Canine Column: The man in black

By Marti Benson

His life is like something out of a binge-worthy series. Johnny Cash was the love child of an English Bulldog mother and a Standard Poodle father. He tried out a few families before he finally won the Dog Lottery and found the owner-of-a-lifetime.

This amazing and lovely woman passed away last month – and Johnny came to live with us. At 14 ½ years old, he still has his mother’s soulful eyes and patience. He has his father’s long legs, jaunty trot—and high maintenance coat. Our grooming routine with Chip and Ernie is relatively easy. We brush their smooth coats; then brace ourselves for the nail trims with ear plugs and a shot of Irish whiskey. But Johnny’s coat is different. In a matter of weeks, his dark coat became thick and unruly, and the hair on his face grew bushy. He did not look like the well-coiffured guy who would greet me at his owner’s door—and he was definitely not comfortable. I made an appointment with his groomer.

DeeAnne Jordan is the owner of Canine Cottage in Colorado Springs. She has been grooming dogs since 1982, and has been doing Johnny’s hair for the past 10 years. She explained that some breeds – like poodles – have hair shafts that curl and kink in on themselves; and result in matting. Due to the numerous nerve endings on the dog’s skin, this can become painful. Matting can, also, increase the risk of skin infections. Because his beloved owner kept Johnny groomed on a regular basis, he wasn’t stressed when we got to DeeAnne’s.

Was he going to get that fancy hairdo that poodle show dogs get? No—but I did get the skinny on why that’s done. As a water-breed dog, poodles are cut according to their lifestyle. The intricate shaving helps the dog to float better—and the poof of hair left on the chest and ankles is to protect the vital organs and joints from injury.

Johnny’s salon session was more than just a summer ‘do and a nail trim. As she cut and shaved and brushed and washed, she was, also, on the lookout for trouble spots. Lumps and bumps, warts and moles— a professional groomer assesses them, and lets an owner know if something bleeds, feels funny… or (gulp) moves. They might suggest your four-legged friend should visit his or her vet about that scabby growth—or to pick up a flea and tick preventative for your next hike.

Anal glands expressed, ears shaved and eyebrows trimmed were the final touches. Johnny sauntered out of the salon all polished and peppy. I know exactly how he felt—I visited my hairdresser last month, too. As he looked around at the people in the parking lot, I wondered if he was searching for his other dog-mom. He climbed into my car, rested his head on his paws and sighed.


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