4/24/09 Allergic to Dogs

Allergic to Dogs

It’s springtime and those of us with seasonal allergies are just beginning to feel the effects of the pollens before us. One thing I'm grateful for is that I do not (at this time) have an allergy to dogs. Talk about ruining a career! As much as I've been exposed to hair, dander and saliva surely I'd have built up immunity for life, but that isn't the case with many of my clients.

I have several clients who are allergic to dogs. So why are they clients you ask? Well, to help keep the hair and dander down on their beloved pet they are allergic to, or because they have found breeds which are less allergenic than most dogs and they can tolerate them better. So which breeds are best for dog allergy sufferers? The best breeds are those who are low-shedding breeds or those who need to have their hair cut regularly; however there are no truly hypoallergenic dogs. Poodle, Maltese, Shih-Tzu, Bichon-Frise, Bolognese, Havanese, Coton de Tulear, Lowchen, Komondor, Puli, Irish Water Spaniel, Portuguese Water Dog, Chinese Crested, Schnauzer, Yorkshire, Tibetan and Kerry Blue Terrier are some examples. A more allergenic breed mixed with any of the above breeds does not guarantee that the puppies will inherit the coat of the less allergenic breed.

Take for example the Obama family. Our new first dog is a Portuguese Water Dog. They have children with allergies to dogs and had to be especially careful about the breed they brought into the house. Hopefully the new “Portie” will grow up and not become a source of allergies for the family. The reason I say that is because puppies don't shed and rarely cause allergy problems until puberty when the puppy hair goes out and the adult coat comes in. Many people with puppies find out the hard way that the beloved puppy they have raised grows up to become a big problem for the allergy sufferer in the family. Porties are low shedding, like a poodle, they can have a curly, wavy or “whirly” (a mixture of wavy and curly) coats. They don't have a seasonal shedding undercoat such as a sheltie or golden retriever. But they have the love of water and personality of a wonderful family dog. I hope it’s a good match. I happen to know a groomer in Washington D.C., I wonder if she will become “the first groomer”?

So what do you do if you are allergic to your dog? Well I know what I would do if it were me. First of all I'd be heading to my doctor and getting some medication for myself, and looking into immunotherapy shots. I've actually done that years ago when it was discovered I had a mild allergy to horses and cats amongst other things. There was no way I'd give them up! So I had weekly to monthly needle pokes, that were so easy I never even felt them, and after about a year and a half, I stopped them. I can't say for sure that they worked because I learned to avoid grooming my horses in springtime; I let my friend’s kids brush them in exchange for riding time. Springtime shedding was the only time my horses ever bothered my asthma. Once that was over, it was smooth sailing. I had myself tested a few years ago again for dogs and cats when an allergy flared up, and it turns out that I am showing no signs of allergy to either one, however I'm allergic to guinea pigs. Go figure! The doctor thought that my constant exposure to the dander and hair was actually a good thing for my allergies and apparently has built up my immunity to cats. He also discovered that my immunotherapy shots from years before did not have any cat dander in them all that time that I was on the shots, so I was never being treated for my cat allergy. I have two house cats now.

One thing that can really help you is to have your dog groomed for you by a professional groomer and be sure to tell them you are trying to help your allergies. Groomers can really get out undercoat that would take you weeks otherwise. Frequent bathing helps control the dander, as do some rub on treatments such as Allerpet® that you rub on your pet weekly between baths. I know many people who swear by it. A really good diet for the dog also helps the skin so it doesn't produce as much dander.

So allergies don't always have to mean finding a new home for Fido, sometimes it just takes a little more care to keep the hair and dander under control as well as taking good care of yourself and perhaps a little medication. Singulair® has been enormous help to me with my allergies, I haven't had an asthma attack since I've been on it, and I can feel the difference if I forget to take it. So I live with taking a pill daily. Some things you can't avoid, other things you choose not to avoid. That seems to keep life happier for me.

4/10/09 Hoosier Corn Dog

Hoosier Corn Dog
Well another creative grooming show came up in Knoxville, TN and since this was a new show and at a better time of year for me, I decided we needed a little working vacation so the whole family and one dog loaded up and headed to Knoxville last weekend to compete.
After the last show in Chicago, I swore off creative grooming and said I'd be money ahead to do a design, have a photographer snap a photo and buy my own trophy. While this is indeed true, there’s just something way too competitive inside me and no sooner did I get home from Chicago, inspiration hit me.
A groomer friend of mine, Gloria in South Carolina e-mailed me and suggested a design that hadn't been done before that she thought of and wanted me to do it. A corn dog!
No, not a brown dog with a stick coming out of you know where, but a dog that is dyed and carved to resemble an ear of corn! Well, this was shear brilliance in my mind, and I took the idea and ran with it.
Trying to find dark green hair dye was no easy feat, I came upon three different shades of green, that by themselves were either lime green, or Easter egg green and too pastel. Not exactly what I had in mind for stalks of corn so I got to play Dr. Frankenstein and added some black and a dash of orange to it and hoped for the best. What I ended up with was a sort of sage or olive green, not perfect but good enough.
This was the first contest I had ever done “live”. Other contests you already had the dog cut and colored and just set up in the ring and were judged. This one, you had 2 hours to cut the dogs design in, going in with only a dyed dog, and maybe a design you had carved in several weeks before. Talk about pressure!
The contest began in the back part of large conference room at a hotel in downtown Knoxville. There were 4 divisions to enter in; First Timer, Novice, Intermediate, and Open for more advanced stylist. You had to have at least 3 first placements to advance to the next level. Well that made me an easy “novice” competitor since I've gotten only 2nd and 3rd placements in my creative grooming career thus far.
I went in thinking two hours is a long time, I'll be easily finished by then, after all she’s already washed and dried…all I have to do is cut hair, I guess I never timed myself. That was the fastest two hours of my life!
Periodically we'd hear the judge tell us, “thirty minutes left”, then “fifteen minutes left”, then “five minutes”. I found myself not way ahead of the game as I had planned but cutting corners and just trying to finish as best I could.
My “Hoosier Corn Dog” theme turned out pretty well all things considered and I used my boys as scarecrow props. My husband came to this show and it was his first grooming show, oddly enough he seemed to be enjoying himself. He sat there the entire two hours, eyes glued to the stage, and when time was up, he jumped up and started putting my background and props together while I got myself and the boys into our costumes. We made it and the cameras were busy flashing photos of us while the judge went down the line inspecting our work.
My hopes were high but alas, it was not to be. Bypassed again! DRAT! Nevertheless, we were a crowd favorite and I heard many groomers say to me “you were robbed!” That at least made me feel a little better. The judge gave me a good critique and I knew where I needed to improve. After it was all over, we took Jasmine outside for a walk and then we were mobbed! I can't tell you how many people stopped cars, snapped pictures and posed with her! (You'd think they never saw a green and yellow corn dog before.) Three young teens saw her and instantly fell in love; one boy said “I'll bet she cost $10,000.00!” I told him, “Nope, her adoption fee was only $300.00”, then he said, “Want to sell her?”
“No, I'm afraid not, she’s priceless to me” I replied. Greetings like that made it worth the trip. Besides the next day was our vacation portion and we headed to Dollywood, and Jasmine had a room booked at the kennel there “Doggywood”.
Walking in from the parking lot and getting on the tram to go inside Dollywood with our “corn dog” created quite a stir! Even worse was after we had spent the day there and were heading out to go home, we were completely mobbed, people were hugging her, feeding her their sandwiches, asking all sorts of questions about her and making me feel like quite a celebrity all in all. If I had a nickel for every photo taken of her I'd have more money than Dolly Parton! Patrons of Dollywood got a treat that day and didn’t have to pay extra! What’s not to love?
After coming back home without a trophy, I decided we deserved one anyway so I ordered one online. I bought a nice gold cup with a poodle on top, it reads:
“The "SMILEY" Award” (which stands for)

"See My Incredible Losses Each Year"

Sandy Blackburn

Creative Grooming

At least I kept my sense of humor. My husband really surprised me by giving me ideas for the next contest, and I thought he wasn’t interested in what I do, I guess the competition bug has bit him too. Maybe she’ll have enough hair by September for Hershey, Pennsylvania...