By Daryl Conner
When working with people and animals, amusing things can happen. Sometimes those things don’t seem so funny at the time, but given a little space and room to breathe, they can become great stories. One thing I love is sitting in a room full of groomers and hearing some of the tales they tell.
I’ve had a few experiences over the years that I would find unbelievable if I hadn’t been right there in the thick of things. Since its summer and we are all working hard, I thought I’d share a few of the more memorable events of my grooming career for a little light reading. Following are some of my favorite grooming stories.
Obedient Bassett Boys
For a happy time, I was employed at a busy veterinary hospital. We had two Bassett Hounds that came in once a month for a bath, ear clean, de-shedding, and nail trim. They were big boys, but so well behaved and adorable that we always looked forward to their visits. One afternoon I brought the two clean, shiny gents from the grooming room to the reception area where their owner waited. It was late in the day and the room was packed—standing room only—with people waiting to pick up their pets. As I handed the leashes over I told the owner how very much I enjoyed working on her good dogs.
“They know a TRICK!” she said, loudly and proudly enough that most everyone in the room looked our way. “They do?” I replied. Knowing that Bassetts are not generally the easiest trained of breeds, I found her statement to be fascinating. “Yes! YES! They do!” she cried happily.
“My house has light colored carpets, and I don’t like the dogs to track dirt and mud in when they come from the yard, so I say, ‘BOYS! Show me your feet!’ ” In unison, both dogs flopped to their backs, ears spread out like velvet puddles on either side of their heads, wrinkles of excess skin pooling on the shiny linoleum floor. Eight fat little hound feet pointed to the ceiling. The dogs remained perfectly motionless, with the exception of their rapidly wagging tails. “I towel off their feet and tummies and then I say, ‘OK!’” When her final word was spoken, both Bassetts hopped nimbly up in unison and dragged their human to the door. The entire room erupted in laughter. The sight of those dogs lying immobile, and their owner’s joy at their single trick was an unbeatable combination.
This is Not in My Job Description!
For many years I was a house call groomer, and some of my more memorable stories come from that time period. My customers were almost all “regulars”, and since I was working right in their homes, I became quite familiar with most, and very friendly with many. One dear older lady was mostly home bound because her husband had suffered a stroke and needed constant care. She had two large, double coated dogs and had me come to bathe and brush them every two months.
This woman was epically capable. Her home was immaculate, her yard tidy with lovely flower beds. She did everything herself, cheerfully. One day I arrived and rang the bell several times. This was unusual, normally she was waiting for me and had the door flung open by the time I reached the stairs that led to the entrance. I became a bit concerned. I stood there, wondering what to do. I could hear the dogs barking in the yard, and could also hear sounds coming from inside. Finally, the door swung open and the lady grabbed my arm, “Come in! Come in! I’m in a jam.” Her face was flushed, her hair mussed. Holding my wrist she hurried me through the living room and down the hall.
“It’s my husband,” she said, as we reached his bedside. He flashed me his usual shy grin. “I can’t seem to get him off the bedpan!” she said, as she flung the covers off. There I was, seeing way, WAY more of her husband than I had ever hoped to. There was nothing else to do but gently slide my arms under him and lift while she removed the offending pan and hustled away. I tenderly covered him back up as I heard the toilet flush, and went to gather my tools. That was a situation never covered in the grooming books and magazines I read.
Stuck in a Horror Movie
Then there was the doll lady. She arranged for me to groom her medium sized mixed breed dog. I arrived for the first time at her home, a small duplex. It was a warm summer afternoon and I set my tools up in her driveway at her suggestion. She brought the dog out and after giving him a greeting and a pat, I lifted him up on my table and got to work. “He’s the best dog in the world,” she said. And as if on cue, he silently spun and snapped his jaws so close to my hand that I felt his hot breath. As he was quite matted, I spent the next little while clipping him and dodging his teeth.
Though I normally am able to carry on a pleasant conversation with most people, I found this woman difficult to talk to. The atmosphere was strained. I was quite relieved when the bulk of the dog’s coat was removed and it was time to give him a bath. The woman led me into her home. Through the tiny, tidy kitchen, through the neat living room, into the bedroom with its adjoining bath. I happened to notice that her bed was covered in beautiful collectible dolls; the sort that come from all over the world. When I was a child my best friend’s father traveled a lot, and from each country he visited he brought a lovely doll, each dressed in a traditional outfit from the area. This collection reminded me of the one my friend had. There had to be 50 or more of them, all beautifully arranged.
The bathroom where I was to clean the dog up was designed in such a way that, once the dog was in the tub, and I was kneeling beside it, I found myself to be claustrophobically wedged between the bath, the sink, and the commode. To make matters more uncomfortable, the woman stood very, very close behind me, leaning over my back, watching my every move. I felt a little tense.
As I washed the dog I tried, once again, to make conversation and lighten things up. “I noticed your doll collection. They are very beautiful.” She thanked me politely. Then I mused, “It must take you forever to move them at night before you go to sleep.”
She gasped loudly, stood very upright and began to yell, “I don’t SLEEP in the BED!” Her eyes were wide. “I DON’T SLEEP IN THE BED!” She spun and ran from the room, her voice getting louder. “The BED! I DON’T sleep in THE BED!”
I had visions of her reappearing with a butcher knife in hand, and dealing with me while I was wedged in her washroom. I scrubbed that dog as fast as I could, wrapped him in a towel and got back outside with him in record time. The woman—shaken but composed—reappeared shortly. Few words were spoken as I dried her pet and finished his grooming. It took me a while, but even that frightening event seems rather funny now.
Groomer stories. I have a million of them. I bet you do, too. ✂