Sunday, September 11, 2011

“Those curious locks, so aptly twin’d…”

When you are the parent of a Bedlington Terrier, you become somewhat dependent on your groomer. 

Cleo has astonishingly soft, fine hair.  People who pat her always exclaim about how soft she is. 

“I wish my dog were this soft.”

“Oooo, she’s so soft.”

“She feels like one of those plush stuffed animals.”

“The softest dog I’ve ever touched.”

It’s one of the qualities that help to make her such a great therapy dog.  You can’t help but be comforted just stroking her side. 

When I was five, I had surgery on one of my eyes and had to be in the hospital for a week.  During that time, I spent several days blindfolded.  My parents gave me a small stuffed dog with satin lining on its floppy ears.  The dog tucked perfectly under one arm, its nose at my shoulder, its hind end at my waist.  Throughout the scary, dark days and nights, I held that dog against me and rubbed his ears for comfort.  Even out of the hospital, I rubbed the ears as I fell asleep at night until I eroded them into tattered, grubby, unidentifiable shreds of fabric.  My mom performed multiple emergency surgeries to save that stuffed dog, stitching on a procession of satin, flannel, felt and cotton ear insides over the years.  The softness of Cleo’s hair reminds me of that dog.  Among her advantages, of course, are that she doesn’t wear out and her hair replenishes itself.

When it’s on the longer side, it curls, giving her even more of the lamb-on-a-leash look.  It’s an adorable, scruffy-chic look.  It is also the reason we call her the Velcro dog. 

Yesterday, John took Cleo on a brand new adventure.  They explored a lovely walking path in Pacific Grove that runs along the old bed of a small-scale railway that a century ago shuttled people between Pacific Grove and Monterey.  Though they were electrified in 1904, the cars were originally pulled by horses.  The only reminder that there was once something here is a wide, flat path that separates the expansive backyards of the houses on either side.  One can walk for miles in peace and quiet and, in fact, the area is permanently posted due to occasional mountain lion sightings.  John and Cleo turned around yesterday when they encountered a doe and her very young fawn.  (Refer to an earlier post for my cautions about deer…)

By the time they got home, Cleo was bristling with burrs, foxtails, grasses of multiple varieties, bark, leaves, seeds, a large pine cone, and the medium-sized branch of an oak tree.   You can watch it happen: She walks past a pine needle, it snaps onto her leg, and before you can reach down to pull it off, the hair has wrapped itself around the pine needle like octopus tentacles and is drawing it inexorably into its embrace.  Even with brushing and combing, there are mats on her mats.  Her leg hair is crossing over into quilt batting.

And so we are eagerly awaiting Tuesday morning when she goes to the groomer to be brushed, bathed, clipped and scissored.  But the real reason you become dependent on the groomer is that the really good ones, the ones who know what they are doing with Bedlington Terriers, are few and far between.  Bedlingtons have an extra ear flap and horror stories abound of inexperienced groomers who have sheared (literally) the extra flap right off, never knowing it was there.  Simply knowing how to get the distinctive Bedlington profile requires more expertise than your average groomer is likely to possess. 

Bedlington Terrier Club of America's
guide to grooming Bedlingtons
We have dozens of groomers in our area, but only two who have any experience with Bedlington Terriers.  One, the patient and masterful Todd, actually used to show them.  I can’t say that Cleo loves going to spend the day with him.  Once she figures out where we’re headed, she usually tries to make it impossible to get there, hanging onto the door jamb with eight claws (all of which need dremeling) while I work to pull her loose.  Once, I arrived to pick Cleo up while she was still on the trimming table.  Todd was fussing over individual hairs, trying to assure perfection.  Cleo’s look of long-suffering boredom turned, the moment she saw me, into the expression that crossed Judy Garland’s face when she saw the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion.  She knew I’d come to spring her.  As Cleo did her best to haul me bodily out of the shop, Todd bent to give her a last fluff, a final pat and to tell her what a sweetheart she is.

So we the humans happily embrace our dependence on our groomer.  Cleo, on the other hand, has never uttered a word of complaint about her matted hair.  She likes quilt batting.

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