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Pantops Pet Salon & Spa
Charlottesville's Professional Dog Grooming

It's what we do -- it's all we do.

(434) 293-2424
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Charlottesville, VA 22911

Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

Winter Newsletter 2010

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 by Mike Cronk

Happy Holidays from Pantops Pet Salon!  With Christmas right around the corner, it is time to get dolled up for the holidays! Please take advantage of our $5 off coupon for the first part of December, as well as our Saturday hours for the Holidays!  We hope the season is treating you well this year, and look forward to seeing you soon!!

Our Holiday Hours are as follows:

Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we open at 7:30 a.m.

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday we open at 8:00 a.m.

We are closed when the last appointment leaves, so we are flexible!

We will be closed December 25-28th, and January 1-3, and resume normal business hours on January 4, 2011. 

Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year! Laura

Volunteering at Dogtown

Sunday, December 27th, 2009 by Jenna

My friend Erika recently took a trip out to Kanab, Utah to hang out with the four-legged stars of National Geographic’s show, “Dogtown.” The show takes place in the canine section of Best Friends Animal Society, the largest no-kill sanctuary in the US. Their 25th anniversary was this year and with support from volunteers, they have become a 90 acre home to 1,700 dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, and more. Each animal is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by twelve counselors who either decide to accept the animal or find other alternates to offer. Best Friends specializes in the unique care required to rehabilitate tough cases–animals otherwise considered to be “unadoptable” because they are too old, too ill, or too unsociable like the dogs they rescued from Michael Vick. Some of their animals find new homes in a few weeks while others need long-term, sometimes permanent care.

Erika took a tour around the different sections of the facility and saw several people from the TV show as she visited a variety of animals including pigs and horses! She said she saw volunteers feeding the pigs popcorn and that there were harnesses for taking them out on walks. She choose to volunteer with the dogs–you can spend as little or as much time as you’d like and even do doggie sleepovers. She choose to take Harley, an Australian Cattle Dog and he turned out to be quite the celebrity around Kanab. While she was walking him, a guy eating at a restaurant ran out to say hi and when she took Harley out to dinner with her, even the owner knew him. Harley was very well behaved though Erika mentioned that Best Friends has such a specific training program that they tell you not to do any training with the dogs because it might interfere with their process. She tried to take Harley for a jog too but he was real relaxed and didn’t seem to understand why this crazy lady kept trying to get him to run!

What a great vacation! She got the gorgeous backdrop of the canyons and helped brighten Harley’s day with affection and exercise.

Check out more about Dogtown on the Best Friends website. You can follow blogs and the progess of dogs seen on the TV show or join in some of the workshops they offer including a week-long intensive seminar on starting an animal sanctuary, Behavior and Handling classes, art and even Jin Shin Jyutsu for your dog.

Remembering Alaska

Sunday, December 27th, 2009 by Mike Cronk

Cold weather and snow always kick start my memory of living in Alaska in the early ’50′s. My Dad was career Army and stationed in Fairbanks. At the time he was a Captain in charge of a company, so he was gone for training 24-7. That left Mom and four children living in a log cabin which was heated by a coal fired stove. It was rough going, but we didn’t know it since everybody we knew lived the same as we did. This was before T.V., so we didn’t know what we were missing. We dealt with the nine months of winter and three months of summer that was more like spring. I remember going and coming from school in the dark- the sun came up about 9:00, and was going south around 3:00. On the other hand, in the summer we were playing in daylight as late as 10:00PM!!

I don’t remember much but with out a doubt, one of my stongest memories was of the care and treatment of dogs at that time and in that place. We didn’t own a dog, but many neighbors did. Most were kept on a chain attached to a dog house. Alaska is the home of the sled dog, and the packs were cared for purely as working dogs. Even today, most Huskys and Malamutes are chained up to the doghouses and the poop and pee freezes for a nice brown and yellow mess. When the snow was 2-3 feet deep, the dogs actually tunneled to their houses- chain and all!

Given our perspective with the companion dog environment (where FiFi sleeps in our bed, sits on the couch and is served chopped chicken over rice), the Alasken dog owner would be reported to the humane society with a recommendation that they be chained to a dog house buried deep in the snow. But these ancestors of the wolf existed naturally in far harsher conditions. At one time, they raised their young in an earthen den, and traveled thousands of miles during the day in a pack, hunting everything from mice to baby elk. Life was rough, and a case of pure survival. Maybe having someone provide food and water and blankets in a doghouse for a sleigh ride isn’t so bad after all!

But I still am a little haunted when I remember those burrows deep in the snow, knowing one of my favorite animals lay below.

Our Evolving Relationship

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 by Mike Cronk

~ Not “Just a Dog” ~

As society has progressed so has our relationship with dogs. For over a thousand years dogs were kept and trained to hunt, guard, rescue, find and retrieve. While technology has developed to fulfill some of those tasks and others are no longer essential for our survival, the dog has not become obsolete. We’ve grown from a communal society to an individualistic society. Families may live on opposite sides of the country and children move out often to live alone, at least at first. This leaves us with a need for companionship that the dog has stepped in to fill throughout the length of our lifespan. This endearment with dogs is getting deeper with every passing year. Breeders are breeding for friendliness just as they do a sense of smell or sight. With effort, Pit Bulls will have their aggressive nature bred out of them as only the most gentle are bred in the future.

It is not unusual to get a Christmas card signed by parents, children and Fido. Even the President of the United States had to decide on a “First Dog” within short order of raising his right hand. That event alone has raised the Portuguese Water Dog to such notoriety that breeding is lagging far behind demand. Remember when Eddie Murphy starred in Dr. Doolittle years ago and we were treated to the animals talking? Now movies and commercials regularly use anthropomorphic (anthro-human, morph-shape) dogs as a critical part of their entertainment and message. The more we humanize dogs, the more we expect and yes, demand that they be treated “humanely.”

~ Endearment through our Life Stages ~

I.  Single

With marriage happening later in life, young single people may take a dog in for company. With nothing else to compete with, the dog is the reliable go-to partner in everything from exercise to lazing around on the couch. A requirement for future relationships quickly becomes “love me, love my dog.” Rather than being a farm dog sleeping outside with the fleas, the dog may find himself welcome on the bed. As a partner in so much, the dog early on establishes a relationship of companionship that blurs the line between pet and friend. When the dog comes first, he often remains #1 or close to it. When I was starting out as a captain in the army, I got my pick of dogs and started with a German Shepard named Duke–macho guy, macho career, macho dog.


II.  Marriage

The first thing my wife and I did upon returning from our honeymoon was get a dog. We were planning on starting our family right away, but the dog came first. Without any other demands on us outside our jobs, he was the child substitute and thus the focus of our affection. We behaved similarly to young couples I meet today during the grooming process who do trips to the park, running, hiking, couch sitting, and even bed sharing. Anything the dog wants, he gets–almost to a fault. And all we want in return is some basic obedience–and a lick in the face. As long as there are no children, this bond remains strong and increases with time.

Jenna adds: For those who take on a dog before a spouse or with a fiance, the answer to “should my best friend be included in my wedding” is more and more frequently becoming an emphatic “yes!” As you can see in the picture, my friend Ruxandra and her husband included their dogs not just at the wedding but as part of their wedding party. A picture of their dogs was even used as the cover of their invitations. “The Associated Press” recently published an article that includes tips for owners who want to include their dog in their wedding.


Stage III.  Family

The only competition your dog has before kids is either a partner or demanding job but then comes child #1. Having kids tends to put our dogs back in perspective as pets rather than human substitutes. Over the years, Scruffy the Cairn Terrier, Sugar the Cocker and Margaret our Scottie joined us–all great family dogs but more a side show to raising and trying to feed four children. When the kids were in their teens I switched to my “impression making” breed and gentle giant, the Great Dane.

When my young lady customers get pregnant, I congratulate them but I can’t help teasing them a little bit that their dog will soon get bumped down the ladder of priorities. This is adamantly denied–not their Fifi! But more often than not that’s exactly what happens. Baby is number one and Fifi competes for attention. Fifi goes from the expensive hand scissored haircut, aromatherapy and satin pillow to a short utility cut for easy maintenance and cleanliness around Baby. Fifi better watch out or she’ll be staying in the kitchen behind a child’s gate. Then the barking begins and the demand for the attention we craved from the dog a year ago becomes a pain in the butt!


Stage IV. Seniors

Hey all you Baby Boomers, remember when you were in your 40s and your parents in their 60s were called “senior citizens” and you thought that was appropriate because, after all, they did look older. How about that medicine cabinet–my folks both looked like they had stock in pharmaceutical companies–pills galore! Well hello grey hair, sore joints and age spots. By the time I finish taking my pills in the morning, there’s no room for breakfast! My favorite song since I turned 63 is Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.” Without the kids around, we come back to the dog to be our companion and help us through life.

So comes my relationship with Lizzie, my Golden. Boy do I like that dog! As you can imagine, I’ve always had a strong fondness for dogs, hence the career. The better behaved, the closer the relationship. She is certainly the best mannered dog I have ever owned; no barking, heels well on and off lead, gentle and loving with everyone. The key to her endearment to me? An intense desire to please. When it comes to training, I never had to use treats or coax her to learn–she wanted to make me happy so much she learned quickly and was exceptionally happy with her reward of praise and a good petting. Bottom line is this dog is nothing but pure fun and both my wife and I are increasingly crazy about her. When you combine this with the absence of our children, I find myself getting way too attached–this one’s got me “hook, line and sinker.” Not having experienced “Stage IV” before or understood how these little old couples walking their dog in the park seemed so enamored with them, now I know. It is a predicted course when you get the right dog at the right time and if you happen to hit a home run, dog ownership provides great pleasure. Stage IV is a ball!

~What does this mean for us Financially?~

You wouldn’t give a squirrel a flea bath, or would you? As you can see in our Over-accessorizing article, we’ve gone far beyond supplying dogs their basic necessities. The retail industry has capitalized on our complex relationship in order to sell us raincoats, booties (can you imagine a farmer worrying whether his Border Collie might get rained on?) and all manner of toys geared more toward us than toward our dogs. In 1994 it is estimated that consumers spent $17 billion on their pets. In 2008? $43 billion with an estimate of $45 for 2009. There is a lot of social pressure urging us to give our dogs the best of the best if we really love them as companions and not “just dogs.”

This leads to the question of medical care. A farmer had no need to keep a dog around if he couldn’t work and while we might have some sympathy for a wild animal that appears sick there are few people who would spend their family’s money to take every raccoon in to see a veterinarian. But our dogs are our family members and the veterinary profession has evolved to accommodate our emotional attachment to them. Not too long ago, a dog just received a rabies shot and only got a check up when very sick. Now you have annual shots and office visits, heart worm medication, preventative flea and tick treatments–the list goes on and on, growing every year. Just last week I saw in the nightly news that dogs are now receiving MRIs.

Instead of veterinarians having a general practice, there are now specialists in orthopedics, oncology, urology, etc. Veterinary clinics have become veterinary hospitals. Treatment for cancer or a hip replacement is no longer out of the realm of possible treatment but will sometimes be an expectation. Just a few years ago, we complained about vet visits that cost up to $100. Now we’re lucky to get out having spent only $200-300. And the grooming profession is not far behind. Brushed your dog’s teeth lately? Does Fifi come in for an aromatherapy treatment, pedicure and mud wrap to boot? And, oh by the way, we can color your poodle pink and paint her nails too! Nothing a groomer, vet or pet store owner would like more than to make you feel guilty if you didn’t spent the time and money lining their pockets paying for products and services your dog just can’t live without. Where do we draw the line?

When it comes to things as outlandish as diamond ring shaped squeaky toys and multi-level luxury dog houses, it’s easier to say no than when dealing with health care expenses. No one wants their companion to suffer. But the cost for treatment has risen dramatically. Having enough cash on hand to cover treatment costing several thousand dollars is going to be a struggle for most of us, especially in these hard economic times. Hello pet health insurance. While it’s not a new industry, its purchase and use is not that common but it soon will be. Choices involving general treatment, major medical and deductible amount can cause prices to vary but by and large $50/month is the magic number. That is $600 more you would need to put in your annual budget. I don’t have pet insurance but if I had been paying it, I would have spent $1500 since Lizzie is now two and a half years old. If she stays healthy for another two and a half years the cost of insurance would be $3,000. What to do? Nothing and run the risk of early injury that I can’t afford, saving $50 a month in hope that she will be a healthy dog and in five years have $3000 to use for her or the rest of the family? Or pay $50 a month for insurance just as we do for our own health, a car, our home, etc. If things keep going as they are, no doubt I will opt for insurance in the near future-after all, we are talking about Lizzie here! Then again, maybe Obama can put universal health care for dogs on his to-do list. Was that a collective sigh of disgust I just heard from the Republicans and a “right on” on behalf of the Democrats? It’s nice to be an Independent.

~ What does this mean for us Morally? ~

We have a lot of difficult choices to make. If our relationship with dogs is equal to human companionship, should we be making them home-cooked meals or is kibble still “good enough”? Do you want your dog to have a salon style hair cut for her birthday? Is she going to be dressed to the nines at your side on your wedding day? How many children can you afford once you’ve budgeted for your dog? How many toys do we buy to make up for spending time at work? Is preventive treatment necessary and if not, what’s more important than the comfort of our family members? What if your dog falls short of expectations either mentally or physically, is it right for owners to be subjugated to their care and well being regardless of the return?

This confusion revolves around one main idea–what value do we place on dogs?

Are they less than human, equal to, or better than us? Do all God’s creatures really have a soul? Do they go to Heaven? Shouldn’t we spend time and money on them just as we would ourselves and maybe more since they are dependent on us? It’s bad enough I have to debate whether there is a God, Heaven or everlasting life for me, but now I wonder just what’s in store for my dog, Lizzie. As much as we may not like it today, not too many years ago the working dog was “gotten rid of” if they failed to learn quickly and do their job. Do we really think the sheepherder would keep a bad dog who failed at his work? It was hard enough feeding a family, much less a worthless dog. It would be replaced. Fast forward to the Michael Vick Saga. We bent over backwards to save the fifty or so Pit Bulls he trained for fighting in an effort to find them new homes and spent hours and lots of money on rehabilitating them. PETA would say “right on”-others would want the money spent on homeless children in Africa. But now our dog is no longer a mutt who sleeps under the house and is fed scraps. The dog is a family member and we really hope that “all dogs go to Heaven.”

So we’re caught in a period of transition and deciding what moral path to choose won’t be easy. We wouldn’t let a dog suffer in old age without “putting them to sleep,” but we allow our eighty-five year old parents to suffer from lung cancer for days and weeks, hyped up on morphine to ease the pain until they finally succumb to their last breath. Been there, done that, and it wasn’t fun. The answers won’t come easy and they will be accompanied with ever increasing costs.


Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 by Mike Cronk

The pet industry is really hot right now. Animal Planet and Discovery Channel are full of programs about breeds, training and grooming. The Retail Industry is pushing the humanizing of our best friend and Pet Supply catalogs reflect the tastes of the “Hollywood” crowd. It’s one thing to buy a short haired dog a coat or sweater for the winter, but a name-brand dress or pajamas? How about faux suede coats, rucked satin dresses, East Side Collection Tigress dresses, Velour Royalty hoodies–the list goes on and on. And if you want to dress alike, how about an Andover Argyle hat and gloves for the owner and a matching sweater for your pet?

Sorry folks, Paris Hilton and her ilk can take a hike. I need to make a living just like anyone else, but this marketing of dogs like Barbies is crossing the line. The relationship I have with my Golden Lizzie is one I hope includes dignity and respect. Dogs, in addition to being the best companion animal, are constantly being challenged to find new and unique ways to use their sense of smell, sight, and hearing. Sniffing out illegal drugs, explosives, and tracking people has been around for years…and now we are looking into cancer detection. The bond a K-9 Police Officer has with his dog is powerful. Can you imagine him putting PJ’s on that dog at night?

Marketing doesn’t stop with the Retail Industry….grooming is just as bad. Seen pictures of any white poodles dyed pink lately? Most of my grooming magazines are full of new and unique ways of making money, but most of it is just a gimmick to get you to spend. Now, in addition to giving a haircut, I’m supposed to offer such services as pedicures with a paw soaking bath. The dog must stand in a pan filled with a moisturizing solution for 5 minutes. After being toweled dry, each foot is individually massaged with a moisturizing creme, yada yada. These are the same paws that need to walk on the sidewalk and run through the woods in a variety of weather conditions. While we need to watch them for cracks and sores, a certain amount of toughness is necessary. This treatment can be followed with a facial, moisture wrap and therapeutic massage. And if that’s not enough, throw in an exfoliating “mud scrub.” Guess what? I’m not going there and Charlottesville doesn’t want it anyway. Maybe in New York, Chicago or San Francisco–but not here in good ol’ C’ville.

Success in grooming here comes from a sincere effort to provide the basics: a good brushing, thorough bath and proper haircut when called for. It’s not a marketing ploy or a money grab; it’s about keeping your dog’s coat and skin healthy. It’s about good work and the golden rule. We’re happy to top it off with bows or a bandana for that added sparkle but not if it makes your dog uncomfortable.

…Can He Sniff Out a Bomb?

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 by Jenna

How long did it take you to teach your dog to fetch? Honestly, my Springer Spaniel never learned how! Imagine the intensive training that dogs must go through to become trusted members of not only the police force, but the military as well. As early as ancient Roman times, dogs have been used in war. They were sent to bite and claw enemy soldiers while wearing sharp collars. During World War I, dogs were used to kill rats in the trenches. The use of working dogs surged in World War II when the US Military deployed more than 10,000 dogs for use as sentries, scouts, messengers, and mine detectors.

German Shepards and Belgian Malinois make excellent military dogs due to their intelligence, loyalty, athleticism and even their aggression–it is war, after all. But even the most loyal dog requires training. A typical program starts with 120 days of lessons from basic obedience to how to sniff for various substances including firearms, ammunition, explosives and even people in hiding. Army Col. David Rolfe is the director of the Defense Department’s Military Working Dog Program at Lackland Air Force base. Rolfe says the reward during this training is a ball or a rubber toy and some play time because “food works only so long. What the dog really wants you to do is play with it.” After becoming certified, the dogs must spend a month acclimating with their handlers and then must continue to be certified annually.

Dogs have a leg up on humans and machines. Staff Sgt. Andrew Mier, a military working dog trainer, explains that dogs strike fear in an aggressor in a way that humans can’t. “A dog creates a strong psychological deterrent.” The loyal heart of a dog is also a boon. It may take 50 years or more before a machine can replicate the sensitivity of a dog’s nose (a sense of smell up to 10x that of a human’s). Even then, a dog has an urge to please. Rolfe says, “a dog will go looking for something on its own where a machine won’t.”

There is no other animal that we trust in a life or death situation. But that very trust is a two-way street and I’m not sure how I feel about sending dogs into a warzone. It helps to know that the military respects their working dogs as soldiers. Work is under way for improved body armor and gas masks that can be fitted to a dog’s face. There are also pills in development that may help working dogs survive a nerve-gas attack. Temperatures can reach as high as 135 degrees in Afghanistan so cooling vests are also being made. Now there’s some clothing a dog could really use! Ray Booska, head of the company making the vests, says, “These dogs save the lives of our sons and daughters and we’re going to do everything we can to help them.”

Groomer Has It

Thursday, August 14th, 2008 by Mike Cronk

What is it about our profession that there was a need to make a reality show of it? The television channel Animal Planet has been running a program called “Groomer Has It” which I could not stand after only a couple of episodes.

There are plenty of professional grooming competitions conducted by certified groomers which test the skills used in this profession. But that’s not what this show is about. “Groomer Has It” takes a skillful and difficult profession and puts it on display for entertainment purposes. Don’t watch it and think you can learn much about dog grooming! What you could learn is overshadowed by the Paris Hilton mentality of treating your dog like a doll.

The problem I see most often in the dog profession is that folks are just too devoted to dogs and don’t have a life outside that. I see this reflected in the behavior of the groomers shown in this program. The groomers in “Groomer Has It” wouldn’t work for me–they’re too weird. They are pretty eccentric which makes for good TV but not necessarily good grooming. This profession requires people skills–you need to relate to your customers just as much as you relate to the dogs. You must also be able to focus on the needs of the dog–not just what you want from the dog. You should be knowledgeable about training, breeds, and behavior.

While I think dogs are unique in the animal kingdom, I don’t like this trend of making them substitutes for human relationships. I don’t think it’s healthy to make a dog take the place of a mother or wife or children for that matter and it’s not fair to the dog. Humanized dogs are socialized with human psychology which can have an effect of spoiling them so much that they become a nusance. Here I agree with Ceasar Milan (“The Dog Whisperer”) and feel it’s unfair to humanize our dogs. A normal dog of any breed that is on it’s best behavior can’t be beat and that’s fine, but playing “dolls” with them is going too far.

Making pretty cookies and little raincoats is no substitute for a good brushout. I feel my job is to provide you professional grooming and by that I mean a thorough bath, brushing and haircut. That’s what you’re paying for. While I insist this is done in a friendly atmosphere, I’m not happy when one of my groomers spends more time petting the dogs than brushing–unless you want me to raise prices to include this service! Reminds me of the time when I still owned “The Pet Motel” that is currently run by my son. I had hired a young man to clean the kennel. He loved dogs and thought the job would be a lot of “fun.” I caught him petting a dog in the run but there was still a pile of poop on the floor–and he wasn’t in there with a scoop. I quickly let him know that our top priority was to insure that dog had a clean environment first and foremost. Can he and should he pet the dog? Of course, but not in lieu of clean water, proper diet, and sanitary quarters. A love of dogs does not necessarily equate to being a good groomer or kennel assistant, but a groomer and kennel assistant surely should love dogs.

The Christmas Puppy

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

I remember one Christmas when a friend of mine asked me to keep his new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy for a few days – he would pick up late on the 24th as a surprise for his children. It was fun to do, and she turned out to be the perfect pet. However, don’t get caught up in the gift-giving excitement—a dog is a large responsibility. Below are several points to keep in mind before you get that cute puppy:
1) Never buy a dog just for the children. While they may show interest at first, more often than not that interest will wane. Feeding, cleaning the backyard, exercising, and grooming are more like work – petting and playing are the fun part and guess who the work will fall to when the kids get bored?

2) If you’re single or a couple that works, training and housebreaking can be very difficult – maybe impossible. Once a dog is an adult and can stay in a nice backyard that’s fenced in with shelter to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, you might get by 9 to 5. But a puppy needs socializing, training, and frequent outings for housebreaking.

3) While the upfront cost of the purchase is easily known, the costs of food, shelter, and veterinary care need to be budgeted for as well.

If you’ve got the time and money, I can’t think of a better present for the whole family than a brand new puppy – red ribbon and all!

Men and Dogs

Friday, November 16th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

I would estimate that 60% of our customers are women and they are comfortable with what they want.  They can discuss bows, cologne, conditioner, and spa treatments quite freely and with enthusiasm.  The men that come in are usually more of a challenge.  They often don’t know much more than the dog’s name.  The conversation goes like this:  “What kind of haircut do you want?” — “I don’t know, it’s my wife’s dog.”  Oh boy, here we go.  He stands there in his jeans, baseball cap, unshaven and with a chew in his cheek.  As far as he is concerned, you could shave the dog bald–it means more to his wife than he does anyway!

I know that when I was younger, my dogs had to reflect my machismo.  I had a German Shepherd, Irish Setter, and Collie–see a pattern?  When we owned our Scottie Margaret, I found her to be too small to romp around the way I like:  “Want to jump in the car and go to Lowes?”  Probably not.  She became more my wife’s dog.  After a lot of complaining, I got my first of three Great Danes.  Now I could grunt, spit, and be thoroughly disgusting with my bad-ass dog.

Reminds me of the time I was admiring my granddaughter when she was born.  We were having a family dinner and I held her in my arms and said, “She is just precious!”  My son Michael looked at me in disbelief:  “…Precious?”  He said, “Dad, what is that, your feminine side?” 

You have to understand that having been raised as an Army brat and then putting in 5 years myself, my personality reflects an atmosphere of male dominance and discipline.  Real men don’t say “precious,” and I think working in a female dominated industry for 32 years was having its effect on me!  The first three years of business I operated only a boarding kennel, and that certainly was manly enough.  But then I needed to expand my ability to make money so I added grooming.  It took me a long time to adjust to putting bows on poodles and spraying them with perfume.

One of my favorite customers is a guy who weighs about 300 lbs., shaves his head and has tattooed arms the size of my waist.  Occupation?  Tow truck driver.  Pet?  Toy Poodle named Midnight.  His hands are the size of a baseball mitt — much larger than his poodle.  I couldn’t help but ask him what he was doing with such a little dog.  He just smiled and grunted that it was his wife’s dog.  “Got a problem with that?”  I took another look at his arms and said, “Nope, how do you want him cut?”  His answer?  You got it.  “Shave him down all over and no foo-foo stuff.”


Larry Sipe and his poodle, Midnight

Larry Sipe and his poodle, Midnight

Quality of Life – When is it “Time”?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

When I first went into business in 1975, Dave Orebaugh, DVM was opening up his practice where Charlottesville Animal Hospital is today. I asked him if he would take me under his wing and treat the dogs in my care as a priority. Outside this business relationship, we became good friends. Knowing that in the boarding and grooming business I would be dealing with the geriatric days of a dog’s life, I wanted to know what his answer was for putting a dog “to sleep.” He said, ‘when they no longer have quality of life, it is time.’ That made sense and I use it as a guideline to this day. No dog of mine would suffer chronic pain or be so incontinent that they would suffer urine stains and constantly dribble. If my dog has been the perfect companion I think he deserves to go with the fondest of memories–suffering from senility or severe arthritis is not part of the deal. Of course, all avenues of medical intervention should be exercised first.

This quality of life and comfort guideline comes into play in my decisions as a groomer as well. I will not put a dog through undue pain in order to groom him. Boarding and grooming lead to stress, discomfort, and anxiety with our older pets so we approach grooming the geriatric with a lot of caution. The onset of arthritis—especially in the back legs can make grooming in the normal fashion (or at all) quite painful. Lifting feet to scissor and clip pads can be too much for a dog to bear. Blindness and senility also lead to stress and fear and the accompanying reactions (biting, jerking, etc) make the process dangerous for both dog and groomer.

While we may not feel it is necessarily time to put your dog to sleep, we certainly don’t want the discomfort of grooming to lead to a heart attack or seizure (both of which I have seen). We will let you know when we are no longer comfortable putting your dog through the grooming process. But then comes the question, “if you’re not going to groom her, what should I do?” The only reasonable solution is to groom your dog every day—spend 15-20 minutes combing, brushing and spot washing with dry shampoo. Frequent, personalized grooming in short sessions will keep your dog comfortable. Keep this in mind as your dog gets older, before we need to say anything. Putting off grooming until your dog matts up just makes the process even more uncomfortable for her.

I know this is a touchy subject and each person faces it in their own way. It takes courage to determine when the quality of life isn’t there anymore and my threshold may not be yours. I respect that. However, our decision to no longer groom an elderly dog is non-negotiable.