He originated from a pet store. When this cute bundle of fur went blind shortly after arriving at the store the owner was going to put him down. After all, you cannot sell a blind dog. One of the employees convinced the owner to give her the dog. It was soon apparent, that in spite of her good intentions, it was beyond her capabilities to care for a dog that was exhibiting signs of distemper, ulcerated corneas, glaucoma, and giardia.
In stepped Kristin Edmond, Kaeley Blum, and Dr. Andrew Pickerstein of VCA Northside Animal Hospital In Danbury, CT. They adopted him, treated his medical conditions, and neutered him. All they wanted for Ghost was a good home. I met him when he was Po at VCA while bringing one of my other dogs in for a visit. We clicked immediately and a couple of weeks later he is snoozing next to me as I write this.
I have groomed many blind dogs over the years. I have owned blind dogs. What they all have in common was they went blind over time. They were used to my grooming van, the procedures, the noises, and where everything was located. Minor changes were needed. Ghost is my first dog that does not have a clue as to what to expect.
Dogs take life’s lemons and make lemonade. They adapt. Other senses begin to heighten to compensate for the loss of one. How does all this relate to grooming? I want to make Ghost’s experience with grooming a stress free, pleasant experience. Did I mention he is a Husky? There is lots of grooming in his future.
I’ll start with their enhanced hearing. It’s been interesting to watch Ghost chase after my golden retriever by listening to Ricky’s huffing and puffing as he runs.
While we hear in the 200 to 20,000 Hz range, dogs can hear up to 200,000 Hz. They are already more sensitive to music, throw in that enhanced hearing, and add agitating music. You now have an over stimulated dog, one that is more likely to bite. I play music softly in the background. Nothing jarring or loud. My personal favorite is Stephen Halpern’s Chakra Suite. It’s designed for meditation, and therefore very calming. I am also mindful of other background noises that I may have become accustomed to such as barking dogs and dryers. When drying Ghost, I use a Happy Hoodie to muffle the pitch of the high velocity dryer.
A typical dog has over 220 million olfactory receptors compared to our 5 million. Ghost is relying heavily on his increased sense of smell. That can be both a disadvantage as well as advantageous. Strong odors such as bleach, disinfectants, and cleaners may be overwhelming. I can this use this concept to Ghost’s advantage. I scent mark all the equipment, table edges, grooming arms, etc. with an essential oil. I choose an oil that is not common to the area. For me, it’s rosemary. Using an oil from the pine family would be confusing as pines and junipers surround my property. A little dab does the trick. He can use his sense of smell to “see” where everything is located. You can also place calming essential oils such as lavender in a diffuser or on cotton balls strategically placed around your facility. Do not put essential oils on plastics such as AC vents as it may cause damage.
Whether Ghost is in the tub or on the table, I am always touching him. Sometimes it’s with my shoulder if both hands are occupied. That consistent contact ensures that I do not startle him, and a startled dog is more likely to bite. If he is in a crate or I have not maintained the constant contact, I will use vibrations to warn him before I touch by rattling the cage door or tapping the grooming table with a brush. This is also good advice for deaf dogs.
To round out the experience I have rose quartz crystals in various places around my grooming van. Rose quartz is also known as the ‘Love Stone.” Crystals work on the Entrainment Principle. That’s where the Dominant Operating Resonance of one object affects the Lesser Operating Resonance of another. Remember the tuning fork experiment in grade school. The one where the teacher brought out about four or five tuning forks and made one of them vibrate. Shortly afterwards all the other tuning forks began to vibrate. The same principle applies for crystals. The stable Dominant Frequency of rose quartz helps to calm and support the Lesser Frequency of a stressed pet.
It is amazing to watch this blind puppy adjust and flourish and to see his spirit shine. He runs and chases my other dogs, goes up and down the stairs by himself, and knows when someone is in the kitchen (where the treats are). It took my husband and myself about three days to realize that Ghost was an inappropriate name for him. So, every body, meet Spirit.
You can read all about his journeys in Spirit's blog. http://www.spiritdogblog.com
The article originally appeared in Groomer To Groomer magazine.