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  • Writer's pictureNora Bird

Wise Whys

With nearly 20 years grooming I've decided to create a space in my home to groom small dogs. As a groomer in a hospital setting I learned so much, but the most important lesson I've taken from all my years is this...

Not every dog is ideal for every salon.

My grooming space is small, quiet and clean. Ideal for dogs who get stressed or anxious when they're away from home. Because I'm at home with my family I can be very accommodating with my schedule. My goal is to groom one dog/family at a time so that I can eliminate the need for shot records and reduce the risk of spreading illness. All this helps keep my prices low and

and my time very flexible.

However, this also means some dogs will be either too large for my space or require more handling than I can provide on my own. Not having a second or third set of hands limits my ability to manage the need of larger, high energy dogs or dogs with certain medical issues. If your dog doesn't meet my criteria, it's not your fault or theirs or even mine. It's simply that we are not a good match.

My goal is to provide every dog with the best and quickest care, returning them to you happier and cleaner than before, causing no unnecessary stress or anxiety.

As mentioned in another post, the first time a dog had a medical issue while in my care was when a Lhasa seized on my table. It was terrible, I left work in tears unable to fathom how something as serious as a heart condition and sedatives could have gone unmentioned, overlooked, and ignored. That Lhasa deserved better. I deserved Vegas. How many times had I worked on a sedated dog without knowing? What did I need to know if another seizure happened? What would happen if a dog died or fell or broke a bone? What would happen if I clipped a nail so severely I couldn’t fix it? What if I cut a dog and it needed stitches? It seems like these are questions that would have been obvious from the start but I had never considered the of being far from a vet before that day.

I’ve worked at an animal hospital for the last 11 years and while I’m not a vet tech, those ladies are enormously undervalued. From them, I have acquired a good amount of medical knowledge any responsible groomer should know. The longer I was there the more obvious it became that as I have regular contact with each pet, I become more attuned to their physical and emotional changes. As a result I’ve become adept at nudging my clients when their dog needs to see the vet versus when it can wait. I’m not a veterinarian or a vet tech. I can’t diagnose conditions or infections. I have, however, been able to facilitate diagnoses by alerting their owners to changes in behavior that might be a thyroid problem, a new bump that feels concerning (cancer), or the tilt of a head that had come on so subtly and slowly that the owner didn’t even notice it.

As a personal example I managed not to see when HB developed a hard lump on the outside of his left thigh. He sleeps with me, if I’m sitting he’s with me, he is always so close that my jaw dropped when Cay found the growth. It was about the diameter of a nickel and protruding from his leg. How could I have missed it? I’d groomed him probably 5 weeks before and in that time it had snuck up on me without notice.

There’s a clinical element of grooming and pet care that we don’t use in our everyday lives. HB enjoys having muzzle smooshed, ear tips rubbed and tummy scratched. Beyond those activities all the other pats and snuggles are mindless comforts. I simply wasn't looking at him with the same eyes I use at work. But Cay was able to see him more clinically and with a repeating knowledge of his body and saw the growth instantly.

Here at home, I can’t be as involved as I once was in the care of my regular clients

because I don't have access to the results of a biopsy or bloodwork. That's not my area anyway, but I hate not knowing when one of my four-legged besties goes to heaven or gets a scary diagnosis, especially when I’ve found it.

The care I provide will remain not for my best interest, but for that of the dog in my hands. Sometimes those conversations are hard. I’ve made people cry. I understand that pets are family and it's hard to hear when someone tells you, "I noticed a lump on her neck. I really think you should get that checked out ASAP." Or, "I'm sorry but she's a bit too rough for me. I don't think we're a good match." “I move too quickly for her, I think I scare her.” But both admissions are always intended to benefit your pet. Even if it means I won’t see her again.

It's a heartbreaking reality that will continue to cycle. I will care for your dogs from birth to death and then start over with your next new roommate. I can’t remember my daughter’s kindergarten teacher’s name but I can remember the name of my beautiful old Golden-girl that died five years ago. Her name was Shefra and I cried when she died. It’s my fate and there’s no avoiding the joy and sadness that comes with each fuzzy buddy.

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