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It’s hard to be a lefty in a righty world–and for once I’m not referring to politics

March 11, 2011

I’ve outgrown my scissors.

My grooming instructors warned that it would happen, but I didn’t believe them. The first time I held my eight-inch Dubl Duck straights in my hand, my thumb poked through the handle and the scissors hung limply from my fingers. Subsequently, each time I attempted to close the blades, the shears slipped over my knuckle to rest against the fleshy part between my thumb and forefinger–and believe me, it’s impossible to cut anything when that happens.

The awkwardness I experienced upon attempting to actually use my shears shouldn’t have been all that surprising, though, because as it turns out, I’ve been holding scissors incorrectly my entire life. (Clearly, my elementary school art teacher failed me. But then again, he was legally blind, so I suppose it isn’t entirely his fault. What’s that, you ask? Who hires blind art teachers? Catholic schools, that’s who.) But anyway, yeah–you’re supposed to hold scissors with your thumb and ring finger, not with your thumb and index finger, which is how I’d always done it. Also, you’re supposed to use only your thumb when opening and closing your blades to help reduce hand fatigue and carpel tunnel. Who knew?

I wonder if my failure to correctly hold scissors has anything to do with being left-handed, which is how I justify the way I tie shoes. Yes, I still use the “bunny-ear” method–what’s your point? Not to get all martyr-like, but it isn’t easy to be a “lefty” in a “righty” world. When my parents tried to teach me to to tie shoes the traditional way, it only resulted in tears and frustration. I also blame my left-handedness on never learning to knit (despite my grandmother’s best efforts) and nearly flunking the knot-tying portion of my high school outdoor education class. Come to think of it, it’s likely the reason I hate math, and it’s probably responsible for natural disasters and world hunger, too.

What was I talking about again? Oh, right. Scissors.

So there I was at grooming school, wrestling with an ungainly pair of shears and silently cursing my intense clumsiness. The scissors were only eight inches long, but I may as well have been trying to hold a javelin. (Incidentally, I’ve never actually held a javelin, but I imagine it would be quite ungainly. I did, however, throw a tomahawk one year at the Ohio Pawpaw Festival.) It doesn’t help that my hands are approximately the size of a hobbit’s, so even when I fully extend my thumb and ring finger, the blades don’t open very far.

It isn’t easy being me.

I ended up practicing a lot at home using a duster. One night–much to Jenn’s dismay–I scissored through two entire episodes of Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit. By the time I finished, the couch, my clothes, and my cat were all covered in an itchy dusting of lamb’s wool. I was told that, henceforth, I’d be honing my scissoring skills on the back porch–or else.

This is Victor. He used to have a sister named Victoria. I saw the movie "Victor/Victoria" when I was eight, which prompted the inevitable question: Mom, what's a homosexual?

I’ve been grooming for nearly five months now, and despite my initial struggles, I’ve gradually gotten to the point where my eight-inch shears are just not big enough. The shorter your blades, the more cuts you need to make. And when you’re scissoring a tall dog like a poodle or a long-legged terrier, the fewer swipes you take, the better.

Luckily, there are plenty of extra pairs of shears at the school that I can borrow. But graduation is less than a month away, and that means I need to begin investing in my own equipment–again.

Most recently, I discovered the joys of curved shears, which proved to be tremendously helpful in cutting a bichon‘s head the other day. Curved blades are hugely beneficial when scissoring topknots, faces, ears, feet, and rumps, and when turned upside down, they help set angulation, tuck-ups, and underchests. I want some.

Back in November, I attended the New England Pet Grooming Professionals (NEPGP) expo in Warwick, Rhode Island. I’d only been in school for a few weeks, and I was completely overwhelmed by the selection of vendors. Despite encouragement from Susan, I decided not to purchase any scissors at the show. I’d just made a tuition payment, in addition to buying all of my equipment for school. Besides, I was so new to the game that I couldn’t tell a good pair of shears from a bad one–at that point, everything felt awkward.

Now I’m kind of irritated that I didn’t buy when I had the chance. My frustration was further elevated when I learned that I’ll be out of town during the NEPGP summer expo. However, New Jersey’s Intergroom is happening the weekend after I graduate, and that means Jenn and I will be taking a road trip to the Garden State. The event features more than 150 vendors and 30 seminars, in addition to a number of grooming competitions. I’m not ready to compete by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m looking forward to watching.

In other news, I shaved down a golden retriever last week, at the owner’s request, of course. I’ve done golden shave-downs before, but always with a snap-on comb. This time I used a 7F blade–again, per the owner’s request. I don’t especially like the look. What do you all think?

I will never do this to my golden retriever.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2011 3:50 pm

    I’ve shaved down just about every breed of dog imaginable at “customer’s request”. The most difficult…a Great Pyrenees using a #10 to get under the solild matted coat. The most silly…a pug. She looks good…you did a very good job blending down the ears and head to body on this Golden.

    • March 12, 2011 4:06 pm

      Thanks, Eldy. I can’t imagine shaving a pug. What did you end up using–a 40 blade? I haven’t gotten too many shave-downs at school, but I’m leaving for Ohio in April to “apprentice” at my friend’s shop for a month, and Kristi assures me that I’ll get plenty of experience using my clippers. It’s been such a bad winter that no one has had their dogs groomed in months. Now their dogs are all matted and they want appointments like, yesterday.

  2. April 3, 2011 9:07 pm

    I just found your blog and enjoyed reading it very much. I have to compliment you on your Bichon head, VERY nice! Your shave on the Golden was very nice and smooth, although I do everything I can to talk my customers out of shaving a Golden, I can’t stand the way they look. 🙂 One of my big pet peeves; why get a long hair breed if you are going to shave it’s beautiful coat off?
    I am also left handed. When I went to grooming school, 100 years ago, they did not have left handed shears for me, so to this day I scissor right handed. I have always wondered what my scissoring would look like if I would take the time to train myself with a good pair of Left handed shears.
    Keep up the good work. I look forward to reading more of your blog, it’s on my favorites now. If you have the time you could visit my grooming blog if you would like…

    • April 3, 2011 10:44 pm

      Lisa, thanks so much for your feedback. I checked out the most recent posts on your blog, and I’m VERY excited to read more. I’ve been searching for a comprehensive and regularly updated grooming blog for a while. So many of the blogs I find are outdated or sparse when it comes to details.

      I’m impressed that you’ve learned to groom right-handed. Although I have to say, I’m getting pretty good at using my right hand. It’s nice to be able to switch off, depending on what side I’m grooming. So I guess you could say that being left-handed has worked to my advantage. Those hard-to-reach angles aren’t so hard when you can use both hands.

      I’m headed to Intergroom in a few weeks, and I’m looking forward to finding some left-handed shears. You’ve been in the business for a while. What brand do you recommend? I know that you use right-handed shears, but is there one company you prefer over others?

      • April 4, 2011 9:34 pm

        Hi Vicky, I know what you mean about finding grooming blogs that are up to date. Even though I decided to start writing a grooming blog I am always searching for other grooming blogs. If you don’t already visit the website, is a great place to go to read groomer forums and ask questions.
        When I started my blog I wanted to keep it simple. Some of the grooming blogs I have read get what too technical. I am a pet groomer, I groom for the owner and the comfort of the dog. I leave the technical stuff for when I compete. lol
        As for the scissors, I like the Heritage grooming scissors
        I don’t like heavy shears. These are a nice weight for me. Especially since I do most of my scissoring with 10″ shears. Spend your time at Intergroom testing ALL of the scissor, it’s fun. Take a baggie full of clean dog hair, and test those scissors. Most vendors are good about letting you test them. Some also have hair on hand. I have never bought the $ 150-300 scissors, because I would lay down and cry for a week if I dropped them or a dog kicked them out of my hand. Heritage also offers lifetime sharpening for free, but I am not sure if they have left handed scissors. I still groom left handed, just not scissoring. I have been too chicken to try after all of these years. LOL Sorry this reply was so long, I can be long winded. 🙂

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