Jumping Jacks

By Khris Berry

Recently Jack visited my grooming shop and landed on the table of one of my newer groomers. Jack is a nervous little fellow of snub nose, small dog, no–you–can’t–touch–me–there descent, and his visit proved true to that statement.

During the grooming service, Jack jumped into the path of an oncoming scissor blade and found himself with a nicked foot pad. Jack’s human mom was understanding of the unfortunate turn of events, having been informed of his behavior during previous grooming services. The Mrs. carried Jack home later that day with an apology, a few instructions for wound care and a hug from her remorseful groomer. All’s well that ends well…or so I thought.

The next day, Jack’s human dad called and was both upset and aggressive in his approach to the situation. My husband intercepted the phone call and recounted the events of Jack’s scissor incident to Jack’s Mister. As tensions eased, the Mister began to think rationally and understand how the cut happened. In mid–sentence of explaining how Jack had a habit of being labeled naughty by previous groomers, Mister stopped abruptly and declared, “What do you mean you use scissors—that’s barbaric!”

When my husband translated the conversation to me afterwards, I was immediately defensive and shocked that the question had been posed. Most groomers would instantly quip—how do they expect us to cut their dog’s hair without sharp instruments? That was indeed my first, and second reaction. The internet abounds with funny memes dedicated to poking fun at odd things owners say to their pet groomer. This comment would be one of those odd things—barbaric, indeed.

And that’s where the lesson for all groomers lies. We must never forget, the pet–owning public knows nearly nothing about what we do and how we do it—it’s up to us to educate clients about our process, our limitations, what we can and cannot do, and what we ask of their pets during the grooming or daycare process.

We are accustomed to the tools and processes involved in our day to day careers. We are often so familiar with our handiwork that it becomes automatic. Any groomer worth their salt can trim nails, shave the paw pad on a foot, and scissor finish that same foot as fast as you can read the last three sentences. Jack’s foot was a simple task that went wrong—as simple tasks sometimes do.

My groomer handled the nicked foot pad well, handled Jack’s mom well, was extremely sorry (even tearful), and Jack was romping and playing the next day. The breakdown simply occurred in communication, or lack of it. We lose sight of the fact that most pet owners don’t know (and perhaps don’t really care) how we accomplish our daily feats of grooming greatness.

We are the professionals in this industry—let’s softly educate our clients about our training, tools and how we complete our jobs. In a world that is largely unlicensed and unregulated, more pet owners should be asking questions. Instead of recoiling when an owner asks about our safety protocol, our training or our qualifications, professional groomers should respond with “I’m so glad you asked…”

In retrospect, while an unfortunate moment for Jumping into Scissors Jack, this incident provided a moment of clarity for me to further connect with and encourage open dialog with pet owners.

As a professional groomer, the next time you are tempted to state that you will be using your magic wand to create the mystical doggie–do your client requests, I encourage you to take a moment instead to let them know you will be using multiple sharp objects in close proximity to every inch of their pet’s skin, all the while managing his behavior and identifying troubling skin or coat issues. You may even suggest that you will also find time to monitor his stress and develop a groomer/canine client bond that will last for many years to come.

I learned that if Jack’s owners didn’t know we used scissors to cut his hair—it wasn’t shame on them. Rather, shame on me for assuming they did. The devil is always in the details. ✂