Northern Adventure

Northern Adventure

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Northern Adventure

All the gang, including Aarne, Lori’s husband who was always there to pick up the slack and so much more. A die hard Leaf fan to boot. 

Lori our quarterback who had it all figured out at Terry Fox Memorial outside of Thunder Bay.

At Lori’s house, organizing and trying to remember everything we will need.

Ready for intake.

It all started with meeting Nikki Burns, past President of Northern Spay & Neuter Program, at the OSPCA’s Educational Conference in Niagara Falls a couple of years ago. They were kicking off their program “Year of the Northern Dog”, which addresses the over population of dogs in Northern Ontario. She proceeded to try an educate a city slicker like myself, to the plight of not only the dogs, but the people that live in a First Nation Community and their struggles with this issue. Of course I could not relate to any of this. So her, and close friend Judy Decicco (a long serving OSPCA Board member) and Lori Clace (President of Northern Spay and Neuter Program) convinced me the only way I was going to change my attitude and expand my horizons from my narrow way of thinking about this on-going problem, is to experience for myself a mobile spay and neuter clinic in a First Nation Community. OK, I told them and with much planning off to Lake Helen First Nation’s Reserve I went. Thank goodness they all lived in Thunder Bay and could hand hold me through the process. I loved telling my friends that this was what I would like to do with my spare time. No sandy beaches for me. No going to some far off country to experience their culture. Nope, I am just fine with mine, and if I was going to spend money and go away, this is what I wanted to do. I was going to prove I could walk the walk and be a part of trying to make the world a bit easier for both people and their pets. As the time came nearer, I kept saying to myself, what have I gotten myself into.


I had no idea what to expect. I met everyone at our leader’s house, which was Lori. There were the veterinarians, the animal care techs, and the grunts like me. Everyone was a busy beaver getting supplies all ready. I felt like a fish out of water. Then we went to a huge storage unit, to pile in more supplies in a trailer. It was there that I realized that the hierarchy that I expected did not exist. I thought there would be more of a “pecking order” of who did what. At this stage it was just muscle work and you couldn’t tell who were vets, techs, or people like me. Another myth shattered.


We then drove to Nipigon, and checked into an apropos named hotel called The Beaver. We set up all the supplies in a community hall. I still did not know where I would fit in. But my Dad always told me it’s an art to looking busy doing nothing. So I did my best. I was told I would assist in check in. This process was ground zero in getting the animals through with all the correct paperwork and to keep track of them. Each animal was to get a kit that was numbered. In this kit, was a minimal 6 different info sheets that had to be filled out individually. Then an I.D. chip to be inserted, with its separate paperwork. A vaccination tag, an I.D. collar that you had better put its I.D number on when putting it on the dog/cat and a clip with that number to put on its cage. Then you had to weigh it (and take a picture), and put that info down also. After putting it in a kennel, you had better remember to put this info on the “board” which holds all the vital stats of each pet. One slip up of forgetting one thing and the whole system is thrown off. Such pressure!


I really tried not to look like a rookie, but my fear of doing something wrong was a dead giveaway of my angst. The check-ins came in waves. So when I had a breather, I’d learn to work the autoclave, or how to set up the vaccines, plus learn what to look for as the patients came out of their anesthesia. My favorite thing to do however was groom them when they were still under. It’s sort of cheating, but it does make life easier. Cleaning ears, cutting nails, and my speciality removing all the matted hair. I find the poor little lapdogs have it the hardest. It’s a challenge for any owners to keep longhaired Shitzu type dogs from matting up, let alone people that don’t have the correct equipment to do it, or access to a professional groomer. So I really got satisfaction in clipping around their face and clipping away all the matted hair around their feet.


The days were very long, but seemed to go by fast. Our faithful leader Lori thought of everything. Since there was no restaurant or delivery, (remember folks we were at Lake Helen Reserve), she had to bring food. It was so nice to see that she knew that the vegetarians would outnumber the “flesh eaters”. Yippee, I didn’t have to eat by default. Two types of Shepard’s pie, lasagna, sandwiches, she had it all figured out. The sign of a great leader and the patience of Job. (I never knew who Job was, but my mother used that expression a lot referring to me and my Dad, I know it has to do with the Bible).

Once all the dogs and cats got picked up, then the real worked started in packing up. We started about 8 am, finished loading the trailer about 10pm. We were famished. So thank goodness we found a truck stop that closed at 11 pm and ordered the last supper. I felt so sorry for the waitress. Needless to say we tipped her big.


It was a real bonding experience with these ladies. We were all in it together. We had the same goals and no matter who you were, you got the job done. However, to see those vets work under conditions that were unique to them and rise to the occasion was a marvel to see. It reminded me of the TV show M.A.S. H. (mobile army surgical hospital).


On the way home we stopped at the Terry Fox Memorial. I didn’t know this was the place where he was forced to stop his famous journey. It is places such as this, that I am glad I spend my money in Canada to vacation or to utilize my spare time. Canada has so much to offer in its beauty, culture, and our old time traditions. That is why I am so happy that I chose to step out of my secure box that I have created for myself. It was a learning experience and a test to myself to expand my horizons. So I will continue to expand them, meaning they tell me my next trip we are going into a more remote fly in reserve. Somehow all I think of is “what will I wear?”

Cleaning up and heading out. I don’t know which one takes longer.  Setting up for business or the tear down.

So much paperwork.  I am really trying hard to get it all correct.

So many questions to ask.  Like who owns the dog.  Do you put under the person that owns it, or the person that brings it in.  All these types of situations you have to know.  Poor Lori, she must have gotten sick of her name from all the questions I asked.

These are the kits.  I must say, when I wanted to relax my brain, I made up the kits.  That was my rest.

The Bible for reference.  Forget to put the client on this, and it’s forgotten.  Yikes.

Does it get any more efficient than this?  This pose just struck me funny.

When I really wanted to relax, I loved watching the operations. It was fascinating.

The vets were never nervous, or so it seemed, with me watching them do their thing.

This is what I enjoyed doing the most.  Grooming them when they were still under anesthetic. In my eyes, it’s sort of cheating.

Lori, cracking the whip.  I can’t remember laughing so much with one person.  So glad we sat at the same table during the OSPCA function in Niagara Falls in 2017 to bond.

This is the owner of the dog, who assisted me when “Sweet”, was coming out of anesthetic.

I was even more of a hit, when she found out my Dad was Don Cherry.

Me doing my thing, with Lori’s assistance. She is the Jack of all Trades.  She just fills in when needed, plus runs the show.

Lori, wondering if I really know what I am doing.  Yes, Lori, I am a groomer by trade.

Monitoring the dogs when they are coming out of their deep sleep.  Some come out smoothly, some not so much. 

Don’t the dogs look comfy?  Me? Not so much.

Making hard decisions

Making hard decisions

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Making hard decisions

We all handle stress/emotional strife, whatever you want to call it, differently.  One of the most difficult decisions is when to “put to sleep” (PTS as they term it in a vet office) your pet. I, at a young age and having so many pets learned this harsh reality very young.  Sure animals die, but when they are still alive and suffering, that is when the true test of your love and your unselfishness kicks in.  Many a time my Dad had to say to me, “your pet is suffering, it’s not going to get better, what should we do?” My most memorable childhood pet that I had to make this tough call on was with my beloved parakeet, Dickie.  My Dad always let me feel it was my decision to make. I believe this toughened me up for a lot of choices I’ve had to make throughout life. You learn sometimes, or most of the times, the tougher choice, unfortunately, is usually the correct one.  Life is like that.


Fast forward 25 years or so.  I now have to deal with dog owners whose dogs I groom.  Many times I had to have the tough “talk”.   Sometimes it was with sympathy, most times it was tough love.   I groomed many a sick dogs that were lingering far too long.  Was it my position to tell the owners stop being so selfish and put this dog down.  Yes, I believe it was. Some might say this should be the vet’s call, this most likely is said by a vet.  It’s a tough conversation to have with a client, but I always felt obligated for the sake of the suffering dog.   One of my more memorable scenarios was this family that had 2 cock-a-poos. Yes, even in the 80’s they had these purebred expensive mixes. One was healthy, the other was always sick and going downhill fast.  I came to groom both of them one day with my Cherry’s Groomobile.  Both usually came to the door when I knocked.  I was scared to ask where was the other one, so I just assumed it had died.  So I groomed the one thinking I was finished for the day. Then the lady of the house says well you still have Muffin to do.  What? Where is Muffin? She then informed me that poor sick Muffin was now banished to the garage as she was constantly throwing up and had diarrhea all over the house.   She then carries Muffin to the van, who is nothing but skin and bones at this point and covered with vomit and feces.  I bathed her to get her comfortable, then brought her to the front door, walked in, and let her run into the house happy as could be.  I asked the owner to come outside for we had to have a talk. Did I lit into her.  She agreed the dog was suffering, not only from the illness but from the sadness of being banished to the garage away from the family she so loved.  She proceeded to say her daughters just couldn’t bear to bring the dog to the vet.   Really? I said to her, she was the matriarch of the family so she had better put on her mommy pants, explain to her daughters reality of life, and go to the vet and put the dog down.  She agreed.  I later found out she actually brought the dog to the vet that night. Sometimes people need to be brought into reality and told that keeping a sick pet around for longer than it should be is not a sign or measurement on how much you love that pet.  To me it is a sign of selfishness and weakness.  You are putting your sadness as a priority over the suffering of an animal that can’t speak for itself.


On another note, grieving over the death of a dog for a very long time is not proportional to how much you love that dog.  Also, many a times I have asked someone why aren’t they getting another dog?  A lot have explained to me, that it takes too much out of them when the dog dies.  So let’s see, since most had rescue dogs, they’d rather not give another dog a great home, cause they get too upset when the dog dies.  Am I missing something? Am I too cold hearted?  Again, I chalk it up to selfishness, and them hoping I am  thinking, “boy, they really must have loved that dog as not to be able to replace it”.  To them I say, “Get over it and move on, and save a life and get a rescue dog”.  Am I being too harsh?  Wouldn’t be the first time I am accused of that one. 


Dog Groomers/Tipping/& Attitudes

Dog Groomers/Tipping/& Attitudes

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Dog Groomers/Tipping/& Attitudes

My attempt of expanding my horizons.  It went nowhere.

These are the stars that people have in their eyes when it comes to grooming their pet.  Reality hurts.

Life is funny, or should I say people are funny.  Being a dog groomer you get to see how people treat you, and believe me their true colors come out. But then again, I am sure this is true with a lot of professions. For instance, a lot of my customers also went to the same hairdresser I went to in Mississauga. I learned this while getting my roots done and we bonded over gossiping over bitchy clients. To learn we were talking about the same person really made us chuckle, and confirmed it was them not us. I came to the conclusion that if they were miserable, whiny, and cheap with me, chances are they were the same way with their hairdresser, mechanic, landscaper, shoe repairperson, ect. 


Some people don’t understand the concept of tipping, which yes… applies to your dog groomer.  For instance I used to do a beautiful red mini poodle in Oakville for $55 + 7% tax.  She’d give me 3 twenties and waited for that $1.15 change every time.  This always bugged me.  So for her Christmas appointment I had the $1.15 in nickels and dimes in my pocket. I came into her house when I was finished, with my boots on (the horror!) and handed her Muffin, which BTW I did an especially good job that day. She handed me her standard 3 twenties, and waited. (Note: no Christmas tip).  With my wet gloves with the fingers cut out, I reached into my pocket full of dog hair and coins and slapped her change on her Chippendale half-moon hall table and left.  Needless to say she never called me again, which was the game plan.

Professionals have to realize sometimes there is no winning. You have to recognize with some that disaster is right around the corner.  Take for instance Mrs. Pierce of Erin Mills, Ontario.   I asked her repeatedly not to let her kids run around the van while I was grooming her Lhasa Apso, and keep them from slamming the broken front screen door.  It would upset the dog, and it would jump when that door slammed loudly. 


Finally I knew she would not discipline her kids, so I finally cut bait and told her please don’t call me anymore.  A year later a woman named Mrs.” Pearce” called about her Lhasa Apso,  same street, so of course I assumed it was her.  I said, “I thought I said I didn’t want to groom your dog anymore?”  She sounded puzzled.  She started to laugh and said, “Oh you must have dealt with the other Mrs. Pierce who lives on this street. I am the nice Mrs. Pearce who spells her name different.”  Well did we have a good laugh and I got all the gossip about the mean Mrs. Pierce. Needless to say she earned her reputation.  So once again, it confirmed it wasn’t me,  but her.


My stories are endless about my clients, but most were great.  Many of them used to sit in the van with me and have coffee when I groomed their dog. It was great fun.  The point I am trying to make is that I saw a pattern in the way some people treat service people. For instance there was this one family, well known in Mississauga. (You just have to look at the hospitals and see their name plastered all over the place).  I groomed their schnauzer regularly.  Their nanny would hand me the check already made out for exactly $58.85 then ask if I could cut their Boston Terrier’s nails.  This went on for years.  So I got fed up with them too.  I finally told the nanny to tell her boss next time the Boston’s nails are $10.00 extra.  I never heard from them again.  


The point is some people’s ignorance, nastiness, cheapness, whininess evolves.  Years after my career in dog grooming was long over, I had a good friend who lived on a street whose Bichon Frise I used to groom.  I still remember her name and house quite vividly and she still lives there.  She tipped me well, then proceeded to complain about the job I did.  Finally I admitted defeat and told her obviously I’d never be able to satisfy her no matter how much I tried.   I was telling my friend the story, with more gory details, and she said, “Yeah, no one gets along with her on the street”.   So with my theory re-enforced, I still believe I am pretty good at summing up people.


So if you are still reading this blog, (which my brother says are too long), in spite of what Mr. Pink says about  tipping, in his this  famous movie scene,  you should tip at least your hairdresser & yes, your dog groomer. (Please).  They’ve earned it.


EPILOGUE: To read about Cindy’s most “challenging” client, please click the link below:

A learning experience for a young entrepreneur.

A learning experience for a young entrepreneur.

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A learning experience for a young entrepreneur.

Taken inside my first Groomobile with Baby Blue, and a customer’s schnauzer.

Aahh, the good old days when you didn’t have to dial the area code.

We all hear horror stories about dog groomers. Awful things that happen to pets when at the groomer’s. But you rarely hear from the other side.  So since I’ve been there, as I was a groomer first in a pet store, then I had Canada’s first mobile dog grooming service in the 80”s and early 90’s,  I thought I’d share the story of my all-time worse nastiest  client.  A woman who taught me a lot about life, and what it takes to be an entrepreneur.


Her name was Mrs. Brooks.  A rich lady who resided in Lorne Park, Ontario, south of the QEW. (An inside joke).  Remember I was young and naïve.  She had an older overweight Airedale.  It couldn’t stand for long so I let it lay down for most of its grooming.  The hydraulic table was low to the ground, less than 3 feet, yet off it slithered accidently.  Because of this minor incident she was suing me for thousands.  She took it to the vet, and walked out with over a $2000 vet bill.  Since it hadn’t been to a vet for a while, it was given all its overdue vaccinations, X-rays, blood work, and low and behold they found out it had Pancreatitis. 


Followed by hundreds of dollars’ worth of drugs.  I called this very well-known Vet here in Southern Mississauga, and he said I was correct in that a slight fall off a table would not have caused such a progressive disease that it had.  I then said well be prepared to testify for we may be going to court.  He proceeded to say unless I taught his vet tech to groom dogs he would say no such thing.  Ahh, to learn the ways of the world so young.  She then told me if I didn’t pay up she’d also sue me for the physiological damage her young son had suffered in not being able to have a dog anymore that could run and fetch a ball.  I asked her why she was so eager to go to court with a lawyer and Doctor on her side, and she said they were all family members.  Needless to say I felt defeated. 


Being down as I was, my father picked up my vibe and said, in his own way, “what’s up with you?”  I reluctantly told him my predicament.  Once he gets involved, look out.  He called his lawyer, they drew up a letter, saying take $350 and be over it, or basically we were going the distance in court and she would get nothing by the time Dad’s “pitbull” lawyer got done with her and her relatives.  I drove to her house, handed her the check and letter to sign.  Just as she was about to sign it, I opened my big yap and said, “If your dog wasn’t so fat it wouldn’t had hurt itself slithering off the table or have pancreatitis”.  Well she dropped the pen and lit into me. 


I knew I had made an error, so I gave it one last shot, and grabbed the letter from her hand, and she flinched.  That showed me she wanted to sign it, but wanted one more go at me.  I then gave it back to her, and as the say on TV, “sign it or we will see you in court”.  She did, I gave her the check, and my parting words to her were, “you know Mrs. Brooks, it’s people like you that make the world a tougher place to live”.  She smirked, and I drove off. 


That old battle-ax was an exception to the rule for me having great clients.  99% of them were great people.  I found the ones that were miserable, I later learned were also miserable to their hairdresser, housekeeper, landscaper, ect. there was no pleasing them.  No matter how hard you tried, or how much they tipped you, they were never going to be satisfied. Lesson Learned.

Makes sense to me.

Trying to follow in my Father’s footsteps of tapes/videos that never quite took off.  Oh well, I gave it a shot.

EPILOGUE: For more on Cindy’s philosophies and clients please click here

Prong Collars

Prong Collars

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Prong Collars

I am writing this fresh off of a weekend working a booth at the Canadian Pet Expo.  I love working them.  Besides meeting great people, exploring the other booths, explaining to people why they should buy Simply Pet products, and telling them about this Foundation, my favorite pastime is people/dog watching.  Yes, it’s better than watching TV, which I am one of the few people to admit, I love doing.  It is so entertaining.  Does the dog match the owner? 9 out of 10 times it does. You also get to see trends evolve because I have been doing these shows for about 4 years now.  Trends such as the increase of harnesses on all types of animals, dogs to cats to bunnies.  Also, pet carriages/strollers are big, and ohh, the number of service dogs strolling around, it’s amazing.  Who knew so many people needed assistance?  What’s the qualification for these service/therapy/emotional support dogs?  Who knows, that could be another blog.  But this blog is about the routine increase use of prong collars.  Now some “dog trainers”, cannot live without them.  All you have to do is google it, and you can read everyone’s view about them. ( OR, see below great links to further the debate).  But I am big fan of Star Trek’s favorite Vulcan, Spock’s logic, in that, what is the logical explanation of such a training tool? That is my main source of what is right or wrong in all debates.  So it’s you being the judge of what makes sense, since everyone seems to be a training expert these days.   My thought is this, if you have to control or train your dog with a jolt of pain, is that really training? Aren’t you sort of cheating?  Is the dog that strong willed and out of control that it’s your last resort? Really?  I now see 6-month-old Labs with prong collars, I even saw young French Bulldogs wearing them at the last Pet Expo I worked.  The yanking and the tugging on these dogs’ necks is so hard to witness.  Sure you expect it out of the muscled up guy with his choice of bully breed, (ohh, am I stereotyping? “sorry”), their necks can take the yank, not that that makes it OK.


I once interview a young unsuspecting guy that had one on his 9-month-old Retriever.  I was asking him why he does it, who recommended it, ect.  I guess I really led him down the garden path of innocence to be so enthusiastic about telling me all the great reasons he chose to use a prong collar to walk his dog. Unfortunately, my son, who as you can well imagine, knows me all too well in what I was doing, was the cameraman.  He kept shaking his head in disgust on what I was doing. Needless to say I never saw the interview.  I didn’t even play  the “Mommy” card, cause deep down I knew he was right.  I was being a jerk. (But it was fun!)


I discussed this with a dog rescuer at one point, and she gave me a good scenario on why these collars should be in existence. She had a rescue Bouvier des Flanders. The only person it took to was an older woman who wanted to adopt it.  However it did pull on a lead.  The only way she could control the dog and not get dragged all over and injured was with this type of collar.  So that is the question, no one else wanted the dog, and if it didn’t get a home it was going to be killed.  So what do you do in that case?  These are the questions that all dog people face.  So lets say we have to follow both our hearts and brains when it comes to dealing with dogs.  Cause if it’s only your heart, sometimes the dog loses.

It’s not just the “macho” dogs wearing them anymore, it’s all breeds & type.

A training tool for the masses.  Easy and Quick. Perfect for today’s instant gratification starved society.

They even sell them with the prong hidden, so you won’t be judged in picking the quickest easiest way to get your dog to do your bidding and walk perfectly.

EPILOGUE: Here are 2 points of view. You decide which one makes more sense.