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February 2011
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March 2011

Herbal Vinegar Cleanser


by Rosalee de la Forêt

This is the month where spring officially arrives! Whether you live in a warm climate that has been experiencing spring for weeks or you are still incased with snow, as a lover of plants I know most of us are brimming with excitement for the upcoming growing season.

When I think of spring I think of hyacinths, violets, red-winged blackbirds, apple blossoms and cleaning. Yes cleaning.

I know that cleaning doesn’t hold the same excitement as pink hyacinth flowers, but the ritual of spring cleaning may be as old as spring itself. Opening the windows, cleaning under the bed and letting freshness sweep out the staleness of winter just feels good.

In our efforts to bring freshness into our homes it would be silly to attempt to accomplish this while using harsh chemical cleaning agents. Yet this is what many people do in an attempt to create a sterile home environment. I avoid walking down the cleaning aisle at the grocery store, otherwise that harsh cacophony of scents assuredly reddens my eyes and gives me a headache. No thank you!

Even “natural” cleaners you buy at the grocery store can include not-so-natural chemicals as well as cost a pretty penny.

In this HerbMentor newsletter we are going to make a 100% natural herbal cleaner that is super effective at cleaning counters, stove tops and bathroom appliances. Better yet, this cleaner will undoubtedly cost you less than $5 for a year’s supply!

Though a bit different, this recipe was inspired by the Village Herbalist series on

Before we get to the recipe let’s learn more about our ingredients.


In this recipe we’ll be using distilled white vinegar. You can buy this at grocery stores and is fairly cheap at $2-4 a gallon. Vinegar could be the only cleaner you’ll ever need. It can clean practically everything from the toilet to the windows (just switch out rags in between). I don’t get caught up worrying about germs, but if that is a concern for you, white vinegar is even a natural disinfectant.


Many of us think of thyme as simply a culinary herb, but thyme has a well-deserved place in our medicine cabinet as well. Thyme tea is fabulous for lung congestion and coughs. I’ve used it for productive coughs (to loosen and expel mucous) as well as for dry spasmodic coughs (to lessen the cough). Anti-microbial in nature, it has been used for centuries to clean wounds and kill parasitic fungi on the skin. These anti-microbial properties make it great for cleaning your house as well.


Its lovely scent is sweet enough for linen sachets and calming enough to relieve stress. I’ll admit that the soothing smell of lavender makes cleaning all the happier. The word lavender comes from ‘to wash’ and it has been used for bathing for eons. It is also antimicrobial, making it another wonderful addition to our cleaning crew. 

To make this recipe you’ll need...

  • 1 quart of vinegar
  • 1 cup of dried thyme leaves and flowers
  • 1 cup of dried lavender flowers
  • quart jar
  • Place the dried herbs in a quart jar.

Fill the jar with vinegar.

Let this sit for 24 hours. The next day the vinegar should be a lovely red color (This red color comes from the thyme).

Strain out the vinegar well and then place it in a spray bottle.

Voila! You have your own super cheap, super effective herbal vinegar cleaner.

We use this exclusively in our house to clean the stove, countertops, kitchen sink, toilet, windows, etc. It cuts through grease and leaves a pleasant scent. If desired you could even add some essential oils to the vinegar as well.


Dematting Tip

As you are combing or brushing through a dog's coat in prep for scissoring or clippering, if you feel a tangle or a solid knot that won't comb out yet you cannot see it as you are brushing:

Don't risk snagging and pulling the hair and skin, or possibly breaking the hair from excessive stretching, instead get to the root of the problem. 


~As you comb or brush, once you find a snag, blow a bit of air from your mouth into the coat in the area where you felt the tool catch on the matt.  With that soft burst of air, the hair will easily part away from the air that you blow against it.  As it parts, it will quickly show the matt or tangle hidden closer to the skinand isolate it from the losse hair surrounding it. Then once you have located the mat or tangle, if it is tight, moisten it with a spritz of detangling spray, and start at the outside of the knot, working your way to the center of it.  Break it into smaller pieces with either your comb, brush, or thinner shears or straight shears, and lift those pieces out with your comb, leaving behind the coat as undamaged and intact as possible. 

Never dematt or thoroughly brush a dry or dirty coat.  Sometimes all that holds a matts tightly together is dirt and oils, once those are removed, many knots will fall right apart and leave behind minimal breakage or thinning. 

Happy Dematting!

Taming the Cavalier Foot

Cavaliers are known for their floppy, soft and feathery feet. It is one of their attributes of which I am most in love. However, when these little dust mops get wet and then get dirty, it can be like a million little blots of muddy paint all over your floor, so in the wetter times of the year, I trim them up quite short to save on the scrubbing. 

In the show ring, Cavalier feet are to be kept quite natural, excessive shaping or trimming will be penalized, but not at home!  For my show dogs, during show season, all I trim are the undersides of the feet around the pads and lightly shape the sides of the foot to lend some grip for when trotting around the ring.

 The show dog foot

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a modified shaping of the foot to thin and shorten the foot.

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You can also trim up the feathering between the toes to help the owners at home who still want some feather but a little less "mop"!

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a more tightly trimmed pet foot

And if your client wants a very tight foot, simply take the pads down, shape the sides of the foot tight with either a blade or thinner shears, and then brush up the feather between the toes and use a thinner shear to cut it even with the top of the foot to form a cat paw.

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 A few things to remember whenever you are clippering or scissoring feet on a breed that has feathering:

~It takes a loooong time for that hair to grow back in, it breaks off easily and if you want it long again, you'll need to comb it and condition it a lot.

~The more you trim the feet feathers, the more thick they will come back in.  And it may not be in the same texture or color.

~The tighter you trim to the toes, especially BETWEEN the toes, the more you will clip down into the natural cowlicks and curls of the hair close to the skin and you will start to see a different color between the toes and waviness in the hair that can be difficult to completely blend to a nice finish.

Happy Feet!


SmartStyling Tips

Over the years on the grooming forums, I have posted a plethora of my opinions and tips on grooming techniques and tips that I thought would be nice to compile into a series "have at hand" articles for those who wanted to have them to refer to. So, here goes the first edition!

Want to get the most out of your pet cologne? try applying it to a damp dog before kennel drying or HV Drying.

Have a dog that's all ready to go home and then they release a bit of glands when they get excited? Mist a few spritzes, enough to dampen the area, of enzymatic breath spray- I always use Petrodex- onto their rear and leave it be. The enzymes in the spray help to break down the odor causing enzymes of the gland secretion and remove the smell instantly!.

Many groomers wonder how to get a smooth finish on their pet faces when the dog's hair seems to be sticking up and out all over the place. One of the reasons that hair doesn't lay and fall neatly, aside from breakage, cowlicks and color=texture differences, is that there are large, thick tactile hairs and whiskers growing in along with the softer hair of the face. These whiskers push straight out and up under the fall of the facial hair, and push it all over the place. As well, when you trim these hairs to the same length as the rest of the beard, they grow out faster than the rest of the hair, so they end up sticking out faster following a groom as the rest of the hair grows out. What I do is remove then from the equation. When the pet's face is still wet after the bath, I use my straight shears and cut back the whisker hairs very close to the skin. When the hair is wet, the tactile hairs will all stick straight up and out and show themselves very well for clipping. Once the pet is dried and ready for its face to be trimmed & styled those thick hairs are nowhere to be seen, and you can produce a very smooth and nicely contoured trim!


When groomers style a pet, most will tell you that the outcome of the style and length of the face can make or break a great looking groom. When a dog greets its owner, the face is often the first thing they look at. It provides the owner the "personality" and expression from the dog that the owner looks at every day, and messing it up can often be one of the first things that an owner replies on at their next grooming visit.  When a dog's face and beard are left too long (and it is not requested of the owner), it creates a disproportionate feature of the dog, just like leaving feet too large, or an underline too level.  When the throat is left too long, it creates an illusion of the dog being throaty or having a double chin or fattiness in the neck. Therefor getting it tight and creating a definite point where the neck and head connect, chisels the groom and gives length to the neck.  Personally, I use the dog's skull shape and size to help set the length of the face of all of my grooms.  This assures that there will be no unnecessary hair left under the throat, at the sides of the cheeks, or under the ears of the dog to get wet, dirty, and cause the owner to take up scissors and hack at it.  What I do is to trim up the topskull and cheeks with clippers whenever possible. At times, it may make a dog's face look more perfectly round to use only scissors on the temples and cheeks, but most of the time, getting that hair short faster with a clipper will only make your finish work easier.  After clippering the head and cheeks, I will fold the ears back over the head and remove all of the long hair under the ears. If it does not create part of a large and full headpiece as with what is needed of breeds such as the Bichon, then take it off. It helps to aerate the ear as well to have un-needed hair under the ear leather gone. 

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 After I have set the length of the head & cheeks, I will lift up the ears and tuck them carefully under the grooming loop to hold them back and concentrate on getting the head perfectly round and proportionate without them hanging at the sides of the face.

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 With the ears out of the equation, I will then set the length of chin in a very easy method!  I part the hair of the beard across the top of the nose with my fingers.

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 I will draw the bard hair down tight across the sides of the jaw and squeeze it together under the chin. When I do this, the hair that needs cutting off will be very obvious in being too long past the sides of the face.

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 The hair will also criss cross and jut out when squeezed and be really easy to see where to cut it off.


The result is a soft and round face!



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On a pet trim, often the pet's little elbows stick out and this can be accentuated by the hair that grows across them in an upsweep as you can see below.

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So, I will use my thinners to take the hair at the point of elbow a little shorter, which them makes the leg a little more straight and cylindrical looking when viewed from the side.

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To create a nice, tight bevel on a pet trim, and to do it quickly, just follow these steps:

Clipper the bottom of the foot very thoroughly to get all of the underside clear.




Then draw all of the hair of the foot down around the bottom edge of the foot using your hand, and give it a little squeeze to get it to stick past the bottom of the pad.

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Now trim all of that hair so that it is even with the bottom of the foot.  When setting any bevel on a pet trim, no hair should ever extend past the bottom of the foot.  To make this even faster, I will keep my clipper on the #40 that I used for the pad trimming to shape and tighten the foot with the same blade.

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When you let go of the foot, place it on the table, give it a comb up & out, and you'll only need to lightly scissor any stray hairs to finish a nicely round foot that seems to "float" just above the table.



 Don't forget to bevel your hind feet also, and to set in your hock angle and neaten the dog's feet and make them all proportionate. 

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A pretty Cocker foot; softened all around with thinners to make it look natural.

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One of the most common complaints from pet owners is that they don't want a naked tushy or a "babboon hiney" to look at on their dog every day. So, after carefully trimming back the hair tight around the anus, (using a side to side motion with the clipper- never bottom to top in case the dog suddenly sits down on the clipper blade), I always finish the sani work here with heavy thinnering of the cowlicks on either side of the rectum, as well as the first inch or two of the underside of the tail base. This creates a soft & more natural look, AND helps alleviate those "ticklers" on the bottom of the tail that will often brush the newly clippered rear and cause the pet to scoot or turn around and lick at their rear end. 


One other way to rule out a possible complaint from a client after a groom is to remember to ALWAYS either Dremmel or file the hind nails on a pet. Even the smallest tickly or irritation will quickly be aggravated or even abraded by the dog scratching at it with freshly clipped and sharp nails. Whether you also file the front nails or not, doing at least the back nails will take away one possibility of a pet causing harm to itself that can be claimed our fault.

~Some other common complaints that I have heard time & again from pet owners about other groomers.  And I only list these as a reminder of things to check before your dogs are finished, and because to this day, I still forget some of these things!

* Hair clippings left on the surface of the dog's eyes

* Forgetting to clip those hidden dewclaws

* Loose hair left on the dog that gets onto the owner's clothes

* Hair growing too quickly into the eyes of the pet

*Odor left on the dog's face, in the feet or in the ears even though they look clean.

We all know that some people will complain about almost anything, but these can be valid shortcomings on a groom that by addressing, we will only send our client away happier and help assure their return.


More short styling tips to come!



Sending Out Reminders via Text Message

Cell phones

Last week I received a call from a gal whose company handled MMS notifications and updates. Her company offered to handle forwarding all of the reminder calls, discount or promo offers and annonce updates of any kind concerning my business to my clients, all for a sliding monthly fee of anywhere from $30- $60 a month.  These notices were sent out to my clients to their cell phone numbers via a text message.  What a great idea!

I thanked her for her time, hung up, and quickly went to work doing this for myself instead.

I have recently had a rash of forgetful owners who have no-call/no-showed and it is high time to address how that cuts into my business's profitability. Any time someone cancels, I usually have time to get to my cancellation list and get someone in to replace them. But, no shows in the middle of a busy day are almost impossible to fill without any prior notice.  It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I am pretty much assured that my day's income will be shorted. It is really annoying.

I used to do reminder calls, which actually takes a lot of time at the end of an already full day. Also I found that many times when calling people, I was interrupting them, or they would actually try to reschedule while they had me on the phone, which certainly wasn't helpful. 

Well, I have started this project to get in better contact with my clients, and boy, am I glad that I did! 

I have started adding each of my clients to my iPhone's contact list.  I put all of the other numbers which I repeatedly call: home, friends, bank, Vet, etc. onto my favorites list to fast access. Then all of my client contacts go into the other larger contact library.

With my new iPhone, I can add them as a contact, list their pets' names under the "company" heading- which then shows their names and their pets names on a quick heading which makes them each super easy to find.  As the clients come in, I am taking freshly groomed photos of their pets faces to add as a profile avatar which shows beside each contact name. I can add their cell phone as their primary number, and any other contact numbers that I have for them on file, all of which can be easily updated or changed at any time. 

To break up the vast project, I am uploading clients as I am adding them to my appointment book, week by week, and picking away at adding everyone else here & there thru the days ahead. With a small client list of the 600 I have, it will be all finished in not too long a time.

For those of you who want to do this, yes, there is some work to start, but just typing in a grooming reminder text one time, scrolling & plugging in who you want it to go to for the next day at the end of your previous day is INCREDIBLY easy and quick to do instead of calling, leaving messages or having people reschedule with you when you do reach them.

And the best thing: if you have 123Pets or some ther kennel software, there may be an interface available between your computer program & your iPhone which will automatically add them all as your phone contacts without even needing to manually add them yourself!

For my text, I am keeping it simple:

"Hello! Just a friendly reminder of your pet's grooming appointment tomorow!

If you canot make it, plz call ***-***-**** to reschedule ASAP. Thank you!"

It fits on one screen and gives them my salon number-with a link attached to call back or add it as a contact as well no matter what kind of phone they have.  And, if they have an iPhone also, it will save my number and they can also choose to add a profile pic and my cell phone number as a backup contact to my salon number with just the touch of a button. Its like holding hands with my clients. Or at the least getting a handle on their pet's leash before they have the chance to forget!