Recently I met a new friend named Diva. She is an 8 year old Chow mix. Diva has some issues. One major issue that she has is that she has never been groomed while she was awake. Her mom explained to me that for her lifetime she has ALWAYS been sedated for the grooming process, and that she has a tendency to snap unexpectedly. I know a lot of groomers that turn certain dogs away simply because of the breed. Unfortunately, chow-chow's and chow mixes get passed over just like cats. It is true that they usually bond with one person, and as they get older they can be compared to a overgrown cat. I have seen groomers attacked by a Chow Chow or Chow mix with provocation, and yes you must take precautions to protect yourself at all cost.
In Diva's case things are a little different as I see it. I listened carefully to her mom as she explained to me everything that goes on with her as she heads to the vet. I appreciate the pet parents that give you as much detail as possible about their pet, because as animal care professional the use of your hands is vital to your job. A dog bite, big or small if it catches you off guard can do considerable damage to nerves, muscles and tendons. Which basically means that you can no longer work! Some parents want to "see how it goes" and not tell you that their dog bites for something because they believe that "someone did something to their dog." It is better to tell the truth about the matter to prevent someone from getting injured. Let them make the decision whether or not THEY want to take the chance. Diva's mom gave me full details of what happens on the way, arriving, and leaving the vet's office for service. In my mind, I could figure out what was going on with her emotionally. Her mom said on the way to the vet, she shakes uncontrollably, upon arriving she is anxious, and they immediately take her to the back and sedate her. While she there, she is given a thorough examination, blood is drawn, stool samples are taken, shots are administered and she is groomed while she is sedate. When she comes to, she is probably sore, afraid, while locked in a cage and feeling violated! Can you imagine that happening to you for 8 years?
Diva is touchy about her space, her mom explained. When she wants to be touch she will come to you, if you reach out to touch her before then, she will snap at you. I understood that Diva is a "fear bitter" not an aggressive dog. There is a difference. If you can work them through their fear, the will love you forever! Armed with this information, Diva and I had our work cut out for us. All the things that I had to do to her she had never been awake for, so EVERYTHING was new. She jumped in the truck on onto the table with no problem, and then her anxiety began to build, and for my safety I placed a muzzle on her. Her body was so tight she could have cracked a walnut! Cleaning her ears was challenge, touching her at all lead to thrashing and screams. I placed my hand gently on her back and talked to her gently, and she would relax slightly. I could feel her heart pumping peanut butter, and I would stop to give her a minute to collect herself. All of this was new to her, Iike being groomed for the first time in 8 years, and I had to walk her through gently at responsible pace. With my hand still on her back, I prepared her amoratherapy bath, I let the scent of the bath fill the truck until she relaxed a little more. This all new to her, so walking across the ramp to the tub resulted in more thrashing, screaming an a slight attempt of an alligator roll. She was half way across and she need to take a break. I pressed my body against hers to let her feel my heartbeat and I began singing softly to her. This was the funniest part of the entire process! She looked at like "are you serious?" All I could do is let out a gut wrenching, tear popping laugh! She gave me a little tail wag, and walked briskly across the ramp into the tub. At this point I am still laughing and I say to her " I got it Ma, no more singing".
We had a few snags during the bath, but not much. In fact she enjoyed it, and she fell asleep during the process! I mean letting out a full snore and everything, it was great! I learned that there were certain areas that she was uptight about being touched, but we worked through it. Diva misbehaves out of fear, and it is now my job to re-condition her that I understand, but certain things we still have to do. When it was all said and done, we were both tired, but she was my new best friend. She bounced happily out of the truck and bounded for the door, she was home, and she felt much better! As I wrapped up the consultation with mom to have her work on certain thing to re-condition Diva, she was under my feet the whole time. Her mom was amazed at her new behavior but I personally think it was the treat bag and my soulful crooning that won her over! We are still not out of the woods yet, but I look forward to see her disposition for our next session. Here is a beautiful dog that has been labeled "aggressive" and was condemned to being sedated each time she was groomed, when the whole time she was probably just afraid, and just needed a little more time to work things out. Animals have feelings too, and we all need to a little more sensitive to that fact! Sometimes we are just in too much of a hurry to figure out the simple things because they can't tell us verbally, but body language is just as important as words!
Smooches to new friend.....Diva
Have a Great Summer!