Linda C. Claflin-Phelps
Last week was a week none of us want to deal with. We had to make the difficult decision to bid farewell to one of our beloved Maremma Sheepdogs. Most of us who have had multiple dogs have a few “heart dogs.” Cache was one of mine.
Maremmas are livestock guardian dogs. Their natural instincts allow them to take responsibility, making their own decisions in the absence of their owners. This means they are very independent thinkers. They decide for themselves how best to deal with prospective invaders (people or varmints) or potentially dangerous situations. Typically, the breed is not well suited as a typical household pet. They need space and a job to do.
Cache’s personality was true to her breed. However, we heavily socialize all our Maremmas. When we are in public, ours are soft, gentle, and friendly. On our own property, their natural instincts come out loud and clear. Cache was serious about protecting her turf, the animals she was raised with, and guarding us. She always made me feel comfortable and safe. She was with me most of the time, whether it be at work or at home.
Last year a nasty growth had to be removed from her third eyelid. The vet felt he got good margins and she healed up in no time. Seven months later, the growth was back. This time, when we had it removed we sent it in to be tested along with full blood work.
Unfortunately, we learned she had a very aggressive form of cancer that takes over the entire system in a short amount of time. The best thing we could do was keep her comfortable and enjoy the limited time we had left with her.
The first few weeks she was pretty good, but then her appetite started to fade along with her weight. Within a month we had to entice her to eat. We added eggs to her kibble. When she started turning her nose up at that, we added ground meat. Before long she was eating around every kernel of kibble, eating only the meat. Even though we fed her twice a day, she was not consuming enough calories to maintain any weight. We increased the ground meat. As we increased the straight protein, her system had a hard time digesting it. We found ourselves having to do regular spot bathing to clean up her hind end.
At the end of May, Judy Hudson and Sue Zecco arrived for National Dog Groomers Association of America Certification Testing at the Paragon School of Pet Grooming. They came in a few days early just to hang at our farm, ride horses, cook healthy meals, and drink a little wine.
Judy watched me as I tried unsuccessfully to entice Cache to eat. By this time, I was making small raw meatballs for Cache. I would mix it with a little bit of her kibble and feed her by hand. I could always get her to take the meatballs but I could not get her to eat any of her kibble.
Ms. Hudson is a natural problem solver. Judy has been around my dogs quite a bit. Even though Cache’s mind was still sharp, Judy knew she was going downhill quickly. She needed to eat something more than just a small about of raw meat.
That’s when she asked, “Would Cache eat meatballs if you mixed other things with it?”
She suggested utilizing a food processor and creating custom meatballs more suitable for Cache’s digestive system. Judy proposed we soak a small amount of kibble in hot water until it was soft, then add some cooked rice, a little bit of bacon grease, and some raw meat. If we needed more moisture we could add some bone broth. Sort of like a pâté. Brilliant!
We quickly pulled out the food processor and got to work. We ground everything up until it was the consistency of cookie dough. Once it was mixed well, we tested it. I rolled out five ping-pong ball-sized meatballs and offered them to Cache. After a couple sniffs, she tried the first one. She did not hesitate on the second, third, fourth, or even fifth meatball!
I was thrilled! But as happy as I was that she was eating, I had a huge fear looming in the back of my mind.
The following week I left for Australia for a 10-day speaking engagement. I was terrified Cache would not hang on until I returned home. I knew if we could get her to eat, there was a good chance she would make it until I got home.
My husband Marc had been gone during Judy and Sue’s visit. When he got home, I showed him how to mix up these enticing pâté meatballs.
Cache rode to the airport with us as I left for Australia. I told Marc he needed to send pictures of Cache every day. He did. Lots of the photos were of her enjoying her meals. Sitting on the couch. Getting belly rubs. Laying comfortably in her bed – many times totally upside down.
When I returned home, Cache was in the car when Marc picked me up. I wanted to cry. My girl had waited for me.
Her mind remained sharp. She was alert. She was responsive. She seemed comfortable if she was lying down. Unfortunately, her legs were giving out. Before I left, she was just very stiff. When I got home, she was severely lame on three legs.
I was able to spend 5 more days with her before she told me it was time. Her legs refused to work any longer. Even when she could no longer walk, she still looked forward to her meatballs.
We bid good-bye to my sweet girl on June 22, 2017. Cache had just turned 11 years old.
I wonder if it was the pâté meatballs or the fact we were feeding her by hand that had made her eat so well. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she ate up to the very end.
I want to share the recipe with you. At some point, you may have a dog that loses its appetite. Maybe this recipe will help you get a beloved pet through a difficult situation.
I used a full-size food processor. I would mix up a batch to last for three or four feedings. Cache normally weighed about 85 to 90 pounds. When she was sick, she dropped to about 65 pounds. We fed her twice a day, 5-7 meatballs with each feeding.
Equal amounts of:
Place moistened kibble, cooked rice, ground meat, and hotdogs into the food processor. Grind until mixed. Add oil or bacon grease. Grind until incorporated. Add enough bone broth or meat stock to form a dough-like consistency.
Place mixture in a sealed container and store in refrigerator until ready to form pâté meatballs. If cold, heat for 30 seconds in the microwave to soften the pâté slightly. Roll out enough meatballs for a single meal in a size suitable for the dog.
Place in a bowl, on a plate, or hand feed.
Cache was a special dog to me. She was way more than just a dog or a pet. She truly was a fur child in my eyes. One of my heart dogs. I’m so grateful for my time with her. I have beautiful memories of my girl.
This recipe worked wonders for Cache. If you are struggling to get a dog to eat, maybe this meatball pâté will work wonders for your dog, too.
Try out the recipe and tell us if it helped your pet, too. Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and share recipes that you love for your dogs!
These tools can be confusing. When you read their descriptions in catalogs, they’re so similar…
They do the same thing, don’t they?
No, they don’t. Let me explain.
Both remove undercoat on thick coated dogs. It’s the METHOD of removal that varies. One pulls out dead and shedding coat without cutting the fur. The other has sharp, curved teeth which remove the undercoat but will also cut the coat. One is used primarily on dry coats, both before and after the bath. The other is effective prior to shampooing, during the bathing process, and after the dog is clean and dried.
The difference isn’t so much in the names. The names are interchanged all the time. To keep them straight in my own mind, I call them different things. It’s particularly beneficial when giving directions to others to utilize different names.
Rakes are designed to pull out dead coat and shedding fur with ease. Typically they are a T-shape (see Illustration 1) with rounded pins on the head of the T. On some heads, the top bar is long, up to 6 inches across. On other designs, the head may be only a couple of inches wide. The length and shape of the teeth will vary, too. On some rakes (see Illustration 2), the teeth are short and shaped almost in a tiny cone-type fashion. With others, the teeth are long, sinking deeply into heavy, long coats. On almost all models, the handle comes directly out from the cross bar head with all the teeth.
This type of rake is designed to remove dead coat while not damaging the healthy coat. You work the tool in the natural direction of the coat growth. Care must be used not to sink the comb too far into a dense coat repeatedly with too much pressure. Tugging too firmly on a thick or tangled coat will be uncomfortable for the dog and difficult for the groomer. Repeatedly digging in too deeply could injure the skin, as well.
Used correctly, rakes can be highly efficient for removing dead coat or “lint” from rustic-coated breeds. They are used primarily on double-coated, heavy-coated, or rustic-coated dogs.
Undercoat rakes have many small, sharp, curved blades set close together that remove undercoat. They are available in a variety of tooth widths, making this tool suitable for a wide range of breeds. On shedding breeds, they can remove dead, fuzzy undercoat in minutes, yet leave the top coat shiny and healthy. On harsh-coated dogs, they mimic the hand-stripped look quickly and easily.
Undercoat rakes can be used on a wet or a dry coat. Pull the rake in the direction of the coat growth.Always start with a wider toothed rake to start (see Illustration 3). Work down to narrower teeth as the tool pulls through easily, removing less and less coat.
Undercoat rakes normally work better when used prior to bathing or in the tub on a wet coat.
Use caution when working with this tool. On some coat types, especially heavy-coated dogs, they will cut the top coat while removing the undercoat. While the blades are curved (see Illustration 4), you still need to be careful how much pressure you put on the tool as you drag it through the coat so you do not injure the skin. Use caution when working around areas where the skin is thin like in the hock area, ear junctions, flank, and armpits.
Undercoat rakes work well on many coat types including double coated breeds, heavy coats, and rustic coat types. The work exceptionally well on any breed that is hand-stripped like many of the Sporting or Terrier breeds. Just be sure to monitor your progress as you work this tool over the dog.
Here is a cool trick I have seen used with undercoat rakes. This trick minimizes cutting the coat while pulling out dead coat, particularly once the coat is clean and dry. Simply take a thick rubber band and wrap it around the hooks of the blade (see Illustration 5). The rubber protects the coat from excessive cutting while the rubber helps grip the dead coat, allowing to be pulled out almost effortlessly.
It’s been over 35 years since that first time. I still remember standing in awe, watching a talented pet groomer give a dog a haircut. She handled her clippers with ease. The long fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and gorgeous. And she was fast – super fast. She made the whole process seems so simple.
The first time I tried, I quickly discovered it was not simple. Those initial attempts were pretty pathetic. Saying my first efforts were rough and choppy would be polite. There were long tufts hanging out everywhere. I was frustrated beyond belief.
I was determined to master the skill. After all, the groomer I had been watching proved it could be done. It was simple – I just had to focus and figure it out.
Fast forward a few years of practice and a couple hundred dogs later, and I could make any dog look amazing. When I did a simple haircut on a pet, the fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and appealing. I could finish dogs in no time. I’d gotten very efficient with my clippers.
It took years of hard work. There were years of standing on my feet until they throbbed, working until my hands and shoulders ached. However, my pain can be your gain. Here are a few tips to enhance your speed when it comes to simple, low maintenance haircuts:
You’ll always get a smoother cut on a dog that is clean and the coat has been fluffed. Once you make the initial pass to remove the bulk of the long coat, it’s time to pick up the brush. Back brush the entire dog and go over it a second time. On the third pass, again gently back brush the entire area that needs final attention. Did you get that? Back brush!
When do you know you are done? You are done clipping when there is no more coat coming off the dog after it has been washed, dried, and effectively back brushed. Period.
Clipper work on a low maintenance haircut style can be extremely frustrating for new groomer. But once you master the clipper and understand how to work with the coat, it becomes second nature. It becomes simple. You become fast. And you will be able to perform the haircut safely with great precision. You can do it. It just takes focus
In my years of teaching new pet groomers, I’ve seen hundreds of dogs take advantage of a new students. Dogs pull, squirm, whine, snarl… and bite. I’ve seen many students frustrated to the point of tears.
Then a miracle happens.
An instructor will walk over to the pet and gently take over for the student. Suddenly, this challenging pet turns into a perfect angel. The students’ jaw drops. A moment in stunned silence passes before the student exclaims, “How did you do that?!” The answer is simple:
Dogs have keen senses and an uncanny ability to pick up on our energy and our confidence. They read us clearly even when we don’t think we are connecting to them. In the example above, the dog picked up on the instructor’s energy without a word having to be said.
Dogs are primarily nonverbal communicators. They have a language of their own. They are very clear in the messages that they give us. It is up to us to be able to interpret that language.
The #1 rule when working with pets is to remember the three C’s. As a professional you must remain: Calm, Cool, and Collected in ALL circumstances. The second you step out of this energy mode, the dog pet will know it.
Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs. They need a pack leader. If you do not exude the three C’s, dog language translates that to “poor leader.” The pet will not follow you. It will not cooperate with you.
So how do you gain the upper edge in this situation? Believe it or not, it all starts with your BREATHING.
I know it sounds far-fetched. How could something we do without conscious thought help in this situation?
To create a calm, cool, and collected energy, you need to be cool, calm, and collected. Deep breathing allows you body to channel that calm and focus. To make it happen, your breaths need to be deep and saturating. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Draw in the air and feel it fill your lungs. Now exhale slowly through your mouth. The most important part of deep breathing is to regulate your breaths. Three to four seconds in. Three to four seconds out.
Try it. You will feel the oxygen saturating your body. Tension begins to leave your shoulders. You will start to feel more relaxed almost immediately.
Deep breathing can release stress and provide other noticeable health benefits. You will likely feel calmer after performing deep breathing exercises, and may trade feelings of anger or fear for a focused, relaxed state of mind. Most dogs will totally gravitate to this energy in a very positive way.
I firmly believe that 98% of all dog bites are preventable by reading the animal correctly and taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself while gaining humane control over the pet. Your hands are your livelihood. You must take utmost care not to let your hands become injured.
Every pet is an individual with different physical and emotional characteristics. Some dogs receive clear directions and boundaries at home, making them very easy to work on in a professional setting. Other pets will not have the skills necessary to be well-mannered candidates in a professional grooming setting.
The personality quirks that you’ll experience while working professionally with pets will range from dogs that are perfect angels, to dogs that are mildly annoying, to dogs that could be potentially dangerous to work on for both the handler and to the pet itself.
Whenever working with pets it is always critical to remember the 3 C’s. As a professional you must remain calm, cool, and collected in all circumstances. And don’t forget to BREATHE.
Whenever you have a dog on a table or in your grooming facility, you must use humane, respectful, and consistent training messages. The more you can learn about dog psychology and combine it with actual experience, winning the control and the respect over the dogs will become second nature.
Always remember that dogs are primarily silent communicators. Excessive talking or giving of commands is not necessary to effectively communicate with them. Much of your control can come from maintaining the Three C’s – Always remain Calm, Cool, and Collected while working with any animal.
Any time you feel you are losing control of the three C’s, it’s time to step away from the grooming table and take a break. Breathe. Only when you can totally regain your composure is it time to step back and begin your work again.