriers of the disorder.
The hearing test known as the brainstem auditory evoked response or BAER test will test puppies for deafness in breeds prone to it. Puppies with hearing parents may still be deaf. It is a genetic disorder that may go back several generations, and it’s related to color. Dalmatians, Harlequin colored and white Great Danes, and English Cocker Spaniels with the roaning or speckles in their coats and merle colors tend to have deafness in the genes. In addition, blue eyes can be a hallmark of deafness, but not always. Deaf puppies are hard to place in homes, and many times the breeder has the affected puppies euthanized after having this test performed.
If you want a particular breed for showing or breeding, or just a quality pet, then you should go to a reputable breeder that shows the breed, knows all of the heredity disorders, and does testing. Backyard breeders don’t do this. Puppy mills don’t do this. Pet stores don’t do this. So do your homework.

October 27, 2008 Wife Swap?

October 27, 2008

Wife Swap?

Well this day fits in the “it could only happen to me” file.
I check my email and get this invitation to be on the ABC series “Wife Swap” on Fridays at 8 pm. This series is about families who trade moms to see how the other folks live and then halfway through the week, they change the rules and you have to live by the new mom’s rules. Amazingly, they are looking for a family that has a pet boutique, and has at least one child between the ages of 7 and 17. Well, I fit that description, and I’m sure they won’t choose me but of course, I got a big giggle out of it, and some friends put my name in anyway!
My husband got a huge grin on his face when I told him and he said sign up! He is under the assumption he will get someone “better” than what he has, oh poor misguided soul!
Now unless the woman who takes my place can groom dogs, run a salon, and homeschool her kids, I can’t foresee anyone taking my place at all. Not to mention run a houseful of pets and do it all without a husband around because he works seven days a week and is on the fire department, so even when he’s home, he’s usually out on a run or at a meeting. Yeah, good luck getting some help from him!
On the down side, I could see some woman coming in and being horrified that my house isn’t as pristine or kept as Martha Stewarts, and with a houseful of pets, plus the ones I groom, if you think my house doesn’t have pet hair in it, you are sorely mistaken! If I took the time to clean all the pet hair up, there wouldn’t be any time to groom or homeschool the kids, or do any of the millions of things I do but can’t think of right now.
Meanwhile I’m thinking if I get to step into the shoes of my polar opposite, for me this can’t be a bad thing. Maybe I’ll get the life of a pampered princess of a woman who probably has a housekeeper full time, and spends her days at the salon getting her nails done and a massage. Yep, for sure the person who gets my life is getting the short end of the stick!
I can’t think of any life that I couldn’t handle. Hard working? Sure, no problem! Lots of pets and squirrelly kids? Let me at ‘em! I’ve done plenty of hard jobs in my life, I’ve had farm animals, pigs, chickens, ducks, guineas, horses, miniature horses, llamas, you name it, and it’s been at my house. If it hasn’t, then I can manage anyway.
There haven’t been too many grungy jobs I haven’t tried either. I’ve cleaned pit toilets at Turkey Run State Park. Top that!
If by some reason they end up picking my family, my fear is they would get a person who keeps house like Martha Stewart and cooks a lot. That is something I’m sure my family could get used to, but how much fun would she be? Would she be able to write a book? Write a column? Laugh daily at herself? I may have my shortcomings, but thank God, I have a sense of humor about it!
For instance, this morning I was trying to reach Arnett Clinic, or Clarian Health or whatever they are called now, about some x-rays of my shoulder. The nurse had left a message on my answering machine a couple of times telling me to call them back for the results. Honestly, do I care if they blurt out my test results on my machine? It’s my shoulder for heaven’s sake and my phone; it’s not as if it’s a big secret. So I call the Otterbein clinic and am now greeted by a machine, press this to reach this . . . I press the number to get x-ray results and it says to speak to the desk press *, which I do and it says we can’t transfer you at this time, to go to the main menu press 1.
I can see this is getting me nowhere, so I call the main number for Arnett and tell them my dilemma, the woman says, “hold on and I’ll transfer you”. Then someone answers. “This is Dave”, I say, “Hi Dave, are you with the radiology department?” He says, “No ma’am, this is Caterpillar”. “Oh, well then Dave I guess you don’t have my x-ray results then do you.” I say laughingly. “No ma’am I don’t” “Sorry Dave, Arnett Clinic transferred me to you somehow.”
So, I call Arnett back and say, “Oops you goofed, you sent me to Caterpillar.” “No ma’am, that must’ve been someone else, what do you need?” and we get to go through the entire scenario again. Finally, I get to the right person and she is able to let me speak to the nurse who called me, and I get my answer of my x-ray, “Sandy they found nothing wrong at all on your x-ray”. “So that explains the knot on my shoulder and the pain” Must be in my head right? Sigh.
Guess I’ll take some ibuprofen and forget about it.
Meanwhile, I decide to hem up my new jeans that are supposed to be short length but are 6 inches too long. Why do jeans makers think if you have a big butt, you must also have long legs?
So, I grab a pair of jeans and I am on the phone doing my normal multi-tasking and I get 4 inches cut off, and sew up the hem and I turn them right-side out only to discover they aren’t my jeans but my sons!
About this time, he walks into the room and I bust out laughing. This is one of those it could only happen to me moments. Luckily, I didn’t cut off too much and his needed a little trim too, he just can’t grow anymore or he’ll look like a geek.
Wife Swap, bring it on! I double dog dare anyone to take my place and make it look easy. If they have a better way to do things, I’m game to learn it! Meanwhile I’ll enjoy my life on the beach they call their family to see how the other half lives! However, don’t hold your breath, I’m sure once they get a view of my life they’ll avoid us at all costs! Even T.V. can’t come up with a reality series as crazy as my life! Nobody would believe it!

October 14, 2008 Brittany or Lassie?

When you have children, everything changes. When my son was two, and I was pregnant with my second son, I found myself looking for a kid friendly dog. I had gotten in touch with a sheltie rescue that had come to the house to interview us, but at that time, they didn’t have a dog that fit our particular needs. I was a busy mom who ran a grooming salon and had one small child and another one on the way. I didn’t need a puppy. I preferred a dog with more “experience”. I remembered a collie breeder Estella Thomas from Spice Rack Collies near my old hometown and decided to give her a call. I told Estella my situation and asked her if collies would be a good match for small children. “I think I have just the girl for you,” she said, “if you don’t mind an older female”.
“That’s EXACTLY what I had in mind!” I said and off we went to meet her. Brittany was a beautiful 6 year old, tri-factored sable collie that was calm and laid back and oh so loving. She took to us instantly and she immediately became part of our family. My son would walk around with the cereal box and learned sharing, one for me, one for you. She was our constant companion.
One day while I was out in my salon grooming and Drew was napping, I saw Brittany jumping up in the windows outside the salon on my property. She was frantically barking, but I could barely hear her due to the noise of the blow dryers and clippers. I shut off the dryers and noise so I could check on her, and then I hear the baby monitor. I heard Drew crying, he was awake and she was coming to tell me!
She took her babysitting duties very seriously. When we were moving from the farm to a house in town, we were selling all of our horses and equipment and a friend stopped by to check out what was for sale. She left her sleeping infant in her van with the car running. Nobody could hear him, but Brittany did. She began barking and pawing at the van door. I hurried to get her away from the van before she scratched the paint, and sure enough, the baby was crying!
After the move and birth of my son, Lane, Brittany stood watch over the little guy as he lay sleeping on the floor. She literally stood over him, straddling his body, and as babies will do, he reached up and pulled on her long flowing collie hair, on her sensitive stomach! Before I could get to him, I saw her wince yet she still stood there as if to say, “It’s ok, he’s just a baby, I can take it”. She wouldn’t dream of biting a child, no matter what the torture! I kept her hair shorter after that so it wouldn’t be so tempting to grab.
She lay on the floor beside the kids while they napped, once, Lane managed to toddle to the dog door and fall backwards out of it! Lucky for him Brittany had just gone outside, and she was there licking his head while he cried. She knew how to make it all better.
She would stand between the kids and a strange dog if she had bad vibes about them. She stood between dogs that I had to groom that had aggressive tendencies and me too. She didn’t have an aggressive bone in her body, yet she stood there as if to say, “You’re going to have to go through me first”. She always made her point in the most well-mannered and subtle way.
We adopted Katy a standard poodle who was about Brittany’s age all the way from Texas. We rolled in the driveway about 2am and being a groomer and excited from the trip I decided to give Katy a haircut and bath right away. I trimmed up her hair before I decided to bathe her, and while bathing her I saw Brittany walk over the pile of black curls on the floor and pee all over it! I was shocked! Brittany NEVER did that! She never showed any type of dominance to the hundreds of dogs that had strolled through my door before. Other than the time of day, how did she know this dog was going to stay and she was telling her in dog speak, I was here first this place is mine, and now you are mine too.
I cleaned up the mess while the two dogs got to know each other. There were never any lifted lips, growls or any differences of opinion between them. They would each patiently wait for the other one to eat, and then they would eat. They shared everything.
One day it was storming and the tornado sirens went off. My husband is a firefighter and his radio was confirming sightings of a tornado coming our way. He had to run and help the fire department during the storm so I put the kids into the basement and grabbed the dogs; I had to force them to walk down the stairs because they had never seen stairs before, so I pulled the two 60lb.dogs down with me. The dogs paced and Brittany kept going up to the staircase and taking a step or two then she backed down. We stayed in the basement until the storm passed and after we all came up, I looked down and there was Katy at the bottom of the stairs, pacing and worried because she didn’t know how to come back up. “Oh Tim, for Pete’s sake go down and get Katy, she can’t come back up” I said to my husband. Just then, Brittany looked down at her friend, went down by herself, nudged Katy gently on the side, and walked up beside her. True friendship! Brittany was “Lassie” in so many ways over the years. I truly don’t know how I would have managed to raise two small children without her.

October 9, 2008 Baby-proofing your home for pets

October 9, 2008

Baby-proofing your home for pets

There’s nothing like getting a new kitten or puppy to remind you how unsafe your house is. Let’s face it, our older pets have gotten used to the place and don’t bother things but bring in a new pet, especially a baby or young one and you get a new appreciation for those older pets!
Just last night I was reminded of that fact when I went to make some toys for our latest acquisition, a kitten who found us. I tied a mouse toy to a piece of string and put it up on top of her cat climbing post I just put together. I forgot about it, and we had put a little bit of kitty kibble up there to entice her to use it. My husband asked, “What is she eating?” I said, “Oh, that’s just some kitten food”. However, as I looked at her, I saw her gnawing on something and got closer to see her working on the end of the mouse toy, with the entire string INSIDE of her!
I gently pulled on it and out came about 18 inches of string! If my husband hadn’t said anything, I may not have noticed. Cats eating string is deadly. It doesn’t always pass. My old cat Fuzz used to like to get into my sewing area and he became sick one day, over the weekend, began vomiting and by the time I got him to the vet, he was in very bad shape. They didn’t find anything, took some blood, and kept him overnight. When they called me the next day, he had died in the night. The only thing they could attribute his death to, was some thread that was wrapped around a tooth. When they ingest thread, it can strangulate the intestines and cause the symptoms he had. We didn’t know. Fuzz was only one year old.
Animals get into EVERYTHING. Trash for instance; forget all the bad stuff that’s inside your garbage, the wrappers of trash are deadly. Plastic bags and even a potato chip bag with an enthusiastic pup snarfing down the crumbs can cause suffocation and death. It’s happened to some friends of mine.
If you have a trash hound, put your can away where the dog can’t get to it, inside a cabinet, closet, or pantry. Remember to take out your trash every night before bed, so your little adventurer won’t have anything to get into. We tried putting the trash can on top of the kitchen island, which worked for a while until I caught my cat working in cahoots with the dogs and knocking it over for them. I went to Pamida and bought a cabinet for the trashcan and that works. Nobody is in the garbage now.
You can use baby gates to block off areas that are off limits. You can also use a crate to keep your pup in when you can’t supervise them. You need to get on your hands and knees and crawl all around your home looking for things that harm your pet. Electrical cords, things that have been eaten by your couch but you can’t see like pens, pencils, small toys, marbles, coins, etc. There is no end to the number of seemingly harmless things that are deadly to your pet.
Want some incentive to put away your laundry? Wait until you get a puppy that eats socks and underwear that you have to pay a few hundred for surgery to save.
Veterinarians are constantly trying to help animals that get into foreign things. Pets are JUST LIKE TODDLERS. If you have kids or grandkids you know that you have to watch them constantly and keep harmful stuff locked away right? Well guess what, you have to do the same thing for your pets. If your pet gets into something and gets sick or dies, whose fault is it?
Even food items can be deadly, onions, macadamia nuts, walnuts, raisins and grapes for example, you should never feed to pets. Many pets have died from those as well as ingesting pills that have fallen on the floor that you lost. Aspirin is toxic to cats! Aspirin is okay to give to a dog, but a cat can go into seizures and die.
I know that I have taken my house for granted for several years now, because I’m used to older pets who don’t feel the need to get into everything, but no more! We have made it a family rule to all get on our hands and knees, inspect everything, and get things up off the floor we don’t normally see. We will move furniture and leave no stone unturned!
Guess what’s coming up soon? I know, I really hate to admit it, but the season to be jolly is coming up quick and oh boy, a new kitten and a Christmas tree! What was I thinking? Oh my gosh, ornaments and those hooks! I can already see disaster in my house. I know I have to keep a few ornaments put away until this kitten grows up and learns to leave things alone. Well, if I want to keep the ornaments and the cat. I’m sure I can come up with some kitten safe stuff to decorate the tree. I know what is likely to happen; kitten will climb up the tree and knock stuff off. It may as well be stuff that can’t break and cause shards of glass to get into your feet, or hers. I’ll put that on my list of to do’s before the big event. Cat’s can climb over anything, but if you have a puppy, you can put an x-pen around the tree, it effectively blocks off things or you can confine your puppy to it when needed. A child’s playpen can work too, believe it or not, to put the Christmas tree in to keep the puppy away from it, if the tree isn’t too big.
What if your puppy eats a glass ornament? This is what to do: get some cotton balls, the real cotton type, not the synthetic, and dip them in milk or half & half and feed them to your dog, the cotton will pick up shards of glass inside your pets stomach and intestines so they cause less damage, of course then take your dog to the vet immediately!
Of course, since Halloween is upon us soon, be sure to keep the candy put up away from the pets! Artificial sweeteners in some candies are deadly to pets. Remember cats can climb on top of just about anything, and chocolate, especially the dark chocolate or bakers chocolate can make your pet very sick, and can cause death too.
Okay, well that should be enough to scare the wits out of you. Who needs Halloween, just let me scare you! I hate to be the grim reaper, but if you don’t already know this stuff, and something happens to your pet and I hear about it, then I’m going to feel guilty that I didn’t warn you. If you have a puppy, kitten or even a new adult dog or cat that isn’t used to your home, take heed of these warnings. If you have older pets that never get into things count your blessings and give them a big hug! Just remember even the most obedient pets get into things they aren’t supposed to occasionally. Keep them safe. Dig out your kneepads and get to work!

September 29, 2008 Things I've learned about dogs over the last 40 years.

September 29, 2008

Things I’ve learned about dogs over the last 40 years.

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday…the big 40. Gosh, I don’t feel 40! That used to be considered “old”, or at least “middle aged”. In some ways it’s empowering, and in other ways it’s just plain scary!
I look back at my pets over the past 40 years…well ok 36, I can’t remember much before I was 4 years old, but that is when I had my first dog, a Chihuahua named Dolly. I was born and raised in California and I guess we were rather progressive back then overall, because we actually had Dolly spayed at a low cost spay neuter clinic for a whopping $5.
Dolly ate Gaines Burgers dog food back then mostly, and some table scraps of course. I remember her eating canned Skippy dog food occasionally, because I remember tasting it for her! Hey, I was only five, it happens!
She was plump, not terribly fat, but pleasingly plump. We never heard of heartworm disease back then, and for fleas, we used flea powder. How she breathed through that fog of dust is beyond me!
I remember my mom always complaining that she was stinky. She truly was, you could bathe her and the next day she reeked! What we didn’t know back then was that her diet played a huge part of that odor. We didn’t know about tooth care or brushing teeth. Though my memory is a bit fuzzy, I’m sure her teeth could’ve used a dental cleaning many times. I don’t remember ever hearing of dogs getting their teeth cleaned back then.
I remember her nails as I grew up how long they were. I never knew what a groomer was back then. I’m sure either we did it ourselves, or had it done at the vet occasionally, but we rarely ever went to the vet.
I remember her scooting across the carpet on her rear and laughing, not knowing back then that it was because she had impacted anal glands.
I remember we used Sulfodene on her skin for her constant scratching, which back then my mom attributed to fleas or dry skin if she scratched and nobody knew then what impact diet played on the skin of dogs.
I remember moving to Indiana in 1981 and going to the IGA in Rockville and reading on the cans of Alpo, “with real horsemeat chunks” and thinking EWWW! I was a horse lover and couldn’t fathom anyone feeding horsemeat! I’m guessing that bit of information must’ve caused problems because they no longer have that on the cans.
I remember as she aged, that she didn’t take anything for arthritis, yet she walked so stiff, and she lived in the garage, with her bed in an old hamper turned on its side with a heating pad inside it. I guess my parents thought that was spoiling her back then. Animals weren’t allowed in the house when I grew up.
Looking back, we weren’t good pet owners. How poor Dolly managed to live to be 17 is beyond me. I know now that if she were alive today, she’d be in much better health, living in my house, eating decent food without by-products, corn, wheat, animal digest, and animal fat (non-specified) BHT and BHA in her dog food.
Now I know the damage that those ingredients cause. I’m not saying she didn’t live a long life, but it could have been so much better! If we had the flea control products available today back then I’m sure she would’ve been allowed in the house more.
If Dolly were alive today, she would live inside the warm house in a soft comfortable bed for her old joints; she would be on glucosamine products and painkillers to help with her arthritis. She would eat Eagle Pack Holistic or Innova Evo, she would have a shiny coat, no dandruff, no dry or oily skin, no itching, no scratching, and no odor, and of course, if she were alive today I’d be taking care of her anal glands. I would take care of her teeth and have them cleaned so she didn’t suffer with a mouthful of gingivitis. She would live the life of a member of my family, as it should be.
She still loved us, the poor dear, and I feel so bad that she lived that way back then. I know that if we knew then what we know now, she would’ve been better cared for, yet I still see dogs living that way now. Now there is no excuse for it. Unless you live under a rock, I know you‘ve had to see commercials or read about flea control. I know that a good veterinarian would give a more thorough exam today, point out bad teeth, and try to educate you on proper care. Today groomers are an extremely important part of pet health care. Groomers see pets more often than the veterinarian does, generally speaking, and groomers are the ones who find lumps, bumps, inflamed skin, allergy ears, bad teeth, and are the first ones to point out these issues to the pet’s owners. Most groomers are good at recommending a good food to feed your pet, because we see the effects of a poor diet daily.
Just yesterday, I had informed a client that her brand of dog food, Pedigree has been recalled due to salmonella. In fact, Pedigree, Special Kitty, and Ol’ Roy are some of the brands in this newest recall. Why haven’t we heard about this? Luckily, I get my information from the internet lists that I’m on that try hard to keep us all informed of pet food recalls and problems. Look it up for yourself at
Times have changed, pets are family and if someone isn’t willing to take proper care of their pet, why on Earth do they have one? Why are people willing to pay over $1,000 for a puppy at a pet store but they won’t buy decent dog food to feed it, and then they spend a fortune on vet bills to treat all the symptoms caused by a poor diet?
For that matter, why aren’t more vets enlightened about pet food ingredients? I recently reconnected with a veterinarian in Pine Village at Hoofstock Veterinary Service. Dr. Cathy Alinovi who has recently gone “holistic” in other words, she received more than her veterinary education about pet food. She learned what all those ingredients in foods really are, and she learned that some of the “prescription diets” aren’t what they are cracked up to be ingredient wise. She knows the connection between ailments and pet food and she’s happy to recommend the same foods that I do. She has done her homework on ingredients! She does more than just treat symptoms; she gets to the root of the problem. So many pet ailments can be avoided or treated simply by changing the diet.
You don’t know how happy I am to finally speak to a veterinarian that does some research! It’s nice to be validated by a veterinarian! You also don’t know how happy I am to be able to buy awesome quality pet food at K&K feed store in Attica. I know now that I’ll never let another animal live the way my poor Dolly did when I was a kid. I’m so glad that I grew up, learned more about pet care, and continue to learn. Pet care isn’t just my job, it’s my mission! Education of pet owners is my goal. I promise that I will always answer your questions and try to point you to the best resources. Don’t let Dolly’s life be in vain. Take a close look at your pet and your pet’s care. Are you treating your pet as a member of your family? Do you care for your pet as you do your children? If not, make some changes today. It’s time that we are informed and make better choices for our pets.

September 15, 2008 Butterfly Births and Broken Hearts

My kids and I witnessed something rather amazing today. I had bought a squirrel feeder a couple weeks ago and I hadn’t had time to put it up yet, so it was just leaning against my porch. When I was ready to hang it, my son tells me, “no Mom, you can’t hang it yet, it has a cocoon on it”. Sure enough, underneath the little seat where the squirrel would sit to eat his ear of corn, a little chrysalis was hanging. I left it alone until yesterday when we showed the little chrysalis to a friend. I could start to see through the tiny green bag and could see the outline of wings. We put the squirrel feeder upstairs on our screened in porch so we could observe it as it went along.

Well, today we went out, and it had hatched! A wet Monarch butterfly had just crawled out of the now transparent chrysalis and hadn’t even opened up its wings. My son couldn’t resist and he put his hand out for it to crawl on. The little butterfly took to him right away and we watched it for a long time and even took several photos of it walking all over him, up his arm, on his head. I had never been this up close with a butterfly before. Usually they fly away so fast I can’t get any photos. This one however was still trying to dry out from hatching, no easy feat on a rainy day.

We took the little butterfly out to our newly planted mums and it sat there with its wings held together looking rather miserable with the nasty weather. The kids even made a makeshift umbrella for it, so it wouldn’t be rained on. I gave up and said, well let’s put it back upstairs on the porch so it can dry out and we’ll check on it later.

Never missing an opportunity to learn something, we looked up Monarch butterflies on the internet and found out some fascinating facts. For instance, did you know you could tell the difference between male and female Monarchs? Females have wider veins in the wings, therefore darker wider lines. Our butterfly was a girl! The kids even named her “Julie”, and between doing some writing and learning all about butterflies and their lifespan, habitats, migration and body parts, they kept a close eye on her and checked on her to see if she was ready to fly yet.

I went up to check on them and they told me they saved her from a cobweb in the corner, apparently, she walked up the screen and managed to be caught. They killed the spider, knocked down the web, and set her free again. Julie looked indeed grateful! She continued to walk all over my son, and make herself comfortable on her new “Mommy”. Since he was the first person she saw, I told him that she must think he’s her mom. Well that and from our research we found out butterflies are cold blooded and don’t care to be cold, so sitting on his head was a nice warm spot for her!

We got on with our day, leaving Julie upstairs until we were sure she was ready to fly. She could easily escape, the spaces between the deck boards were wide enough she could go through them. I didn’t expect her to be there later when they went back up.
To their horror and mine, they came down yelling that a praying mantis was eating Julie! Oh no! I went upstairs ready to do battle with the killer bug that was eating our friend, armed with a 3-foot long piece of PVC pipe. There it was, high on the screen with poor little Julie in its grasp. I knocked it down, but it was too late. Julie was dead. Therefore, in a period of about 8 hours, we witnessed the birth and death of something beautiful. Sometimes life just isn’t fair, rescued from a spider, only to die by a praying mantis. The circle of life around here goes too fast! It’s so hard to deal with death when you are a child. No matter how small or insignificant, life means something.

I’ve discovered my son has a way with animals of all types, and a tender heart when things go wrong. I guess that goes to show you how much love when you become a “mom”, even if you become a “mom” to a little butterfly.

September 1, 2008 It's official, I'm an author!

This month has been a whirlwind of things going on. After the fair, I was gearing up and growing out Jasmine for The All American Grooming Show, for creative grooming, in between grooming my customers dogs for the summer of course. August 1st, the book I wrote last summer was finally published and on the market! “The EVERYTHING Dog Grooming Book” by Sandy Blackburn has finally been born!
(Clears throat, ahem… “I’d like to thank all the little people….”)
It’s a surreal feeling, being a published author. I know writers try for years to become published and honestly, this was just a fluke, I did not intend to write a book but they approached me! How could I say no? This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to make my mark on the world. I have to say, I’m proud of the book as a whole.
Adams media is the publisher and they have a series of EVERYTHING books about well, just about everything! It’s a lot like the “for dummies” books you see at the store, very easily explained only they don’t insult you by calling you a dummy. (I have some of the “for dummies” series of books at home too, but the title really does put me off, I’m no dummy.)
It’s a how to manual about grooming your pet, well everything you can cram into 255 pages. There is so much to grooming there’s no way you can put it all into one book, which explains why I have my own library of grooming books at home. I used this opportunity to explain all that groomers do. Unless you watch the entire process, I can assure you that you have no idea how much work is actually involved. Most people go to groomers not only for haircuts, but also for bathing and nail trims because it’s just not that easy to get the job done at home. My book has a lot of information on training your pet to accept grooming more willingly and different household products that you can use to help you groom your pet.
Some people have asked me if I’m shooting myself in the foot by writing a book telling people how to groom their pets at home. The simple answer is no of course not, once people try it themselves, they will either: A. Like it and decide it’s something they want to do or B. Try it, decide it’s too much work and call in reinforcements.
I’m not offended either way. There are enough dogs in Attica for 10 groomers!
However, it was nice going into detail about exactly what we do and how we do it. I’ve been grooming for so long I had to stop and really think about questions that I had before. I asked numerous people what they wanted to know how to do, or why we do it, and I was surprised at some of the questions that I just assumed everyone knew the answers to. You never stop learning!
Writing the book was the easy part, I wrote the book last summer from April to July. I had a killer deadline! Waiting for the entire process of editing, rewriting, reviewing, and numerous changes later, actually seeing the book in print took about a year! I still don’t know a whole lot about the book publishing industry, as I did this all via computer and online to editors. What I do know is, there are tons of people with certain jobs to do and they do a very thorough job at that!
I was glad that I had the final word over what changes I would accept and my editors were very patient and nice to me and walked me through the process.
I’m still on such a high since the books arrived that I haven’t come down yet! Now I truly appreciate what writers go through and the ups and downs of getting a book published. I get why it’s such a big deal now!
I so admire those who can write novels and stories that they can make up in their heads, which will never happen to me. I can’t do fiction. I have zero imagination for making up stories and plots. I’ll stick to the how to manuals and writing true stories, that’s more my style. I’m sure teachers who read this column shake their heads at my grammatical errors, sorry people; spell check only does so much. This is just me; this is how I speak and how I write. I’d love to write flowery words and poetic verses but that’s not going happen either. I’m a “tell it like it is” sort of person. Thank you to “The Neighbor” newspaper for accepting me and my frank opinions and bad grammar! So, if you are looking for a how to manual on dog grooming, “The EVERYTHING Dog Grooming Book” is available in bookstores and online and of course, at my salon!

August 4, 2008 More About Pet Food

August 4, 2008

More About Pet Food

I recently ran onto a website about pet food comparisons, contacted the author of it, and spoke with her. I found we were like-minded and asked her permission to reprint her article on comparing pet food prices. She granted me permission, so her article in its entirety is below:

Secrets to Comparing Pet Food Prices

I recently received an email asking my opinion about a couple of different types of pet foods – what I thought about the quality of the foods. Both of the pet foods he asked about (which he was feeding his ‘family’) were what I considered to be very inferior foods. I informed him of this and his response was that they probably couldn’t afford a better food.

While I understand that better quality dog and cat foods can be two or even three times more expensive than some of the cheaper brands, folks who think they can’t afford it, unfortunately, will ‘pay’ in the end. When a pet is sick with kidney or liver disease, when a pet must be treated for skin irritations and ear infections – vet bills to ‘fix’ the health concern cost pet owners far more than the ‘few cents’ a meal to feed them quality nutrition. And I’m often questioned about this ‘few cents a meal’ theory – but before you question me too, let me explain.

Many pet owners suffer ‘sticker shock’ when considering purchasing a better quality food. They look at the price tag and gasp when considering how fast Fido or Fluffy eats that bag of food. What they don’t know is that with better quality pet foods, you don’t feed as much – cheap foods have cheap ‘filler’ ingredients that do not satisfy the nutritional needs of the pet, thus they eat A LOT more attempting to get the nutrition that their body is telling them they need. Better quality foods/ingredients provide the animal with quality nutrition and they eat on average 1/3 less.

So let’s break it down to cost per meal…
Let’s say your pet currently eats 1 cup of food per day. A 20 pound bag of food will provide you with about 50 servings. If the food costs you $15.00 for a 20 pound bag – that equals about .30 per meal.

Now with a good quality pet food – feeding about 1/3 less – a 20 pound bag will provide you about 80 servings. If the better food costs $30.00 for a 20 pound bag – that breaks down to a little less than .38 cents a meal.

So even though the price tag of the food reads to be twice as expensive – it’s actually far from the truth. Using the above example, at .30 cents per meal, two meals a day, in one month you are spending around $18.00 per month to feed a pet with the inferior food. With the apparent twice as expensive higher quality pet food, at .38 cents per meal, two meals a day, in one month you are spending around $22.80 per month. Less than $5.00 per month difference that can save you thousands of dollars in vet bills and add years to their life. You must look at the cost per meal to completely give the price of the food consideration.

Here is what has happened to us…for years and years we’ve watched the television commercials of pet food. They emphasize the words ‘for your pet’s health’ or ‘choice’. We’ve trusted them and we’ve followed their directions to feed our pet 2 or 3 cups of food per day. What we didn’t know was that those recommended 2 or 3 cups of food was necessary because the pet food contained cheap inferior nutrition sources like by-products, meat and bone meal, and grains.

So, it has become our habit to feed more – which they do need more with inferior ingredients. Then someone like myself comes along and tells you how horrible ingredients like by-products and meat and bone meal are – and you learn that grains such as corn, wheat, and soy are inferior – and since this recent pet food recall, you learn that chemicals can actually be added to variations of these grains (glutens)…so then you look over your options at the pet store or online. And you think in terms of how much per ‘bag’ of food. After all, you’ve probably tried several different types of pet food in the past – maybe even one or two that cost a little more than the cheap brands – and you still ended up feeding the same 2 or 3 cups of food a day. Naturally, you look at the $30.00 for a 20 pound bag of pet food and gasp at the cost – you are thinking just the way they want you to think…in terms of the cost of the bag, not the cost of the serving.

The determining factor for your choice of pet food should not be cost or advertising. You must look at and understand those first five ingredients. Of course there is much more involved than the first five ingredients, but in my research…if the first five ingredients of a pet food are good, so are the rest of the ingredients. If a pet food manufacturer cares enough to make the first five ingredients quality – which is the majority of the food…they care enough to make all of the ingredients quality. Don’t be mislead into any comfort zone of a pet food manufacturers advertising…do your homework and read and understand at least the first five ingredients of your pet’s food.

With better, more nutritious pet foods – they do NOT need as much as with the cheaper foods. Don’t let the old habit of feeding more sway you when you switch to a more nutritious pet food – again, with more quality ingredients they just don’t need as much food as with inferior ingredients. If you switch your pet to a quality pet food and continue to feed the same amount as the lesser quality food you were feeding – your pet will gain weight.

The daily amount of food our pets require depends on many things such as activity level, age, breeding animals, or neutered animals. As an example, my 100 pound German Shepherd only eats two cups of food per day; 1 cup AM, 1 cup PM. My little guy (8 pound Papillion eats about 1/3 cup a day. Both dogs are active. However, my little guy is young and is fairly high energy level. My big guy is 12 years old and much more sedate. Considering his little size, the small dog eats far more for his size than the big dog. His energy and activity level requires it.

My cat on the other hand free feeds – he has access to a full bowl of food at all times and eats when he wants. He has never been an over eater and this works well for him. I could never do the same with my dogs.

So serving size for your pet is something you will need to experiment with. If your dog or cat has no ‘figure’ – shows no waist when looking at them from above – chances are they need to lose a few pounds. Cut back the serving size. If you can visibly see ribs – they probably need to gain a couple of pounds and you need to slightly increase the serving size. Please note too that a cup of food a day at 2 years old will more than likely be too much food when they are a little older. Keep a constant monitoring eye on them - a healthy weight is a healthier pet.

And please don’t just look at the cost of the bag of food, look at (at least) the first five ingredients and consider the cost of the serving.

Wishing you and your pets good health,

Susan Thixton
Truth About Pet Food
Petsumer Report

With that article in mind, I wanted to also let you in on some really good news in Fountain and Warren Counties. K&K Feeds and Gift Shop on Highway 28 (41 N) between Attica and Williamsport is now carrying some really GREAT lines of holistic dog and cat foods that have far superior ingredients than the old standby’s. Innova Evo is a line of feeds I recommend as well as Eagle Pack and Eagle Pack Holistic, as well as some Royal Canin! Finally, we have some great food choices for our pets nearby and won’t have to drive to Buckles Feed Depot in Lafayette! That’s good news for the gas tank and for our pets!
If your dog has allergies, you may be surprised to learn that a change in dog food was the only thing necessary to alleviate his symptoms. I urge everyone to compare the ingredients in their dogs food to the brands listed above and try it for a month. Groomers see differences in skin and coat and can usually tell when their food has been changed. Perhaps it’s because we see the pets more often than the veterinarian does.
Do your own research and find out for yourself, once you learn more about what goes into your pet’s body, you’ll find you can change many problems with better food.

July 21, 2008 4H Dog Obedience and Agility

4H Dog Obedience and Agility

This years Fountain county fair was another great success; we had a great group of kids and dogs doing agility, showmanship and dog obedience. My son has been doing dog obedience for his 3rd year with Jasmine, our standard poodle. The first year was easy, all on leash and she’s normally very good with sit stays and down stays. Last year was a bit harder, some off leash work but she still did a good job overall. This year was all off leash and although we think she’s obedient enough for home, we figured out obedience 4H style or dog show in general style, isn’t as easy as it seems.
I don’t expect perfection with my dogs, Household manners yes, I insist on them not being obnoxious to people, and of course I don’t tolerate aggression in any form; thankfully I’ve never had that with any of my dogs. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I give kudos to those great dogs that can do it all and do it well, and I know the time the kids have to put into the dogs to get them to that level. I applaud the handlers of those dogs! I just don’t see us putting that sort of time into getting those performances out of Jasmine.
For instance, this year she had to fetch a plastic dumbbell, Jasmine isn’t a retrieving sort of dog, at least in her mind. Yes, she’s a standard poodle. Standard Poodles are like Labrador Retrievers, which are water dogs, and bred to retrieve ducks. I’ve seen them do it! However, apparently Jasmine doesn’t realize this, and thinks she’s a throw rug at our house, content to lie on the floor directly in your path so you have to step over her. She likes squeaky toys, and likes to do tricks; she likes to do agility, but fetching? That’s not going to happen! We worked with her, we clicker trained, we bribed, we did everything we could to make her like her dumbbell but she was not interested in it. We did manage to teach her to open her mouth so we could put it in. Then she immediately drops it. Of course, that wasn’t good enough for dog obedience, but with baseball, other 4H projects and working, there wasn’t really much time to get her any further than that. We knew she was not going to do well this year. We resigned ourselves to that fact and got it in our minds not to get upset when she wouldn’t’ do the fetch. As expected, she didn’t do the fetch. She looked at Drew like “you want me to go get that thing and put it in my mouth? I don’t think so!” That was okay with us. We didn’t’ work very hard on that this summer and we got what we put into it. Not every dog likes dumbbells. I can live with that.
Nevertheless, leave it to Jasmine to be comic relief when the pressure is on. When she had to heel and do a figure eight around two posts, which this year were a couple of our lovely fair queen’s court, she did the typical big dog with a long nose thing. She goosed the girl!
The girl let out a squeal, and sort of jumped forward; I couldn’t help but bust out laughing hysterically. (My apologies to her for my dog’s behavior and my very loud laugh!) Needless to say, Jasmine lost some points for “sniffing”.
Then on Tuesday we had agility and Jasmine found what she really likes to do! She loves running, jumping, climbing, and going through tunnels. She did much better at agility and I intend to get some agility equipment for her to play with at home. I like to see a happy dog!
The most amazing dog was Libby, a German shorthaired pointer with only three legs. She was in an accident a couple of years ago and had to have her left hind leg removed. Libby cleared all the same jumps at the same heights and did it with grace and style. I tell you, it brought tears to my eyes! I was so impressed! Libby was our Grand Champion this year! We had an awesome group of dogs and kids and I hope to see them again next year. I wish we could do agility without obedience, but I guess you have to take the bitter with the sweet. Rules are rules. At least that gives us a whole year to get Jasmine to learn to like her dumbbell or at least to fetch it. We intend to put some real effort into doing that.
The fair has ended, and though as anything you do with your kids’ costs money, I had to think:
Cost of gasoline to drive back and forth to dog obedience this year - $100.00

Cost of dumbbell for dog to fetch $5.00

Watching your dog goose one of the fair queens during her obedience performance – PRICELESS!

July 7, 2008 What's that? A purple poodle!

July 7, 2008

What’s that? A purple poodle!

I do creative grooming competitively, so when Alice Rollins asked me if I had any kid safe dogs I could bring to the free petting zoo at McDonald Park, I said “Sure! What color?” I took Jasmine for a walk after coloring her Saturday, and she stopped traffic, literally! Three cars stopped in the middle of the road and people jumped out with camera phones!
One woman said, “I'm putting this on my MySpace page!”
Little kids fell in love with her, people went crazy for her color and passersby smiled, honked, waved.
She was a HUGE hit on Sunday in the park! She upstaged all the goats, geese, rabbits, donkeys, mini horses, chickens and a box turtle too, (sorry people).
They forgot to make signs for the free petting zoo, so Jo Pugh hurried up to make some while I just walked Jasmine up and down the sidewalk, by the highway... she STOPPED TRAFFIC! Heads were turning as people were driving. I was waiting for someone to hit a pole or building!
Cars pulled over to the curb, which by the way is no place to stop people, it's a HIGHWAY! No matter, people whipped out their cell phone cameras and snapped away.
There were so many comments on the purple poodle and she had her picture taken many times, with little kids loving on her. One little boy who was terrified of dogs after his Grandpa's beagle bit him recently, I told his mom, that's why I brought her, she's good therapy for this...and proceeded to ask him, “Have you ever seen a purple dog?” “No” he replied, as he shudders and scoots away from her. I said, “Well you don't have to worry, she won't bite you, she LOVES kids! How can you be afraid of something that looks like this? Just feel how soft she is” ...he reaches out...tentatively, she turns to lick him and he jumps back, I said “Oh, she’s saying don't stop petting me now!” He reached down and started petting her again.
Several minutes later, after he had visited with all the other animals, I was chatting with someone and I turn and look and that same little boy who is terrified of dogs, is standing there with all the confidence in the world, petting Jasmine on the head! I looked at his mom and smiled, she looked grateful!
I told her I wouldn't bring a dog that wasn't safe.
A little boy with Down's syndrome climbed all over her, literally! She loved it.
Music was playing, I was asked to dance to jazz up the crowd, and I told Alice “Ha! Fat chance, but Jasmine will.” I got some treats and she put on quite the show! What a dog!
She did tricks, I had some kids hand her treats that were afraid of dogs...yep, she's a therapy dog for sure.
I met the world’s cutest and sweetest Chihuahua named Chico who belonged to the mini donkey and horse owner that would win a best kisser award hands down! I would've taken him home! Her husband told me his wife would get rid of him before she got rid of that dog! I don't blame her!
Sheltie Rescue of Greater Lafayette participated and brought adoptable dogs to the park for people to pet and meet, hopefully to get a new forever home.
Our wonderful public library was also there handing out tattoos for the children. You know it’s a sign of the times when a little boy heard they were passing out tattoos and he turned to me and asked, “Do they have needles?” I assured him they were only stick-on tattoos and he wouldn’t feel any pain.
Overall, it was a beautiful day!
Everybody is so busy and it never ceases to amaze me at all the wonderful people we have here in Attica that are willing to put in their time and energy to put on activities like this for our kids. Alice Rollins is a jewel to Attica, she works tirelessly to put things together for the community and help beautify and appreciate our town. I love that we had such a wonderful turnout of people not only to visit the petting zoo, but also to take the time, energy and gasoline to bring those wonderful critters to the park for everyone to see. Those people are jewels as well because they care enough to do something positive for the community with no compensation other than seeing the smiles on the little faces that pet their animals.
I learned that everyone has a story to tell about themselves, and their life. I’m always amazed at the strength some people have after tragedy in their lives. One woman told me about how she had a bad day one day and while wallowing in self-pity and comfort food at a restaurant, she decided to turn it around and told the cashier as she was leaving, I’m paying for their meal too, don’t tell them who did it. She paid for a complete stranger’s meal, and you know what? It made her feel better. Her bad day turned into a good one by that random act of kindness. It didn’t end there, all the frustration she was feeling was about a test she was sure she didn’t pass, but it turns out that she did. I love to see good things happen to good people.
Maybe the next time you see someone on the street, instead of just looking and automatically passing judgment, think about the story in his or her life, because we all have one. You may be amazed to find out just how strong, kind, or wise they are. Think about your own life, how can you turn your tragedies into triumphs? Reach out to your community and pay it forward. You’ll be amazed at the impact you’ll have. Sometimes it can be as simple as a purple poodle putting a smile on a little boy’s face that was afraid of dogs.

June 17, 2008 FLEAS!!!

June 17, 2008


It’s summertime and fleas are in full force again this year. What I’ve noticed last year and again this year is that the normal topical products such as Frontline and Advantage don’t seem to be having the same effect on the fleas as before.
I’ve heard from several of my clients who have always used the topical products that their dog is suffering with fleas even though they have faithfully used the products as directed every month.

Anyone who knows me knows how anal I am about fleas. I can’t stand bugs of any sort, but especially not fleas. They end up giving your dog or cat tapeworm which is even more gross and disgusting, and I make it a firm policy that all pets must be on flea control before they enter my salon, reason being it’s part of my house, and who wants fleas in their home? I am a groomer and I certainly don’t want fleas jumping onto my dogs or my clients dogs and getting a reputation of “I took my dog to the groomer and he came home with fleas”. This is WHY I am so anal about fleas. Talk about a business killer!

Do fleas become immune to certain products? Well to me, it makes sense that after a while bugs can become immune to things that kill them. Whether that’s just my opinion or fact, remains to be seen. What I do know is that science is always making improvements trying to combat the bugs on our faithful pets and there are new products out now available only from your veterinarian at this point. One product is a once a month pill called “Comfortis”.

I’m always leery of new products until I hear others opinions of them, but I was not in a position to wait any longer. Bogey, my almost 14-year-old Bichon is sadly, a flea magnet. If there is a flea to be found, it will find him. None of my other animals can have a flea, but no matter how faithful I apply the topicals they just don’t seem to have much effect on him. A week after I apply it, he will start scratching and I know what that means.

There have been enough scares with medications for people and pets and I’m not about to jeopardize the health of my animals by guinea pigging them, however, I was getting rather desperate and nothing else was working on poor Bogey. I thought I would try it once, one pill and carefully observe him for ANY signs of a bad reaction to it. I’m happy to report, he had no adverse reaction at all, and believe me if any animal will have a reaction to anything, he is the prime candidate with his advanced age, and being a fair skinned white dog that has flea allergies. The best news is he took the Comfortis pill a month ago, and when I bathed him yesterday; I’m thrilled to say not one flea! Hallelujah! I think I’ve found the solution for him!

While chatting with another groomer she mentioned that the new flea pill is working wonders on her clientele as well, she couldn’t remember the name, so I said, “um, Comfortis?” and she said , “Yes! That’s the one!” She runs a boarding kennel too and of course has the same rules for her clients, no fleas allowed.
Another thing I’d like to mention when you are combating fleas is to be sure to treat all of your animals at the same time, and treat your house, car, pets bedding and especially your yard for fleas. If you want to kill bugs, you have to get them at the source right? Many yard sprays available will kill bugs, just be sure to let it dry before allowing your pets outside on the grass. You don’t want your dog to come in, lick his paws, and ingest yard spray.

Comfortis is only for fleas and not ticks, so you may need to use a topical if you have ticks. Ticks carry Lyme disease and cause many other problems, ask your vet for recommendations. However, for fleas, Comfortis seems to be the Holy Grail this year, so I am going to use it. Put down the paper, call your vet right now, and go get some flea control for your pets. They’ll love you for it!

June 3, 2008 Peeee Ewwww! Skunked Dog!

June 3, 2008

Peeeee Ewwwww! Skunked Dog!

It’s that time of year again, the birds are singing, the lilacs are blooming and perfuming the air with their wonderful fragrance, you inhale deeply when suddenly you catch that faint aroma, what’s that? It gets closer…the smell overtakes you! It’s your dog running to greet you and it becomes obvious he’s tangled with a skunk.
It seems to be more common when you live in the country; however, in Attica there are many of the little stinkers that live in town. If you see one crossing the road in front of your car, you pray your brakes hold and you can stop in time before you hit or scare it.

Nobody is safe from skunks; they tend to like to go into peoples garages, and are masters at getting into trash. Skunks are nocturnal animals, meaning they prefer to be awake at night. They have babies this time of year, usually April through mid June. Skunks usually don’t attack unless they are cornered or defending their young. Spraying isn’t the first line of defense either, usually they will hiss, fluff up their fur, stamp the ground, and shake their tail but if the intruder doesn’t go away, watch out!

Skunks are actually cute little critters, but they do carry rabies and if you or your pet is bitten, it’s imperative to do the following:

1) Retain the skunk, (dead or alive), if possible to do so without further injury. If the skunk is dead, keep it refrigerated or on ice.2) Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.3) Call the local animal control department to pick up the skunk and have it tested for rabies.4) See your doctor as soon as possible (no later than 72 hours). Get a tetanus shot if you have not had one in the last 10 years.5) If the skunk is available for testing, the rabies test results will determine if you need a rabies vaccine. If the skunk is not available, then you should get the rabies vaccine as a prophylactic measure.

Skunk spray is an alcohol and sulfur based oily liquid that can shoot 15 feet away from the skunk. Skunks have enough musk in their gland to spray 5 or 6 times in one attack.
The musk causes severe burning, tearing and can cause temporary blindness (10 – 15 minutes) if it gets into the eyes. Flush the eyes with water or saline to relieve the pain and irritation, and if irritation persists, call your vet.

How do you get rid of the odor?
Well for years, people used tomato juice to de-skunk their dog. The problem is, you’d need a 55-gallon drum of the stuff to do much good. I prefer to use this tried and true recipe for de-skunking dogs.

1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (available everywhere)
¼ cup of baking soda
1-2 tsp. of liquid dish soap (Dawn is my preference)
Put mixture into a plastic or glass bowl and use immediately. Do not try to save the leftover mixture, as it will explode in closed container.
I would wear disposable gloves to do the job and clothing you are okay with throwing away afterwards.

Wet the dog, hold your nose and apply the mixture to the areas your dog was most likely hit with the spray, which includes the head being VERY careful not to get this mixture into your pet’s eyes. I find most dogs are hit in the face, neck, chest or front legs most as they are nosy creatures who can’t seem to let the little skunks alone.
Let the mixture sit on the dog for 10 – 15 minutes then rinse and bathe the dog again in the mixture if necessary. Rinse well.
This mixture can bleach out black dog’s hair a bit, which is really no big deal, the hair will grow back in just fine. The most important thing is to get the skunk oil off and get the dog squeaky clean.
Instead of conditioner afterwards, I like to use a vinegar and water rinse that you can leave in the coat. Your dog may smell a bit like a pickle but hey, that beats skunk!

If your dog attacked and killed the skunk or got the musk into his mouth, well then my friend, you have a whole other problem. My friend’s dog had that happen and every time she opened her mouth, you’d smell the faint odor of skunk. It took MONTHS to wear off! We even brushed her teeth and used a doggy mouthwash!

Another way to help rid your dog of the odor, and this is a drastic one, is to shave off the dog’s hair. When I lived in West Point, my neighbor had a Puli named Moses. Puli are a breed of dog that resembles a rag mop. Medium sized with a curly coat that cords, rather like dreadlocks. As a groomer, that look drove me nuts. You don’t know how bad I wanted to remove those mats! Nevertheless, I know corded dog fanciers who love the look. Moses tangled with a skunk once. They didn’t want to remove his cords, and no amount of bathing would rid Moses of his new aroma. You knew Moses was around simply by walking outside when the odor hit you. The cords held that odor because they don’t shed the hair. He spent the last years of his life as a very stinky dog, poor Moses!

If your dog wears a collar, do yourself a favor, toss it out, and buy him a new one. It’s not worth trying to save the collar if your dog was skunked.
Prevention is the best cure for de-skunking, so keep an eye on your dog especially this time of year and keep your dog confined at night when the little stinkers are out looking for food.

May 19, 2008 Spring has sprung and now we are sinking in mud.

May 19, 2008

Spring has sprung and now we are sinking in mud.

Well I guess we can’t have everything now can we? I know it’s disheartening to have your dog all spruced up, only to let him out to go potty and he comes back in covered in mud knee deep. Remember, this too shall pass. Soon it will be the dog days of summer and we’ll all be complaining about the heat.
What I’m about to say, you should already be aware of, but it bears repeating just in case. Though there is no flea season really, because fleas may not be outside your house in the winter, but trust me, if you aren’t protecting your pet, they are living on the inside. You should be very diligent about using your flea and tick protection every month. Ask your vet or groomer for their recommendations of products. There are new products coming out all the time, some are better than others are, and some seem to work more effectively on some pets than others. For example, Frontline Plus works great on my poodle, but has little effect on my cat. My cat seems to do fine with Advantage however. Why? I have no idea. I’m going to chalk it up to body chemistry. Just like people, some drugs work better on us than others. Some drugs have side effects on some pets, while other pets do just fine on them. The main thing you should do is find the best products for your pet, and if you have a houseful of pets as I do, you may need different products for different animals.
Lyme disease is a concern in our area. Ticks carry Lyme disease. I know several of my clients have gone through treating their dogs for Lyme disease. There are vaccines you should ask your vet about if you feel your pet may be at risk. Face it, it’s mushroom season and ticks are abundant!
Heartworm is another medicine you should give year round. It’s much easier to remember to do it if you plan to give it monthly. Years ago, I had a Dalmatian that I stopped his heartworm medicine in October or November, and by April, he tested positive for heartworm and it cost several hundred dollars to treat it, only to have him pass away the next summer, due to the strain on his heart from the heat. An ounce of prevention could have stopped his premature death.
Fleas carry tapeworms and you should have your vet perform a fecal test on your pet annually to make sure you don’t have hidden parasites eating away at your pet. Your pet can get hookworm and whipworm just by walking on the grass, the eggs are in manure that may have broken down, but later on, your dog may lick his feet and ingest the eggs. Then your pet ends up with worms, and has relatively few signs until the infestation is very bad.
Dogs are like children, you have to take care of them with regular checkups from your vet. Elderly pets are even more susceptible to problems. The thing I hate to see most is an elderly pet that is neglected because she’s old and hard to deal with or they don’t want to put her through anything. These pets often need more care than the younger pets. They have a hard time grooming themselves, and maybe they’ve gotten touchy or grouchy when you attempt to brush them. Letting them go isn’t helping the situation. Many elderly pets have arthritis, but there are medications you can give your pet for pain. Dogs are stoic about pain. They often don’t show their discomfort or make it obvious because in the animal world, pain equals weakness and weakness makes you vulnerable to attack.
Since it’s springtime, and the weather hopefully will soon be sunny and warm instead of just rainy, now is a fine time to make use of those resolutions you made in January and get out and walk the dog! Both of you need the exercise, so get out of the recliner and get walking! It’s time to work off that winter weight and get back into shape. Then your doctor and your pet’s doctor can stop nagging you about that weight gain. Think of the gasoline you’ll save by walking instead of driving. Nobody is happy with the gas prices, so it’s time to stop whining about it, (easier said than done, I do my share of whining) and make your short trips into walking ones with your best 4-legged friend. Thank goodness, pets don’t complain as we do! Somebody has to be upbeat and happy! Let’s take a cue from our pets and just enjoy the sunshine and the company. It’s time to live simply; wouldn’t it be nice to live as carefree as your pet?

May 5, 2008 Time's Are Changing for All of Us

May 5, 2008

Time’s Are Changing for All of Us

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with the gas prices and even though I work at home and don’t have to commute to work, I still can’t afford to buy gas! Buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle may save me on gasoline, but I’d lose whatever savings on a car payment and extra insurance and plates. This crisis has us all in a lose/lose situation. I want all my clients to know… I FEEL YOUR PAIN!
Luckily, I’m just a groomer that works from home. I’m wondering how the mobile groomers are making it with the $4.00 + per gallon gasoline prices or diesel, even worse!
Sadly, because of our economy, this means prices on EVERYTHING have to go up, which of course, affects how we all maintain our standard of living. I didn’t want to be another nail in the coffin, but I had to raise my prices to keep up. It had been 4 years since I had a price increase and as expected, some of my clients aren’t taking the news well.
I did come up with a few options though to help those who in the financial crunch so the pets they love won’t suffer too much. Stretching out the length between appointments can help those on a monthly or 6 week schedule. Moving them to every 8 weeks instead, I am happy to do.
For those with larger dogs that can’t or don’t want to get them done at home, I am now offering self-service, which is great because they can get their dog done for less than half the normal price, but they provide the labor. I provide everything else. Go ahead, clog my drain, and make a big mess! I’ll clean it up. This isn’t an option for dogs in need of haircuts, but for dogs that need a bath and brush out, this is a great deal! Using a self-serve option means your dog, and the aroma in your home won’t have to suffer because of the extra burden on your budget.
Finding a groomer closer to where you live is also an option. I know several groomers and I will be happy to refer you to one closer to you. My feelings won’t be hurt. I completely understand!
My parents were in their 60’s when they adopted me. They had raised their four children during the depression. I have heard all the stories of living on beans and rice and trying to find work just so they could eat. All of those stories seemed so unreal to me until recently. Now that I’m a parent, I can see the great depression coming at us again. Our economy affects everybody and every business. People were struggling before gasoline went so high, now they are losing their homes, unable to afford their medications and I’m waiting on the soup line to start forming soon.
I know that people who dearly love their pets will struggle and continue to provide for them, but I also know others who will be dumping their pets off in the country. Animal shelters are turning away owner surrenders due to lack of space, and wanting people to face their own responsibility. I can certainly see the point, but I also know that there are so many people out there that are barely getting by, it will soon get to the point of being unable to provide food and shelter for themselves, let alone their pets. The future to me looks scary for those animals and people.
I wonder if my future grandchildren will look upon the stories I tell them of our “great recession” as just stories, with no real idea of what I could be complaining about. I would imagine that by the time I have grandkids, and can pass along my wisdom and stories of the depressing economical era that I raised kids in; gasoline would be WAY more than $4.00 per gallon. They will probably wonder why I ever complained at all.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we are all in the same boat together. (Even though right now, that boat seems to be the Titanic) no matter who you are or how much money you make, this economy is hitting us all hard.
I’m hoping soon things will turn around for the better and we can get back on our feet again. Until then, try to keep your chin up and do the best you can. I’m here for a shoulder if you need one, and I’ll try to keep from gasping and muttering expletives at the gas pump. Just remember that no matter what happens in your life, or how rich or poor you are, your dog loves you regardless. Give your pooch a hug! After all, petting your dog or cat has been shown to lower blood pressure. Maybe we should pack our pets in the car when we fill up the car next time so we don’t have a stroke at the pump.

April 21, 2008 Groomer Has It!

April 21, 2008

Groomer Has It!

Just when you thought there could not be any other reality type show made, Animal Planet has come up with a new one about dog groomers, “Groomer Has It!” The first thought when I heard about this is, “Great! Now people will finally know what it’s like to be a groomer and will appreciate us more.” Then, after chatting online with other groomers and seeing the previews of the show, we started to get a little worried. Umm, this isn’t what it’s really like, at least not from what we’ve seen so far. Now in grooming competitions, I’ve seen the model dog competitions where groomers use yarn dogs (stuffed animals) and I know that it takes 2 to 3 hours just to brush out the yarn to get it ready to cut! On the show, they gave them 3 hours total to brush, cut and dye it, which was tough. Not to mention using your good shears on the yarn dogs will ruin them. (I have talked to groomers who have competed in this competition.) The next preview on TV was showing them shearing sheep. Now, I will say I have done that….once. Not EVEN close to grooming dogs! Therefore, I am still waiting for the “reality” of this program to show the world what groomers do.
I have also seen a little preview of the groomers working on some snapping, biting dogs…that’s a little closer to reality! I hope they show some real life grooming of what most groomers get each day, but then again that would change the world of entertainment and then it would turn into an “Animal Cops” episode instead, of neglected, matted dogs.
The cool thing about this show is I remember the casting company emailing grooming groups and offering auditions. I can’t say I personally know any of the groomers on this show, but I do know of an alternate that did not make it on this time, but hopefully next time, his grooming will blow them all away!
I was particularly impressed with the groomer who works for the rich and famous of New York and charges $100 to groom a yorkie. Why can’t I get that much? Too bad celebrities don’t live around here. I know Oprah’s groomer, and I know what he gets to groom her cockers (now only one) weekly. Let’s just say I could live on doing one of her dogs a day. I wonder what she gives him for Christmas?
The grand prize of this grooming competition is a mobile grooming van with all the extras, which on top of everything else would be a sweet deal. Although with the gas prices now, I’m not so sure the groomer would come out ahead. This brings me to my next point, the cost of doing business.
On the bottom of an invoice from a repairman was this paragraph that read:
“When that professional service technician knocks on your door, many costs have been incurred just to get him there, ready to do the job.Then it lists: insurance, specialized training, periodic courses and training, truck maintenance, test equipment, taxes- Soc. Sec.- Emp. Comp., advertising, trucks, tools, warehouse shop and office rent quality control, stock of replacement parts, utilities, service management administration,office equipment, computerization, business expense - lawyers etc., employee benefits, office help, and finally stationary, office supply and postage.” It finishes with, “Don't judge service charges solely by the time the technician spends in your home or business”.

Of course, I had to relate this to pet grooming so I came up with my own thoughts:

“When you take your pet to a pet groomer, and are shocked by the price of just washing a dog, think of this...
Many costs have been incurred to open up shop and help your groomer be the caliber groomer she is.
Liability insurance, specialized training, ongoing education and training, travel to get to the ongoing education, equipment costs, maintenance costs, tools, shampoos, conditioners, hair care products, ear cleaning products, bows, bandannas, assortment of brushes, combs, shedding equipment, stripping knives, ergonomic equipment to help preserve the back of your groomer so they can have a long career, taxes, advertising, space rental or home mortgage if your groomer works out of their home, office supplies and computers and equipment to keep your groomer informed and on top of her game, internet fees, telephone expenses, utilities, postage, uniforms, cages and kenneling costs, cleaning supplies, disinfecting supplies, numerous blades for each clipper, expensive scissors, books, videos, and vitamins for the stamina it takes to get through each day grooming several dogs. Groomers have the knowledge of dog body language to work with difficult animals, and the “know how” do the job right and safely, and a willingness to handle the person on the end of each leash with a smile daily.
Don't judge charges solely by the time the groomer spends on your dog. “

Now THAT’S reality!

April 7, 2008 Saving Moses

April 7, 2008

Saving Moses

Over the years of my life, and especially after I began my career working with dogs I learned how to read them and work with them. I offer in home training to people who are having difficulties with their dog’s behavior. Rescues often give people my phone number so they have someone to call and help them before they give up on their dog. If you look at any shelter in the world, most of the dogs are between 8 and 18 months old, and are relinquished due to behavioral issues. The dogs weren’t bad dogs, but their owners didn’t understand how to train them and deal with issues correctly. Many dogs are put to sleep daily over behavior issues that they deem unacceptable. Many well meaning pet professionals such at veterinarians that don’t see the whole picture, just what little they see in their office will recommend having the dog put to sleep for aggressive behavior. This is the story of Moses, a 170 lb. St. Bernard that isn’t yet 2 years old but had developed some seriously aggressive behavior.

Moses’ owner called me one day to ask me for help with him. She was referred to me by a rescue. She told me that he barked and lunged at people and scared them to death. He had chased even members of her family inside her house and scared them. He hadn’t made any bites yet, but her granddaughter had a scratch that could’ve been from a tooth or maybe a nail. Her vet had advised her to have him put down after he handed her a muzzle to put on him, and it took 5 people to hold him to give him vaccinations and they had to knock him out for grooming. When anyone came near the house he went berserk jumping and barking at them. Even though he was tied up, nobody got out of their cars for fear the cable would break. I can’t say I blame them.

It seems his aggressive behavior happened suddenly. He was fine and friendly up until they went on vacation and left him at home in the kennel. They had family coming over to feed and water him. When they returned from vacation, he was a different dog. Strangers were a serious threat to him and with his huge size, his owner who is 4’11” tall was not able to control him. She loved him tremendously and even sent him to Kentucky to live with her daughter who worked with a trainer there to get him under control. However, Moses’ mom wasn’t there. She went down for a day to work with the trainer but the trainer was sick. They only training Moses’ mom got was what her daughter told her. When Moses was back at home, the same aggressive behavior began again.

I have to tell you, I work very well with dominant dogs, with pushy dogs, with mildly aggressive dogs, but with 170 lb. aggressive dogs when I’m about the same size as his owner, that had me seriously worried. I’ve been attending clicker training classes with Amanda at Country Critter Care that she recently started for my own dog out of curiosity on how to clicker train. I didn’t understand clicker training and I wanted to learn it in person, and not from a book. It always helps me to have someone show me how instead of tell me how to do things, which is how I train dogs and owners. I don’t tell them how to do it, I do it with them, I show them what to do, give them confidence and watch them as they do it and point out what they are unconsciously doing wrong so they can learn. Well, I was telling Amanda about Moses to get her thoughts on it. She advised me not to go alone and to take someone experienced with me. “That would be who?” I asked. I work alone mostly. So I sweet talked Amanda into coming with me to Moses’ house to evaluate him.

We arrived at his house and he was in his kennel. I told his owner to stay in the house until I came for her. I didn’t want him to pick up on her nervousness about his behavior. Dogs don’t understand why you are nervous but they feel your anxiety and they see a stranger so therefore the stranger must be why mommy is nervous. Eat the stranger. Amanda and I approached Moses at his kennel and immediately noticed that the barking, snarling behavior was done with a low tail and he was backing up towards the wall. He wasn’t mean, he was scared to death. In animals, it’s fight or flight. In my last column, Ebony the standard poodle puppy went into flight mode when confronted with a human. Moses couldn’t run away. So he tried to scare us off by lunging, barking, snarling, and looking vicious. Hey, it worked with everyone else! But we just stayed there. We praised him for the nano-second he was quiet between barks. We started tossing treats to him, that helped out some but he wasn’t interested in our treats. That’s when I brought out the big guns, hotdog therapy!

We tossed little bits of hotdog through his kennel fence and that immediately got his attention! He was soon taking hot dog morsels out of my hand and in just a few minutes he figured out that Amanda and I weren’t scary strangers, we were “the hotdog ladies”.
Amanda and Moses and his owner went into their garage and began some clicker training for good behavior while I left the driveway and came back to create a sense of “stranger approaching” to test him out. When I pulled up, he jumped up on the garage door barking ferociously and looked out of the windows and saw me. Hey it’s the hotdog lady! Hi! His barking stopped and he listened to his owner and went to his blanket to sit and get treats. I tested him over and over by knocking on doors, hearing him bark, then the owner made him go to his blanket, she opened the door and instead of worrying about him killing the visitor, she now gained confidence knowing that he could indeed be controlled and he was totally redeemable! I looked at Moses and told him “Moses, my friend, we just saved your life.” To which Moses responded with a nuzzle to “the hotdog lady”.

Moses is a big, happy, slobbering lug of a dog that wasn’t “vicious”, he was misunderstood. He has lots of work ahead of him, and luckily for him he has an owner that is willing to do the homework she needs to do to learn how to handle him correctly. Amanda and I decided we make a great team and she is willing to do more rehabilitation work with me in the future with dogs that need our help. This was a win/win situation for us all, especially for Moses.