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Cricket Bites

 

Cricket is a biter. She has been a biter since she was a puppy, and now that she’s 12 years old, I don’t see it changing. We were warned that Cockapoos could bite – though the warning came after Cricket came home from the breeder, and from an unreliable source, so, not especially helpful.

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She ate most of this pumpkin before we knew what was happening.

Cricket bites when she’s scared, angry, overexcited, etc. She resents any attempt to brush, comb, or clean her hair (though groomers have been able to do it, when she’s medicated). For her first two years, I worked hard at trying to condition Cricket to grooming at home. It was a long ritual, with lots of chicken treats and very gradual steps, and it was never, ever successful.

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“You’re killing me, Mommy.”

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“I kill you back!”

When the groomer left a small mat on one of Cricket’s ears, during a grooming visit a few months ago, I got nervous, because Cricket has very cottony hair, prone to knotting up if we’re not careful. I even took out the round-edged scissors to try to remove the small mat before it could grow. Cricket didn’t appreciate that, of course, and I decided to keep my fingers for a while longer. That meant that, at her most recent grooming, after the mat had grown and spread to both ears and her face, Cricket faced the indignity of being shaved down to the nubs. Her head is surprisingly small without all of the fluff, and she looked a bit like a tiny alpaca, with her naked ears and prominent nose, and big, wide open eyes.

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Escaping from the groomer’s house!

 

The thing is, at this point, I’m done battling with her about her hair. I’m done risking life and limb to save her from another bad haircut, that she will, of course, blame on me. She is a senior citizen in the dog world, and this is the best she’s going to be. I may have better luck cleaning her up once she loses a few more teeth, though. That’s something to look forward to, and since she has resisted every attempt at tooth brushing, with every kind of special doggy toothbrush and chicken flavored toothpaste, she won’t keep all those sharp little teeth forever.

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The immediate problem is that she has convinced Ellie that any attempts at home grooming are the equivalent of death threats, and Ellie has fluffy ears and a long fluffy tail that need regular combing to avoid mats. Ellie doesn’t bite, Thank God, but she does run away from me, or give me those puppy dog eyes that seem to say, Mommy, why are you hurting me? Aren’t I a good girl? Which really is worse than a dog bite in terms of long lasting damage to the soul.

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“Cricket says you’re trying to kill me.”

I think we need to come up with something like a miniature carwash for dogs, where the dog is harnessed in and washed and brushed and dried without any human fingers put at risk. I mean, sure, the actual haircut would still have to be done by professional, but in between, the carwash could keep the girls from smelling like pee, and covering their faces with snot. And, I would be able to keep all of my fingers. Wouldn’t that be great?

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“No, Mommy. I don’t think so.”

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The poor miniature alpaca doesn’t think so either

 

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Amazon page and consider ordering the Kindle or Paperback version (or both!) of Yeshiva Girl. 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 girl on Long Island named Izzy. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes is true. Izzy’s father decides to send her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, as if she’s the one who needs to be fixed. Izzy, in pain and looking for people she can trust, 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?

The Goop Stealer

Cricket, before her morning makeup

Cricket, before her morning makeup

Cricket. Oy.

Cricket. Oy.

 

I am the goop stealer. Goop is my highly technical term for doggy eye snot. My battle is to keep my dogs’ eyes open and seeing, but they do not like this at all.

Cricket’s goop is especially sticky and kind of like hardened rubber cement. I should be able to sit her on my lap, grab a tissue and wipe off the goop before it hardens into stalagmites in her hair, but Cricket hates being futzed with. If I go near her face with the tissue, she bites my fingers, and grabs the tissue, and jumps to the ground with her treasure. It’s sometimes possible to do a sneak attack and grab the goop with my bare hands, pinching it off like a tick, but if it’s stuck on, or I’m too slow, this can be very dangerous.

This is how she reacts to the toothbrush, just imagine if i tried to get closer

This is how she reacts to the toothbrush, just imagine if I tried to get closer

I’ve tried special eye cleaning pads on her, but she acts like the cleanser on the pad is burning her eye. The way she reacts, I can almost hear the sound of sizzling acid burning through her skin. She’s very convincing.

Cricket hiding on Grandma's lap

Cricket hiding on Grandma’s lap

The two methods that work are: a) Cut the goop off during a grooming session when she’s trapped in the bathtub and distracted with chicken treats; b) Scrub her with shampoo during a full out bath (because if her whole body is wet she’s a tiny bit more subdued.) At the very least, the soaking of the under eye area will loosen the schmutz a bit so it can be removed by hand.

Cricket’s goop embeds in the hair under her eyes and plasters itself to her skin so that I start worrying about infections and cooties crawling under her skin and chewing her up.

Butterfly’s eye goop is different. It doesn’t clump right under her eyes or in the corners. It catches on a group of longer hairs, lower down on her cheek. And since her hair is thicker and oilier, the goop is easier to pull off. She still doesn’t like the removal process, though. She dips her head like a baby avoiding a spoonful of peas. She doesn’t attack or bite or growl like Cricket, she just bobs and weaves.

Butterfly's rust stains

Butterfly’s rust stains

And a little eyeliner

And a little eyeliner

 

When we first adopted Cricket, and realized that a white haired dog was a whole new creature, with tear stains to worry about, we tried all kinds of things. There were wet wipes and special eye wipes for grooming around the eyes. Then we found a powder to add to her food that was supposed to at least limit the rust stains under her eyes. But nothing prevents the build up of goop.

I need another plan. I thought of putting Vaseline under her eyes every morning to keep the goop from sticking, but I think it would lead to Cricket rubbing her head so hard on every surface that eyes will pop out.

The fact is, Cricket doesn’t care if her butt is covered in poop or her feet are dirty, or her eyes are rimmed with goop. She resents being handled and gussied up. She hates being clean overall. But I want her to look her best. I don’t expect her to be poofed and sprayed and dressed in lace. I just want her to be clean and healthy and not smell like pee or poop or eye goop.

Is that so much to ask?

Grooming Cricket

The trimmer! Grr!

The trimmer! Grr!

 

Grooming Cricket means taking my life in my hands. She will bite the hand that feeds her if it also tries to remove the goop from her eyes. The breeder who raised Cricket from puppyhood told us that grooming would be no problem. Just buy a man’s electric shaver at the drug store and clip away. Then hold her feet and clip her nails with the special nail clipper. Easy peasy. She even demonstrated the nail clipping on eight week old, two pound Cricket and it was simple. For her.

Just because the trimmer is on the other side doesn't make it less of a monster

Just because the trimmer is on the other side doesn’t make it less of a monster

The first shaver we bought snagged on Cricket’s cottony hair and the motor heated up too quickly and the noise upset her. When I tried to clip her nails she bit me. We bought her a muzzle but she snapped it off her nose in triumph.

Are the scissors any better?

Are the scissors any better?

We took Cricket to a groomer after it became clear that I was not a master with the clippers and she looked like she’d been attacked with a weed whacker. Cricket was frightened as soon as we walked in. I think the other dogs must have been warning her off. She gripped my shoulder with her toenails and didn’t want to be handed off to the lady with the bad disposition behind the counter. I removed her collar and leash, and blushed when the groomer examined the horrible haircut.

I thought I’d feel better back in the car, but I didn’t. I wasn’t happy about leaving Cricket with that woman. Not just because she was a stranger but because if I’d had hair on my back it would all have been standing up.

I had the flutters, like an old fashioned English lady with bad nerves, and I couldn’t leave the apartment again to pick Cricket up two hours later. She came running up the stairs with Mom behind her, and I didn’t recognize my puppy. I sat down on the kitchen floor and held her wiggly body and cried. Blubbered. Threw a tantrum really, because I was afraid I could not love this poodle looking dog.

She looked like a stranger. And she smelled like one of those frou-frou poodles with the pompoms on their asses and she didn’t look like anyone I would know, or like. She didn’t understand why I was reacting so badly. She thought she was still the same dog and I was still the same Mommy and I should have been licking her the way she was licking me (though I’d told her repeatedly that I do not do such things).

My favorite version of Cricket’s haircut is when the hair on her body and face is pretty short, but her ears are long and swing out like wings, just like her Cocker Spaniel mommy. I don’t like when the groomers shave her nose, or leave it round and fluffy like a Bichon. And I don’t like when the hair on her body is long enough to get matted and hide debris in the layers. She doesn’t need a shelf of hair on her forehead or a pompom on her tail. She needs to be well trimmed in the hygienic areas so the poop won’t stick.

Cricket tried a lot of different groomers. There was the one who put purple bows in her hair and didn’t take the hair out of her ears or clean up the “hygienic areas,” and charged us extra because Cricket was so difficult.

Then there was the groomer who was also a vet tech, and managed to cut Cricket’s ear and had to do emergency care to stop the bleeding. Then she nicked her foot as well. We were given a credit for a free haircut with another groomer, but by then Cricket was even more reluctant.

Cricket refuses to look in the mirror after her haircut.

Cricket refuses to look in the mirror after her haircut.

Cricket is legitimately difficult. I’ve watched her at the vet when they try to give her a shot, or, god forbid, clip her nails. She has to be held by two people and she still wiggles and cries and shrieks like she’s being tortured. I don’t know why she’s like this. I’ve worked hard to counteract it. I tried reflexology on her feet to get her used to having her toes touched. And I worked on small grooming tasks at home, paying her for each snip of hair with chicken treats. But she still gets very frightened and very angry. I have to believe some of this is just genetic. But I keep worrying that it’s really all my fault. I didn’t raise her right.

This last time we got a groomer who knew when to push Cricket, and when not to push her. She was the perfect groomer, except that she shaped Cricket’s tail into a pompom, like tiny topiary. After a few weeks it was overgrown and matted, so I cut it off and she’s back to her stumpy-tailed look.

Now that Butterfly is here, I’m hoping that Cricket will learn some better manners. She was so jealous when Butterfly had her bath, that she offered herself up for the second shift in the tub. Peer pressure, you’ve gotta love it.

Bath Time

 

 

Cricket is too small to take a bath in the whole bathtub, and we don’t have a plug to keep the water from draining, so we use a plastic storage box that’s just her size. We fill it up with water and dog shampoo and set it in the bathtub. I dress for the occasion, rolling up my pants, removing socks and shoes, and covering up the rest of my clothes as much as possible with the green kitchen apron that I never wear in the kitchen.

Cricket hates bath time. I can get her into the little tub, but she shivers and tries to climb out. After the soap and scrub phase, her grandma lifts her out of the tub and wraps her in a towel while I empty, rinse, and refill the plastic box with clean water. There have been times when she’s needed three dunkings, because the water gets so saturated with dirt that she needs an extra soaping before she can be rinsed.

She resents this process as much as you’d expect her to.

As soon as she’s been rinsed clean and cuddled in a towel by her grandma, she wriggles her way to freedom and then starts to growl and run and slide across the increasingly wet bathroom floor.

Then, when she’s allowed out of the bathroom, she runs to Grandma’s bed to roll around on the quilt and grumble and then she jumps to the floor and races back and forth across the apartment like a crazed animal because she is so mad at us! How dare you get me wet! How dare you wash off my wonderful perfume! How dare you make me shiver and trap me in water and dry me with a towel! How dare you!

One benefit of the running, shaking, craziness extravaganza, is that it does a lot to dry her hair. She goes from the shrunken down version of herself back to full fluff.

I don’t love giving her baths. She finds them so distressing; and I have to crouch the whole time and scrub poop and try to keep her form jumping to freedom. I know it’s in her best interests to be clean, and I can be firm and mommy-like when I need to be. But I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not hurting her, as she alternately bares her teeth at me, and whimpers. I repeat a mantra to myself, I am not the bad guy, I am not the bad guy, but I don’t think Cricket agrees with me.