Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fifteen Things for 2015

With the New Year, I was inspired to write a blog entry, something I haven’t done for a while. Then I couldn’t think of a topic, so I will just post some information and reminders about me and the house-call grooming service. Fifteen things for 2015!

  1. You are welcome to pre-book standing appointments, up to a year in advance. As I write this, there are already eleven appointments pre-booked for December 2015. Appointments are booking about four to six weeks in advance, so I highly recommend pre-booking as a way to avoid disappointment.
  2. Easter this year is Sunday, April 5th. It moves around, and sometimes catches folks by surprise. Christmas is December 25th every time, people. I can’t help you if you forget that one. I will be taking this year’s March Break as a holiday.
  3. I do my best to be on time, but I have to add this caveat. Due to the insane traffic and construction in the GTA, all appointment times have to be considered approximate. 11 a.m. has become 11-ish. I also will no longer drive in snow storms. People are maniacs.
  4. You may contact me via phone, text, email, Facebook message, Twitter, or Instagram. I will always reply to you via the same method you contacted me. Technology isn’t perfect, and neither am I (I once emailed an invite to my dentist to a family gathering), so if you haven’t heard from me within a couple of business days, please get in touch again.
  5. I don’t answer the phone while I’m grooming or driving but I will check messages between appointments.
  6. Payment is cash, cheque, or e-Transfer. I’m not interested getting into debit or credit transactions. I can always come back if you have forgotten to get cash, so long as it is just an occasional occurrence. You all know I’m pretty relaxed about that part, as several of you have chased me down the driveway waving funds because I’ve forgotten to get paid.
  7. I am pretty flexible and can groom your dog in nearly any location, provided there is a power source, and adequate light. That said, certain things do make it more difficult. A damp, cold location means that the drying process will take much longer. If the lighting is poor and I can’t see, that will affect the quality of the finished work. Try reading your vitamin bottle in certain light, you’ll see what I mean. Also, if events occur within the home that make me uncomfortable, I will be unlikely to return.
  8. I have strong People-Pleasing patterns and try to accommodate everyone and make them happy, so if I say no, be assured that I really can't say yes.
  9. I am not a veterinarian. I can not diagnose or give medical advice. I can only point out issues or behaviours with your dog that I think are unusual or cause for concern. I’ve seen a lot of dogs over the years, so I may have some applicable anecdote, but you should always check with your vet regarding any health issues.
  10. Your vaccine protocol is between you and your veterinarian. I do not require proof of vaccines before grooming your dog. Due to this policy, I will not be able to groom aggressive or biting dogs.
  11. I’m an old groomer. Did you know that at one time the average career life of a groomer was thirteen years? I’m at nearly twenty! I also crested a birthday hill with a zero in it last year and am now on the downward slope. I have a standing appointment with a massage therapist and a chiropractor so that I can move. I can no longer ignore it when I am ill and just carry on working, nor can I groom as much as I used to in a day. If I want to keep grooming until I’m eighty, I will have to pace myself. Not to mention, you really don’t want me bringing my germs to your house, sniffling all over your clean dog.
  12. I am not accepting new clients at this time. Thank you for all your referrals and for thinking of me. I will let you know when I can take on new customers.
  13. I often take photos of your dogs, purely for fun. Most people enjoy seeing photos of their dogs, all clean and tidy. I also have a few clients where my picture of the dog was the last photo taken before the little soul passed on. The pictures are always posted on the Pets Are People Too Facebook page. If you would like the original files, just let me know. If you don’t want photos of your dog either taken at all, or posted on Facebook, just let me know. I’ll be sad though, just saying.
  14. I currently own three dogs that were adopted from clients, given up for various reasons. I call them my little hand-me-downs. I am also listed in two wills as the beneficiary of their dogs, should the worst occur. I love your dogs like they were family. Although I honestly can’t keep adopting more dogs, if you are client and something should happen in your life and you can’t keep your pet, please let me know. I will do my best to help, and I am acquainted with several wonderful local rescues. Similarly, if you are looking to add a new family member, the rescue groups are a great place to start. If you would like to be involved with dogs but aren’t able to permanently add another to your household, most of the rescues are desperate for volunteers and foster homes. I also live about a five minute drive from the Humane Society of Durham Region. If you have any items that you would like to donate, I can pick them up from you and drop them off at the shelter.
  15. I only know the best people. I have been shown so much kindness and generosity over the years, and I am deeply grateful. Thank you for everything, and have a wonderful 2015.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Two Poodles, One Haircut

My friends Lou and Maggie are two very pretty chocolate Standard Poodles. They are, as is usual for Standard Poodles, very well-behaved for their grooming, although Maggie is very nosey and has a tendency to stick her face in whatever I am doing at the time. They are true Poodles, and run, play, wrestle and get wet and dirty like it is going out of style. There is a misconception of Poodles as fussy, prissy dogs, and this could not be further from the truth. They were bred as retrievers, sporting dogs, and have a keen intelligence and sense of humour. Lou is a terrible hide and seek player though; I can spot him under the kitchen table right away.

Although their appearance is similar, Maggie and Lou have very different coats. Lou has the typical springy curls of a Poodle, and his coat fluffs up beautifully when it is blow-dried. Maggie on the other hand has what I would call, if she were a Portugese Water Dog, a wavy coat. Since she is not a PWD, I will be honest and call it floppy, and it matts. Maggie’s feelings will not be hurt if I am honest since she and I are straight shooters. Also, Stn. Poodles naturally believe in their innate superiority so I’m pretty sure Maggie would envision her waves as a kind of Farah Fawcett ‘do.

My normal approach to grooming is to pop everyone in the bath first. Working on a clean dog is best, and means that you don’t have to repeat your work and make two messes. Lou and Maggie have been having an awesome summer however, and were a bit longer than usual. This meant that I would approach them a bit differently. Their final haircuts were the same.

Lou had his bath first, with two shampoos. Actually, it was a shower. Lou and Maggie have a great walk-in shower, so I roll up my yoga pants and get in there with them. With my long apron, I stay quite dry, unless I turn around at the wrong moment and the dog shakes. Then I have a damp tush for a little while, but yoga pants dry pretty quickly. I used a chamois to absorb the water and then towel dried Lou. I put another towel underneath him to help catch the water that I am blowing off while using my high velocity dryer. 

My HV is a big one, a old Lange. It only leaves home for Lou and Maggie and I’m pretty sure that their dad is hoping it will die and I’ll get a smaller one. He helps me carry it up and down the stairs. My Lange does a great job though and is much quieter than other HV’s. Lou has a nice coat, and the HV quickly blows apart any light matting that he may have. Next, I took a smaller dryer and a brush over him. I then combed the coat up. When he is finished, he looks huge and fluffy.

Next, I clipped Lou’s face, feet, sanitary areas and the base of his pom-pom tail. I used a #30 blade on his face, feet and tail, and a #10 blade on his bits and bobs. The clean face makes him start to look like a Poodle again. His nails are also trimmed.

I clippered his body with a #7F blade, which is quite short. There is still a lot of summer left here in Ontario. A nice short clip will help to keep Lou and Maggie cool and clean.

I scissored the legs to blend with the body, and trimmed up the tail. This is a pet trim, so I don’t go for the exaggerated angulation that is currently in style. This is more of a Poodle meets a teddy bear, cuter than a plain kennel clip.

His head is scissored to match, and Lou is all done. Lou stands like a rock for his groom and his coat is fun to scissor. 

Maggie’s coat is wavy, floppy and soft. Her dad likes the feel of her soft coat and I can tell because Maggie usually has a good sized matt on the top of her head, right where she is petted. Her coat matts quite a bit more than Lou’s and the HV loosens but doesn’t remove the tangles. She is also younger than Lou and while still excellent on the table, less inclined to put up with my nonsense. 

This means that I approached Maggie’s groom a little differently. Maggie has been “roughed in”. I’ve clippered her face, feet, sanitary areas, base of tail and body prior to the bath. This gave me less to wash and dry, making it faster for Maggie. 

Maggie also received two shampoos and she is much better at getting me all wet than her brother. She likes to wait until I bend all the way down to wash her legs, then shakes and gets me right in the face. So don’t let her sad, bedraggled state fool you. She already had her revenge.

Maggie is HV’d and fluffed, just like Lou. She needed a bit more brushing, due to her tangles, especially in the the head and chest. She looked like she was wearing leg warmers when we finished. 

I didn’t show this with Lou, but I skim off some of the hair with the clippers before I scissor-finish. I used a Wahl #2 comb over a #30 blade to skim and sculpt a bit. This makes scissoring a bit easier because most of the bulk is gone.

I re-clippered Maggie’s body, face and feet quickly to tidy any bits that were sticking out. Then I scissored her legs and tail. She does not end up with as plush a finish as Lou due to her waviness. This can test me when I’m in a perfectionist mood.

Finally, I scissor Maggie’s head and she can join her brother. She gave us a play-bow before she galloped upstairs to find him.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pet First Aid

Have you ever considered what you would do in an pet emergency? Have you ever had a circumstance where your dog was injured, choking, or ill and you didn’t know what to do? A veterinarian is your pet’s best chance for survival or treatment, but how do you keep the dog alive or comfortable until you can get to the vet? We all love our pets, but is there ever a situation where it isn’t safe to interfere or assist?

As a dog groomer and pet owner, I highly recommend taking a Pet First Aid course. I have certified in Pet First Aid several times, and now hold a American Red Cross Pet First Aid certificate. I have rarely had to use the skills I learned, but I have been grateful for the training when I needed it. For example, two of my dogs have choked, and required immediate assistance or they would no longer be with us. A neighbour’s dog was hit by a car and was badly injured.

A Pet First Aid course can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, usually on a weekend. A Google search for your city will yield class providers and dates. Groomers can also usually attend certification classes at most of the major trade shows. It is a small amount of time to spend on something that could have a profound result for your family. Ask your pet caregivers, the sitters, walkers, trainers and groomers, if they have taken a Pet First Aid course.

I have also purchased a terrific resource for home and travel. It is an app for your phone or tablet that contains nearly all of the information you would need in a pet emergency and includes excellent videos on how to perform the techniques. For the minimal cost of $3.00 you can have your reference textbook on hand at all times. Find it at:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Drying at Home

I was just chatting with a client today about the gorgeous weather and I mentioned that I finally put away all of the winter coats on Sunday. I would normally feel embarrassed that I had left this little task until June but we have had such bizarre weather this spring that I truly feel I was justified in leaving the parkas in easy reach.

Now however, we are well into the start of summer. Many lucky souls have begun enjoying their pools and sharing the joy with their canine companions. Cottage season has begun, and the dogs are dock diving. Many more folks who would not normally consider bathing their dog in the cooler weather break out the hose and kiddie pool and give it a go in the backyard. Naturally, all of this results in a wet dog, otherwise known as the  friendliest creature on the planet.

It may be that you are a free spirit and the prospect of a soaking wet dog doesn’t trouble you in the least. True, physics is a wonderful thing and a dog can shake a great deal of the water off of its fur but, depending on the type of coat your pet possesses, it can take many hours or even days for the dog to dry completely to the skin. This can be problematic for some breeds, leading to itchiness, hot spots, and bacterial or yeasty, smelly skin infections. It is important to note that matts that are allowed to wet and dry undisturbed also become even tighter and more difficult to remove.

You can speed the drying process by using an absorbent cloth or towel to remove as much water from the coat as possible. I like to use chamois cloths to soak up the water, squeezing them through the fur rather than rubbing. A particularly good type of chamois style cloth is called The Absorber. When the cloth is saturated, wring it out and keep sponging. You will be amazed at how much moisture is removed. I always follow up with a traditional towel dry because I think it is the part of grooming that all dogs enjoy the most. Many dogs love it if I lay the towel out flat and allow them to rub and roll themselves along it. For this reason I usually have two towels, one under the dog and one for towelling off. If you are reluctant to use your good linens on Rover, check out Value Village or the Salvation Army stores for used towels. They might be 70’s chique, but your dogs won’t care.

Air and towel drying is best suited for smooth or short coated dogs. All other coats will require a little mechanical aid to dry properly. A hand-held human hair dryer can be used on many smaller dogs, but you must be extremely careful with the heat settings. Most of those dryers are TOO HOT and I have seen the results of what one careless owner did to their poor dog with a hot hair dryer directed too long in one spot. Use one with a “Cool” button, and use an elastic to hold the button down if your hand gets tired. Keep one hand on the dog beside where you are drying, and do not stay too long in one spot. There can really be no excuse for burning your dog.

If you have a larger, hairier dog, it is possible that your pet will still be damp from its last swim by the time it goes for the next one. If you want to avoid the notorious “Wet Dog Smell” (which is caused by bacteria on the skin, among other things), I would recommend first rinsing your dog after it swims in a pond, lake, or chlorinated swimming pool. If your dog is crate trained, one excellent drying method is to use a large box fan in front of the crate to dry your dog with the volume of air. With a wire crate you could place several fans around and on top of the crate. Simple plastic fans are inexpensive, fairly quiet, and safe, but you should make certain that the cords are out of reach and that your dog is never left alone. Never, ever use a heater or heated dryer for this purpose. My favourite fan to use for this is actually a carpet dryer, used for when you have a flood.

If you are short on time and really need to speed up the drying process, consider using a high-velocity dryer. These dryers “blast” the water off the coat with the force of the air speed. They tend to be a bit noisy but have the advantage of drying the dog right down at the skin. You will need to be careful around the eyes, ears, genitals and backside of the dog. There are reasonably priced high velocity dryers for sale at most big box pet stores. You might also check your shop vacuum to see if it has a blower function. You can use that just as well, but make sure there is no debris in the hose or it will blow out onto your dog.

High velocity dryers can be used on any dog, but your dog may need a gentle introduction to the experience. Use patience and bribery, but be assured that it really isn’t a big deal. My dogs don’t seem worried about it at all.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Make a List of Your Emergency Veterinary Clinics

Do you know where the closest emergency veterinary clinics are in your area? It is a good idea to have a list and keep it handy rather than having to come up with the information when you are panicked. Our regular veterinarian is available seven days a week and also has an emergency pager number, but that is exceptional. Animal emergencies always seem to occur at three o’clock in the morning. We also called all of our emergency vets when we lost our dog Cleo in case she had been injured and brought in by a Good Samaritan (actually, we called everyone but the emerg vets were in the top 10). Here is a list for my area:

Vet Emergency Clinic: NORTH CLINIC
280 Sheppard Ave. East
Toronto, ON M2N 3B1
Tel.: (416)226-3663
Fax: (416)226-3696

Vet Emergency Clinic: SOUTH CLINIC
920 Yonge St. Suite 117
Toronto, ON M4W 3C7
Tel.: (416) 920-2002
Fax: (416) 920-6185

Toronto Veterinary Emergency Hospital
21 Rolark Dr, Scarborough, ON M1R 3B1
Phone: 416-247-VETS (8387)
Fax: 416-287-3642
Toll Free: 1-888-593-7068

Kingston Road Animal Hospital - On Call Emergencies &
Toronto South Emergency Animal Hospital
1025 Kingston Road
Toronto, ON M4E 1T4
Tel: 416-690-0625
Phone: 647-393-VETS (8387)
Fax: 416-351-1272

Mississauga-Oakville Veterinary Emergency Hospital
2285 Bristol Circle, Oakville, Ontario
L6H 6P8
Tel: (905) 829-9444
Fax: (905) 829-9646

Veterinary Emergency Clinic of York Region
1210 Journeys End Circle
Newmarket, Ontario L3Y 8Z6
Phone: 905-953-5351
Fax: 905-953-4136

Vaughan-Richmond Hill Veterinary Emergency Clinic
10303 Yonge Street,
Richmond Hill, Ontario L4C 3B9
905-884-1 VEC
Fax: 905-884-9979

Animal Emergency Clinic Of Durham Region
1910 Dundas St E, Whitby, ON L1N 2L6

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Retrieving a Lost Dog -- MINE!

Well, November was a month of wild adventure. I dislike adventure intensely. I am a stolid, boring homebody, a blue jeans and yoga pants wearing stick-in-the-mud, and I eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich every single day without getting tired of them.
On the day of my brother’s wedding, when both my husband and I were members of the wedding party, one of our Schipperkes became startled, slipped her collar, and ran away from our friend. She was lost for thirteen days. We were able to get her back only through the enormously stubborn efforts of everyone involved, and the kindness of total strangers.I just wanted to write a quick note about what we did during our search and which strategies worked the best.
We searched, and searched. We went into backyards, under decks, behind sheds, in open garages and under cars. We braved swamps, parks and ravines. We went out at dusk, full night, noon, and at 4 a.m. We shone flashlights, rattled food dishes, crinkled potato chip bags, called, whistled, and squeaked toys. We walked our other two dogs all over the area until their feet were sore. We drove, in case we were scaring her on foot. We had friends and family, kind strangers, clients who went out with their dogs to attract her, people I haven’t talked to in years out driving around trying to find Cleo.
Try finding a small, black, lightning-fast dog in an area with huge properties, no fencing, hydro fields, ravines, increasing cold, and rain, rain, rain.
We put food out on the property that she ran away from, to the delight of a neighbourhood cat.
We tried hiring a search dog on the third day. This would have been a great idea except that we have three dogs and all of their stuff is stored together. We attempted it anyway. The dog tracked beautifully; sadly, it was one of our other dogs. We simply could not provide a good enough scent article for the search dog to use. I recommend the service. If it had worked it would have saved us a lot of grief.
Inform the Internet and the World
I emailed my entire Contact List, everyone we knew on Facebook, placed ads on Kijiji, Craigslist, and any other classified website we could find. We notified the Schipperke club, and the Canadian Kennel Club. We posted on many lost pet sites including: (seems to be hard to get working for some people, but they try to help you) (for Toronto Animal Services updates)
Many of the people I know are also dog people, and they told all the dog people they knew, and so on and so on. We also emailed all of the humane societies in southern Ontario, and all of the dog walkers in York Region. We telephoned all of the pet stores and veterinarians in the area. We bothered Animal Control repeatedly.
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
Our friends made perhaps one million flyers and wallpapered the area with them. Their energy was unreal. We received a call from the Milton Humane Society with an excellent idea. They recommended making signs from foam-core boards, using large black lettering and a simple message (LOST: SMALL BLACK DOG, PH#), and posting them at the major intersections around the area. It was these signs that got us our first phone calls of sightings. Cleo had already left the area we had been searching so intensely.
Cleo was running from everyone she saw, even at a distance. Very few people were close to her. She was staying near houses though. Once we started to get sightings, it was clear that while she was staying in the area, it was hard to predict where she would be. Since she wouldn’t respond to people, we had to resort to traps. We rented raccoon live traps and placed them on some properties where she had been seen a few times. As far as we can tell, she never went there again. We were stumped.
After a dry spell, we started to get more calls, this time from across the road. Cleo had entered a ravine and went up and down, covering a great deal of distance in a short time. She even entered yards that were fenced, finding tiny rabbit holes to move in and out. We moved the traps, but missed her again.
Finally we got several consistent calls that she was in a neighbourhood only a couple of streets away. One of my clients was even out searching for her and saw her, only to have Cleo run again. She seemed to be staying in a particular circle this time. The next day we had calls that Cleo was on a particular property within the circle that she had visited before. I saw her myself for the first time on that property, from a distance, but she ran. Dad and I set up the raccoon traps and a coyote trap that our friend had been able to borrow. We baited them with Pizza Nova Meat-lovers pizza.
The next morning she was there. My hysteria wasn’t pretty. Cleo was fine, foot pads a bit sore and a spot on her nose where she must have tried to get out of the cage. She didn’t even lose weight.

What We Learned
  • Make sure your dog can’t get out of her collar or harness.
  • Microchips are only helpful if your dog is caught.
  • Cleo is a gentle, friendly, affectionate, cuddly dog who likes regular meals and sleeping under the covers. We would never have predicted that she would be a runner and a hider. You can’t tell what your dog is thinking.
  • When you are searching for a lost dog, bring a cell phone and change of clothes, especially shoes and socks.
  • The Dollar Store sells great rain ponchos.
  • Mud smells funny in swamps.
  • Traps work. Dogs like pizza.
  • Hope your friends are as determined and resourceful as ours.
  • People are, with very few exceptions, very kind and amazing and willing to help.
  • Those very few exceptions can help to stiffen your resolve with outrage, just when exhaustion is kicking in.
  • Never give up, even though you feel like it’s impossible. Never give up.
Thank you to everyone who helped us or offered to help, whether it was through searching, advice, website help, encouragement, spreading the word, positive thinking and prayers. We are very, very grateful.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Random Advice For Aspiring Groomers

Things You Need to Know About Being a Groomer, Totally Off the Top of My Head
  • Toenails will always end up in your bra (if you wear one) and in your hair. You may want to jump up and down and all around before you go home.
  • Never chew gum while grooming unless you want to floss at the same time.
  • Never wear your favourite anything to work. I once even had a puppy eat one of my earrings. I declined to wait for its return.
    • A subset of this would be to avoid light colours and wear a protective apron or smock. Some products like Qwik-Stop will stain fabrics, as will some animal bodily functions.
      • A subset of that would be to not spend too much money on your protective apron or smock. It will, guaranteed, get snagged or snipped or clippered. Pockets always catch on corners and rip. I don’t even know why they have them. The only thing that ever ends up in them is nasty hair and occasionally dog poop.
  • Have a set of undergarments strictly for work. Hair weaves into the fabric no matter how well they are washed, making them a bit prickly for other wear.
  • Regular coffee mugs are unwise. Use travel mugs with a lid unless you want to be horrified when you reach the bottom of your beverage.
  • If you have sensitive skin and eyes think twice about wearing make-up to work. It attracts all the fly-away hair to your face. It can actually drive you insane.
  • The humidity and blow-drying will ensure that you never have a good hair day for long at work.
  • If you can’t wear make-up and your hair doesn’t look great, wow clients with your smile!
  • Always put the lid back on everything immediately. Dogs find it highly amusing to knock over open containers.
  • Always buy the most expensive shears that you can afford to drop on the floor.