Writing about older pets in last week’s column brought to mind many of the older dogs I have groomed as “Grooming by Til” and now groom here at Brouse Loop Kennels. Many of these old-timers have been getting their haircuts and baths for many years. Some I have seen from puppyhood, through youth and middle-age and now in their sunset years. Puppies are a challenge as they learn good manners and cooperation and mature dogs are easier and sometime we get to do something fancy. With elderly dogs, shoulders and elbows are stiff and sore when I am lifting legs to shave or scissor, brushing and clipping is more difficult because of lumps and bumps and nails grow longer as pets become less active.
I groom several generations of dogs with the pets from the Tarasoff family. Gloria Tarasoff and her daughter, Annette, take very good care of their four Shih Tzu crosses. I pick the dogs up for a bath and haircut once per month. The Shih Tzu is a small long-coated breed with a sturdy body, short face and large round eyes. Shih Tzu’s are considered a non-shedding breed with two coats: a long silky guard coat which grows continuously, somewhat like human hair, and then a thick, wooly undercoat which is shorter and thicker.
Non-shedding breeds do actually shed but the loose hair gets caught in the longer coat. This loose hair must be combed out or it will become matted. Like felted wool, matts can form tight to the skin, sometimes wrapping themselves around the legs and body, especially if the dogs are bathed without being thoroughly brushed. By this time, they are difficult to comb through. Clippers do not cut through matts but must cut underneath the mats, as a result the coat must be clipped short or else it must be de-matted, a long and painful experience for the dog (and groomer) in which each matt is cut in half with scissors and then separated with a “slicker brush” and comb until the undercoat is completely removed. The final result is often a bit “moth-eaten” in appearance and the dog’s skin is usually irritated. If possible prevention of matts is best so grooming regularly and often is a good idea for any of the non-shedding breeds.
The four Tarasoff dogs are 12-year-old Barney, four-year-old Jenny and Jenny’s two-year-old sons, Jake and Billy. Jake and Billy are the easy ones. They get a simple haircut, short but not too short with a short moustache and beard, nails trimmed, ears cleaned, and a good scrub during which their anal glands are expressed. Then they are blown dry and they are re-trimmed for neatness especially the feet, face and butt. Jenny is a little more exotic with a short face and feet, longish on the top of her head and very long on her back and legs like the mop-like show-dogs you see on TV. Barney is clipped short but as the eldest dog, he is the one who takes extra care: clipping carefully between sore and stiff feet and toes, clipping around looser lips from missing or sore teeth, and taking care while clipping the tummy and groin because of sore knees and hips. He also tends to get clipper rash so it is important that he is not cut too short in the tummy and groin.
Pick-up day for the Tarasoff dogs, gives me a workout as a groomer. I get to do the full range of trims and the raison d’etre for the dog groomer: the short and sensible, the long and lush, and extra care for the elderly dog. After 33 years as a dog groomer, I still enjoy the dogs.