I have been grooming for 23 years this year. I consider myself to be a good groomer. A safe groomer. A good reader of animal behavior.
I can tell generally speaking, when a dog is going to give me a problem. I have very few problems with dogs and in fact I am one of the people in this area that has always handled difficult dogs. The older I get the less inclined I am to do it, but I'm good at it.
I very rarely read a dog wrong! However, on February 8th 2017, I read a dog wrong. Very very wrong!
The dog came in for grooming and he was a rather large Shih-Tzu which might have weighed 17 or 18 pounds. He was one of these stinkiest dogs I have seen in a very long time. So bad in fact that when I took him from his owners I took him straight into my back room which has a door that I can shut to prevent the smell from coming out into the main room. I picked him up and put him in a kennel. I took his buddy as well and did the same thing with her. Because again they really stunk.
Because they smelled so terribly bad I decided that I was going to pre-cut them instead of wet shave which is really odd for me to do as you know. I picked him up and put him on my grooming table and then client after client came in the door. I was unable to get started shaving him down he sat on my grooming table which is very close to my front desk with a double loop system on to keep him safely on the table. Remember too I was within five feet of him at all times and he was just sitting there looking around.
About this time Billy came in the door and because I hadn't had a chance to work on him yet he picked him up off of my table and moved into his table and begin to shave him down. Got him completely shaved down except for his head and tail because they weren't matted. Then he picked him up and carried him into the bathing room and put him straight into the tub. The dog was wagging his tail and actually trying to lick everybody that he came into contact with.
Jeremy bathed him with absolutely no incident. While he was bathing him Billy and I both shaved down the female they came in with him because she was very scared and it took two people. There were no incidents with other dog to make us concerned for our safety. Jeremy put him in a kennel to wait for his turn to be dried after his bath, which included a great deodorizing bath with baking soda, and again the dog showed no signs of any problems.
He was a very happy easygoing dog up until this point.
Everything was about to change.
Jeremy is a really good Bather! But he's young and he doesn't have a whole lot of experience. As a result when the dog and question growled at him and tried to bite him coming out of a cage it really didn't surprise me. It happens often with him because he doesn't understand dog behavior, that I end up having to get dogs out of cages for him. Couple times a week anyway. So when I went into the room to get the dog out of the kennel for him he acted fine! He was wagging his tail, he walked to the front of the kennel, and I went to reach for him. Because of what he had done to Jeremy I was smart enough to use a towel to reach into the kennel.
I am so very very glad that I did use a towel! I got bitten badly. One of the worst bites of my career in fact. If he had not bitten me through the towel he would have taken the entire top of my hand off I have no doubt.
My doctor's office fortunately for me does walk in care so Billy was ready to drive me to the doctor's office but we had to call the owner of the dog and let them know that I have been bitten. I knew the dogs vet clinic and the owner had told me he had had all of his shots but I had not verify them. I'm not super keen on keeping track of everybody's vaccines. I firmly believe that that is the job of the veterinarian and the owner to decide what's right for their dog. I called the vet because I was going to have to have this information at my doctor's office and found out that the dog's rabies vaccine had expired in December of 2016. So while I had my hand wrapped in a towel and an ice pack, I called the dog's owner and told her that I was headed to the hospital and that because her dogs rabies vaccine was expired the dog would have to be put into quarantine for 10 days. Animal Control had to be notified of the bite because I was headed to the doctor.
And this is where it gets weird. She actually said to me "what did you do to make him bite you?" I was getting frustrated because I was in a lot of pain and I said to her "ma'am I have to go to the hospital right now. Animal Control will be in touch with you about the quarantine".
And then she told me to calm down. I said "excuse me? me calm down? I didn't do anything to cause this and it's not my fault that your dogs vaccines are out of date! I will discuss this with you later" and then I hung up the phone and we went to the doctor's office.
Because the bite was under 3 centimeters the doctor refused to stitch it even though in my opinion it should have been stitched. I had shredded skin in places. In fact it was five different pieces of skin that should have been connected that were no longer connected.
I opted for a tetanus shot. I was given Augmentin for 14 days whereas the normal course is 7 because it was such a severe bite she was very concerned it was going to get infected.
In the meantime the owner showed up at the shop and of course they wouldn't release the dog to her but they did give her the other dog who had had a bath and been dried but not finished. She paid in $1 bills. $90 in $1 bills. While we waited on Animal Control to come to the grooming shop, because my doctor trusted me to report the bite and didn't do it herself, the owner called the shop repeatedly. For some reason Animal Control took forever getting to the grooming shop and in fact it was three hours after being called when they finally showed up. The owner had come into the shop and was waiting on them when they got there.
The husband informed me at that time that his wife thought quarantined meant euthanasia. I about fell out laughing. I don't know how you get euthanasia from quarantine but apparently she did and that's why she was telling me to calm down. She thought her dog was going to be euthanized. The Animal control officer just shook his head and said "are you kidding?"
In the state of Georgia if your dog is out of date on his rabies vaccine and bites someone resulting in medical care being sought they go into quarantine at the local Humane Society or a veterinarian's office generally speaking. We had an issue with doing that with this dog because it was a Wednesday afternoon and by the time Animal Control got to me the veterinarians offices were closed. They all close at either 12 or 2 so they were closed for the day. Our local Humane Society was under quarantine for parvo! They were not allowed to take in a dog of any kind under any circumstances until the parvo quarantine was lifted. So I only had two options for this dogs quarantine. I could keep him because I am licensed to board or he could go home and the rabies control office would keep an eye on him at home. I was given the option of filing charges against the owner, but to me that made no sense because I don't think that they did anything to cause this I think it's just a product of the dog not being handled very much. I declined that but they were told that if any time Animal Control came by to see them or their dog and they refused access to the dog they would go to jail and charges would be filed for having an aggressive dog.
Our rabies control officer takes these kinds of bites very seriously and actually checked up with them on this dog's condition every day for 10 days. Physically went to the house and looked at the dog every day for 10 days. They called me every single day to tell me the dog looked OK and then I had no reason to worry about getting a vaccine for rabies. Which to be honest with you I wasn't concerned about because I know that since his rabies vaccine was really only about 40 days out of date I wasn't concerned. It's not as if the vexing quits working immediately after the one-year a time is up period in fact research has shown that they're good for as much as seven years or one other study says lifetime after boosters so I don't worry about it in a pet dog period if he had never had a rabies vaccine and we had had an incidence of rabies in the area it might have been a different story but he had one and it was just slightly over the time frame you should have had another one. And it turns out that even the health department did not recommend I get post-exposure vaccines because he wasn't sick after 10 Days.
Right now at almost 5 weeks after the bite was initially suffered it's pretty well healed up. I ended up using some steri-strips on it to pull it together and did some minor surgery myself to remove some of the flaps of skin that were left. I also use Tegaderm, which is a film that they use in hospitals where they put in IVs , and it's available at any pharmacy. It allows the cuts or bites to breathe but prevents water and debris from getting to the injury. It really helped prevent this from becoming a massive problem for me. And I believe it thoroughly improved my healing. My doctor has seen it because I groom for her, and she said I did a great job pulling it together and she surprised but she doesn't think it's going to scar badly.
I groomed with a brace on to keep the part of my hand still while I was working. I also wore a glove with the fingers cut out of it to keep the splint clean and the bite covered.
I have given you a photo progression below of the bite immediately after it happened and then weekly up until today.
The photos are graphic so if you don't wish to see them don't scroll any further.
I'm sharing this with you because a lot of people get complacent. And they really tend to believe that this type of thing cannot happen to them. Trust me. It can happen to you no matter how long you've been grooming and no matter how good of a reader you are. All we can do is do our best to make sure that we are safe. Sometimes we're going to fail. Most of the time we won't but when we do we can't kick ourselves about it we just have to pick ourselves up and keep on grooming.