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March 2021

What Does A Groomer Mean By Matted Coat?

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So, what is coat matting?

“It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination.”

When a conversation begins between a groomer and an owner regarding the condition of the pet’s coat and what is necessary it feels like there are two totally different conversations happening at the same time.

In my best Rod Serling voice; “Welcome To The Twilight Zone.”

In all fairness to both parties, I know my eyes pretty much glaze over if my car mechanic tries to explain the mechanics of what the problem is and the steps he needs to fix it. I’m going to end the conversation with Dude whatever, just fix it.

The problem lies in expectations Vs. reality. I’m expecting my car to be returned to me in a set amount of time, looking the way I think it should look, and costing me the lowest price point posted on the wall.

When that doesn’t happen, is it because I wasn’t paying attention (probably) or not explained to me in a manner that I understand (probably) or a combination of both.

I’m going to try explaining the how’s, why’s, and problems associated with your pet’s coat being matted.

Imagine if you will.

You are a child and your parents buy you a special form fitting suit and it’s oh so fluffy. It fits perfectly. Even as you grow, it grows with you. Pretty Amazing.

There are a couple of things your parents need to do for you. With the suit came a special washcloth and they need to wipe it down every day. But you know, they get busy. And now you’re getting wiped down every couple of day. But it’s OK.  There is also that monthly service visit recommendation some of your parents’ friends told them about, but the person they bought it from says that wasn’t necessary. Every 3-6 months should be fine.

Your parents see that you can go a couple of days. No Problem. They get used to it. Now you’re not getting wiped down for a week or so. In order to get the stains out, they have to rub harder. You protest.

Well they don’t want to hurt you. So they stop. They’ll try again later. Later doesn’t happen because every time you see the wash cloth, you run and hide. They simply stop. When you go in for a suit service check, they’ll let the technician know. A month later, you look good. No need to make that service appointment just yet. 3-6 months sounds right.

Problem becomes as the suit is not taken care of, it no longer grows with you. In fact, it is now tightening against your skin. It kinda hurts. But you get used to it. It’s a little itchy too. You were out in the rain and some water got under the suit and it feels a little weird.

Now your parents take you in for a suit service appointment. The night before, they get a regular washcloth and go superficially wipe your suit. Looking good.  The technician notes that you were supposed to bring you once a month. Your parents thought you looked just fine and stretched it out a bit. Come on. You really don’t need monthly appointments. That’s just a scam for the technician to make more money.

Your parents tell the technician to clean you up and make the suit all nice and fluffy again. The technician says no can do. This is really tight. I will probably have to cut it off.

“Cut it off”, screams one of your parents. I’m having company tomorrow. No. no, no.

The technician replies that in order to save the suit, it will take hours and may be too much for you to handle. In fact, the technician thinks that the too tight suit might have caused some injuries.

Your parents are getting a little annoyed as they are paying the technician, they expect them to do the job they are paying him to do.

The technician tells your parents he will do the best he can. However, what your parents hear is that you will be cleaned up and all nice and fluffy again and are quite disappointed when they come to pick you up and find that not only are you naked, but it looks like there are some skin irritations and possibly some bruising from the suit being too tight.

And then your itching begins as your skin can finally breathe.  By the time you get home, you’ve scratched yourself another injury.

One of two reactions happen.

  1. Your parents are outraged, but the technician calmly informs them that the new suit will get fluffy again, but they must bring you back every month to ensure that happens. That he tried and it became too much for you.  Now begins the social media blasting because it must be the technician’s ineptitude that caused the bruising, skin irritations, along with a bloody injury. And to top it off, when one of your parents replaced that ridiculous bow with another, you lost part of your ear because they wrapped it around the ear instead of the one tuft of fluff you had left. But they’ll blame that on the technician as well.
  2. Your parents are mortified and realize their mistake and start making monthly appointments for you as they do not want to cause you harm again. They also buy another washcloth as they no longer know what they did with the original.

But your parents are smart cookies and choose option 2. They realize that regular maintenance on your suit will keep it fitting properly and not cause you health problems. Give them a hand.

All pets need regular maintenance. Even short coated pets. Regular bathing and coat maintenance help keep skin and coat healthy. Regular professional maintenance has the added benefit of a professional set of eyes on your pet. In my personal career as a groomer I have found all sorts of problems that were easily mitigated because they sought our early veterinary intervention. Some of which saved the life of that pet.

Mary is a business, wellness, and safety strategist who specializes in the pet industry. She has contributed to the professional pet industry as a consultant, speaker, writer, and progressive leader.

You can contact Mary by dropping a message or email her at Mary@PawsitivelyPretty.com


Taking Care Of Ourselves

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Can you smell it in the air? Flowers blooming, trees beginning to leaf out, and fresh rain on the grass.  Ahh Spring, AKA Mud Season, can be a busy time for us. And wouldn’t it be nice if we weren’t so exhausted and could enjoy the warmer weather and flowering gardens. Does it seem like that’s out of reach? Are we doomed to never stop and smell the roses?

The good news is that we don’t have to make a decision between making awesome money and enjoying the sweet smell of Spring.

We can have both! It starts with instituting a self-care routine.

What Is Self Care?

Self-care is any action or behavior that helps us to avoid causing health problems while improving our overall well being. And there are two aspects to self care- Physical and Mental. It isn’t just that we take pains to care for our physical needs, our mental state must be considered as well. 

Suggestions include:

  1. Set a schedule with specific times where work is not on the radar. Shut off the business phone and don’t read emails, texts, and your Facebook business page, even if someone is having a meltdown. It can wait until the next business day. We do not need to be at the beck and call of clients. Have you ever tried to resolve an issue with any other business after hours? No, because you knew the office was closed and it would HAVE to wait until the next day. Those businesses have set clear boundaries. We can do the same. People can become stressed when their normally clean smelling pet has just been skunked. There is no need for you to clean their pet at 11pm.
  1. Engage in two minutes of sustained full body physical movement every hour throughout your day. That’s a walk around a shop or up and down the block if you’re mobile. The human body was designed for motion. When we become overwhelmed, our bodies produce stress hormones. The animals in our care can smell those stress hormones on us and as a result may become reactive. Movement helps to dissipate such hormones. Those two minutes every hour will do wonders for your overall health. https://mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/featured-topic/the-importance-of-movement
  2. Get enough sleep. We all have different sleep patterns. Hubby thrives on 6 hours a night. If I don’t get 8, I have a hard time functioning. It isn’t about the amount of time, but rather the correct amount for you. If you have trouble falling asleep and it isn’t medical in nature, some suggestions:
  • Institute the two-hour rule: no electronics, food, alcohol, or exercise two hours before bed.
  • Did you know that our gut produces most of our serotonin, AKA sleep hormone? Poor quality diet or foods high in inflammatory content such as sugars and dairy can hinder production of serotonin. Reduce your intake of such foods.
  • Implement Point 1 and 2 of this article.
  1. Take your time waking up. This is not to be confused with hitting the snooze button for the next hour. A sleep cycle is anywhere between 60-120 minutes. When you hit the snooze button you interrupt that cycle. It will make you more tired throughout the day. Instead don’t rush out of bed. A 10-minute cuddle will do more for your emotional well being than the snooze button.
  2. Eat breakfast and stop working through lunch. Breakfast kickstarts your metabolism. Breakfast gets you moving. Stopping and eating lunch raises your blood sugar allowing you to continue working efficiently for the rest of the day.
  3. Listen to a podcast. Something fun or educational. Avoid the ones that will raise your blood pressure. Save those for after work.
  4. Recognize your emotional state. If you need to step back, then do so. Put the pet away and take some time to regroup.
  5. Pay it forward. Do something nice for someone else. An article in the July 2006 Psychology Today concluded that random acts of kindness is a mood booster. You feel better about yourself and in control of your life when you regularly engage in kindness.
  6. Haven’t used those massage gift cards you got during the holidays. Your body and mind will thank you.
  7. A September 2013 article in Psychology Today concluded that meditation improves health, happiness, social life, self-control, brain function, productivity, and wisdom. Read the full article here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-it/201309/20-scientific-reasons-start-meditating-today. Don’t know how to meditate. Here are some ideas:
  • Deep breathing. Sit or lie down comfortably. Slowly count to four while inhaling through your nose. Feel your stomach rise. Hold your breath for a second. Slowly count to four while you exhale. Repeat several times.
  • Close your eyes, relax and imagine a peaceful place. Engage all your senses. Feel yourself there.
  • Tai Chi, yoga, or Qi Gong all utilizes meditation in practice.
  • Use a guided meditation track. Some are free on YouTube or your app store, others for a nominal charge on Amazon.

By taking care of ourselves now, we can enjoy time with our families instead of wondering where the time went. But the key is consistency. In order for self care to be effective, it must be practiced on a regular basis. 

Mary is a business, wellness, and safety strategist who specializes in the pet industry. She has contributed to the professional pet industry as a consultant, speaker, writer, and progressive leader.

You can contact Mary by dropping a message or email her at Mary@PawsitivelyPretty.com


How A Pet Assessment Saved Me From A Pet Dying In My Care

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Lilly was a fairly new client. I had only been grooming her and her brother for about six months. Both brother and sister were elderly and it’s my policy to do a full body pet assessment before grooming.

As Lilly’s owner is a talker, I usually do the assessment while she is chatting away. I only got as far as the gums, when I noticed the tongue looked a little purple to me. I pointed it out to the owner and refused the groom until she had it checked out at the vet.

A pet assessment is where I go from head to tail with deliberate intent and purpose to determine if they are healthy enough to groom.

For new clients, this assessment should be done with the owner present. You want all pre–existing conditions noted before the owner leaves, as you do not want to be blamed for something that was there before hand. In addition, this assessment serves to reduce “misunderstandings” between yourself and the client. 

One of the benefits of doing an assessment with the owner present is that they see how well their pet tolerates being handled. It presents a good opportunity to educate your clients on pet care and offer and charge for extra needed services, such as extra handling or de–matting fees. I have always found that educated clients are good clients.

Established clients (pets, to be more specific) get a “hug” when they enter my grooming van. This hug is really a pet assessment. There may have been changes since the last time I saw them, especially if this is an older pet. 

On more than one occasion, I have rescheduled a groom due to problems found during the assessment. There is no amount of income that could compensate for the mental anguish over the loss of a pet. I know, because I have been there as well.

Before I touch an unfamiliar pet, I keep a muzzle close and my face at a distance. If I am uncomfortable or unable to touch him, he goes home. I will not risk my livelihood with a potentially career–ending bite.

What Does An Assessment Consist Of?

  • Overall Appearance: Is he bouncy with bright eyes? Or is he lethargic, coughing or having trouble breathing? Are his eyes dull? Coughing may be an indicator of kennel cough, respiratory infections, canine influenza or a heart condition. Add in runny noses and eyes and you have a serious health concern. Watch them walk. Does he appear to be in pain? The worse bite I ever received was from an arthritic Golden Retriever I was helping into my van.
  • Mouth, Tongue and Gums: Gums should be pink except for those breeds with mottled or dark gums such as Chows Chows and Springer Spaniels. A yellowish tinge may indicate liver failure, bluish is hypoxia (no blood flow) and pale gums are an indicator of shock. Teeth in poor shape cause mouth pain, which in turn, creates snappy dogs. Take this opportunity to educate your clients on dental care.
  • Eyes: Eyes should be bright and dilate equally. Unequal dilation or rapidly moving eyes are a sign of neurological problems. Hardened discharge may have irritated and raw skin underneath. Red eyes may be an indicator of stress or an eye infection.
  • Ears: Foul odor, redness, discharge, and head shaking are all signs of an ear infection. It is my policy to not clean or pluck ears in this condition. Very thick looking ears may be a hematoma or severe matting.
  • Joints and Spine: Arthritis, spinal or leg injuries will cause pain when moved or touched. A pet in pain can and will bite. 
  • Pads: Check pads for ingrown nails, debris or cuts. Even well–behaved pets may have feet issues. I groom a couple of pets that do not get their nails done.
  • Belly Area: If the belly area is distended or hard, refer to vet immediately as this could be a sign of bloat. Drooling and a very uncomfortable looking pet may accompany it.
  • Skin & Coat: Note any lumps, bumps, cysts or warts on their body. You do not want to shave them off during the groom. Check the skin for irritations, wounds and parasites. Can you even see the skin? You have no idea what you will find once the mats are removed. I have found open sores that required veterinary treatment.
  • The first time you perform a pet assessment, it will take longer than that of an established client. It is my policy that owners only need to be present for the first assessment. For me, it’s part of the greeting process. As I am saying hello to the pet and making kissy faces, I simply run my hands over his body and pay attention to body language.
  • Encourage your clients to continue this at home. Their pet stands a better chance of recovery when problems are brought to light, as early detection means early intervention. Recommend any concerns found be followed up with their vet and keep notes on their client card.

Lilly was eventually diagnosed with a collapsing trachea, which took her life while at the vet's office. Because I refused to groom her until such time as the vet  cleared her, she did not die while in my care. 

Mary is a business, wellness, and safety strategist who specializes in the pet industry. She has contributed to the professional pet industry as a consultant, speaker, writer, and progressive leader.

You can contact Mary by dropping a message or email her at Mary@PawsitivelyPretty.com


Covid Exhaustion And The Pet Professional

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As an industry overall, pet groomers have been impacted heavily by the pandemic. I posted on FB that I was looking for how pet groomers have been faring. The overall feeling was that of being exhausted for the past year. The best quote comes from Kaylee Konopaski; “I feel a mixture of exhaustion, burnout, gratefulness, jealously, and guilt.  Overall, I’m just tired of it.”

Let’s unpack that.

  1. Tired from arguing with clients over legally mandated, state requirements that keep us open. Employee distancing requirements which lead to longer work days. Fear of shutting down again and having no income. So, we work those extra hours and days. Spending time going in and out of our facilities for curbside and worrying about a pet getting away from us. Rescheduling due to covid. Afraid to add necessary staff because of covid. Clients rescheduling/no showing and using covid as an excuse to get out fees. Clients not telling us they tested positive until after their pet has been groomed. Quarantining and shutting down our facilities for 10 days. Worrying about our health and that of our families and clients. Picking up the financial slack because others in our household may have been laid off.Running a business and juggling everything around covid fears and legal requirements is just plain exhausting.

The thought that stays in the back of our minds all the time is- What will happen if I’m shut down again. Will my business survive?

  1. Working longer hours than normal without any recharge activities such as going to the gym, hanging out with friends, going to tradeshow, or allowing yourself any time off because the fear of shutdowns. Let’s add in clients who are taking out their frustration and feelings of life spiraling out of control on us by making unreasonable demands or being abusive towards us.

We wish our clients understood we are trying to do our best for the pets and the wellbeing of ourselves, staff, and community under these circumstances. We all need a vacation.

  1. Why are some groomers doing well and not me? Why was I shut down and not them? Why have some groomers fallen through the cracks and haven’t received or qualified for financial assistance?

 

  1. At this stage of the pandemic, it would be hard pressed to not know someone personally who has had a significant case of covid or have passed. Survivor’s guilt can eat away at our mental wellbeing. My sister-in-law was hospitalized and minutes away from being intubated. Six months later, she is still battling lung issues. Were we one of the lucky ones that had Covid, but was asymptomatic? And did we unknowingly infect someone?

How does covid exhaustion impact our health? It can manifest as altered sleep patterns, weight gain (the 10lbs I fought to lose just before covid hit is back with a vengeance,) underlying medical conditions are worsened by the stress; that includes anxiety, depressive conditions, as well as any chronic condition, and the uptick in substance abuse. This link will take you to the CDC for resources in coping during covid: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html.

I did not forget gratitude. There are reasons to be grateful. I’m a firm believer in gratitude journaling. What that really does is to help your brain shift focus from consistently looking for the bad in our lives, and instead acknowledge and recognize the wonderful in life. It’s been an opportunity to take a close look at our businesses and look to see how we can get through this and be better prepared in the future. Re-evaluate where we are. Are we happy in our careers and family life? Do we need to make changes?  Appreciating the clients who have gone out of their way to let us know we’re loved. The availability of online education which has allowed our minds to be productive instead of letting covid dictate how we feel.

This has and continues to be a very stressful time for us. Sometimes we all need a little help to navigate day to day like. Seek out qualified mental health professionals if necessary, as well as tap into the collective online world of pet professionals in the same boat as you.

 I’m just tired of it as well. I need a vacation.

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Mary is a business, wellness, and safety strategist who specializes in the pet industry. She has contributed to the professional pet industry as a consultant, speaker, writer, and progressive leader.

You can contact Mary by dropping a message or email her at Mary@PawsitivelyPretty.com