Columns: No Margins, No Limits, No Kidding!
DOG GROOMER INSIGHT, A DAY IN THE LIFE OF...
Humorous but factual workday for a professional groomer, from bathing and blowouts to clipping and nipping, it's the second most dangerous doggy profession!
April 2016 | TheDogPress.com
Vickie Haywood, Features Writer
There is a public perception that being a dog groomer is a fun easy job, where we get to play with dogs all day, talk baby talk, get snuggles and kisses and smile our way through dozens of pet parents, who hang on our every word about brushing and combing and keeping Fluffy on a regular schedule to prevent the horrible ugly shave-down you got today because Fluffy has not seen the inside of a grooming establishment since ... last YEAR?
A recent survey concluded that pet groomers, at an average salary of just over $39,000 a year, have the second most dangerous doggy profession. Ya think?
Where you live and work pretty much dictates your clientele and I am blessed that I have been involved in the Dog Show world since 1969 and was mentored by some great names in dogs. My work generally speaks volumes as what walks out the door is my advertisement (and believe me people in small towns TALK).
What the general public is not privy to, is what we actually have to do to get through a day in the life of a dog groomer. Lets walk through a day, shall we? I am currently working out of a shop with 3 independent groomers. We are separate entity's. I am the newest one on board, and the oldest at nearly 67. Stylist 1, who is the owner, generally arrives as early as 8 am for her first clients of the day. These may be people who work odd hours, or dogs and cats that have special needs. Cats are generally done early or late to avoid most of the tension of the dogs that come and go all day long. Stylist 2 usually comes on board at 9am and Stylist 3, that is me, comes on at 10 am.
I work at 10 because I am old and arthritic and most of my folks are retired folks who are old and arthritic too so it takes us a little longer to get going in the morning.
Our day is interrupted dozens of times by the ringing phone, which means someone has to go into another room to talk or we all have to turn off our dryers so that the person can hear. Cost time. New dogs arrive, dogs on tables have to be kept still while new arrivals get settled into crates. Cost time.
Someone walks a dog to the tub room and smells something emanating from the crate room. OH OH. Susie Shitter has left a BIG pile and has stomped in it. Now the groomer responsible has to stop everything, put away the dog she had on the table and go clean and disinfect the mess, deposit it outside in the waste bin, wash up, retrieve the dog in the crate and begin again. Cost time. More phone ringing....
Dog on Table 1, now decides to pee on the table and towel, manages to get feet soaked in urine and it is back to the tub and start over. Cost time.
Dog on Table 2 sees dog on table 3 and decides to have a love affair - or worse, a HATE affair (common of Terriers) and is acting like an idiot for its groomer who is desperately trying to make said dog beautiful. We have many sharp objects: scissors, blades, slicker brushes that we must constantly monitor to keep said dog safe and all the while the dog is jumping all over the table. More phone ringing...
Over on table 3 large dog is peacefully handling its groom right up to the point of clipping nails, when all of a sudden it pushes a foot just as the nail clipper advances on the nail and OH OH, quicked a nail, and now we have to deal with some blood. And remember to tell the owner we nicked a nail and what to do should it start to bleed again. SOME owners take this in stride, others, not so much.
Back in the tub room stylist 1 is now bathing a huge husky, it is spring, hair is coming out in clumps and of course clogs. Lucky for us we have these gizmos on the drain that can be unscrewed quickly and emptied and back in business in 1 minute - but you see it don't you? Cost time. Husky is de-shed in the tub after bath and now the tub room is not only covered in water, it is covered in husky hair and the dog is not even half dry yet. So out to the main room, some de-shed sprays spritzed on and now the drying starts in earnest - hair all over stylist 2 and 3 and both of their dogs!!!!
Not to worry we just whip out OUR dryers and blow the extra hair off our own dogs.. 5 or 6 times by the time the husky is dry. Did I mention when I shower later on I clog up my own drain from the husky hair? Lord help my washing machine!
So by now we are at noon time ( God have I only been here 2 hrs?) my first dog is going home, dog number 2 is in the tub and stylist 2 and 1 are on dogs 3 or 4 by now. My dog's now bathed, water letting out, go to clean anal glands and OMG! I now have anals on my smock EEEWWWWW so I stick my arm and half my shirt in the shampoo and get it off the best I can so as not to transfer stinky to the now clean dog but I'll be smelling that the rest of the day.
Meanwhile in the crate room, there is a chorus of 2 terriers, a husky, 3 shih tzu and a couple of poodles loudly DEMANDING to be set free NOW at the very top of their lungs. No amount of cajoling, shouting to knock it off or beating on the wall for silence achieves the quiet we desperately seek. So I walk in to the crate room, turn the lights off and barely whisper "go the f*k to sleep." Puzzled silence.
Over on Table 2 the stylist is finishing a blow dry when all of a sudden watery liquid shoots all over her, the table, towels and wall... oh and you missed some on the dryer hose too.. UGH I hold the dog while she cleans the mess. At least there's no extra tub time for this one... but lots'a cost time!
Over on table 1. stylist is checking over her shih tzu and goes "holy crap look at these ears!!!!" And every one looks in those gunky yeast filled pussy ears and we all say TAKE A PICTURE. "Why" you say? To educate our groomer friends on face book? To send to the dog's vet? No not at all - to have concrete proof that the dog came in here in this condition because sure as I am a dog groomer a) the owner will say the groomer gave it to the dog, b) the vet will say the groomer gave it to the dog or c) social media will say the groomer should not have plucked its ears, or should have sent the dog home immediately, or called the vet to see what to do... I kid you NOT.
Stylist 2 is now doing a short trim on her dog and low and behold, look at all these warts. And doggy doesn't want to stand up so the day is now getting longer and doggy is now in an extra support to keep it standing which takes longer because you have to keep working around the support. And chances are good the owners will complain because they were charged extra for degree of difficulty. (did you actually READ the policy sheet you signed? It clearly states we reserve the right to charge extra for: difficulty, crate or table cleaning for dogs that soil, badly matted dogs, dogs treated for external parasites, and owners who do not pick up at scheduled times because we are not a day care and space is costly.
It is now 2 pm and some of the screamers have gone home but not before leaving a present in the front reception room which has to be mopped and disinfected. While I am waiting on my 3rd dog of the day, I load the washer, fold a dryer full of towels and put them in the tub room, and vacuum the floor again.
My last dog appears 15 minutes late, I quickly pluck ears and head for the tub. All goes well and I go to the table to begin to dry the dog, a new client, and the dog FREAKS out over the dryer! So I turn down the volume, open the nozzle so it is not so scary and spend the next hour cajoling said doggy into letting me dry it, well, except that he's having NONE of that near his face but ... it is a poodle, the face has to get dry, so out comes the rusty trusty stand dryer, I hold the doggy in my lap and pretend to love and hug its face with my hands while actually drying it with the very quiet stand dryer. Body clipping goes well but oh the pesky face thing again. "DO NOT GET THAT CLIPPING THING NEAR MY FACE" he screams.
With much rolling of eyes and gnashing of teeth we get something that resembles a not-very-short face trim and I am ready to call it quits. CHOMP! So now there is blood all over and it is not the dog's... Someone grabs the first aid kit and I get bandaged up and oh, that is gonna be sore tomorrow - right in the bend of my scissor index finger - OWIE!
It 's 4 pm and I am beat and my client who was already 15 minutes late coming is now on the phone saying she has been held up and can't get there to pick up her monster, whoops, I mean "Sweetiecums", for another 45 minutes. Is it worth it?
When I see a dog like this and know how much went into coat care and presentation, whether on the big stage or just in the owner's living room, the answer is YES.
We're all tired but we still have to clean and disinfect everything before we go home. That also means dismantle the crates, clean the tubs, clean the floors and do more towels. Every one is stressed. Stylist 1 still has 2 more dogs to do, stylist 2 is finishing her last dog, and I plop down for a breather, lamenting my workplace-induced osteoarthritis and bone spurs, rub my aching scissor hand thumb and the bite boo boo on the index finger that is already the size of an apple. My workmates complain of their arthritis, recent neck surgery, sore backs and aching knees. I can't reply, busy huffing on my inhaler because the pollen is so bad and all that husky and cat hair is making me wheeze.
My dog is finally picked up and I whisk away the crate pan to the tub, wash the tub and fold a few more towels for tomorrow and then bid my friends adieu. Actually, this was an EASY day in the life of a dog groomer. WHAT??
I drive home, care for my own dogs, brush out and band a show coat, feed myself, take a shower, soak my boo boo finger in beta-dine and finally, I fall into bed and dream of very good dogs, very quiet dogs, dogs that don't bite. Been doing this for 52 years and I have not walked away yet.
But some day and such is my life on side of the fence...
*Editor's Note* Vickie is now a Reiki Master.