Jamie hated baths, indeed Jamie hated water. He was a Collie mixed with something, clearly not a water dog. He had long Collie hair with a thick undercoat. He had long fluffy hair on his feet, legs and backside. He’d get knotted and matted. Jamie also hated being brushed.
Every so often, when we’d screw up the courage or when he was particularly filthy, it would be bath time for Jamie, whether he liked it or not. We tried every type of bath arrangement – the tub in the house, buckets of warm water and a hose outside, a combination of both. It was very hard to suds him up and even harder to get him thoroughly rinsed. Then brushing him! Chasing him around trying to take a swipe with the brush. Leg-locking him on the floor so he couldn’t get up while I brushed as quickly as possible trying to get knots out. Cutting matted hair out. It was not pleasant for anyone.
A friend, looking at his filthy, smelly coat one day, said “why don’t you take him to a groomer?” “A groomer for Jamie, yeah right!” I said with distain. It was ok for her. She had a Newfoundland dog who had a job. He was official mascot for the Signal Hill Tattoo; he had to look good. He wouldn’t even fit in a bathtub and, with his job, had been to groomers since he was a pup. Poodles and foo-foo dogs went to groomers. Big old country dogs like Jamie did not. But it was a hot summer and poor Jamie was feeling it. He had big clumps of winter hair sticking out all over him, the dag ends on his behind were stiff with filth. He flopped out, panting in the heat. I thought, why not?
I booked an appointment at a groomer. I warned them he was filthy and did not like baths, brushing or strangers poking at him. On the day, Jamie reluctantly entered a building that smelled of shampoo. Two massive men came to meet us. They were the groomers. Two thoughts popped into my head: at least they can handle him if he bolts, and how on earth did these guys get into dog grooming. They looked like they’d be more at home on a fishing boat than a dog salon. I never asked them, I couldn’t think of a way to do so without sounding like I was stereotyping them or groomers.
I came up with an explanation that amused me – the welding retraining classes were full and all that was available was dog grooming. This was at the time of the cod fishery moratorium in Newfoundland and a whole new industry – retraining programmes – had sprung up. Government and private education facilities were turning fishermen and fishplant workers into welders and hairdressers in quantities sufficient to service the whole continent.
At the salon, I left a panicked looking Jamie in the large hands of these large men. I gave them many warnings and told them to just stop and phone me if he got freaked out. I went home and bit my nails for three hours until they phoned. “You can come for Jamie now”, one said, “we’re just drying him. Oh, he was perfect!”
I went into the salon and saw my dog standing on the grooming table, leaning into the blow dryer that was “finishing him off.” He wagged his tail and smiled at me. And continued to lean toward the dryer and the man holding it. When they lifted him off the table, he continued to stand very close to them wagging his tail and looking adoringly into their faces. They looked at me like “owners, they know nothing!” Jamie was light and fluffy, his baby-soft hair sprang out around his body like a halo. They showed me the huge pile of hair they’d cut and brushed out of Jamie. They told me there’s a knack with the wrist motion so that you just flip quickly through a dog’s hair instead of dragging and tugging.
I paid them, twice what future visits would cost, they said, now that the hard work was done. They tied a scarf around Jamie’s neck and he pranced out, the happiest and proudest dog in the city. On our way back to the car, he beamed at everyone he saw. Needless perhaps to say, Jamie went to his groomers regularly for the rest of his life. Every time, he bounced in like “hi, I’m back!
From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Jan. 5, 2011