Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

Telling Tales - articles by Samantha David


Dolly Gets Poshed Up 

      The guys down at our local poodle parlour swear blind that dogs love being groomed.  According to them doggies prance about as pleased as punch when they're all beautifully trimmed, shampooed, perfumed and blow-dried.  Well that's news to me.

      Every dog I've ever had has loved nothing better than a good roll in something black and stinky - the more disgusting the better - and grooming is instantly followed by a prolonged search for a suitable pigsty, stagnant ditch or muckheap. 

      You should have seen Dolly emerging from the poodle parlour on her one and only visit there.  At the time she was over-weight, smelly and balding so they had really pulled out all the stops.  They'd trimmed what little fur she did have, shampooed her vigorously, applied conditioner and vanilla scent, done their best with her toenails and finished off with a really artistic blow-dry aimed at disguising her baldness.  They were justifiably pleased with the result. 

      She was still fat and balding - but at least she was now clean and although the vanilla scent was mind-blowingly powerful, at least she no longer reeked of rotten cabbage and drains.  But far from fawning about in an ecstasy of gratitude, Dolly was in agonies of embarrassment.  She wouldn't eat her going-home-dog-chew.  She wouldn't even stand up.  She just slumped in the corner shaking her head and blushing.  Having spent years living on the streets, she was mortified at the thought of meeting any of her erstwhile cronies, all primped and poshed as she was...

      They would obviously have laughed themselves sick, and no wonder.  Even I didn't relish being seen walking through town with a freshly shampooed lapdog under my arm.  But since she refused to walk I had no choice - I had to carry the wretched animal out of the poodle parlour with her head hidden in my armpit.

      And once in the car, instead of standing up on the back seat with her paws on my shoulders (she's a dedicated backseat driver) she ducked down out of sight until we got home.  Then she instantly started demanding walkies.

      Walk!  Dolly?  Her normal idea of a walk is either an

enthusiastic bout of chicken-chasing or a nonchalant stroll around the neighbourhood bins.

      "Walk!  Wah!  Wauff!  Walk!" shouted Dolly.  And once let out of the back door, she was unstoppable.  She shot off towards the compost pile and within seconds she'd rolled, scratched, itched and plunged into every revolting mess within sight.

      Ten minutes later, tail up, ears flying, grass tangled in her moustache, stinky, blotchy, brown and tangled, mud from collar to bum, tongue hanging out, and wearing an expression of profound pleasure on her face, she came trotting back, heaved a sigh of relief and sat panting at my feet with that sort of wagging tail that means

"That's better now, Mum!  What about a nice biccie, then?"

      Hopeless!  Sandy was just as bad.  She was a white and tan spaniel and when all clean and combed, had the most glorious soft silky coat.  But she couldn't really stand being clean.  The minute she was released from a grooming session she would rush off, find a nice ditch and wade delicately into it.  "Sandy, no!" we would yell as

we rushed after her.  She would give us one of her ecstatic, glazed-over, I'm-in-heaven looks before slowly and carefully lying down in the mud and rolling over onto her back. 

      But the thing is, you've got to try.  Otherwise, it's not just that you'll have a dirty smelly dog, but you won't notice ticks, fleas and other beasties, and you might not notice little scratches, sores or bites either.  And unchecked, any of these can turn into a trip to the

vet.  Grooming a dog thoroughly, you should notice little things like that; you look in their ears, have a quick tooth-check, see if they've got grass seeds in their paws, remove any insects, powder any little hurty-bits and close up, you'll know if your woofer merely smells doggy or if there's something more serious going on like (yuk) blocked anal glands.  And for country dogs, I prefer to trim long fur on paws - it cuts down on mess.  I also think that long-haired dogs can keep themselves cleaner if you trim excessive bum fluff.

      I did come across a lady once though, who couldn't groom her dog at all.  I have to admit it was a nasty little brute, but she couldn't do anything else with it either.  It wouldn't walk to heel, it wouldn't get off the sofa, it wouldn't let her into the bathroom.  It was pretty clear that the dog owned her rather than the other way around.  She'd simply lost the struggle and her monstrous little pug, having successfully resisted her attempts at grooming, considered himself the pack leader.

      Careful grooming however (ie don't get bitten) can help prevent behaviour problems because establishing that you have the right to brush your dog makes him understand that you are the pack leader, and he is not.  So if you have a dog which has never been groomed and has no intention of allowing such an assault, start really gently with a soft glove.  Do a few minutes at a time and progress bit by bit to combs, brushes and (blunt-nosed) scissors.  Give loads of rewards and encouragements in the shape of pats, praise and biccies. 

      Not all dogs need the same amount of grooming of

course.  Labradors for example don't need more than the occasional brush down unless they come in up to the ears in mud.  But even a boxer will need grooming when moulting - otherwise you'll find the house looking incredibly hairy.

      And the pug lady?  Well, I think she could have managed it if she hadn't been so scared of her dog, but she was and her dog knew it - the snappy little monster.  I don't know the answer to that one.  I mean, frankly, is there any point in keeping a dog which frightens you?   



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