Monday, July 8, 2013

Now Hiring Groomer

You know what is one of the toughest jobs to get someone for? Maybe you'd think it'd have to be ambulance driver, triage nurse, or mortician, something that involves the depths of human pain and suffering. Because who in their right mind, besides Mike Rowe, would want to do those jobs? Someone who's simply in it for the money, that's who! So, no, the toughest job to get someone for is none of those. It's actually ... dog groomer.

There's a dog washing business over on the other side of town that I sometimes drive by. And I've noticed, ever since I first saw the place a few years ago, that they have constantly had a sign in their window advertising for a dog groomer. I can only imagine what the problems are, but I'm sure my imagination isn't too far off the beam. And no doubt you know this for yourself. Because you don't have to think about it for even a second: You'd never want to be a dog groomer!

I have my own dog -- Underbrush -- and sometimes I have to groom her. I make the attempt. It's a thankless task, believe me. She has a dog's brain and doesn't understand that I'm trying to do something good for her, undo some of her tangles, the matting, and get out burrs and things. I named her Underbrush for a reason. It's like a thicket in there. For all I know, there's a hidden treasure in there somewhere, which no one will ever find. I've broken the heads off more than one shaver, and I've never once seen skin.

So if the problems you have with your own dog are legion, imagine for a second how terrible it'd be to handle someone else's dog. Dogs are a suspicious animal. They don't like strange hands near them. They're ever on their guard, looking to reach around and bite you off at the wrist. I've heard that the better dog washing businesses try to do their work in a holistic, respectful way, never putting a muzzle on the animal, but always trying to reason with it, or treat it so respectfully that it'll get the positive message and settle down. Fat chance, of course, which is why the muzzle's never too far from reach.

But the owner is standing there, watching his "little baby," in actuality a man-eater, and the groomer want-to-be has to use kid gloves, and baby the silly beast along as best as he can. Before they can get the muzzle, the owner, on average, has to witness four close calls, then they consent. Right there's a mark against the groomer trade, because it should be at least three strikes you're out. No one wants to put up with that. Four times the dog will get lucky.

Then the dog has usually been let go until it's too late to do any good. Because people are poor, their first instinct isn't to waste their money on dog grooming. It's only when they've thrown their hands up for the hundredth time, and given up, that they resort to the dog groomer. So our dog groomer -- this sad sack -- is sitting there and sees the dog come in, looking like an overgrown shrub with or without eyes. It's a thicket, like a giant sticker bush. In the amount of time they can allot to each dog and still make a profit, they can't make it. They'll be working forever, making the dog's owner grouchier. So if they think they're going to make back lost money on tips, they can forget it.

Probably the key thing we're up against here is that a dog is part of nature, like a grizzly bear. It was never meant to be babied and groomed. It was meant to live its life in the wild, and if its grooming became life-threatening, it simply died. Man has actually overcome a lot of the things of a dog's nature -- all the breeds of dogs we have, etc. -- but there's one thing you can't overcome, that grooming is foreign to their nature. Underbrush loves me to death, but she stares daggers if she sees the shaver...

Honestly, the best way to groom a dog is to leave it alone. I went hunting with a guy whose dog came out of the trees with a skunk in its jaws. That dog stunk something fierce. But do you think we could legitimately take it to a dog groomer to get cleaned? That'd be a farce. They can't find a dog groomer, for one; the sign says so. And even if they could, a dog with a skunk is going to fail the entrance exam.

The only way to groom that dog was to leave it there. My friend put his coat in the ditch, so the dog would have a reference point. Then we left. Three days later he went back. By now the dog had found a pond somewhere and bathed. Then he had rolled in the grass of a thousand fields -- we saw the burn-over left by the skunk fumes to prove it -- then he returned to the coat. He was good as new. No groomer would do all that!

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