Dog trains man

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Grooming a Lioness

Before - After
We started treating Viva for her Cushing's disease more than half a year ago, and soon we were confronted with a harmless side effect.

Viva's hair growth was exploding. Cushing's had been suppressing her natural hair growth so far. And now it was rapidly returning to it's normal state.

In Viva's case, that meant a lot of hair. She quickly developed a "Lion collar", any Hovawart male would have been jealous of. It couldn't be comfortable for her having that much fur. And it wasn't very lady-like.

When I read on Pamela's blog how Honey grew "Muppet feet" and how Pamela executed some do-it-yourself grooming with great results, I went to arms. Viva needed some wellness.

Thankfully I started on the area below the chest, a little out of sight. My few existing grooming skills, if any, seemed to have gone with the wind. I had to give that up and I frantically started to search for an alternative, while Viva's "Muppet feet" where developing into "Muppet flippers".

Armed with a list of test questions on how to groom a reactive dog, I called around to local groomers but was left empty-handed. Nobody seemed to be able to refer us. Not in the dog training club, not the vet. Finally, we got a tip from Viva's water-walker therapist. She gave me the contact details of a groomer that she knew could handle reactive dogs. When I called for an appointment, we got a time two months away.

When the day finally came I told all there was to know about Viva and her reactiveness to our newly appointed grooming-lady, Jannie. She nodded politely through my whole monologue, and reached for the leash to take Viva in. I didn't expect her to do that, as she was physically absolutely no match for Viva and assumed she would need my help getting Viva crated in the bathing area in the back. But Jannie, nodding politely again, said it will be alright and off she went with 90lbs of highly-explosive Hovawart.

The longest 3 hours in my life started. I think I phoned Jannie at least twice. "yes, everything is alright", and "no, Viva is not ready yet".

When I could finally pick Viva up, I rushed into the shop. One groomer was busy with a Corgi mix and Jannie was grooming a Poodle on her table. When I started to approach Jannie and said hello, I noticed a blondish shadow was rising from below the grooming table the Poodle was standing on.

It was Viva, and she was off-leash. I panicked, expecting Viva to lash out to the Poodle. I reached for her, in what felt like being in one of those movies where you see the hero flying through the room in slow-motion while shouting "noooooo...", equally in slow-motion. She was too far away for me to reach. The only thing I could do was to hold my breath in a feeling of helplessness and accept the laws of gravity.

But the Lioness didn't roar. Viva rushed passed both dogs and made a whole spectacle out of greeting me, and the remaining dogs in the shop happily joined in for the concert. Viva had been taking a nap at Jannie's feet while she continued grooming other dogs. My jaw-bone must have reached the floor on the very moment I realized that.

I was so baffled and relieved, I was not capable of having any kind of intelligent conversation about it. Jannie did not give a lot of detail either that could explain Viva's exemplary behavior: "She was nice". Most important, Viva was B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L as well. Her fur was soft from the bath and her trimmed coat had the highest cuddle factor. The Lion's collar was gone as well.

Here are some pictures of Viva new style, and Kenzo seems to approve it too:

Nice trim Viva !
Kenzo takes a sniff on arrival at home

It's OK, Kenzo sends a look of approval :)


  1. She looks like a whole new girl. How beautiful!

    It sounds like you found a wonderful groomer. I also had a great experience with my first professional grooming ever and I know that finding someone who really understands dogs is so crucial.

    You may also find it personally healing to see Viva do so well around other dogs. : )

    Thanks for the link love. And the reminder that Honey is due for another trip the salon.

  2. I remember my first attempts at trimming the Golden's! I think she looks great!


  3. How wonderful for both of you that Viva enjoyed her trip to the groomer! I've had similar experiences with Buster, where I expected him to behave one way and he completely surprised me. I lvoe it when that happens - it's like our dogs are showing us their highest potential! It makes me wonder if my expectations aren't having some impact on how reactive Buster is. Perhaps I need to leave room in my imagination for Buster to behave beautifully - though, with all the years of managing his encounters and the fall-out from his outbursts, that will take some practice. =)

  4. Isn't it wonderful when you are to find someone who you can trust your dog with, no matter how much you are freaky out about it?? Sounds like this groomer is a winner. How great for both of you.

    We are like that at the vet with some of ours, and have found time and time again when we aren't there, they do just fine. :) Ya, it's always us humans that do the screwing everything up. :)

    And Viva, just looks so beautiful. So glad Kenzo approves!

  5. @PupFan
    Thanks :)

    I will need to do some recalibrating on my views and expectations of Viva's reactiveness. And my effect on Viva would I have been around. Glad she is proving me wrong :)

    Thanks, doing it myself is not an option, wish I could though, like you!

    I am still in shock. If somebody would have predicted how the events at the groomer would evolve and what role Viva would play, I would have said it was impossible. Now Viva has proven me wrong, I absolutely love it. Glad to hear you have the same unexpected events with Buster, and you are right, we must have some impact on them ... I still have not figured out how I can explain exactly and how I can use it, but I am sure we will get stronger out of the other end.

    She is very special, and we are lucky we found her. Thanks for the kind words :)

  6. What a great story! Jannie sounds like she really knows dogs, not just how to groom them. Viva obviously got some good vibes from her. You must be so thrilled with her behavior! Good girl Viva!

  7. Viva looks beautiful!

    It always makes me sigh when people handle my dog better than I do! I realized that Kayloo's "issue" with small dogs wasn't actually her issue at all... it was mine! That is so great you've found such a great groomer!

  8. @Georgia
    Hey! Georgia so nice to see you are back, running off to your blog right away for an update on your adventures :)

    I suspect she does it on purpose to keep bith my feet on the ground :)

  9. Viva looks very pretty and I must say that her collars is quite nice :D

    It's interesting how dogs will behave better around strangers sometimes. I suppose that Viva will be making regular visits to this groomer.

  10. What a great story! I've groomed a few dogs who other groomers refused to work on too, and who behaved just fine with me. Honestly I think that most groomers never have had any experience working with dogs' behavior and emotions, and are just focused on getting the physical appearance taken care of. That's awesome that you found one of the few who is sensitive and takes a "whole dog approach" :).

  11. I had to grin! Maybe Viva just wanted to feel pretty for a change. I love it when dogs surprise you in the right way!

  12. I can't believe I missed this wonderful post Leo! I love that suddenly Viva rose up from her slumber to greet you, thinking nothing of the other dogs, and rushed to greet you. Clearly, Janine is a great groomer and understands dogs. Wow. I guess you found your groomer huh?

    Just loved that Pamela shared this story. :)


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