“A beginner's guide to” is the weekly column that sees Geraldine Carton hurtle herself out of her comfort zone, and report back on how she got on. This week, she tried dog grooming for a day.
I am someone who loves dogs. In school I stayed home the day after my childhood dog Jasper died, such was my level of distress. If you flash forward to today you’ll note that my current dog, Jimmy now takes up a hefty percentage of my Instagram page.
As much as I like dogs, however, the thought of having to clean them, and attempt to wield scissors upon their unruly mane, does not appeal. With this in mind it was decided that I should give dog grooming a go for this week’s A first time for everything column. Thankfully the team at Mutt Ugly were kind enough to let me give it a whirl – and Jimmy was allowed to come along too!
Before I continue, I should mention that Jimmy is what you’d call a “character”. This is a dog that does not like eye contact; he doesn’t engage with other dogs; doesn’t like it when people touch his tail; and he does not like going on walks. He is a dog-shaped enigma.
Jimmy did not want to walk to the groomers, which meant some coaxing and dragging had to be done to simply get us on the road. He then gave-up, leaving me to carry him the rest of the way. Did I mention that it was 23 degrees?
And so I arrived frazzled, and if I’m being honest, a bit pongy. It was a stroke of luck that our destination was a dog groomers, where the smell of wet dogs overpowers any human pong. Or so I hoped.
The Mutt Ugly groomers: Eva, Lisa and Lauren
Meet the crew
Lisa Kearney is the owner of Mutt Ugly and runs her Charlemont Street store with the help of a small, dedicated team of fellow dog-lovers. Upon arriving through the bright blue shop front, I was greeted by Lisa and a big, bouncing, permed pooch called Bently. Bently looked like the kind of dog who pranced around a well-clipped garden all day long. In actuality, he was a service dog for children with autism. Don't judge a book, eh?
There were four other dogs behind the desk; all manner of sizes and bark pitch. As I put Jimmy down amongst them, one furry pup came bounding over for a sniff. Like a parent at their child’s first day of school, I hoped that Jimmy would make friends; unfortunately, his obvious contempt for the dog’s existence said otherwise.
Around the back, two dogs were propped up on large silver tables; the groomers tending to their fur. One of the dogs, a gorgeous red setter, was shaking. The groomer was taking his time; snipping gently and petting at frequent intervals, but still the dog could not be soothed. I imagined that she must have overheard her owner requesting a hideous hairstyle on her behalf.
Learning the ropes
First there was the washing bit; which included all manner of shampoos, and de-tangling lathers. Jimmy was surprisingly calm in the massive stainless steel bath and seemed to enjoy the free head massage that came with the shampooing process.
Next came the machine that looked like a hoover, but blasted out air like a high voltage hair dryer. This is used to get the majority of the water off the dog before the more gentle “fluff-dry” machine is wheeled out. The contraption gave Jimmy the Mariah-Carey-blowing-hair look circa 2004, which suited his diva personality impeccably.
Only when Lisa deemed his fur dry enough did the clipping and snipping commence. The amount of precision and attention that is required here is mind-boggling. Dog groomers must have nerves of steel to maneuver such sharp scissors on an often-moving dog. I had to look away when she went to cut the hair around Jimmy’s eyes, but she snipped on without so much as a wince.
The grooming experience then finished with a few spritzes of a heavenly musk; a “pooch perfume”, if you will.
It wasn’t until I asked Lisa whether she gets any outrageous grooming requests from customers, that she winced. She told me about dogs coming in with completely matted hair, experiencing considerable discomfort as a result, and that often the only way to resolve the problem is to shear all the hair off. This seemed straightforward to me, but Lisa relayed stories of customers insisting that their pet’s hair not be under any circumstances cut short, even if it meant that little Clifford or Fifi had to suffer constantly pinched skin.
“And sure then there’s always the random request of a dog mohawk, or something along those lines, but that's just a bit of fun!”.
When I probed for insights on their worst experiences with the dogs over the years, one girl recalled the time a giant dog mounted her and tried to hump her from behind; it’s nails leaving lacerations all down her arms and shoulders. Other dogs, I was told, are so aggressive that the muzzle doesn’t even cut it; they have to be drugged and made unconscious in the vet next door before being carried in for a trim. What it’s like grooming an unconscious beast?
“It’s weird. It feels like grooming a dead dog. I’m constantly checking its pulse throughout to make sure it is actually still alive!”
Dog groomers deserve our utmost respect
My experience at Mutt Ugly left me filled with a huge level of newfound respect for dog groomers; this is a profession that requires an incredible amount of patience, a solid focus, strong arms and a limitless affection for the humble hound.
Dog groomers come away from a day’s work absolutely exhausted, but no matter how many times their hands are nipped at, or how vigorously a dog might try to hump them, they still return every day, ready to give top quality care to our beloved pooches. For that, I think you’ll agree, they deserve a big round of a-paws.
Geraldine Carton and Jimmy were guests of Mutt Ugly.
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