Mary’s Musings
Drawing of old medieval style book with article title on cover
by Mary Oquendo
F ables tell a story and teach us a lesson at the same time. They’ve been a method of teaching morals and good behavior for over two thousand years. And, we can even use them to help our clients understand what is expected of them in preparing their pets for professional grooming.

When a conversation begins between a groomer and a pet owner regarding what is necessary to restore or maintain the condition of the pet’s coat vs what the owner wants done, it feels like there are two totally different conversations happening at the same time.

In all fairness to both parties, I know my eyes pretty much glaze over if my car mechanic tries to explain what the problem is with my vehicle and what he needs to do 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 (or, working in the manner that it should work) and costing me the lowest price point posted on the wall. But, when that doesn’t happen, is it because I wasn’t paying attention or because it wasn’t explained to me in a manner that I understand, or a combination of both?

What if you could explain the how’s, why’s and problems associated with a pet’s coat being matted in a non-threatening or non-confrontational manner that would make sense to a pet owner in story form that is easy to remember?

Vector illustration of stacked books
I present to you:
"The Child and the lll-Fitting Suit…"
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. But 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 days.

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 three to six months should be fine.

Your parents see that you can go a couple of days without being wiped down. They get used to it, and now you’re not getting wiped down for a week or so. But 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 washcloth, you run and hide. They simply stop. When you go in for a suit service check, they’ll let the technician know.

As the suit is not being taken care of, it no longer grows with you. In fact, it is now tightening against your skin. It kind of hurts and is a little itchy, but you get used to it. Also, you were out in the rain and some water got under the suit and it feels a little weird.

After a few months go by, your parents take you in for a suit service appointment. The night before, they get a regular washcloth and superficially wipe your suit. Looking good. The technician reminds them that they were supposed to bring you in once a month, but your parents say they thought you looked just fine and stretched it out a bit. You really don’t need monthly appointments, do you? That’s just a scam for the technician to make more money.

Vector image of a pug covered in suds taking a bath in small tub
The moral of this story that can be shared with your clients is that all pets need regular maintenance, even short-coated pets.
Your parents tell the technician to clean you up and make the suit all nice and fluffy again. The technician says no can do because it is really tight and will probably have to cut it off.
“Cut it off?!” screams one of your parents, “I’m having company tomorrow. Absolutely not!”

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 because they expect him to do the job they are paying him to do.

The technician tells your parents he will do the best he can, but, what your parents hear, is that you will be cleaned up and all nice and fluffy again. However, they 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. However, they must bring you back every month to ensure that happens. Now begins the social media blasting because it must be the technician’s ineptitude that caused the bruising and skin irritations.
  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 special washcloth as they no longer know what they did with the original.

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

The moral of this story that can be shared with your clients is that all pets need regular maintenance, even short-coated pets. Regular bathing and coat maintenance help keep skin and coat healthy, and regular professional maintenance has the added benefit of a professional set of eyes on your pet. You can also add in stories of all the times in your personal career as a groomer that you found problems that were easily mitigated because they sought out early veterinary intervention, some of which saved the life of that pet.