By Bonnie Wonders-Trent
I have been grooming dogs long enough to know better than to put an unfamiliar dog in a cage without a leash still attached. At least that’s what I thought I knew... Apparently not. Last week I did it at least four or five times. Each time I thought I’d learned my lesson. Obviously, I needed that Poodle’s tooth to be driven down through the side of my pointer finger to really get the message to hit home.
A new customer came in with what she proclaimed was an “adorable little guy that you’ll want to take home with you.”
“So he’s been groomed before?” I asked the lady.
“Every eight weeks for his whole life,” she said.
“How old is he?” I asked, filling out a card on him.
“He’d be about eight years old now,” the owner told me.
I got the rest of the usual information from her and then asked how she’d like the dog cut. “Oh, just shave his feet and face, and make him about an inch long on his body with a knob on his head and tail,” she instructed.
“By ‘knob’ you do mean a pom-pom, right?” I asked giggling.
“Yes,” she said, giggling back.
This all sounded simple enough, and it was a bonus that the dog was used to being groomed so often. I told the woman when to come back for the dog, and as she left, I slipped him into a bottom cage in the other room. I went into the grooming room and proceeded to finish the Lab that I had started before the Poodle came in. Things were moving along nicely, and the Poodle seemed content enough to be in the cage room by himself. “Thank God he wasn’t one of those ‘yappers or crappers’” I thought to myself...
I put the Lab’s collar on and led him into the cage room. He picked a cage to his liking and settled in to await his owner’s return. As I closed the door to his lock-up, I turned to the cage that held the “adorable” Poodle. I leaned over and looked in at him as I put my hand on the door’s lock. “Hey, little buddy,” I said to him, opening the door and crouching down a bit to get him out. “Come here,” I said sweetly.
With that, the little bugger came flying toward me, teeth bared, just daring me to reach for him. With the speed of a cheetah, I withdrew my hand and slammed the door shut. Okay, so maybe it was with the speed of an “old” cheetah, but I was faster than the “precious” pup was. That’s all that really mattered from my point of view at that moment. You know how your heart pounds for a couple seconds when that stuff happens. I needed a moment to regroup.
I pulled over the step stool and sat on it for a couple minutes. “Oh, don’t be scared,” I said in a reassuring voice. I was acting like I was talking to the dog, but I think it was more for my own piece of mind. “Come here, little guy,” I said again, smiling my sweetest fake smile. The dog returned the smile. Ah, yes... His was definitely more fake than mine. He withdrew to the back corner of the cage, eyes glaring green like they do when they’re super ticked off. He pulled his shoulders up to his ears and made his body into something akin to a Chia pet. Yup. He was really not looking too amicable.
I sat there and talked calmly to that dog for at least ten minutes. I glanced at the clock and knew I was wasting far too much time to stay on track with my grooming duties for the rest of the day. Boy, this was going to throw me off schedule. All my coaxing was getting me nowhere, and I knew the only way to get him out of the cage was to loop a noose over him and pull him out.
I retreated into the grooming room and came back with a stiff kennel lead. I made the loop on it larger than necessary and opened the cage door. I gently (yes, really gently) plopped the lead into the cage. The dog reached forward and smelled the lead. Ahhh, yes. This was going to work. He just needed time to check it out. He kept his eye on me, however. I knew precisely how to do this to maneuver the lead over the dog’s head. I’ve done it hundreds of times over the last 30 years or so. I talked to the dog and waited a few more minutes until he was comfortable with the loop near him.
I slowly began to raise the lead up to the dog’s head. Since it was rather stiff nylon, I was able to slide it easily over his head. At that exact moment when the noose slid onto his neck, he exploded. With lightning-fast speed that apparently could out maneuver the elderly cheetah, he proceeded to attach his beak to my pointer finger.
YEEOW! I fought the urge to pull my hand backward from his grip so as not to rip more flesh off of me than necessary. Oh, come on now... Of course I tried to yank my hand out of his mouth! Like I would actually have the presence of mind or the restraint to keep my hand calmly in the little monster’s mouth? So yes, I yanked... and he didn’t let go. At least I pulled so hard that I did manage to get him out of the cage. Actually, it was more like he was in flight when I jerked backward with him still attached to “ye olde finger.”
My natural instinct at that time was to grab at him with my left hand, scooping underneath him. He immediately let go of my right hand, which thankfully still had the precious pointer finger attached to it. I held up my right hand looking for the damage. Amazingly, there was hardly any blood, and I could see right down into the hole on the top of my finger. “How weird!” I thought. Then “Holy Cow!” As the blood suddenly decided to start pumping, I was dripping it everywhere.
So there I am, still holding “precious” and grabbing for paper towels. I was bleeding like you do when you get a facial cut but plopped the dog onto a grooming table and secured him with a restraint around his belly and one around his neck. There was no way I was going to put him back into a cage, and I wasn’t going to admit defeat.
I rinsed my finger off in the tub, dumped half a bottle of peroxide over the finger, slathered it with some triple antibiotic ointment, folded up a couple paper towels and secured the whole mess with electrical tape and a plastic bag. Ahh yes... It was triage in the field at its best. I would have made a great nurse. I’d rather be entertaining the troops, but I digress...
From the whole situation, I did learn a few things. I can bathe and dry a dog with pretty much one hand. I can clip and scissor while holding out of the way a finger that looks as big as a piece of Polish sausage. And lastly, that I will never, ever again put a dog that I don’t know into a cage without leaving myself a way to retrieve him. That is, until the next time that I forget... ✂