Friday, November 18, 2011

"Shear" necessity

When I mentioned in a post the other day that I'm "attempting a new skill," I was referring specifically to the skill of dog grooming. Before Levi I'd had only short-haired dogs, and grooming was simple: brush 'em, bathe 'em, clip their nails, and they're good to go. But, oh, the shedding those short-haired dogs do.

One of the things that first appealed to me about Levi was the fact that he has hair, not fur, and doesn't shed. It never occurred to me that his curly hair would just keep growing  longer and longer without frequent haircuts. Even if I'd thought of that, I wouldn't have dreamed that the cost of having him groomed would be such a budget buster.

What to do, what to do? I could handle bathing Levi, but his tendency to roll on every fallen leaf or dead bug in the yard was causing his curls to tangle into mats no brush could penetrate.

Coincidentally, my daughter Kim, who has two small dogs of the hair-not-fur persuasion, was also pondering the grooming issue. She'd taken Lucy and Oliver to the pet salon often, but the last time she'd been called to pick them up early because they were so stressed out that the groomers were worried about them.

When Kim mentioned to me that she was thinking about investing in some professional grooming equipment and trying to do it herself, I immediately wanted in. We would share the investment and recoup our expenses in only three or four groomings. Together and separately, we watched online grooming videos, and Kim researched grooming sites to find out what kind of equipment was favored by the pros. With lists made and bank cards on the ready, we marched off to PetSmart and Petco. We bought clippers, extra blades, shears, thinning scissors, detangler tools, shampoos, conditioners, and doggy "freshener" sprays.

Ollie, the Shih Tzu, was our first victim. He was well behaved as we hovered over him on the bathroom counter and did not seem stressed at all. Granted, he seemed a little leery of us for a couple of days afterward, but we all survived the experience. And he looked pretty good for a first effort.

Levi, whose hair was in his eyes, would be next.

I kept the bag of equipment at my house and strategized about the process. Levi is big. There would be no standing him on the counter. Where else could I put him so that the clipper cord would reach all the way around him? I pondered the situation for three or four weeks a while, then decided I'd begin by sneaking up on him with the round-tipped shears.

Snip, snip, snip! I'd clip a few curls and Levi would leap away and look at me as if I'd just removed one of his limbs. I kept the scissors close at hand and we repeated this scenario many times, in many different parts of the house. I learned quickly that the back end of a dog is much easier to trim than the end that has teeth on it. I also learned I could get a lot more done by catching Levi napping. I ended up skipping the clippers and giving him an all-over scissors cut. After multiple sessions over a five-day period, I could not call him "finished," but I called the job "done."

You can see by the long curls sticking out on his cheeks that I missed a few spots. Never mind. He can see again, his tangles are all gone, and enough is enough. He's a little ragged, but it's a learning process, right?  The next time should be easier.

This week I'm following Butch around with the Furminator®.


  1. Please tell Levi from us how very handsome we think he is!!

    -Bart and Ruby

  2. Oh man, that goes on my list of things to think about when picking out a dog! Even thought Bart has fur, it grows at an extraordinary rate! The BFF was spending $55 a shave and he was needing one every three weeks in the summer! She too bought clippers! The lines were crooked but he wouldn't over heat...which was the whole point!

    I would suggest trying to find a grooming table on craigslist. It has a pole to hook a leash onto and they can't move around too much... it really helps!

  3. Rottrover, tell Bart and Ruby that Levi smiled. And winked.

    Holly, I like the table idea, but Levi weighs 83 pounds. If he resisted at all, I'm not sure we could get him on it.

  4. Oh, this brought back memories of Spot. I'd try snipping mats off his belly when he was tired out, but he rolled on his belly and firmly refused to let me get at that area. I'd try to reason with him, telling him that hair doesn't hurt when it's cut, but he didn't believe me. The best I could do was get him when he was really tired and snip the side he wasn't laying on. If I managed to do that, he would refuse to let me do the other side so he looked terrible most of the time, until I could get him when he was laying on the trimmed side. I even talked the vet into giving me tranquilizers but I didn't have the heart to drug him.

    I think that sneaking up on Levi and clipping is going to make things worse. Try tying him to a stair banister so he can't get away-that's how I bathed Spot outside. Good luck and keep posting about our progress-I'm sure you and Kim will become proficient enough to open your own salon!

  5. Janet, the sneaking-up strategy didn't work at all. I learned quickly that it was best to approach him when he was very relaxed, though he, like Spot, wouldn't let me do both sides in one session. I forgot to mention the most successful technique, which I employed in our last session, of placing the bag of his favorite treats where he could see it and bribing him to sit still. Next time I'll do that from the beginning.

  6. I also bought all the tools of the trade, it would take me about three days to complete the grooming on my 20# pooch. I did an awful job, first, second, third, and forth time, so now I use the clippers on my husband, he loves it! I'd often thought a grooming table would have made things much easier. I have an all new respect for do they do it? I found a small grooming place in my home town that will groom my little one for $26, not bad, and she only goes every two months, so I'm not breaking the bank. One of my big guys is quite the shedder and I bought a furminator, he hated it!! So my husband went to a farm store and bought a curry comb, one of the round ones, it works better than the furminator if you can believe it.
    All of this unconditional love may cost a bit, but it's worth it, isn't it?
    P.S. Levi looks great!!

  7. I think you should hang out a shingle! VelVETS--you get it?

  8. Sandy, it cost me over $100 (including the tip) to get Levi groomed four months ago, and I'm thinking he'd rather be ragged and well-fed than sleek and hungry. Haha, maybe I'm gonna have to find a man who will let me practice on him with the clippers.

    Sister-Three, yes, I get it. Very clever! :)

  9. Great job on Levi! As for the Furminator, what a great invention that thing is. Cheyenne thinks it's all about pampering, and I think I could create many sweaters for children if I could figure out how to use all that hair! ;-) Oooh, and my word verification is "dirtios" which makes me think that's what I'll start calling the hair that's removed. Dirtios! Perfect.


Your comments might be the very best thing about blogging. I love it when you care enough to share your thoughts here, so go ahead and say what's on your mind.