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Six Weeks into the Apocalypse

 

After the anxiety phase of the shutdown, which I wrote about two weeks ago, I moved into the depression phase. I got really tired, and started to feel hopeless, about everything. The idea of putting on my mask, and gloves, just to go to the supermarket and possibly find out that they had no toilet paper, or paper towels, or mushrooms, or fat free Greek yogurt, overwhelmed me. I stopped arguing with the voices in my head that were telling me I wasn’t doing enough, and just accepted that they were right. And the nightmares continued. Night after night, from the safety of my home, where I have more than enough, I imagined myself lost and lacking in everything.

In my waking life, I did everything I could think of to manage the gradually lowering clouds, and the thinning air, of my emotional world: I watched Steven Colbert, and his dog; I watched Rachel Maddow, and wondered why she didn’t bring her dog to work with her; I watched the news as selectively as possible, and I went to my Zoom events, and worked on my lesson plans, and exercised, and played music, and cuddled with my dogs. But I couldn’t push the grey clouds back; they just kept coming closer and closer, squeezing me into an ever smaller corner of my world.

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I tried to count my blessings, and my successes from the past year, but my brain turned everything into the wrong thing. And, suddenly, all I could focus on was the wasteland of Cricket’s hair; her matted ears had become the measure of my self-worth. No matter what else I might accomplish, the fact that Cricket wouldn’t let me brush out the mats on her ears meant that I was a useless piece of shit, not just as a dog mother but in every possible way.

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“I look beautiful. I don’t know what you’re kvetching about.”

Ellie, reluctantly, let me clean her eyes, and her tushy, when necessary; and, with very sad eyes and a light grumble in her throat, she even let me comb through the more stubborn mats in her hair. Cricket, on the other hand, got crazy eyes and bared her teeth at me if I even looked at her ears. Cricket tends to see grooming as a war, and a war that she usually wins.

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“Grumble, grumble, Mommy.”

I tried everything I could think of. I loaded her up on treats before even introducing the comb or the scissors. I tried raising her dose of anti-anxiety meds, and even giving her the Ace pill she takes before a regular grooming visit, but her anger only increased.

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“I won’t back down!”

A few days ago, I finally had the energy to put Cricket into the bathtub, despite my rapidly depleting sense of self, and I was able to remove about twenty-five percent of the mess (fresh clean butt!); and then, during her after-bath-zoomie-tantrum, she wiped her face on every piece of furniture and dislodged even more of the muck, some even under her eyes, where I always worry that she will get an infection from the clumped, wet hair, that absorbs her eye goop.

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“You cannot take my eye goop!”

But despite every effort, and my increasing attempts at stealth, there’s still so much left to clean and trim, and I have very little confidence that she’ll let me do it.

It’s a sign of my looming depression that I am taking Cricket’s behavior so personally. I’m not in a full depression yet, thank God. Therapy and medication have made it harder for my system to fully shut down, the way it’s done in the past, and I’m doing everything I can think of (diet, exercise, social connections, entertainment, etc) to stay above water; but I can see the cliff coming, and I’m afraid, because once the depression takes over it’s very hard to pull myself back up.

I’m hoping that Cricket reads this essay and, out of pity, allows me to at least trim the hair under her eyes, to help stave off my depression. She’s a very smart dog, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s taught herself how to read; but making a sacrifice to save someone else’s life? That might be expecting too much. Even if that life is mine.

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“No. Just no.”

Obviously, Cricket doesn’t think her sacrifice is necessary yet, and maybe she’s right. I’m not looking over the edge of the cliff yet, I’m just worried that it might come to that, the longer we stay shut down and unsure of what’s to come. But, really, if Cricket walked up to me and offered her ears for combing, that would be a true sign of the apocalypse. So, maybe I should count my blessings and be grateful that we haven’t crossed that line, yet.

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“Can you blame me? This is what happens when I let them near my hair!”

 

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

113 responses »

  1. Ugh, hang in there. Fur kids can be stressful. I tried so hard to clip Tiger’s nails, but she is so vicious. I even waited three weeks for a tiny muzzle and when it arrived it was way too big so I basted it a lot smaller and she still was unmanageable. I called the grooming shop just in case and incredibly they were open. Nobody else was there, I wore a mask, and it only took a few minutes while I waited outside. Of course today she had a big turd stuck on her butt so I had to muzzle her and put her in a tub of water to loosen it up. This stuff never usually happens except in times of a pandemic. If you don’t have a grooming shop open maybe your vet would take pity on you and do a little cleanup while you wait at the curb or come back for cricket.

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  2. Rachel, I’m so glad you are writing, but it hurts my heart to know that you’re struggling and suffering. I’m glad you have the company of your sweet dogs, even if they they’re quirky and bossy sometimes.

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  3. Look at it this way, Rachel, you’re acquiring lots of material for writing: not only events (or non-events) but emotions. In a novel, happy characters are boring. Store away your fear, despair, depression, etc. in a mental file cabinet. Once you survive this (and you will) you’ll be able to torture your characters so much your readers won’t be able to put the book down. Make lemonade. Stay safe.

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  4. I kind of get it, Cricket. A hair stylist once did something like that to my hair. It was all I could do to go to the grocery story.

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  5. Dear Cricket, My ears cause problems for my mom too. They don’t get matted like yours, but they get infected if they aren’t cleaned regularly. I HATE the feeling of the medicine being squirted into my ear. Instead of growling, I tuck my tail and slink all over the house trying to hide. I keep hoping that if I make the job hard for her she’ll give up trying. She gives me peanut butter to tempt me to cooperate but I’m too smart for that trick. How can our cutest feature cause so many problems? Your Labrador cousin, Adi
    Rachel, I’ve come to use Adi’s morning walks as my time to pray for others. You’ve become one of the people I pray for. I ask the Lord to bring healing into your life and to bless your writing. Know that I’ll also be praying that you see the rays of hope He’s shining into your life. Beth:)

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  6. Pets with short hair are much easier to care for.

    Flávio Gikovate, a Brazilian medic-psychiatrist, whom I consider an “oracle” of psychology, frequently emphasized the need for a good diagnosis to define the effective medication, the correct dosage, and the necessary adjustments to maintain the balance of mood.

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  7. I can so relate to the grooming issues. I almost cried with joy when my “girls” groomer called last week to reset their appointments for next week. My poor Ginger is starting to get hot and is scratching all the time. I am so thankful that the groomers have figured out how to meet the safety guidelines. I really want our beloved groomers to stay safe. To be able to take care of our loved ones with love is such a gift.

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  8. We’re fighting hair msts too as the dogger gets bushier and bushier. I keep threatening to take my beard clippers to Max and solve this once and for a good while to come. Fortunately he is the poster dog for docile and gentle so no angst here.

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  9. You are going to have so much clever and humorous writing material in these weeks, you just have to get through it. Keep notes. I appreciate your emotional honesty, I often feel tears are very close to the surface. Our parents or grandparents got though 4 years of horror in WWII, we can do this. And who knows what the world will look like? It’s really a toss up. Will we be the molders of it or the victims? Have courage Rachael, I am cheering for you. You are much more aware, which is your strength. Don’t see it as a weakness.

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  10. Managing little white dogs can be very difficult. You’re not alone in having problems with mats. Hang in there!

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  11. Dear Rachel, I wanted to cry when I read the part about your battle to keep from falling into depression. Oh how I HATE depression. I am praying for you right now. ❤❤

    I read a business article today on BBC that I think you may find helpful. The article explains why Zoom and other online ways of staying in touch and doing business, can feel so exhausting and anxiety producing. There were helpful suggestions in the article too, so I will post the link here for you:
    https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200421-why-zoom-video-chats-are-so-exhausting

    This is an insanely challenging time. I think that NOT feeling some sorrow and anxiety right now, would be abnormal. And oh my goodness — little white dogs with goopy eyes and matted fur that don’t want to be brushed or cleaned — I have one of those, too! Our little poodle, Scrappy. I named him Scrappy because he is a Scrapper, for sure!

    I am sending you a big ((HUG)) right now. Rachel, you are wonderful and wow, I love your insight and honesty. Like at least two other people commented here, you are going to have some fascinating stories to write, when this is over. ❤❤❤

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  12. I’ve limited social media and TV (as much as possible with a husband addicted to that idiot box) for the past three weeks. Last night, he was watching something and I wanted to scream – even the commercials are all about “how we’re dealing with this virus.” If I hear “new normal” one more time, I may run naked down the road, screaming obscenities. (And do not believe any rumors you might hear about this not being the first time, it’s all lies!) I have been so worried about those who struggle with depression, with addictions, with anger issues, who are the victims of abuse – we must get back to our lives and the sooner the better!

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    • Maybe they’ll just start putting happy drugs in the water to keep us calm, if this goes on much longer. Even introverts like me are struggling now. I mean, alone time can be nice, but this is a lot.

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  13. Keep you chin up, it’s not forever 🙂 we will soon come out the other side of this awful situation. Not so sure about crickets ears though hehe :p

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  14. Rachel, I’m something of a dog (and child) whisperer. If only I could come round and have a word with Cricket, I’m sure she’d appreciate the situation and allow you to fully groom her.

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  15. Even though I love her dearly, our ‘wretched dog’ is another grooming nightmare. You have my sympathy and I hope you can get to the groomer soon.

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  16. ‘I’m not looking over the edge of the cliff yet’. Hang on to that thought Rachel. I really feel for you. Very honest writing. Serious stuff that you still manage to make entertaining and very readable. Cricket doesn’t sound like she’s going to give in/up anytime soon. I think she’ll keep you on your toes!

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  17. You are focusing on your inability to groom the dogs, which may be your own way of dealing with everything else that you don’t want to think about. I’m not a psychologist, but I know that I am doing something similar with my own failure to manage to clean my oven, which is normally done by a professional company, and is now looking appallingly greasy and dirty.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  18. I realised with a shock that we haven’t brushed Maggie in weeks! She has matted fur behind her ears and won’t let us touch them. The fur on her paws is almost as long pro rata as my hair and again she won’t let us near them. With everything else going on with her, I just think ‘whatever’, and then feel guilty!
    I’m comfort eating too so have decided to let Hubby go into the supermarket. He prefers to anyway, and at least doesn’t come out with chocolate or biscuits. The scales are going the wrong way, my fault, but I’m still within target. Need to get my act together next week.
    Ah, dog wants a walk, that should lift my spirits a bit. Hang in there Rachel. You’re doing OK. 🙂

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    • Every time the girls go outside their paws pick up every piece of dirt for miles around, and of course Cricket will never let me trim the hair between her toes. She loves being a dirt magnet!

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  19. Heliophile's diary

    Rachel, I can’t believe you are fighting it alone. I literally hate the word depression. I faced it, I lived with it. More power to you.

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  20. Oh, we share the same dog hair related problems! My Phyllis hates when I try to clean her eyes or ears. For the eyes: I found out that Phyllis hates cotton balls or wash cloths. So, if I am bathing her, I gently use my thumb to brush the eye stuff away while I am rinsing her head. I’ve been watching YouTube videos on how to groom a lhasa apso (oh, the hairor!). Someone in the community recommended a Tangle Teezer. I snatched my husband’s and now it’s hers. She loves getting her hair brushed with it. If you happen upon one, I can highly recommend to give it a try. What helps with my pooch is when she’s on the sofa and I causally grab for the brush and alternate between petting her and brushing her hair. I also keep small scissors within reach, and when I pet her and feel one of those hairy lumps, I will grab the scissors, without her seeing them, of course, and cut out the piece. I find this easier than if I try to brush it out.

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  21. Such difficult times. I hope the coming days are less dark for you. You have lots of friends out here in blogland cheering you on.

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  22. I suggest you invite Cricket to join you, the next time you take a shower. She might see that differently.

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    • She hates the shower. She’ll wait for me outside the door, to make sure I’ve survived the ordeal. And then she looks at me with disbelief when I come out, like, I can’t believe you did such a stupid thing!

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  23. I know how you feel, Rachel. My dog thinks of nothing but food, it seems, mine specifically. Won’t touch his own. And I find myself barking at him. Not literally, but you know what I mean.

    Then there’s out overly productive society. Sheesh! So we end up feeling guilty if we aren’t producing SOMETHING. Why are people so uniquely afflicted?

    Please don’t give up. Yeah, it’s hard. Hard. But hang in there. Remember, THIS TOO, SHALL PASS. It ALWAYS does. ALWAYS. In the meantime, if you can, turn off the news and get outside.

    By the way, your dogs look lovely afterwards. 🙂

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  24. Hang in there, Rachel! I’m glad you’re writing & sharing 💛🙂

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  25. I’m rooting for you! You will make it through this, Rachel

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  26. Hello, thank you for being on my blog, I like yours! You recently liked my article “The list of my passions”, I have the impression that it benefits from a special advertisement. I don’t know which one. Can you please educate me on this and tell me where you saw this article written long ago. Sincerely Nowo

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  27. Have faith, things will get better. When well that I don’t know. I’ll pray for you and keep counting your blessings.

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  28. Yes, we’re so hyper-focused on saving people from the Covid–19 virus that we’re forgetting the devastating results these restrictions are having on so many people. It will be interesting to see how we look back on this period in years to come and what we’ll believe we did right and what we’ll believe we did wrong. Because right now, nobody has a clue.
    Please keep doing anything and everything that makes you feel better. Is there someone you can call to talk to about your depression? I really hope so….Sending good vibes your way. And even I, who am getting really cynical about this whole thing, still believe that it will end one day. We’ll get there, we really will!

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  29. My cat let me clip her nails until she didn’t. For a cat, though, she could be surprisingly affectionate. When I’d come in after a long day, she’d come to me, I’d pick her up, and she’d nuzzle my face. Then she’d realize she should be mad at me for being away so long, and she’d bite me. Life with pets is something, even something else.

    I’m sure pets think life with people is something (and something else) as well. Still, I think they realize that if they’re in homes and loved, then that’s a pretty terrific arrangement. My cat (Hannah) lived a long life then died. She was a foundling, and I think for all her moodiness and alpha tendencies, she was thankful. I could wish for her company now, as long as she wouldn’t catch what’s going ’round.

    I hope you and puppies enjoy life together, especially these days. I guess if Cricket wants a war, then I’d surrender. The bath seems to have done some good, however. Please stay well. All of you.

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  30. What is the post bath ‘funny five minutes’ mine used to do it too – charge around the house and rub themselves, especially their faces on any furniture or bed linen they came across. And if outdoors they would head straight for a flowerbed and roll in mud!!
    Crazy things – good luck with the eye goop, I nearly lost a finger trying to degoop my Rita 🙂
    Chin up sweetie, change is in the air ….

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    • Thank you! I hope things will be better soon. Maybe I should just keep bathing Cricket until she removes all of her own goop in those after bath zoomies. That might actually work!

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  31. Hang in there, Rachel!! Think about this event the same way God intended the righteous to thrive through the Babylonian captivity. They were there and couldn’t make life return to normal, but God urged them to keep on living. Build, grow, plant –thrive. It is hard, but we can decide to do this day by day. God is able!!

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  32. Our previous Westie used to get a lot of eye goop, but she was good about letting us clean it. Since self-isolation, six weeks, my usually mediocre energy and motivation levels are reaching new lows. Just have to keep going, I try to tell myself. I think I can, I know I can. I’m going back to bed. 😉

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  33. P. S. Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. A high-traffic site like yours must be a lot to keep up with.

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  34. Oh my goodness, I hear you! Jojo and Cricket must be cousins, because she hates any sort of grooming but gets SO grubby. I tend to take it personally, too.

    Hang in there. Your words are a treasure.

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  35. My Westie, Eddie, is my real blessing in all of this. We all feel down and have low moments through all of this but for me, I find the distractions of my mate Ed, who is blissfuly ignorant of all the chaos going on and is just happy if he has his walks, reminds me of the important stuff. All this will be over, and hopefully we all get through it. I’m not sure what ‘normal’ will be by then, but as long as Ed is with me, I’m sure everything will be fine.

    Mind, Ed is due a trim himself, and as the groomer’s is still on lockdown, its looking increasingly likely I will have to have a shot at it myself and I’m under no misconceptions what kind of a trial that will be- Terrier’s have their own mind and Ed won’t be at all convivial to such clumsy attempts as mine, I’m sure. Maybe I’ll just put it off one more week and hope the lockdown gets relaxed, you never know…

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  36. Certainly at times the fact that this is going on with no one in charge, with some reckless people not cooperating, and no end in sight can collide with the felt sense we experienced but couldn’t name as kids. It brings up that old reality and it is extremely challenging to separate the two. I try to both acknowledge the kid places that felt that way and also try to remember that I am having somatic memory of things I couldn’t feel at the time. Peace and love as always.

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  37. It’s been a really hard time for so many of us, but it helps to be self-isolating with your beloved pets and family members. Always remember how much they love you and need you!

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  38. How insidious depression is – and sometimes hard to recognise because our brains keep insisting all this stuff it’s telling us is true when it patently is completely untrue. The ‘not doing enough’ thing is particularly bad at the moment for me too. Maybe at heart we are all trying to save the planet, but all we can really do is take care of ourselves and our own at the moment. Love your blog.

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  39. You are so blessed to have Cricket and Elliie and your inimitable sense of humor.
    You would be an ace at stand up…/or anything else you set your mind to. Wishing
    all good things for you and yours.

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  40. birdseedinmyshoe

    I enjoy your post so very much. I feel your pain and anguish over the uncertainty of this crazy virus world we have all be thrust into. Wishing you well and happy thoughts to consume your day.

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  41. I’m concerned for you with that cliff looming. I describe it as a visit from my demon. I’m bi-polar, seesawing between manic energy, where I talk too fast and laugh too much, and that horrible crash where you just want to sit in your closet with the door closed. Medication can only do so much, and like you I fight it with all the other weapons in my arsenal: music, exercise, writing, talking to friends about non-depression related things, and answering the requests of small (and big!) demanding creatures. But sometimes, I just can’t stop it from coming. The good news is that every time it has come, it has also gone, and if I can just hold on I will cycle back to where I’m even again.
    Hang in there, my friend. You are not alone.

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  42. I hope that you’re feeling better soon. I also look for signs when facing strange and uneasy situations. Every once in a while I get a glimmer of hope that helps me to hang on. May a few such glimmers come your way.

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  43. I find that Murray is great for those times, even when he is a pooper. I have to take things with a grain of salt and laugh them off. I hope you can get through this. I think you can. Just look at those cutie pie faces that need you 🙂

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  44. My doggie is very patient about grooming, so much so that one of his groomers took him to a grooming competition. But, alas, he is a hard coated terrier and needs not to be snipped but stripped, an exercise I have tried but am too timid to really do. And now that we are in quarantine he can’t get groomed. I clean the eye bougers, and the butt, and do a half-assed job at stripping him (every pun intended) but he still looks like a shagamuffin. But then again, so do I. 😦

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    • We finally got an appointment with the groomer for next week, so I’m expecting Cricket to be in a bad mood forever after, but at least I’ll be able to see her eyes. All of that grumpiness full on might bore a hole in my forehead, but it’s worth it; I think.

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  45. Just pretend that her grooming is a spa date for you!!!!!

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  46. Steven Colbert is great. Can baby powder be used to help detangle matted hair? I used to use it on our Lhasa Apsos, with their impossible hair.

    Hang in there!

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  47. Already half way through your book just today. Very good book for reading this Shabbat.

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  48. “Cricket tends to see grooming as a war, and a war that she usually wins.” I grew up with a dog named Kelsey and she used to win many battles and many wars of grooming. However, my family used to take her to a dog grooming place every three months. She learned to be groomed, hated the car drive, and even in the summer she got a special hair cut. It made her look like a shaved sheep with a lion mane! We loved her as you do love Cricket.

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  49. Very well written. Explore the emotions–where do they come from, where do they go, how do they influence us, and can we do anything about it. Could be another book. Wish you peace!

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  50. Thanks for liking my blog ,Rachel. I have a grumpy husband to look after instead of a cranky dog, and he does allow me to cut his hair (which I learned to do in college – one of the more practical skills I came out of there with!) He also does all the shopping, which keeps me safe and housebound, except for jogging every other morning (maintaining social distance, of course). The exercise is what keeps some endorphins in my system to fight off the blue devils.

    Hang in there. And remember, you are the alpha female of your pack, not Cricket!

    Reply

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