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Finding Nemo’s perfect haircut

March 23, 2011

It all started back in December, when I came home from school one afternoon and abducted my neighbor’s shih tzu, Nemo. I didn’t have a grooming table, so I plunked him on the kitchen counter and went to work. I’d only been in grooming school for five weeks, and I’d barely done any haircuts. But Nemo was getting ready to spend six weeks in Vermont while his family traveled to Cambodia, so his moms asked me to “tidy him up.” Looking back at the photos, I’m not entirely sure you could say that’s what I did, because I honestly can’t tell much of a difference between the before-and-after pictures. But it was my first attempt at grooming a dog outside of school (aside from the butcher job I did on my golden retriever at Thanksgiving), and I was overly cautious. I used an orange snap-on comb on his body and scissored his legs. By the time I got around to his face, the poor guy had been on the counter for nearly three hours, and his restlessness–combined with my inexperience–resulted in a less-than-stellar final product. But hey, I give myself props for trying.

Attempt 1: Don’t feel badly if you can’t see any difference between these haircuts. I can’t, either.

My next attempt at grooming Nemo came in January, after he’d taken up the hippie lifestyle in Vermont. This time I used a blue snap-on comb on both his body and legs. I also scissored his legs and face. The second groom was far better than the first, but I had a long way to go, particularly on his face. It also took about three hours to do.

Attempt 2: A definite improvement over Attempt 1.

The third attempt took less time, most likely because I didn’t scissor his legs at all. Also, halfway through, Kathy came home with her sister, 13-year old daughter, and four- and six-year-old niece and nephew, so Nemo and I were both a bit distracted. Kathy asked me to round out his face–I believe, her exact words were “get rid of the chops”–but try as I might, I could not get it to look right. I used an orange snap-on comb again, leaving more length on his body. I also didn’t touch his ears because Kathy wants to let them grow out.

Attempt 3: I wasn’t particularly happy with this groom. I thought he looked scruffy. But his face looked a little better this time.

The next time I groomed Nemo, I took him to school with me. This in and of itself presented a huge advantage because A) I could bathe him with the Oster Power Bather and the Prima, thereby ensuring he was thoroughly clean B) I had access to whitening shampoo and conditioner, C) I could dry him with a high-velocity dryer and brush him while using the stand dryer, tools which brought out the natural shine and silkiness of his coat, and D) I had access to an actual grooming table and CURVED(!) scissors. Oh, and most importantly, my instructors were on hand to answer questions and give feedback. In total, it took about two hours from the time I put him in the tub to the time I finished. I used a blue snap-on comb on his body and scissored his legs with CURVED(!) shears. Jaque’s only feedback for his body was to tighten his rump, inner legs, and shoulders. I called her back over when I was ready to tackle his face. She did one side, and I did the other.

Attempt 4: Definitely my best work yet. It's amazing what a difference good product and the right equipment makes.

I was pretty shocked when I put together the photo compilation below. Those are some pretty drastic improvements over four months.

Whoa, huh?

Disclaimer: Ordinarily, I don’t go for hair color, but Nemo’s sister Leah loves it, so I gave him some stencils and lots of sparkles. Maybe I’ll paint him like a clownfish for Halloween this year.

In other news, we’ve been focusing a lot on terriers at school lately–probably my least-favorite group. I’m really struggling with the patterns. But here are some examples of my recent work.

My first attempt at grooming a Westie.

This is Kippy, a Parson Russell mix who belongs to my friends Shona and Robin. Kippy is a “special needs” client. He typically wears “facial attire” when I groom him.

My first attempt at grooming a wire fox terrier.

And speaking of wire fox terriers… back in college, I used to take care of one named Reggie. He was buddies with my cat, Edward. So, for the sake of nostalgia, here’s a picture of the two of them hanging out at Designer Dog, the shop where I used to work. See, Edward thought he was a dog even back then.

Edward and Reggie, circa 2002.
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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2011 10:11 pm

    Way to go “groomer girl.” I don’t exactly–well, not at all really–like the painting of anything that walks on four legs. Though Edward, with like bright electric blue or purple hair, might be funny. I could NEVER bring myself to do it. To each his/her own. Whatever blows your fur up, I suppose! Anyway, way to go, Vic. Can’t wait to get you some more equipment. Did I mention I love shopping? I’ll stand back and say, “Oh, that is the one, those scissors look fabulous with those shoes and that bandana.”

  2. March 24, 2011 4:34 pm

    I so enjoy before and after shots. This series of your developing skills with Nemo is no exception. As for the Terrier group…they sure can be terrorists in their own right. Once you master the patterns you’ll love the simplicity of their breed trims. Good work!

  3. Robin permalink
    March 29, 2011 5:02 pm

    Go Vicky! I love Nemo’s new look. The cut is great.
    I’m not crazy about stencling, but subtle fur tinting is cute.
    I like the streaks of purple on Nemo’s head and ears.

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