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And today I groomed a cav-poo who thought he was a pill bug

January 13, 2011

I’ve been in grooming school for three months now, and during that time I’ve come to learn that there are very few dogs who stand perfectly still while on the table. You have the sitters. And the prancers and the spinners. There are the toy breeds who try to claw their way up your arm so they can hide themselves in your neck, and the terriers who yank their feet away every time you touch them. Golden retrievers like to lean. Poodles are prone to dancing off the side of the table, and pugs send themselves into a snorting fit if you try to trim their nails.

And then there was the dog I groomed today, a cavalier King Charles spaniel/poodle, also known as a cav-poo, named Skippy. While the name might lead one to believe that he has something akin to a bouncing personality, this assumption would be dead wrong.

When curled up atop my grooming table, Skippy bore an eerie resemblance to the armadillidium vulgare, more commonly known as the pill bug or roly poly.

Here’s how the day went down: I placed Skippy on the grooming table to dry him. No sooner had I picked up the high-V, he laid down and curled himself into a tight ball–kind of like those hard-shelled bugs that live under rocks and coil up if you poke them. Now, generally when this happens, I reposition the dog and lightly place my hand on its underbelly. For some reason, the mere sensation of my hand on the dog’s stomach acts as a deterant from sitting down again. But Skippy was having none of that. So I tried a different tactic, wrapping my arm around his belly and holding him up while simultaneously pulling him tightly against me. That way, I reasoned, he could lean against me while I dried his opposite side. His reponse was to stand on his head. I managed to get my little contortionist dry, but I knew that grooming him would be next to impossible.

“Is Skippy really old?” I asked Jaque. “Nope,” she said. “Does he have hip or joint problems?” She shook her head. I glanced down at the black-and-white lump on my grooming table and sighed. “Is there any physical reason that he curls up like a pill bug whenever I touch him?” She gave me an amused smile. “No, that’s just his thing.” “Awesome,” I muttered, slipping a leash over his head to take him for a potty walk.

Outside, Skippy was a completely different dog, bounding across the snow and snuffling it with his nose. I let him have his fun, because I knew that as soon as we went back inside I was busting out the Groomers Helper.

Invented by 20-year pet-industry veteran Chuck Simons, the Groomers Helper is a system of loops, clamps, and tethers that eliminates sitting, spinning, biting, and head dropping through a series of six positions. I watched a demonstration of the Groomers Helper during last fall’s New England Pet Grooming Professionals expo, and I was eager to try out the product.

I wasn’t disappointed. Once I’d rigged up Skippy, it didn’t take long to groom him at all. I wouldn’t want to use the the system on every dog–I think it would be more trouble than it’s worth for most–but for the sitters, spinners, dancers, and nippers, I can certainly understand why it’s a time-saving device.

The Groomers Helper may look like a medieval torture device, but it's perfectly harmless. And there's no way I could have groomed Skippy without it.


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