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Emilia

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Eulogy for Fat Dog [30 Jan 2007|06:14pm]


Fifteen years ago today, my mom woke me up early in the morning to show me that our chihuahua-dachshund mix, Worm, was giving birth to the litter of puppies we'd been anxiously awaiting. She made me go back to bed so that I wouldn't be exhausted for school, and when I woke up, there were three puppies. There had been four, but one died at birth. Of the surviving three, there were two males and a female. I named the female Poco, and my sister named the boys Orville and Wilbur. My mom had wanted Worm to have one litter of cute chihuahua-mix puppies before we had her spayed, which we would of course give away to good homes. To this end, about ten months prior, my mom had brought home a chihuahua-pug, Elvis. He turned one year old the day after the litter arrived, and we never got around to giving the puppies away.

Shortly after birth, Orville's shape dictated a name change, and he became "Oval" and then, inevitably, "Ovie."

Yesterday I stopped at my parents' house on the way from my sister's house in Battleground back up to Issaquah. I'd gone down for my nephew's first birthday party, an event that had to be rescheduled from two weeks earlier due to an exceptionally ill-timed case of norovirus in the birthday boy. So I spent Sunday at Leah's and spent the night, intending to give myself plenty of time to drive back up to Issaquah, in time for my closing shift. I stopped in Longview, figuring I'd have just long enough to check out the progress on the house-remodel and go for a quick coffee with my mom before hitting the road again. I left Battleground about twenty minutes later than I planned, but I was still getting an early enough start that I decided it probably wouldn't make too much difference.

About ten minutes after I arrived, I'd checked out the construction progress and was watching my baby nephew while Mom went into the kitchen to put Will's breakfast things in the sink so we could go for coffee. I glanced over at Ovie and noticed he seemed to be trying to get something off his face, shaking his head and biting at the air the way dogs sometimes do when there's an irritating bit of string hanging from their mouth.

"What's wrong, Ovie?" I asked, unconcerned. "What have you got?"

But as I looked closer, I saw that his whole body was having spasms, and he was drooling. Suddenly I knew what was wrong.

"Mom?" I called into the kitchen, "is Ovie having another seizure?"

"Yes," she said as she reappeared in the living room. "Hold him down on his side and try to keep him calm while I go get his valium."

Ovie had a seizure in December which the vet concluded was probably a caused by a brain tumor, as it was the first seizure we know of in his nearly fifteen years. They prescribed valium in case he had another one. The one yesterday was the second, and it was bad.

I tried to calm Ovie, but he couldn't stop seizing. I held him and talked to him and tried to keep my voice calm, in case the seizure ended and I could get him calmed down too. But nothing I did helped, nor did the valium my mom administered as he thrashed and whined and foamed at the mouth. She called my dad at his office and asked him to call the vet, because we were on our way. I wrapped Ovie in a towel and held him in my lap in the front seat while my mom got Will into his carseat. The whole way Ovie cried and thrashed on my lap, and I held him and whispered, almost to myself, "I just want him out of pain."

We knew what we were going there for, especially as it became clear that Ovie's seizures weren't stopping. And if it was indeed a brain tumor, it seemed possible that something in his brain was sending messages of screaming pain throughout his poor arthritic old body. At the vet they gave him two more doses of valium; even then, he kept having small seizures, and he seemed frightened and stressed. I don't think he stopped seizing until the injection took effect, and then he was gone.

We knew this was coming, and once the first seizure happened, we knew it would be sooner rather than later. But yesterday morning happened so fast, possibly more so because there was no doubt what needed to be done.

It was sort of a fluke that I was there at the right time yesterday morning. If Will didn't get sick two weeks ago and we had his party as originally scheduled, I wouldn't have been. If I'd left my sister's house at 7:30 rather than 7:50 as I planned, chances are we'd have already taken off for Starbucks. I would have left town from there. I don't even want to think of Ovie being all alone when that hit him.

I think some people can't bear to watch their pets leave them, but I've discovered that I can't bear to think of mine being alone in their last moments, especially if they're already frightened. My mom and I were there with Ovie as his uncontrollable spasms were finally quieted and he put his head down one last time.

Today would have been his fifteenth birthday, as it is his brother Wilbur's. Elvis turns sixteen tomorrow.

I'm so glad I was there.

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[26 Jan 2007|07:07pm]
Somehow, I didn't find out about this until just a couple of hours ago. I wish I had paid some attention to local news in the past year.

Nicole Pietz used to bring her golden retriever puppy in to the Woodinville salon when I was still working there. One day she brought then-five-month-old Boomer in for a bath booked with me and said she'd requested me because she liked the way I handled him the last time, and she could tell I really loved working with the dogs. I was pleased, but took it in stride, since playful and cuddly puppies are hardly the most grueling part of my job. I looked forward to Boomer's visits, and I loved how Nicole always seemed delighted to see me. Between the craziness of the holiday season and impatiently awaiting my transfer to Issaquah, I was at the height of my frustration in Woodinville. It seems to be a cliche when you're talking about the deceased, but Nicole's bright smile and unrelenting friendliness made some of my most stressful days more bearable.

Until just a bit ago, I was intending to recount the story of an inexcusably rude bully of a customer I encountered the other day, the kind of customer who makes me leave for my lunch break still fighting back angry tears and wondering why I bother putting up with all the corporate bullshit if the customers are going to treat me like crap too. But now I realize something: that guy doesn't deserve a whole post, or even a second thought. There's nothing unique or special about him. He's just a bully, an imperious jerk who thinks everyone else's reason for existence is to bend to his will. He's a dime a dozen.

Shortly before Nicole disappeared, I transferred to Issaquah. With the exception of Grant who now comes to see me in Issaquah, I lost track of my old Woodinville regulars; otherwise I would certainly have noticed her absence. Nicole and Boomer are two of the reasons I do this job, why I continue to put up with the corporate crap and the mean customers.

It's a shocking sadness, finding out that one of my favorite customers from my old store was brutally murdered nearly a year ago. I'm not given to displays of emotion, but when I saw the photo with the unmistakable smile, I burst into tears. As I write this, I still can't hold them back.

I don't know what else to say, except for two things:

I hope they find the bastard who did this.

I love my request customers. They make all the shitty parts of my job entirely worth it.
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NaNoWriMo [28 Oct 2006|10:00am]
Don't expect any entries here in the month of November, as I've just committed myself (more or less) to participating in NaNoWriMo. That's a lot of words to write in just one month, and I don't know how many I'll manage. I might post again before November 1, but if I don't, I'll see you in December.
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[26 Oct 2006|10:54am]
Crossing my fingers that my PetEdge.com order will arrive before I leave for work to day in roughly 35 minutes. The reason? I booked myself a Great Pyrenees tidy trim for this evening, and I have a feeling I will really need that 10 blade dematting rake to sufficiently brush out his butt, as all Great Pyrenees butts require lots of brushing with heavy duty tools.

Oh look! Just now, as I was typing that last sentence, the UPS guy came and left the box at the door.

[flies downstairs dressed in only a towel to retrieve bounty]

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

(Also included are my new good quality short curved shears and some undoubtedly against-regulation sparkle spray.)

If the Great Pyrenees turns out to be a no-show, I'm going to be very disappointed. Do you believe that?
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Girl shops at Wal-Mart, dreams up floozy-inspired flair [04 Oct 2006|11:45am]
Yesterday I went into Wal-Mart for the first time in probably two years--I try to avoid that place like a bad cliché normally. But I was looking for a stool to keep next to my grooming table for the long hours and busy days of the upcoming holiday season, days when I will almost certainly not get my lunch breaks and when my fatigue mat will do little or nothing to offset the stress to my back and legs. I'm not Wal-Mart's biggest fan, but I drove past and thought "What the hell, I'm especially poor these days, what with me just barely commissioning out for the last three weeks running. I could certainly use the cheapest option."

As it happened, they didn't have what I was looking for--I want a stool that folds up, seeing as how we have increasingly limited space and more groomers than tables to work at. But as I headed out of Housewares, I saw Fabric & Crafts.

"Oh right," said I, "they sell fabric here. And I've heard tell that they even sell it cheaply."

So I wandered over and found two ridiculously adorable Halloween prints for two dollars a yard.

Do you know what this means? This means I will have Halloween bandanas to give out. Ridiculously adorable ones, at that. This is especially important given the recent corporate decision to stop providing seasonal bandanas despite the fact that customers love and specifically request them. And not only that, I also have football print material left over from the just-after-football-season sale at Jo-Ann's in January and leopard print material purchased at the same a few weeks ago. This last one I intend to coordinate with my fluffy red feather-and-rhinestone-boa bows to make certain of the girliest dogs look like precious little hookers. Or I could make the boy dogs look like transvestites. Really, the possibilities are endless.
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What I'm losing in snarkiness, I'm making up in job satisfaction--what the hell? [03 Oct 2006|12:39pm]
I caught myself being Friendly and Professional on Sunday, with a strong undercurrent of Knowledgeability and even some Initiative. I blame Lindee's influence.

On Saturday I answered the phone to schedule an appointment, launching into my vaguely courteous automatic phone spiel where I only half listen to the answers on the other end:

"[Big Stupid Corporation] Grooming this is Emilia how can I help you are you looking for a bath-and-brush or bath-and-haircut what breed of dog do you have are you looking at a specific day or would you like the first available appointment would you mind cracking on just a bit because this dog on my table was supposed to be done five minutes ago and your hesitation is REALLY CRAMPING MY STYLE."

"She was just in for a haircut, uh, not too long ago I think," said the voice on the other end, "so she probably just needs a bath and a really good brush out."

"Uh huh, bath and brush," I said distractedly as I simultaneously jotted her name in an empty bath slot and tried to keep my hyperactive Westie from flinging himself off the grooming table. "And what breed did you say she was?"

"A Portuguese Water Dog. She's kind of matted on her chest."

Suddenly I realized I hadn't quite been listening and didn't remember whether the customer had asked for a bath or a haircut

"Matted on the chest? So...she needs a haircut then, right?" I asked, hoping I wasn't being caught unawares in a corporate mystery shopper call.

"Oh, I don't know, does she?" asked the customer.

(Deep breath, patience.)

"I don't know either without actually seeing the condition of her coat, but mats on the chest are usually bad news. They might need to be shaved out by a groomer. Why don't I book her as a haircut to be safe?"

"Okay."

I booked the appointment in one of my 9:30 am slots and hung up the phone.

The next morning Doce (do-si) arrived with about an inch and a half of coat on her body and at least two inches on her legs. Her chest was covered in those tiny little tight mats that some dogs get, and her right front leg had a nasty clump of matted hair just above the paw. I felt the back legs and discovered more mats on the insides of the legs and on her bum just around her tail.

"Do you brush her at home?" I asked Doce's mom.

"Oh, well, we used to...but my husband and I are both teachers, and it just got really busy for us with the beginning of school and all, so...no. We really don't," she admitted. "And she pants so much when she's in her kennel, do you think that's why she gets so matted in front?"

I looked at Doce's face, which I now noticed was dripping wetly with excessive drool.

"Well, she really does need to be brushed every day. But also, dogs who drool on themselves that much usually get mats on their chest and legs, because those areas are never really dry. I may be able to brush these mats out, but I'm not sure. Is it okay if I spot shave them if I need to, and I can try to blend them to the length of the body? I'll have to price this as a tidy trim, but in addition to the dematting, I can trim her feet, face and sanitary area."

I could hear my voice losing its characteristic bored and indifferent customer tone, and taking on one of friendly authority.

"You know," Doce's mom began, "why don't you just give her a full haircut? I mean, I'd just be bringing her in in another two weeks for that anyway. Can you just do the same haircut you did last time?"

"Of course," I said, checking the notes in the computer file. "It looks like we left her an inch long on the body and a little longer on the legs. Would you like me to try and leave it that long if I can? I can't guarantee that I won't have to shave out the mats on the chest and back legs, but I can certainly try to brush them out, and then we can go from there."

"Yes, okay," said Doce's mom agreeably.

I took Doce over to my table to see how many of the mats I could break up with my dematting comb before I put her in the bath. This worked on her back end, but her face was like a leaky faucet and the front legs were damp and disgusting with nervous drool. No point in trying to brush that out until I could get her cleaned and dried. In the bath, I lathered full-strength creme rinse on her matted areas, then afterwards drenched her with my favorite spray-on detangler, The Stuff. After I got her completely dry, with the exception of the leaky face, I brought her back out to my table and started working on the rest of the mats. To my surprise, the mats surrendered easily to the dematting comb, even the ones on the chest. But my table was soon covered in little droplets of drool.

I grabbed a clean towel and mopped up the drool. Then I wrapped her drippy muzzle and tried to absorb as much as possible before I laid the towel out in front of her to catch the stray drops. I continued brushing out the mats so I could run the comb attachment through Doce's coat without it snagging and snapping off.

I really want to take this dog shorter than an inch, I thought as I brushed. I really, really, really do. She'll probably come in even more matted the next time, because the rainy season is coming, and they still won't brush her regularly. And then she'll have to be shaved down to an eighth inch. I know this and they don't. I wonder if I should just tell her I had to go shorter because she was too matted and I couldn't brush her all the way out? No, that wouldn't be right because it's not true. I'm going to call and tell her that I think she should let me take Doce shorter because she doesn't brush her out and she should just listen to me because I know what I'm talking about. I do know what I'm talking about, right? I wonder if she'll think I'm being cheeky?

You didn't know there could be ethical dilemmas in dog grooming, did you? I mean, it's not exactly on the level of informed consent or right-to-die issues, but the right thing is the right thing. Right?

"Hello, Doce's mom? I've got her on the table now, and even though she was more matted than I first thought, I was able to brush her out completely. So I can leave her longer if you want me to, but I wanted to suggest going a bit shorter today. She's one of those breeds that really needs to be brushed every day if you want to keep it longer. This way it would require less maintenance for you at home, and you could even go longer between haircuts. I was thinking of doing a half inch on the body instead of an inch, and then leaving close to an inch on the legs. Please? I promise I'll do a good job and it won't look retarded."

Actually, I didn't say that last bit, but I nearly did. As it happened, Doce's mom was still very agreeable and seemed to trust my judgment.

"Oh, all right. If you think so. Do whatever you think works."

"Oh my god, really? Sweeeet, thanks."

So I did the shorter cut on Doce, taking plenty of time to even out the body, scissor the legs, and blend the two lengths. When I was done, she looked neat, sweet and tidy. Trimming her face was a challenge because she had not stopped drooling the entire time, and therefore I was stuck scissoring even as the face was dripping. But amazingly enough, it turned out okay.

"Is that length okay with you? I know it's shorter than you wanted but--" I started to explain apologetically when Doce's mom came to pick her up.

"Oh no, it's great. Can we set up another appointment now?"

"Er, okay." This is one of those things Lindee and Bonita do with their request dogs, setting up the next appointment before the customer leaves, getting them on a regular schedule and all that. I set up an appointment for Doce to come see me again in six weeks. She didn't specifically request me, but I figured as long as I'm in control and I had the appointment time free, I'm going to take advantage of it. I will quietly get Doce's mom used to the way I groom, taking care to pay attention to all her niggling little preferences--she wants the ears shorter next time, for example, of which I made a note in the computer file. And then I will eventually become "Doce's groomer"--I think this is what is known as Building A Client Base, and I might just be getting the hang of it. If I don't watch myself, I'm going to start having a Good Customer Service Attitude. That's not something I particularly aspired to, but I understand that it comes with better tips.

*****

I've had at least two request dogs nearly every day for the last week or so of work. What the hell is up with that?
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[02 Oct 2006|10:59am]
This is causing me to do my Karen Walker hysterical hyperventilation laugh. Does that mean I'm going to hell?
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[01 Oct 2006|09:32pm]
Please indicate which answer best describes your reaction to the following statement:

I HATE PUPPIES

( ) strongly disagree ( ) disagree ( ) agree ( ) strongly agree

If you checked either "disagree" or "strongly disagree", you are most likely a normal and well-adjusted person with the ability to feel compassion for other living creatures. If you checked either "agree" or "strongly agree", you are likely some variety of heartless bastard such as a dog groomer or Robert Novak.

If you wonder what kind of non-Robert Novak person could hate puppies, the answer is "any person responsible for the velocity drying, nail clipping, face trimming or ear plucking of puppies, particularly the young of those small fluffy breeds who tend to be spoiled little snotbags with overprotective neurotic pet parents, and then that person only makes $7.50 in commission for it." That's the kind of person who can hate puppies and as it turns out, I'm one of those people. I frequently have the masses of red scratches on my arms and the sound of screechy puppy shrieking ingrained in my sense memory to prove it.

So, I hate puppies.

And yet I love grooming terriers. Go figure. Schnauzers, Westies, Cairns, Lakelands, and yes, even Scotties and Airedales. I love 'em. Generally when I confide this to a fellow groomer, they will cock their head thoughtfully and say something to show they understand, such as "Oh my god, why? Are you f***ing crazy?"

I can't quite explain it, but from my first mini schnauzer in grooming school, which was supposed to be a request dog for my instructor and turned out pretty damn awesome, I was hooked. I love the clean pattern lines and the satisfying crispness of closely trimmed schnauzer furnishings. And the face? Oh my god, it could not be easier. It's a rectangle with eyebrows, for pete's sake. And then I did a Westie, and it was even easier than the schnauzer. And you should have seen the way I glowed with pride at my long legged terrier technical for my training portfolio. She was a beautiful two year-old Lakeland who very obligingly held still and had a lovely coarse terrier coat that stood out on her legs just right to shape them into neat little columns, the way they're supposed to be. And Scotties? Why, that's just a Westie body with a schnauzer head--it's mix'n'match grooming! And you know what else? They get cute littles tufts of hair called rosettes at the base of their ears. Rosettes! How fun is that?

I can't explain why all this makes me so happy, but it does.

That's not to say that I love the characteristic terrier deportment. They're stubborn, nippy and hyperactive. Most seem to have no problem sinking their nails or teeth into human flesh if a groomer so much as reaches for the toenail trimmers. But somehow--I will undoubtedly eat my words, and soon--it just seems that some terriers behave, you know, better for me.

(KNOCKING VIOLENTLY ON WOOD.)

Dogs pick up on human emotions, and I suppose it could be that once the stubborn little brats figure out I don't hate them as much as my coworkers do, the smart ones realize they'd better be (comparatively) nice to me. That's one theory.

The other and more probable explanation is that terriers recognize something of themselves in me. When they look into my eyes and I stare back witheringly into their soul, they realize their bull-headed stubbornness and pride is no match for mine. You want to bite me? I bite back. You want snappy? I'M LOW ON BLOOD SUGAR AND SHORT ON PATIENCE, YOU PUNK-ASS BRAT. YOU WILL STAND STILL UNTIL I'M FINISHED WITH YOU.

And guess what else? You're going to be so adorable when I'm done.
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[21 Sep 2006|10:36pm]
Grooming Policies That Will Be Posted Prominently On The Door, Wall, Counter, and Any Other Available Surface Of My Own Grooming Shop, If I Ever Get Myself A Grooming Shop, Which I Have No Intention Of Doing:

1. No dog with his balls intact shall be groomed in this shop. Your dog should not even have balls unless he is a show dog, and trust me when I say that your dog is not a show dog.

2. No dog named Sassy, Spunky, Rowdy, Turbo or Chomper, or any variation thereof, shall be groomed in this shop.

3. All dogs must be administered an enema prior to their appointment.*

4. Customers bringing their labrador retrievers in to be shaved down shall not complain when the haircut turns out choppy and appears to have been done by piranhas with special needs. The reason for this should become obvious if you will stop and think about it for a minute.

5. Severe matting that reaches the skin of the pet cannot and will not be brushed out with bladed dematting combs, especially on or around the ears, armpits, and sanitary area. The reason for this should soon become obvious as well.

i. These areas will have to be shaved in order to remove the mats.
ii. It is not your groomer's responsibility to brush your dog daily, nor is it your eight year-old daughter's. It is your responsibility, and if you neglect it, your dog will become severely matted and need to be shaved.
iii. That's just the way it is.

6. Customers who talk to the groomers as though they are incompetent, imbecilic, or otherwise unworthy need not return here. Your business is hardly worth the crap we have to deal with from you, so get over your rich self-righteous self and give us a modicum of respect or get the hell out.

*Suggested by Wendy
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[15 Sep 2006|11:55pm]
Lindee and I were finishing our last dogs on Monday evening when the two construction guys charged with remodeling the bathing room blew in at 7:45, a full hour and fifteen minutes before we closed and before they were supposed to start working. Lindee shooed them out, called in a manager to confirm that we indeed had the salon to ourselves until closing, and then she and I turned to each other to harumph loudly over the audacity of impatient construction workers. I recalled how the same thing happened when they remodeled in Whoville, and how eventually the crew got so behind on their schedule that they finished up working more or less around the clock, EVEN WHILE WE WERE TRYING TO BATHE AND DRY OUR DOGS WITHIN THE NOXIOUS CLOUD OF CONSTRUCTION DUST, IS THERE ANY POSSIBILITY OF YOU HURRYING THE HELL UP, YOU INCOMPETENT HOSEBRAINS? That was a pain in the butt, I explained, and I was fairly certain the same thing would happen here, because things never work out the way we're told they will.

"Yeah," agreed Lindee indignantly, "It's like, 'Hey fuckface, get the hell outta my way, I'm trying to work here!'"

"Right, exactly," I said. Then I went into the back and started vacuuming the massive hair balls from under the kennels so that when the construction guys pulled the kennels away from the wall, they wouldn't think we were hiding a dead wookiee. After fifteen minutes of contemplative cleaning, I poked my head back into the front of the salon.

"Hey Lindee," I said earnestly, "I just want you to know that one of my favorite things about you as a person, something I find deeply inspiring, is how casually you will toss out a word like 'fuckface.' I really cherish that."
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Cesar Millan would be so, so proud [16 Aug 2006|05:54pm]
Dooce's dog is calm-submissive.
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If I were a man, this post is how you would know I'm gay. And egoistic. [15 Aug 2006|03:10pm]
Something has happened to me. I've had a breakthrough and am now on my way to being someone who can groom bichon heads in a more or less competent manner. Under Lindee's tutelage, I am becoming a well-adjusted and confident teddy-bear-face snipper, a superior head-rounder, if you will. That last part might be a bit of hyperbole, but I'm getting pretty good if I do say so myself (and clearly I do). This is evidenced by the fact that yesterday I not only skillfully groomed a small cute bichon named Toby, leaving his face tidy, round, and adorable, but I also helped--helped!--Wendy finish his brother Bam-Bam so that he could also be tidy, round and adorable.

"Emilia, what do I do?" Wendy had asked me after I finished Toby and returned him to his kennel. "I've never done a bichon before. I don't know what the head is supposed to look like."

"Well," I began knowingly, "they don't want the big bichon bell head, which is good. I just hate leaving them too fluffy. Lindee and I think that looks stupid."

Remembering what Lindee had done when I asked her the same thing just two weeks ago, I grabbed my comb and my short curved scissors and strode over to Wendy's table.

"It looks good," I said generously, "you have a good shape started. The top knot is pretty good, the beard just needs to be shortened and the muzzle rounded out. You see these here?" I indicated the gummy brown strands of hair around Bam-Bam's mouth. "Those are the pieces of hair that get caught in his mouth and stained by his drinking water and his saliva. They trap bacteria and rot their teeth. I always cut those away."

I combed Bam-Bam's face forward, backward, and out to the side, just like I've seen Lindee do so many times. But this time I actually knew right away what to do next. I combed and snipped, and snipped and combed, and snipped some more. After a while, I stood back and admired my work.

"There," I said. "Better?"

"Oh yeah, wow, he looks really good now!" said Wendy. "Thank you so much!"

"It's no problem," I said modestly. "Lindee's helped me out before. Those bichon heads take some practice."

As you may have gleaned, this episode didn't hurt my self-confidence or my sense of awesomeness one tiny bit.

But to be fair, I should mention a few things:

First, Toby and Bam-Bam get short body-haircuts and the 3/8" length doesn't call for the seemingly endless shear work that a longer bichon cut would. Therefore, I was not already suffering from Hand-Scissor Fatigue (HSF) by the time I got to the head. Unless you've groomed a bichon or a poodle, you've no idea the effect HSF can have on a groomer's mental agility, concentration, and ultimately, their finish work. I'd gotten used to grooming faces under the burden of HSF; removing the handicap was like being released from my ball and chain and discovering I can fly. (Yep, more hyperbole, and unapologetically so.)

Second, the day started out slow and Toby was my only dog at seven a.m., so I didn't have to feel rushed. That helped me to stay relaxed and focused, and kept me from getting frustrated.

And last, Wendy went to grooming school after I did, and has only just begun working on commission. Bam-Bam was her first bichon--not only the first without Bonita there to help her, but apparently the first one she's done at all. It was my duty to play the elder statesman and help my junior colleague through the ordeal. After all, I was there too, back in my salad days of grooming. You know, two weeks ago.

If you can't tell, I'm rather excited about my bichon breakthrough. I feel like I've been apprenticed to a master (Lindee) and could now be considered to be Coming Along Nicely. I'm like Cornelius Hackl and Dolly Levi has just taught me to dance, or like a straight guy and Carson Kressly has just taught me to flip it, slip it and reverse it.

What I mean to say by all of this is simply:

I rock the bichon faces, and that is something the Big Stupid Corporation can never take away.
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[10 Aug 2006|10:45pm]
My new gangsta name is Raspberry Oatmeal.

I found some pet ID tags in the drawer by the computer, one of which said "Hypo[allergenic]-Oatmeal" and the other "Raspberry-Oatmeal". I presume these were used back when the shampoo proportioner system actually worked, to identify which proportioner hose corresponded with which type of undiluted gallon-bottle of shampoo. Since the proportioner has not worked at least as long as I have been working in Issaquah (which is a huge pain in the ass for washing really big hairy dogs), the tags were removed and tossed into the drawer until the proportioner gets repaired, which I estimate will be approximately never.

This is why it seemed entirely permissible to dust off the red bone-shaped "Raspberry-Oatmeal" tag, slip the metal clip off one of the leftover 4th of July collar charms, and attach the tag to my smock as a zipper-pull-cum-unofficial-nametag.

So like I said, my new gangsta name is "Raspberry Oatmeal." That is, assuming Strawberry Shortcake has a posse.
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The Devil's Companion Dogs [08 Aug 2006|10:53am]
Yesterday every one of my dogs was rotten and/or ill-behaved and/or on a bad acid trip, with the exception of the Kodi the Samoyed, who ended up only getting a bath and no haircut (thank god)--he was only hyperactive without also being batshit insane.

I haven't decided if I had a worse time with Teddy, the spoiled Yorkie-bichon mix, who hates having anything like a brush or a comb touch his face and therefore came to me with a severely matted head, or with Rowdy the spoiled Westie, who was matted everywhere but his face, but who also didn't like anything like a comb near his face, nor clippers, shears or fingers for that matter.

When Rowdy's parents, a just-retired couple from Alaska, dropped him off, they explained that they like him in a longer Westie cut, but short enough that he'll be comfortable in the heat of Arizona, where they are headed.

I was examining the red mass of scratches I'd just acquired from Teddy and Rowdy, when Rowdy's parents returned for him.

"You know," I remarked, "I imagine Rowdy will feel right at home in the hot desert sun of Arizona, what with him being straight from the fires of Hell and all."
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Like that scene in There's Something About Mary, only possibly worse [02 Aug 2006|11:48pm]
This happens at least once in every groomer's career, only I suspect that the frequency with which this happens to me will be closer to at least once a year. We shall see.

Bonita was carrying a smallish lab mix out to her table after bathing it. I was sitting on the ground, trimming the paws of one of Tamara's bath dogs, since I had nothing else to do at the moment. Bonita squeezed past me and swung the lab mix over my head to put her on the table. As she did, I felt something land on my head. It was like feeling that first raindrop when you didn't realize it was about to start raining, only we were inside and it wasn't raining. I looked around to see what might have hit me.

"Uh, Bonita?" I asked, almost tentatively. "Did you express that dog's anal glands in the bath?"

"Well I tried, but I couldn't get them. She kept clenching," said Bonita. "Why?"

I sniffed a couple of times.

"Uh, because I smell anal glands now, and something hit me right as you went past. And I think--" I touched my hair where the contact seemed to have occurred. My hand came away with a trace of the unmistakably foul-smelling brown liquid I have become unfortunately familiar with. "EW. Yep, I got anal glanded. GROSS."

I leapt up, leaving my clippers and scissors behind as Tamara watched, bewildered.

I ran to the bathing room in back and grabbed the hose and a towel. I wanted the stuff out of my hair NOW, but I did manage to pause long enough to consider which professional grade dog shampoo I should use for this situation. Raspberry Oatmeal, that soothes the skin and smells so nice and fruity? No, too mild--not strong enough to compete with anal gland odor. Super Fresh Scent, that purports to have long-lasting freshness for extra dirty and/or stinky dogs, great for dogs that don't get bathed very often? No, too harsh. I settled on Almond, which is deep-cleansing but all-natural and enriched with vitamin E, and also happens to smell like marzipan. I tossed my hair over the side of the tub and lathered up. Mmm, almond scent, good choice, I thought. My head was still under suds when Tamara opened the door to the back room.

"Uh, Emilia? Could you come finish trimming my Golden retriever's feet? The owner is here, and she wants them done," asked Tamara.

"Tamara," I said as patiently as I could, "can you have her hold on for five minutes? I'm a little bit indisposed at the moment."

"Oh yeah, sure, um, okay," said Tamara, "then I'll just have her go pay and I'll tell her you'll be out in a minute, so do you think I should tell her five minutes then, or will you need more time, because she might have some shopping to--"

"Tamara," I growled, "just tell her I'll be out in five minutes. Everything else is up to you."

Five minutes later I had sufficiently scrubbed, rinsed and towel dried my hair to pull it back in a squeaky, snarly, wet ponytail. I came back out front and finished trimming the Golden's feet. Then I looked at the clock. I still had ten minutes before my last dog was to show up.

"I wonder how long it would take to dry my hair with one of the high velocity dryers," I mused. I looked at Bonita, who shrugged. "I'll be back in a minute."

I disappeared once more into the back room and switched one of the velocity dryers on the high setting. The snarls in my hair tightened as soon as I turned the dryer on my head. I switched it back off. I needed conditioner. I wondered whether I had time to use the Mandarin Orange Cream Rinse that I love for making dogs' coats soft and manageable. Probably not, I decided, glancing at the clock. I would have to settle for the quick trick I use when I don't have time for cream rinse on the heavy-coated Goldens; I needed the Unicoat, a spray-on/leave-in detangler and conditioner that works beautifully with the force dryer to distribute the conditioner lightly and evenly throughout the entire coat. I grabbed the bottle and spritzed my head. When I turned the dryer back on, my hair miraculously unsnarled itself and blew out straight and sleek within a minute. I touched my hair again, and this time rather than pulling my hand away in horror and disgust, I marveled at how clean and soft my hair had unexpectedly become.

I returned to the front of the salon with triumphant smile on my face.

"Hey," said Bonita, "you used the Unicoat, didn't you?"

"Er, yeah I did," I said, surprised. "You can tell?"

"Yeah, your hair looks really glossy now. It looks..." she paused as though she were trying to find the right word, "good."

"Thanks."

I didn't need to wash my hair again for two days after that. That may have been the best it's ever looked.
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Happy [02 Aug 2006|03:22pm]
I received my latest order from PetEdge.com today, an order that is monstrously large because it also includes items for Bonita, Wendy, Sefi and Kaasha. I don't believe I can adequately convey my exhilaration upon receiving a 3.75 blade, a 7/8" foot blade (which, to paraphrase the Book of Ratings, is meant to make shaving poodle feet easier, but in my case merely makes it possible), a large bottle of concentrated The Stuff, 100 Fancy Feather and Rhinestone Grooming Bows in Assorted Colors for Professionals, and a bottle of one of the loveliest designer pet fragrances on the designer pet fragrance market, Top Performance Pet Cologne Compare to the Essence of "Happy". This last item put me over the top with consumer joy such that I immediately spritzed myself three or four times with the stuff. (The phrase "the stuff" is used here to mean "the cologne I was just talking about," rather than The Stuff Coat Conditioner and Detangler.)

Now all I can think is, damn I smell good.
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The one where I learn a lot about grooming from Bailey the Bichon and Lindee the Groomer [31 Jul 2006|08:01pm]
Bailey the grungy Bichon Frise came in for me this afternoon after my morning dogs, a 14 year-old chow chow Daisy and last-minute-surprise! ten month-old cockapoo Hank. Kaasha was kind enough to wash Bailey for me while I stood and wondered just what in the hell needed to be done to Hank's already short-and-tidy face and ears. (Answer: Trim just enough length off visor, beard, and ears so I could say I tidied the face; end up spending as much time evening out what I'd just trimmed to constitute an actual complete teddy bear face trim, and find that Hank's face looks more or less exactly the same as when he came in, possibly a millimeter shorter all around. I believe this is what the owner wanted.)

(By the way, Kaasha, did I mention thanks for washing both Bailey and Cede for me today? Because if you hadn't, I would probably just be leaving work now. Of course, I washed my chow chow four times plus cream rinse, so I probably did my share of dog bathing even so.)

I took my lunch break while Kaasha dried Bailey (hey! it was her idea), and when I returned, there was a clean, dry white ball of scruff waiting for me in Bailey's kennel. I put him on my grooming table and began the tedious task that is both catnip and bitter apple to the aspiring Obsessive Perfectionist Dog Groomer. That is, I started hand scissoring a bichon frise.

"Oh my GAAAAWD," I whined as I repeatedly backbrushed and scissored Bailey's legs, each time unleashing a new and different stray curl or uneven wisp of hair. "I haven't done a hand scissor in so long, I forgot how much time it takes. When I was in grooming school, I thought I'd like doing the hand scissor dogs because you can really show off how good you are, and I planned to be really good. But in grooming school we had all day to do one dog, and it was sort of fun being impressed with myself. But now it just takes a lot of time, and I don't have a lot of time, and it's just a PAIN IN THE ASS."

I can be very obnoxious when I'm aspiring to perfection.

When I was finally satisfied with the tidiness of Bailey's body, legs and feet (and also because Bailey's mom called and asked when would Bailey be ready?), I decided it was time to tackle his head. Not literally tackle it, of course, since that would come under the heading of "animal abuse," and besides Bailey was behaving himself very nicely. I just mean that bichon heads have become the bane of my existence and so I really didn't want to ruin my lovely day by having to groom one.

"Lindeeeee!" I moaned, "aren't you supposed to do all the bichons in this salon?"

"Ha!" snorted Lindee, "hardly! They take too damn long for the commission. I get too many of the bichon requests in here, I'm not going to do all of them."

"But you're the Queen of Bichon Heads! No one else does them as well as you."

"Don't tell Baxter's mom you said that. She thinks I need to go back to grooming school. I think I scissor them too much and they end up too short."

"Yeah, but it's cute. I think most people like the shorter faces."

"That's why I always ask bichon owners, 'You don't like the big old ugly bichon bell head, right? Good.'"

"And if they say yes, you say 'Well too bad, because that's not how I roll,' right?"

"I wish."

"Hey, should I take Bailey's topknot shorter? I can't tell."

"No, that's perfect."

"Except it's still not perfectly round. I can't get it right. Lindeeeeee! Help me!"

"No, it's good. You just need to even it out here and there."

"But what about his face? He has the weirdest hair on his head and face, it just goes where it wants to. How am I supposed to make him look like a bichon? I can't get him to look like your bichons."

"They're hard to do and they take awhile to get perfected. Remember I've been doing this for thirteen years."

"It's going to take me that long to learn bichon heads? I think I need to call Bailey's mom back and tell her he won't be done for another thirteen years."

This is where Lindee grabbed her beloved short curved shears, the ones she uses to work hand scissoring magic on curly coated dogs and their crazy faces and top knots, and started snipping while I watched intently.

"You're right, he's got really bad" (snip snip) "hair on his face" (snip) "and then it's even different on his top knot." (snip snip snip) "There's not much you can do" (snip snip) "to make him look like a bichon" (snip) "and you've done a pretty good job" (snip) "but it just needs to be" (snip snip snip) "combed out here at the occiput again, and then" (snip snip) "blended into the neck. There. I think that's as good as he's going to look. Good job, he looks cute."

"Thanks," I said feebly, but gratefully. "But he only looks cute because you finished the head."

"Nah," said Lindee. "I just evened out a few spots."

"Well, thanks anyway."

Bailey's mom picked him up about five minutes later and seemed marginally pleased with his haircut. Later, as I was driving home on I-405, my cell phone rang.

"Hey, this is Lindee. Are you still here? A dog just came in requesting you."

"Oh."

"Ha ha, I'm just kidding."

"Oh."

"Actually, Bailey's mom just called here to say that was the best haircut Bailey's ever gotten. She said he usually ends up looking like a poodle, but this time he looks like a bichon."

"And did you tell her that he only looks that way because you finished him?"

"Nope. I told her to feel free to request a specific groomer, so if she likes the way you groomed him, your name is Emilia and you'd be happy to do it next time."

"Lindeeeee! Now I have to make him look as good as you did! Every time!"

"You can do it. And I'm not going anywhere, so any time you need help, just ask."

"Okay, thanks. I guess."

"Have a good couple of days off! See you Thursday."

"Yeah."

I'm in trouble. When Bailey's mom calls in to request me, I'm telling her my next available appointment is in thirteen years. Either that or...

LINDEEEEEEEE!
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I feel my hair is dull and people are laughing at me. [19 Jul 2006|02:05pm]
After touching up my Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Color Cream in Honeydip this morning, I've decided to try the John Frieda Brilliant Brunette Shine Releasing Shampoo in an attempt to keep my hair from immediately returning to its natural state of dull mousiness. The label promises to "restore the multi-dimensional richness of brown hair while invigorating highlights" and "renew suppleness as it reveals exceptional shine."

I consider it the human equivalent of the coat brightening shampoos made for black, white and gray dogs.
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Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Customer Service [13 Jul 2006|10:40pm]
"How much will the grooming cost?"

"For a Golden retriever it's $72."

"What does that include?"

"Bath, brush, nail trim, ear cleaning, haircut."

"What if I don't want the ear cleaning?"


Ending A:

"It's the same price."

"You can't do it separately?"

"It's a package. It comes with it."

"Because last time, I did a...like a separate package or something."

"The computer says the last time you were in you paid $72. And the time before that, too."

"Uh, yeah. But there's no discount or anything?"

"No. It's an inclusive package. There's only one price. Does he not need his ears cleaned?"

"Oh, he probably does. I'm just trying to talk it down because I'm tight."

"Um. Could you sign here please?"


Ending B:

"Hmm. Well, we're not supposed to give a discount for that, but I'll make an exception in your case. How about I knock $5 off the price, for the 5 seconds of work that constitutes the ear cleaning, even though I work on 50% commission and I'd be cutting my own throat. Sound like a deal?"

"Really? So it'll only be $67? That's great, thanks!"

"Of course, you can only get that discount when you add the toothbrushing service."

"Oh yeah? How much is that?"

"Ten dollars. And then there's the $10 late charge--your appointment time was actually 20 minutes ago."

"Uh...."

"And of course, there's the Obnoxious Customer fee. The charge for that varies according to the groomer's discretion. Luckily you haven't made it to the $20 All-Out Asshole, but you did pass the minimum $5 Annoyance charge. I'm going to put you down for General Dickishness. That's also $10."

"Excuse me?"

"And it says here in the computer file that your dog is a lazy fat ass who doesn't like to stand up for grooming, and that he growls and snaps when you touch his tail or trim his feet. The Dumbshit Dog charge is at least $20."

"..."

"So that should come to $122 today. Oh wait, I'm taking $5 off for skipping the ear cleaning, which I might add, your dog really needs to have done because his ears stink, he's a got a lot of waxy buildup and it appears he's prone to infections. That will be $117. Could you sign here please?"
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[10 Jul 2006|08:34pm]
"Thanks for holding, this is Emilia in grooming, how can I help you?"

"Can you please give Jackie* the message that if she doesn't bring dog food home, I'm going to feed her to the dogs?"

"Yes of course."

"Thanks."

I gave Jackie the message, but declined to mention that I would most certainly pay to see such a spectacle as her husband feeding her to their apparently ravenous dogs. Because as we know from The Carnivorous Carnival, audiences go simply mad for violence and sloppy eating.

*This would have been even funnier if Jackie was a customer and not a salon employee, but we take what we can get.
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