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December 2009
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February 2010

January 2010

January's Featured Pet, Marley


Meet Marley, the Goldendoodle! I only groom one of them, and her dad drives all the way from Savannah to here, roughly 3 hours or so, to get her done.

He likes her shaggy, so all we do is shape her up with thinning shears. This is only the second haircut she has had because he had a hard time finding a groomer that would do something besides shave her down. Not sure why no one would do what he asked for, but he said they refused. She had been bathed and brushed, but not trimmed ever. She is 16 months old. Perfect on the table. Next visit she will look even better but I enjoyed working on her.


My technique is to treat her like a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. I use the same thinning shear technique as I do on Wheatens and the "shake and fall" method of making the hair lay after combing. To do this, you shake one side of the body and let the hair on the other side fall where it wants. Then repeat on the other side. It makes the hair lay in a natural state and it can still be uneven, but lay properly. I use this technique on all types of coats, including poodles, and every thinning sheared dog. It is something I learned off an old SCWT video. It is wonderful to make the coats lay where they belong, not where I want them to.

At any rate, if all Goldendoodles behaved like this one, and had great owners, no groomer would dislike grooming them. I am grateful that both my large Doodles are well cared for, well mannered dogs.

Here's wishing you the same!

It's only a matter of time

It’s a Matter of Time

One day it will happen. You will get bitten. We know it can happen and we do everything we can to avoid it, but in the end it will happen. Eventually. So, we now know it will happen and we just HOPE it will not happen that the bite is to the face. We REALLY pray it won’t be to the mouth, and even more we pray it won’t be a horribly disfiguring bite.

My luck ran out on August 18, 2009. I was getting ready to groom Cookie, a larger cocker mix that is 13 years old. I had her on the table, supporting her body fully, not pulling or tugging. I sat her on the table and reached to move a pair of shears that were falling. She lunged at me and bit my mouth. More precisely she bit my upper lip. Split it in three places and tore up the inside of the upper lip as well.


I saw no signs this was coming until she had my upper lip in her mouth. Stunned, I grabbed a towel off the table and ran to the bathroom to see how much damage was done. I had Tiffany, who knew NOTHING of what had happened move the dog. She thought I was getting sick, but she put Cookie up and then came running to check on me.

I had this much damage done to my lip in a split second.


I managed to call the owner of the dog and fill them in and they were WONDERFUL. Concerned, offering to pay, very kind and very much the kind of owner this should not happen to. They even offered to pay my medical bills IMMEDIATLEY. Not once did they ask me what happened, or what did I do to cause it. They asked “are you OK” and “What can we do to help YOU?” The perfect way for this to happen.

Tiffany then called all my clients for the say and rescheduled pick up times for 2 hours later than they were scheduled while I headed for Convenient Care to get stitched up. I was seen pretty quickly and have to say that the Lidocaine injections hurt worse than the actual bite did. 7-8 stitches later I was back at work with the bruising beginning.




I went for m check up in two days as prescribed, and the doctor on call really irked me. She was not the one who put in the stitches, and even though he had told me that some of the stitches could come out in two days she said “NO, they stay for ten days”. Well, considering I had a girl get bitten rather severely in the lip last year and the plastic surgeon that reattached her lip took hers out in 4 or 5 days, I knew she was wrong.

Stiches out

Fortunately the same plastic surgeon is a client and I called him. He said “NO NO NO” to leaving them in so long. He said that if you leave them in that long you WILL scar badly. Facial stitches, especially on the mouth, are usually removed within 5 days. His reasoning? If they stay in longer they adhere and they imbed and as a result they leave scars. If you take them out before that happens, and only after the skin has started to heal together, you will greatly reduce the scarring that occurs.

He also instructed me in self massage to break up the adhesions that occur when a lip is stitched together and therefore reduce stippling, buckling and again MINIMIZE SCARRING. It hurts, so you start out with just as much as you can stand and get longer with the massage over the next few days.

I have very little scarring as we speak just a few weeks after the bite.


I feel so grateful for the care I received in this case. I came out better than many would have as a result.


I do not want to tell you what to do in the case of a facial bite, but PLEASE, make the call to a plastic surgeon if you don’t see one to begin with! That can mean all the difference between healing correctly and not healing well.

My point to this article is that if you are not sure that your doctor is giving you correct information, then get a second opinion. In the case of a facial bite, you really want the best care you can get, and if your insurance will not pay for it, pay out of pocket to go to a specialist. It is critical that you get proper care to minimize damage in the long term.


My first grooming mistake ever makes me smile today!

Everyone messes up a groom now and then, but rarely do we remember them soon aft3er they happen. Given a year we forget, or the dog goes elsewhere and we tune it out. To be honest, many times we never know we screwed up because the owners just go elsewhere and never tell us. One in particular stands out in my memory like a beacon shining bright. I will never forget my first screw up as a groomer.

I started my very first job as a groomer at a shop called For Pet’s Sake, here in Albany, Georgia on December 1995. The head groomer and the only one who knew anything about how to groom the dogs got miffed when I was hired and called in sick the entire week before Christmas, leaving me and the owner of the salon to handle that week alone.

I was right out of school and over my head big time! It would have helped a lot had the cards said something other than “Carmen knows” but that is literally what all the cards said! “Carmen knows” didn’t help me a bit! The owner was not a groomer and had no idea that I could not figure out what had been done to the dogs before. I was right out of school for gosh sakes! Today I could figure it out but then, no way.

Jodi Dover brought in her tiny little Maltese with hair all the way to the floor and asked for a puppy cut. The dreaded puppy cut was about to rear its ugly head!

I asked Katrina, the owner, what that meant to her, because to me that dog looked like it got a FFTT and in school we didn’t use that term. She said “A puppy cut is short like a puppy, what is wrong with you?” I remember those words like they were yesterday. I was holding Bianca in my arms, showing her the hair, which did not have a mat in it anywhere, asking again “Are you SURE she wants all of this cut off?” and she basically told me to “Just do it!”.

Even though in my heart I knew it was wrong I did what I was told to do. I used a 4F to cut this gorgeous, full coated dog shorter.  The entire time I was doing it I doubted it and told Bianca that I was sorry, I knew it was a mistake, but I had to do what I was told.

When Jodi walked in the shop, Katrina had Bianca in the office area and I saw Jodi’s face. She was horrified to say the least. It was the week of Christmas and he dog looked awful. She actually threw her umbrella across the office she was so upset. Katrina tried to blame it on me, but I had a little bit of backbone and said point blank, “I ASKED YOU and YOU SAID TO cut her short!”

Needless to say we had to do the puppy for free until she grew back out. Normally that would be the end of the story, but it isn’t.  I was gone by the time she had grown back out and actually forgot all about it. I was working in another area of the state, and when I returned to Albany I opened my own shop.

To my surprise, one of the first people to book an appointment in my new shop was Jodi Dover, with Bianca! All grown out again and looking really pretty. Things were great for a few months, and then she placed Bianca in a new home. The thing is she never told me she did that.


One day, Denise Reaves calls me with a Maltese named Bianca. I figured out really quickly that it was the same dog and then confirmed it with both women. Denise asked me was I the one that did her at the other shop, and I said yes, kind of hesitantly, because I didn’t know why she was asking. She then says “I want her cut like she was cut the day you screwed up!”  Well I was in shock. I questioned her some more, and decided she was serious. I mean, I had to make sure I was not making another mistake, because I was a new shop and could not afford to give free grooms if I made a mistake. After making sure she was serious, I bit the bullet and did what she asked.

I was a better groomer by this time and took the dog down with a snap on comb rather than a 4F, and she loved it!

Bianca was I my shop on Saturday and I am still giggly over the first mistake I made as a groomer. She still comes to visit every eight weeks or so and is still kept slightly fluffy. She has no teeth left and we now have to shave her muzzle along the lip line to keep the hair out of her mouth. I think she is 16 years old now.

Maybe in every case you would not get this type of result, but in my case, my first mistake taught me several lessons, and I am grateful every day for that simple mistake that could have turned out so very bad.  Those lessons are:

  • Keep good records of what is done to every dog. “Carmen Knows” is useless.
  • Always call owners if there is a question about instructions. Never assume.
  • Accept responsibility for your mistakes.
  • Make amends in whatever way you can, even if it means free grooming for a long time.
  • Try to remember your mistakes because you never know when that knowledge will be needed.

I doubt I will see Bianca very many more times. I will be sad when she goes, but in the meantime, I smile every time I see her. I learned a lot from that simple mistake. Maybe you can learn from it too.

Tip Jars


There was a time not that long ago when I would have never had a tip jar sitting on my counter. I felt like they were tacky, and insulting to my clientele. I actually was rather embarrassed the first day or two the jar was on my counter, but I am relaxing my stand on it a bit and no longer feel like I am begging for tips.

An article written by a dear friend, Daryl Conner, for my website several years ago resurfaced on my computer a few months ago, and I reconsidered my stance on Tip Jars. I figured if Daryl had one and it didn't bother her it shouldn't bother me!

I found a really pretty jar, similar to a fish bowl, put a fancy, seasonal ribbon around the neck and printed a sign on my computer that says "Tips are not expected but are appreciated" and placed it on my counter. Several clients used it the first day, and none of these clients had NEVER tipped, some in several years of using our shop. I was skeptical still, but left the jar out to test it.

NO ONE expressed disdain. I asked several good clients that I could trust to tell me the truth if they found it silly, offensive or rude and they all said "ARE YOU KIDDING? Of course not!" that dialog helped me relax a bit.

To use a Tip Jar to its fullest you need to do a few things. First of all, pick a NICE jar. Decorate it if you like, but keep it simple and any bows or signage need to be simple enough to not detract from the jar itself and not block people's view of the jar itself. Secondly, put some "seed" money into it every morning. I usually put 5 $1 bills, a $5 bill and a $10 bill into the jar along with some change. We put any change from Lunches or the like into the jar as well. When people see money in it, they feel as if it is OK to use it. An empty jar does not grow! Thirdly, leave money in the jar whenever possible. The more money that is in the jar, the more money will end up IN the jar. Fourth, do not leave the Tip Jar on the counter or out in the open at night! Keep it put away securely to avoid luring thieves into the shop.

The reason we put seed money in the jar is to show people that yes, it is ok to tip. Many people are uncertain as to whether or not they CAN tip their groomer, that this answers that question. I live in an area of extremely low tippers. Many people just don't understand tipping at all, be it a waiter, hairdresser or groomers. The jar has  helped give them the idea that it can be done without offending me.


Barkleigh has a sign which says "To answer a most often asked question, YES it is ok to tip your groomer". This also works well and is available from Barkleigh directly. 

If you accept credit cards, many companies can add a "Tip Line" to the bottom of the sales slip and set it up so you can adjust the total charged on your machine without having to run the card twice. Ask your company for that assistance. You will be amazed how much your tips will increase with this feature.

Of course, we need to price our services so that we are not living off tips, but they are a nice bonus. Make the most out of your ability to encourage tips.Be grateful for tips when you receive them. Do not expect them. I get upset everytime I hear a waiter, waitress, groomer or anyone say, "They SHOULD have tipped" or "Can you believe they only tipped XXX?" or worse yet, I did all that work and they DIDN'T EVEN TIP!"

Every shop will have it's own tip policy as well and you should make sure you understand the shop policy where you are working. Some shops pool tips, some give each groomer the tip for the dog if they groomed it, others keep the tips and use them for things around the shop, like sodas, water, food, bonuses, educational seminars. Understanding these policies from the beginning will prevent hard feelings down the road.