Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daisy - Sometimes Moms make mistakes

Owning a puppy mill dog is not easy. People see stories on the news about the Humane Society raiding a puppy mill and they think "Oh! I would love to rescue one of those dogs and give it a loving home!" But, what they don't realize is that most puppy mill dogs come with baggage - sometimes serious baggage (fearful behaviors, aggressive-fearful behaviors, distrust, lack of socialization, health issues, etc.).

As the owner of a puppy mill dog, I've discovered I too carry my own baggage when it comes to Daisy, especially when it comes to caring for her...

  • Am I doing the right thing when it comes to Daisy (usually relating to a specific situation)?
  • Have I destroyed months of work and the trust I have built with Daisy by doing ...? 
  • Why did I put Daisy in a situation that made her fearful?
  • Why didn't I do this instead of that when working with her?
  • How could I have handled that scary situation differently with Daisy? 

 Sometimes, we doggie Moms (and Dads) make mistakes.

This was the case on a Wednesday a few weeks ago.

On that Wednesday afternoon I had some extra time available and decided that it would be the perfect time to get Daisy and Jasper's nails trimmed. Usually I take them to the vet or to a friend who works at the shelter, but it was late, and I didn't think I would make it in time. So, I did the next best thing (at least it seemed so at the time) and took them to a national pet store chain that has a grooming facility on the premises.

Once, a long time ago, I had taken Daisy to this very same store to get her nails trimmed, and it had turned out to be a fairly good experience. I was able to explain Daisy's history to the groomer, who then decided to leave Daisy where she felt safest (with me), and just clip her nails right there in the front entrance. It went well and Daisy didn't have to suffer the additional trauma of being led back into the grooming area. We were done in minutes, and while Daisy kind of shut down while her nails were being cut (something she has always done), she was back to her usual self within minutes.

But this time, things were very different. First, it turned out that the groomers are no longer allowed to clip a dog's nails in the entryway (probably due to legal reasons). Second, owners are no longer allowed to come into the grooming area with their dog. Neither of these situations were ideal for Daisy, who is fearful when faced with new people and new environments. This is where I made my first mistake. I decided to go ahead with the nail trimming (after all Daisy really did need her nails clipped) and to allow them to take Daisy into the grooming area without me.

My second, third, fourth, etc. mistakes were in not stopping the process as soon as I saw how scared Daisy was when she was about to be led into the grooming area. You see, I live by the statement "do no harm" when it comes to animals and people, but I most especially live it where it concerns Daisy. I never like to place her in situations where her fear far outweighs the benefits of any given situation. If I need to expose her to something or someone, I like to do it in short intervals or take small steps and build up to it.

I already knew this situation was not going to be ideal, but I went ahead anyways, hoping that it would be quick. Daisy panicked as soon as she saw that I wasn't going with her. Immediately, she laid down on the grown, crouched and refused to move. She had that fearful look in her eyes. I should have stopped them right then and there, but I didn't because I thought they would just clip them right there, where she was laying, just inside the gate. After all, she was 'inside" the grooming area for God's sake. I could reach over the gate and touch her and calm her down while they clipped her nails. But no, they insisted that she be placed on one of their damn tables (if you can't tell, I'm still a little angry about this - both at them and myself for letting it happen). Then, they placed the little noose (that's what I call it) over Daisy's head and hooked it to the bar that hangs over the table to hold her in place, and raised the table. Now, why the hell do you need to raise the damn table to clip her nails???? I should have stopped them then. They obviously had no clue nor any sensitivity when it comes to special needs dogs like Daisy. I should have been her advocate and stopped them from continuing, but I didn't.

I tried to tell them that she was panicked and that she was shaking and about to jump from the table, but the lady poo-pooed me. Again, I should have insisted they stop immediately and bring her to me, but I didn't.  Why? Did I somehow see her as an authority figure? Was I hoping it would get better? I don't know. But, when the lady moved to the other side of the table to finish up Daisy's nails, Daisy got ready to make her leap from the table, with the noose still around her neck. "Oh My God!!!", I thought.  I yelled at them just as she made the leap, and luckily, they were able to stop her in time. What the hell??What kind of damage could a 70-lb dog suffer if she had lept from the table with the noose around her neck? I don't even want to imagine.

As you can imagine, by now I was really starting to get upset with their carelessness and uncaring attitude. Then the lady said to me, "You need to calm down. You're making it worse and causing her to panic." Really? Are you kidding me? She was scared from the moment she got on the other side of that gate! She panicked as soon as she realized that she was going somewhere with a stranger. Did you see her shut down and freeze in fear? I did. What in the hell do YOU know about my dog? And, why in the hell didn't I just stop it right there, when I saw Daisy was afraid?

Instead, I said, "No. You don't know my dog. I DO. And, she is shaking because she is afraid and she is about to jump. I KNOW my dog." I could just tell by the look she exchanged with the other groomer that she was thinking that "some dog owners are SO high-maintenance".  It made me mad. Absolutely, unbelievably, hopping mad. I was mad at them for not listening to me and just assuming I was some high-maintenance dog owner. I was mad at myself for not stopping them when I should have. But, I was also feeling guilt, a LOT of guilt, for putting Daisy through this experience. Why did I put all of her wonderful progress at risk with these idiots?

Needless to say, I was not happy about our experience, and most of it, if not all of it, was my fault. Daisy was scared and unhappy. I was angry and unhappy and I knew I should have known better.

You see, sometimes Moms make mistakes. But this is one I will never repeat. Luckily Daisy is fine, but I will never bring her back to this place again. EVER.

As an update: I did find a groomer that is experienced in working with rescue dogs (she has 3 herself) and I interviewed her before I even brought Daisy in to make sure she understood Daisy's fears. She was awesome. She told me what she did and when she stopped or changed grooming tactics to lessen Daisy's fears. She also told me that she had another groomer hold and comfort Daisy when she was getting too frightened. She will have my loyalty forever. Sometimes Moms learn from their mistakes too.

(Note: Before you ask why I don't clip my own dog's nails, I don't clip them because I once cut the quick on one of my dogs and it made me feel so bad that I've been afraid to do it ever since, especially with black nails.)


  1. It's always a shock when we get locked into doing something that we know is unsuitable or just wrong for us or our loved ones. I can tell you it happens to most of us.

    I don't know if it's moments of weakness or distraction that catch us off guard, allowing others to make decisions for us,or a brain glitch of two problems colliding and shorting out the decision-making system, but it is a wake up call, I think. In those moments we just have to remember to say one word "no" or "stop" or even "wait." When you feel you need more time to consider a situation to come to a decision, stop the action and take the time to rethink. Treat it like the red flag it is. Can you tell I've experienced this to?

    I'm glad there was no lasting mark left on Daisy;)

  2. Thanks Mary. I think you are so right. I think it was both a moment of weakness and distraction. Taking a step back and saying "no" would have been the right thing to do. Trust me. I'll be doing that in the future!