Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Very Furry Life

Now that the weather has decided to at least try to warm up, our animals-all five of them-are in full shedding mode. We've always had a lot of fur balls flying about the place-Nala is a horrible shedder-but now there are even more. It's just something you decide to live with when you choose to have animals; especially when you have five.
Yesterday I went over to my parents for a barbecue. Mr. K is in the middle of essay and exam time, so I left him to the peace and quiet of an empty house by taking all of the dogs with me. Technically he still had Rufio for company, but Rufio is a cat and usually pretty quiet. All of the dogs were pretty excited to pile into my Mom's SUV. They all associate their Grandma's vehicle with fun times since more often than not, if we are off to do something fun it is in Mom's vehicle.
My parents have two dogs: Flash and Jetta. Jetta is my retired Leader dog and Flash is a Lab/Shepherd I adopted for them from the humane society in my first year of university. She loves people, but tends to have issue with anything else fuzzy; except for Jetta. There are probably various reasons for her dog anxiety which turns into cranky behaviour, but she's 11 years old and spends most of her time at my parents' house or in places where she can't bother other dogs. That is, until I come over to visit with my gaggle of beasties. So, when we come over, we ensure everyone is separated by tightly shut doors.
When we arrived, Flash and Jetta were outside in the backyard with Dad. I spent some time inside, but Hermione made it clear that she wanted out. I hustled my crew into my parents' spare bedroom while Mom brought Flash inside and hurried her off to my parents' bedroom. Then, once the door was shut behind her I took my dogs out on to the back deck. Flash was released to roam the inside of the house. She could watch my guys through the glass slider as my dogs had done when she was outside. There were no signs of crankiness in this arrangement and I think it was good for her to see everyone; albeit from behind a closed door. I'm not sure we'll ever get her past this first step of de-sensitization, but it's a big step for her to have other dogs on "her" deck and not be angry about it.
It was actually quite nice outside and I figured I'd spend as much time outside as possible so that Flash could be free in the house for longer. As I sat enjoying some evening sunshine, I decided to use the opportunity to take care of my shedding problem; or should I say, my dogs' shedding problem?
Roscoe is one of the heaviest shedders I have ever met. One year he shed so much that he blew his entire under coat and all that was left was this straw-like layer of his outer coat. We promptly switched his food that year and he's done much better since. However, it hasn't stopped him from losing his winter coat in big chunks. It makes him look patchy and scruffy. It looks like we don't take care of him. So, in typical me fashion, I could not just sit still so I asked Mom for a dog brush. She presented me with a slicker brush.
"It's all I have." She said, knowing that I'm not a big fan.
Slicker brushes are the dog brushes with the rectangular heads and the curved pin bristles. I don't like them because for most dogs, the noise of these brushes is stressful. Sure, you can work with the dog to have them realise that the sound is just that, sound, but why when there are other great options? Not to mention, grooming is supposed to be a bonding process, so why make it stressful if you don't have to?
I also don't like the slicker brush because it can leave skin lesions on the dog which is probably why they don't like the brush in the first place. Wen I was given Jetta, her trainer and i struggled with brushing her. Finally, he told me not to use the slicker brush anymore and came back with the Zoom Groom, made by Kong.
"It works just as well and won't hurt her." He explained. Once we made the switch, brushing Jetta went so much better. I also didn't have to worry about cutting her skin with the brush's bristles. When I was matched with Glacier, none of the blind handlers were given slicker brushes; it was Zoom Grooms all around. Nala's school also provided Zoom Grooms. A slicker brush was an option, but I gave mine back and just kept the zoom Groom and the comb. It's my personal preference.
The only downfall to the Zoom Groom is that it just fluffs the fur off of the dog, whereas, the slicker catches the fur in its sharp bristles. This means, grooming a dog with the Zoom Groom indoors turns into a gigantic mess. I've worked around that problem by placing a towel under the dog and all of the fur sticks to the towel. However, trying to get the fur off of the towel when you are done grooming can be a challenge. One towel became designated as the "brushing" towel. When the weather is good though, this is not a problem as you can just go outside.
Despite not being a fan of the slicker brush, I set to work on Roscoe's back end. I concentrated on not pushing too hard and tried not to go over the same spot too frequently in order to ensure I didn't scratch up his skin. I brushed him for probably a half an hour and by the time I was done, another Roscoe surrounded me on the deck. I was covered in clumps of Roscoe fur, but his coat felt so much nicer. He wasn't nearly as patchy anymore.
I tried Nala after de-furring Roscoe, but the slicker brush wasn't really taking any of her fur off. I didn't even try Otis since his coat is so short and the potential for skin lesions would have been much higher. As for Her Royal Highness, Princess Hermione, slicker brushes and flowing Spaniel fur do not mix under any circumstances. So, she got to be spared the grooming frenzy as well.
I checked Roscoe this morning and his coat still looks better, but I think a thorough bath and more brushing is in order. It won't be long before those patches are back, but as long as I stay on top of brushing him, then he should be okay.

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