Dog beauty is complicated

By Mir
February 1, 2011

The good thing about a dog who doesn’t shed is that your house isn’t covered in dog hair, but the bad thing is that you never get to buy a FURminator with which to make yourself a second dog.

Oh, wait. That’s not the bad thing. The bad thing is that dogs who don’t shed periodically need to be groomed and clipped.

Now, when we first got Licorice, I thought maybe I could take care of most of that stuff on my own, really. I bought some doggie nail clippers. I cut the kids’ hair and Otto’s hair and figured I could maybe even learn how to groom the dog, fully. How hard could it be? But what I didn’t realize, right away, is that Licorice—in keeping with the other small members of our household—is something of a DRAAAAAMA QUEEN about being groomed. She does not like it, Sam I Am. She does not want you to touch her feet, or her ears, and quite frankly I never even attempted the “hygienic shave” they do at the groomer’s (I’m sparing you the details, but I bet you can figure it out) (you’re welcome!) because just trimming her nails at home was so traumatic. And the dog didn’t like it, either. So we let all of the traumatic stuff get taken care of by someone else. Hooray!

So the good part is that I don’t have to do it. Plus, you know, the groomer uses shampoo on her that smells like heavenly baby flowers. (“Baby flowers?” said Otto. “Do those smell different than regular grown-up flowers?” And the answer is YES.) And she has that table with the little neck noose to hold the dog in place. And she puts a wee adorable bandana on the dog at the end! And most importantly, Licorice can not use her Jedi mind tricks on the groomer the way she can on me, because I am a sucker and if the dog whimpers I’m all OH BABY I’M SO SORRY, MOMMY LOVES YOU even if she’s just whimpering because she’s annoyed, not because I cut her nails too short and she’s now bleeding out. Not that that’s ever happened. More than once.


The thing is, though, dog groomers present just as many challenges as hair stylists. They’re not all created equal, you know. We went somewhere on a recommendation and it was fine, the first few times. The dog smelled awesome and we could see her face again and her ears were plucked and all that good stuff. I think it was maybe the third time that things… weren’t quite right. Her fur was kind of uneven. The “hygienic trim” part of the service appeared to have been skipped. And I found a couple of nails she missed. Hmmmm.

We kept going back, though, because probably she was just having a bad day and who has time to find a new groomer?

Things didn’t improve. I started stretching the time between groomings as long as I could; instead of going when the dog started looking shaggy, I waited until the dog’s eyes disappeared entirely.

Finally, she came back from a grooming appointment looking particularly raggedy, and I decided I’d had enough. The next time Licorice needed to be groomed, I took her someplace else. And they did a good job. Hooray!

Meanwhile, the original groomer changed locations. She sent us a card to let us know where she’d gone. She even called, to make sure we’d gotten it! And because I tend to feel like it’s wasted energy to argue with a dog groomer you no longer plan to patronize, I thanked her for her call and said we’d see her soon. Ahem.

In the meantime, the old location is part of a local pet store, and now has new groomers in residence. They ran a Groupon-like special where we could get coupons for half-off grooming, so I figured what the heck—grooming is expensive, it’s someone new, for half-price I’m willing to risk it. I bought a couple of coupons.

Last week I called to make the dog an appointment, as her eyes have disappeared and she occasionally pokes a child in the kitchen with one of her claws while resting here in my office. The nice groomer on the phone offered me a 9:00 a.m. appointment today, but I had to be somewhere at 9:00, so I asked if there was any way she could do 8:30. Oh, no problem, she said! Come in at 8:30!

Today Monkey and I brought Licorice to the groomer promptly at 8:30. It meant waking Monkey up, and racing around, and of course Licorice hates riding in the car because she spends the entire ride thinking we’re going to abandon her somewhere. So we got there, and got her out of the car, and she ran right over to a tree and peed. Yay, good dog! Then we walked inside, and she immediately pooped on the floor. NO NO NO. (We cleaned it up. And the store was still closed so no one saw it. Still. Jesus, dog.) She was very nervous, is my point.

Well. The nice employees getting the store ready for the 9:00 a.m. opening were there bustling around, but the groomer was not. And the groomer wasn’t there at 8:35 or 8:40 or 8:45. And now I was trying to figure out WHAT THE HELL TO DO WITH MY DOG because the 9:00 appointment was not a dog-friendly venue. I called the groomer’s number and could hear the phone ringing on the other side of the LOCKED DOOR, and left an angry message while my son went to the other end of the pet store and promptly fell in love with a ferret. Meanwhile, Licorice is sitting at my feet CRYING (really, she cries, and it’s PITIFUL) because am I leaving her NOW? How about NOW? NOW am I disappearing? STRESSFUL!

At 8:47 as we were on our way out, the groomer showed up, casual as you please, with one dog following at her heels and A SECOND TINY DOG IN HER PURSE. No lie. She had completely forgotten she’d given me an appointment, and I all but threw the leash at her in my hurry to get out of there and not be late. She assured me it would all be fine. We left and went to our other appointment.

When we returned, later, it was to find her two dogs and a third purse-size dog belonging to her assistant all running around in the grooming area—which was perfect because we stepped in and Monkey was instantly beset by puppy-licks and stopped begging for a ferret—and the groomer assured us Licorice was all done. Except then she took Licorice out of a cage and said, “Whoops! I didn’t cut her nails!”

What. The. Hell? It’s not BRAIN SURGERY, it’s dog grooming. There’s a limited number of things that need doing as part of the grooming, and cutting the nails seems like it should be kind of high on the list. CALL ME CRAZY.

So Monkey and I went back out into the pet store to select a reward toy for Licorice, and then came back to watch her getting her last few nails clipped. I picked up one of the purse-puppies while that was happening and Licorice glared at me from the table, so great was her ire that I had not only abandoned her here in this house of Horrible Things but I was NOW showering another dog with my affections. She was not pleased.

But finally it was all over and we collected her and paid for the grooming (which consisted of handing over the coupon on a bill that was 20% more than the old groomer charged, hrm) and paid for the toy and came home, and five minuter later she had ripped a giant hole in her new stuffed doggie and was extracting its stuffing one gleeful mouthful at a time. All is forgiven, I think.

Except that I still have another coupon for this groomer and I don’t think I want to go back. (FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS! Tragic!!)


  1. Holly

    Geez, Mir, can I ever relate!

    My dog is almost 16, blind, has had a few seizures caused by a brain tumour and is a total fraidy-cat when it comes to going in the car and being left with strangers. She’s a toy poodle, though, so you’d think that it wouldn’t be that difficult to groom her (she’s only 7 lbs.) but it’s a nightmare every time.

    Personally, I think the groomers under-estimate her because of her age and disabilities. They see a small, shakey dog and think they’ll have to be extra slow and gentle with her when, in actuality, she has super ninga evading skills that can challenge even seasoned pros.

    We’ve quit a handleful of groomers because of how poor she looked after being “groomed”. I’m currently on the hunt for a new groomer, actually. The owner of the last place we took her asked me just as we were leaving if she was ready for her grooming appointment. Yes, she looked that bad.

    She looks even worse now but I just can’t handle a grooming appointment this week. Maybe next week I’ll be up for it. Paying that much for such a horrible result (usually) just doesn’t sit well with me.

  2. Tracy B

    Poor Licorice. I can so relate with you on the whole grooming thing. A suggestion: let Otto try. I have 2 papillons (that do shed) but still require grooming. I did it for awhile but refused to clip the nails. That freaks me out more than them. We have one of those pet-a-curs…it files them down rather than clipping them off. My babies don’t mind it at all. Anyway, my husband decided he would groom them with the clippers. He does an awesome job and they mind him. Anyway, good luck!

  3. Nelson's Mama

    Nelson has a standing every-other-Tuesday appointment! It’s possible that your vet may groom (many do) and even if they don’t they’ll be a good source for recommendations. A reputable groomer will have a good working relationship with a local vet.

    I’d avoid a big box pet store at all costs – the hustle and bustle at one of those places would undo lots of dogs. Our groomer has a shop behind her home and even boards dogs on a limited basis; the extra price that I pay is worth knowing that Nelson is comfortable there.

  4. Nicole

    You could always sell the coupon. I’m subscribed to a listserv and I see people selling coupons and gift cards on there all the time.

  5. Chris

    Sounds like you should definitely sell the coupon and ask your vet for a recommendation. We have had similar groomer “issues” and have been pleased as punch at the job they do at the vet’s office.

  6. Amy

    We’re in a similar situation, with a small twist. My husband recently came home with a 12 week old Licorice look-a-like we’ve named Jackson. We buy our dogs’ food from a fancy groomer’ s because it’s the only place around that sells it. The problem is that I’ve walked in and observed her grooming when she didn’t notice me at first and I felt like she was a little rough for my tastes. She knows we have the puppy and is excited about it for us. To get to the groomer I’m planning to use I have to walk past her store. I guess what I’m saying is I’m going to make my husband drive the dog the two blocks to the other groomer and just telling her I’m clipping him at home.

  7. Heather

    Our dog is definitely getting to the invisible eyes stage, so I should make a call. Our experience has been good, at least – and she even comes to pick him up, which was perfect before I moved in with my grandparents because it’s been a few years since they drove.
    I know the feeling of guilt trying to groom a pet! I do my cat’s claws and get quite the snooty treatment from her for the following 24 hours or so :P

  8. Heidi

    Give the coupons to someone you aren’t fond of…

  9. Jenn

    We went through this with our former groomer. They were always late, which gave the dog time to freak out, and then he started seeming afraid of them, and then they started scheduling more and more dogs at the same time. I finally decided to switch (because I felt GUILTY even though their service had spiraled down into “piss poor”) and then I talked to a woman at the dog park who has a dog that had been INJURED at the same groomer (of course, they denied it). So that was that. Our new groomer takes one dog at a time, no hanging out in a cage, no waiting…it’s great. :) She even bribed our dog with dehydrated chicken.

  10. Suzy

    A dremel works great on dog’s nails, just turn it on and let them get used to the sound for a few days before you use it on them. I take my dogs (3) to my vet to be groomed every 2 weeks, because even though I have a furminator (which I won from want-not, yay and thanks!), mine are mischievous, high-energy, pig-pen like golden retrievers (one of whom is white) and they are constantly getting dirty and more importantly, smelly. And at 50+ lbs each, I am not about to lift them in and out of a tub to wash them, and then my entire bathroom when we are finished.

  11. Sarah G.

    This is why I have standard smooth dachshunds, the polyester coated dog. Minimal shedding (maybe a teeny handful a year) and low/no odor. They get bathed when they have rolled in something nasty, once in the spring and, maybe once in the fall.

    No brushing, just nail trimming.

    However they do dig. Extensively.

  12. Jeanie

    My shih tzu poops on the floor almost every time she goes to the groomer. She’s a very good girl when she’s getting groomed, though. I can’t believe Licorice doesn’t like her ears touched. Ear-rubbing is the best thing ever, according to my three dogs. Even my springer, who had constant ear infections and went to Doggie Heaven in September, loved to have his ears rubbed. I like the idea of giving your coupon to someone you don’t like, but pity the poor dog.

  13. Scottsdale Girl

    Ahhhhhh yes. The grooomies. My two australian shephards need it at least twice a year. And they are FLUFFEH. It costs me about 50.00 a piece but the groomer is INSIDE the vets office. Which means once a year I pay a kajillion dollards a piece because OH SHIT IT IS TIME FOR SHOTS. OY! So I guess – I don’t know what I recommend. Heh.

  14. The Mommy Therapy

    Definitely don’t go back. I mean, the drama just isn’t worth any amount of discount. Well, unless it was free and then I say let the people trim the dog anyway they like….more of less.

    My rule is to never use the groomer at the Pet Store. I feel like there is too good a chance that the person grooming was really supposed to be on register that day, or cleaning up the mice poop in cages. It really lowers my confidence that they are going to do anything well except for tying that adorable hankercheif around my dog’s neck.

    Good luck with the next visit…elsewhere.

  15. Stimey

    Poor puppy. Poor you. I also have had trouble finding a good groomer. I mean, I wash her myself in the summer and every time she needs general anesthesia, I have the vet cut her nails, so I really take her to the groomer maybe twice a year, but still. Those pet shop groomers are lame. The last time I took my dog, she’d pooped in her cage and they tried to give her back to me with poop on her fur. Which was soooo not the smell I hoped to come home with from the dog groomer. Maybe you could stand in front of the pet store some day and try to sell the groupon to unsuspecting customers.

  16. Crista

    We had a dog who went to the groomer when we couldn’t stand watching him lick his paws anymore–he hated the hair that grew between his toes! We tried to cut his foot hair a couple of times ourselves and only got snarled at for our troubles. We were kind of hesitant to take him to a groomer at first since he snarled at us when we touched his feet, but he was an absolute angel for the groomers. They always loved to see him come in the door :).

  17. Mamaspeak

    I second giving the coupon to someone you don’t like. I also recommend the dremel for nails. Have Otto do it, Licorice is not going to be fond of the noise, bug no bleeding (for you or the dog.)

  18. The Other Leanne

    A good groomer is hard to find, I know this because I lived with an especially talented one for several years. No animal ever had fear or loathing of that Dog Whisperer.
    Except me. Different story, moving on.
    Could this “hygienic shave” be the “pooper shoot” in the professional lingo of the trade?

  19. Atlantagirl

    I laughed at the comment about Licorice being able to scratch a child in the kitchen while she’s in the office! I had a really long, hard day, so that laugh was certainly needed!

  20. Pats

    Sanders will let me do anything to him. I hate doing nails, but have used a Pedi-paws thingy on him with no arguments. I think I need a new groomer…the groomer we have been using either forgets to do his nails, or clips them so short that he bleeds all over the place, and doesn’t even have the sense to TELL US.

  21. Paula Douglas

    I have a Samoyed – very thick double coat. Hard to groom. I’ve had groomers fire us. Finding a good groomer is very hard, but I have one! My dog Max is bathed 4 times a year – at a cost of $110 per visit – yes that’s right! And I TIP her on top of that because she is so good. Dog loving is not for the weary or the poor ;)

  22. bonuela

    i had a long haired guinea pig that had to be groomed twice a year. sure, it sounds extravagant,but he smelled pretty and they put his “bangs” up in a bow. heck, it was the only time i could tell his back from his front.

  23. Liz

    You might want to look into a mobile groomer. They come to you, on your schedule. You spare Licorice the car ride of doom. They aren’t distracted by six other dogs running around. They are just focused on your animal. You skip all the noise and extra stimulation that goes along with visiting a place full of stressed out dogs. For me, spending 10 dollars more to have the convenience was totally worth it.

  24. Ann from St. Peter MN

    I had a shit zu named Teddy that had to be groomed – and went a few times to what we eventually called the Nazi Groomer. That was a bust, so we ended up at the vet, who also had a groomer. It was great! Now I have Mollie the black lab, who needs nothing but toenails done occasionally at the vet. She has never had a bath, nor has she been brushed – because she is phobic about that and I am too chicken to force the issue. However, she is shiny and smells good – go figure! About twice each summer, I blast her with the hose out in the backyard (which she loves) and we are good to go!

  25. Michele Bardsley

    I have a shih tzu that requires regular grooming. I took him a couple of times to a local pet store and the last time they butchered him so badly, he had injuries (from the heat of the blades touching his skin). So then I went to a place my friend recommended, and they did a good job, but then they moved from their location, did some mobile thing for a while, and eventually found a new location … but I couldn’t keep up with all the changes and just gave up trying figure out where the dude went.

    Then I found out that my vet did grooming. My dog knows the people there, so not as much stress, and they did a terrific job. And it’s right by my house, so convenient, too. I love one-stop shops.

  26. Jennifer Hamilton

    I avoid grooming our dog at all costs. On one occasion when I was attempting to save some pennies, I clipped my Boston Terrier’s nails and about cut the tip of his toe off. It bled and bled and was a total mess. Not to mention my children thought that our poor Paulie was forever scarred. From then on, to the groomer we go. The few pennies that I saved doing it myself was not worth the stress of it all.

  27. Stacy Q

    It is nice to know our groomers aren’t the only ones who “forget” the “sanitary shave” thing…
    We have an 85 pound collie who HATES getting a bath. I have him groomed a couple of times a year, mostly for that sanitary shave and the between the toes shave, but it’s kind of frustrating how frequently the groomers skip something.

  28. Rocky Mountain Woman

    I had a groomer once who made my dog smell worse than he did before he was groomed! She used this perfume on him that stunk worse than his old wet hairy self did!

    I do miss him…though, smelly and a pain in the butt, but I still miss him..


  29. Jasmine

    Mir— I’ve been “lurking” your blog for awhile (I hate the word “lurking” though, it sounds so creepy) and I actually AM a dog groomer. When a person finds a good one, they NEVER let go because it’s a gold find. I know because customers will wait MONTHS to see me if that’s what it takes.. which is what it took while I was on maternity leave. Not bragging though, just making a point.

    I used to write for a pet website and if you decide to look for a new groomer, maybe it might give you some helpful tips.

    Also, just wanted to say you are such an example of compassion. It’s so apparent not only in your words, but in the types of readers and comments you attract. Such an inspiration! It even inspired me to recently start my own blog. Thanks for that :)

    Happy Momming, Mir! No doubt, if you continue to be as honest and loving to your very limits, as you do now, things will turn out A-ok in the end. :)

  30. Katie in MA

    Why is it that sometimes the most simplistic chores end up causing the most irritation? When you take Licorice back (because who would waste a coupon? that you PAID for?), make the appt for a time when you don’t have anything scheduled (yes, I hear you snickering) and remind the groomer of your experience last time. Gently inform her that if things don’t improve, you won’t be returning. And then, of course, never go back.

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest