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April 6, 2013

Theresa Timmons: Adventures in dog grooming: the fur-raising truth

I am a dog lover.  

We share our lives and our home with two dogs. Sherman is our 14-year-old pek-a-poo. Hank is our 10-year-old mixed breed. Hank the Mutt is practically a genius, and my personal favorite.

Sherman the pek-a-poo is the kind of dog who requires more frequent grooming. When his hair grows it doesn’t follow the natural direction of gravity and stretch toward the floor. It just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Without regular grooming he morphs into a walking Afro with a serious underbite.

So after almost 14 years and millions of dollars spent on grooming, I bought myself a set of dog clippers. “After all,” I asked myself, “how hard can this be?”

When my son (who as a teenager worked for a kennel with grooming facilities) saw the brand new in-the-box clippers on the counter, he rolled his eyes.

“Really mom?”

“Yes. How hard can this be?” I said brazenly.

When I realized that Sherman’s yearly veterinarian appointment was coming up, I knew it would be the perfect time to show off my self-taught skill of grooming my own pet. I could picture the entire conversation with our beloved vet, Dr. Rodewald.

“My, what a great haircut! Who is your groomer?” Dr. Rodewald said in my imagination.

I replied, “Oh the haircut? I did that. No big deal.” And then I giggled, in my imagination.

So I spread out an enormous old blanket on the floor, plugged in the clippers, and summoned my old dog.

Sherman glared at me with his protruding, cataract-glazed eyes. I turned on the clippers. My son intervened.

“Wait mom! You can’t just start shaving. You gotta comb him out first.”

I looked at Sherman’s kinky wad of hair, a massive tangle of apricot curls.

Two hours later, after the combing, I turned on the clippers again.

My son interrupted. “Wait mom! You gotta put the guard on the clippers — you don’t want to cut too close.”

Guard?  So my son fixed me up with a guard, and the clipping commenced.

One hour later as I worked my way over the dog’s hip, I noticed I seemed to be shaving a little closer than when I first started the job.

“Mom,” said my ever-helpful son, “your guard popped off.”  He dug through the great pile of hair, found the guard and put it back in place.

After another hour of trying to make the dog look normal, I turned off the clippers.  

“There. Done.” I stepped back to get a look at the masterpiece in front of me.

Sherman’s beard was three inches longer on the right side of his face. Uneven tufts of hair seemed to sprout all over his body, and he was bald on one hip. Longer hair dangled from his underside, as I avoided clipping some areas in fear of ending his ability empty his bladder. His tail was a sad little stick that vibrated hopefully as his buggy eyes begged me to leave him alone.

I decided then and there our regular groomer needed a hefty raise.

“Think a bath will help?” I wondered.

“Nope,” said my son.

“Think Dr. Rodewald will believe the three-year-old did it?”

“Yes, absolutely. But mom — it is kind of mean to blame your grandson.”

Fast forward to the vet’s office the next day, in the exam room.

Dr. Rodewald ran he hands over Sherman’s newly exposed liver-spot-ridden skin.  

“Hey Sherman. Looks like maybe you’ve been pulling out your hair?”  

I squirmed in my chair. I couldn’t stand it.

Our beloved vet turned to face me, dropped his chin and raised his eyebrows...

“It always grows back....”

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