Grooming Gab
Beware of Owner
by Kathy Hosler

Being a pet stylist comes with its own unique set of challenges. No matter how much you love what you do, grooming difficult dogs and crabby cats can sometimes take every bit of strength, skill and patience that you have, and often leaves you exhausted at the end of the day. However, working with pets like these is an absolute pleasure compared to dealing with some of their owners.

Here are a few examples of some unbelievable, but true, unfortunate experiences fellow groomers have had with unruly pet owners…

“I had a very matted pair of ‘little white somethings’ come in,” says veteran groomer Mary Arnold, owner of Bit O’ Blarney Pet Services. “At check-in, I had the owner sign my matted pet release. It has a few lines in it about how the owner *may* have tried to remove mats and unknowingly injured their pet.

“Well, sure enough,” Mary continues, “I am busy stripping carefully, and when I exposed a part of the outer thigh, there was a bloody hole in the leg. The portion of the mat that was attached to the dog’s skin had a huge, nasty scab in it that was partially dried and looked infected. I stopped working, took lots of pictures and videos, and called the owner to pick up the dog.

“Late that afternoon, the owner called me from the Pet ER and said that the veterinarian told him I was responsible,” Mary states. “I sent the veterinarian several of the date-stamped pictures and videos, and that was that! Turns out the vet never said I was at fault. The owner was bluffing to try to get me to pay the bill.

“I am very glad I took the photos and videos,” she adds. “If the owner had sued me, I would have had the proof it was something he did—not me. I now take pictures of everything that looks like possible trouble. I have saved matted pelts as evidence, and bagged and tagged them and held them for a few months after a nasty groom.”

Like Mary, Certified Master Groomer Misty Gieczys of Designer Paws Salon knows how valuable cameras can be for protecting her business. She once had an irate client intent on causing her big trouble…

“I had a new client come in with two Yorkies,” shares Misty. “One was hers and the other one belonged to her daughter. Although she claimed both the dogs were current with their vaccinations, only the daughter’s dog had proof of vaccination. We contacted the woman’s veterinarian who confirmed that her dog was not current. She was not happy when we groomed her daughter’s dog but sent the other home with her.

Even when you have done nothing wrong, your business and reputation can be irreparably damaged by an owner.
“When she came back to pick up the Yorkie we groomed,” Misty continues, “she placed her black wallet on our black counter. She left with the dog and her wallet. Later, she came back and accused us of stealing her wallet with her iPhone in it. I was in a meeting, but my front staff person showed her how to track her phone on our computer. It showed that the wallet and phone were 15 minutes away. She left, and we thought that was the end of it.
“I pulled up our security cameras to look at what happened to her wallet and phone,” says Misty. “As I was reviewing the footage, she came back in with a police officer. She proceeded to scream that we stole her stuff. Our cameras are modern and high resolution. I was able to zoom in on the counter and show that she took the wallet with her, and we could even see her getting into her car with it.

“The police officer was impressed that we could show footage with such detail,” says Misty confidently. “Our security cameras have saved us many more times than just this occasion.”

Even when you have done nothing wrong, your business and reputation can be irreparably damaged by an owner. And, Carol Fellbaum, NCMG and owner of A Dog’s Life Pet Salon, can attest to that…

“A woman brought in her Havanese, Maddy, for grooming,” says Carol. “We had been grooming the dog for several years, but it had been three months since we had seen her. The dog went right into the tub. As our bather was drying Maddy’s head, the end of one of her ears flew off! Yes—the tip of Maddy’s ear came off!

“The bather quickly called me over,” continues Carol. “I was speechless, as were the five other individuals in the room. Even more surprising was that Maddy did not cry out or appear to be in any pain, and we could see only a slight amount of blood on the ear. I immediately called the owner and told her what happened. Then I took pictures of Maddy’s ear and the tip that fell off. The owner was ballistic when she came to pick up Maddy, but at no time did she even look at the injury.

“Later, I received a call from the Emergency Veterinary Clinic in regard to payment for the bill for Maddy,” she shares. “I decided to pay the bill. My decision was based on the fact that, while I did not think we caused the injury, the tip of the ear did fall off in my salon.”

But that wasn’t the end of it…

The owner kept calling the salon, demanding an apology from Carol. Then, she went on the Nextdoor app and posted horrible comments about Carol and her salon. So, Carol went to the Emergency Vet, and because she had paid the bill, they showed her the file on Maddy. They never said the salon caused the injury.

Carol met with two other highly respected veterinarians and showed them the photos of Maddy. They both said this was not something that was caused in her salon, as there would have been a large amount of blood from an injury like this, and it didn’t appear to be a fresh injury.

Carol adds, “Both veterinarians suggested that this looked like when a rubber band has been wrapped tightly around the end of an ear, causing the circulation in the lower area to be compromised and that portion of the ear to die off. It is highly probable that, because of a loss of blood circulation, that when our bather brushed over the end of the ear, the already dead part of the ear fell off.”

Carol then went to Maddy’s owner’s Facebook page and saw pictures that she posted of Maddy’s ears braided with rubber bands on the end of the ear.

“I wrote a detailed letter of all the events and put it on my Facebook page, and I had a picture of Maddy with her ears in braided pigtails.” shares Carol. “Two days after I posted it, Maddy’s owner removed all of her posts.”

Although the owner removed her nasty posts, that didn’t remove all the stress, horrible publicity and damage she caused Carol and her business. And, unfortunately, there is no shortage of people who will do anything they can to make another individual responsible when something bad happens to their pet…

A woman who had been a client for years chose to blame Jamie Chance, owner of The Gentle Touch Grooming, for her dog’s medical issues: “The last 11 weeks have been a living hell for me,” says Jamie. “In the 16 years and over 30,000 grooms that I have done, I have never had an incident like this. On the rare occasion that a dog has been injured, I have always informed the owner immediately and covered veterinary costs.

“On November 23rd, 2022, I groomed Ladybird, a dog I have been grooming for several years,” Jamie shares. “At drop-off, I was informed by the owner that she had recently been put on gabapentin, a pain medication for arthritis. When I placed Ladybird in our small waist-high tub, her feet slid out from under her. During her drying and grooming, she continued to have difficulty standing, so I conducted most of the groom with her laying down. I completed the groom, called the owner, and let her know Ladybird was having difficulty standing. The owner replied, ‘The last couple of weeks have been rough on Ladybird.’

“Later that night,” Jamie continues, “the owner messaged me that Ladybird could no longer stand at all. The owner took her to the veterinarian three days later where they diagnosed a herniated disc in her neck and IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease), and recommended laser therapy. I did not offer to pay for the treatment or to file an insurance claim at that time because I knew I hadn’t done anything that should have caused the problem. And, at that point, the owner wasn’t acting like she thought I had done anything either.”

Then, things started to go downhill fast between Jamie and Ladybird’s owner…

The owner requested that Jamie file a claim with her insurance, and Jamie wanted to speak with the Emergency veterinarian and with Ladybird’s regular veterinarian. Even though she felt it was unlikely that the slip in the bathtub caused the herniated disc, Jamie filed a claim with her insurance company on November 30th. On December 1st, the owners euthanized Ladybird.

“The owner made post after post on Facebook accusing me of refusing to file with insurance, having no compassion, injuring Ladybird, and refusing to accept responsibility for it,” says Jamie. “In addition to the social media hate and vitriol, she contacted multiple media outlets to try to get them to run a news story, she filed a police report for property damage, she contacted the city council, called animal control, filed a report with the Better Business Bureau, and filed a complaint with the Attorney General. I have been devastated by the accusations thrown at me and threatening things that have been said without people even hearing the complete story,” Jamie shares. “I got very depressed, and I almost walked away from a career and life I love, but I am doing better now.”

Mary Arnold, Misty Gieczys, Carol Fellbaum, Jamie Chance and many other stylists have experienced a side of grooming that they never wanted or expected. But by sharing their stories, they hope what they have gone through will help you “Beware Of Owner.”