Spring Trip 2018

My husband, Marc and I are back from a four-week working road trip. For the past few years, we’ve traveled for almost the entire month of March. After all – who wants to be in Michigan in March? Each Spring, we’ve loaded up our bikes, kayaks, dogs, and filming gear and hit the road.

crystal riverThe trip this year started out with the Atlanta Pet Fair before heading south to Florida. Our itinerary included lots of work but also plenty of downtime. We kayaked with the manatees in Crystal Springs and enjoyed the unbelievable clarity of the Rainbow River. On one of the rivers we kayaked, we came a bit too close to a large alligator sunning himself on the bank. I swear it looked like an old tire sitting on the river bank – until it MOVED! We paddled away very quickly!

JumpingWe attended the Live Oaks International Horse Show where we watched show jumping and the exhilarating marathon driving event. The show jumping took me back to my younger years when I showed hunters and jumpers.  With each stride and jump, I was right there with the rider.

I had never seen a marathon driving event before – what a blast! Top carriage drivers maneuvered their horse(s) through a complex pattern of VERY solid obstacles in the quickest time possible. It was thrilling to watch these skilled teams flying through the obstacles.Friesians Live Oaks

Soon we were headed to the west side of South Florida where we spent some great quality time with Marc’s family.

Then the work started.

We had multiple Learn2GroomDogs.com film shoots with some amazing people. We filmed with Randi Sands, Irina (Pina) Pinkusevich, and Joshua Morales.  We then toured Kathy Rose’s new salon, Pets of Perfection. From there, we drove to Orlando to film with Lindsey Dicken. As soon as we finished, we drove to see Angela Kumpe for some creative grooming just outside Little Rock, Arkansas.

kayakingFilming and learning with these talented stylists was amazing. One thing really stood out: the increased use of thinning shears. They’re being used more often and the variety of thinners and blenders is growing. It seems they are becoming as important to everyone’s collections as smooth bladed shears.

Finally, it was time to return to Michigan, but we had one more stop to make. As we made our way home, we stopped at our St. Louis office to visit our newest team member, Joe Zuccarello, and meet his family for the first time.

We made it home just in time for the last gasp of Winter. Being on the road was a wonderful experience. It was an amazing trip filled with a nice balance of work and down time.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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Bardel Bows – Success Comes from Sweating the Details

Pineola FarmsThe Atlanta Pet Fair was the kickoff for trade shows east of the Mississippi. To my husband Marc and myself, the Atlanta Pet Fair signals a month-long road trip in our motor coach.

I love this trip. As we drive from the frigid north country, we see spring explode as we drive south. Instead of seeing a season slowly wake up, we see it in full bloom in a matter of hours. I get so excited as I see the first daffodils, the first red buds blooming, and the leaves just giving a hint of green. By the time we hit Atlanta, spring is upon us. It’ll only be a matter of time before our kayaks will be in the water and our bikes hit the trails.

After the Atlanta Pet Fair, we schedule film shoots for Learn2GroomDogs.com. We enjoy filming Training Partners in their salons and many of live in the southern section of the United States. We’ve gotten very good at combining work and relaxing downtime for ourselves.

Normally our schedule is very rigid, but this year we cut ourselves some slack. Between the Atlanta Pet Fair and our first film shoot, we had a little bit of unscheduled time.

As we were just starting our trip, Delise of Bardel Bows contacted me. She and her husband Paul invited us to spend some time with them at their home, Pineola Farms. A few industry friends had shared with me how unique their home was. This southern plantation was established in 1865. In 1997 they bought the farm. Delise and Paul fell in love with the property’s rich history. They have taken it upon themselves to be the caretakers of this property while keeping the original family history firmly in place.

Group PhotoWe have been acquaintances with Paul and Delise Knight for years but never really gotten to know them. At trade shows I’ve always been impressed with the volume of beautiful bows they had at their booth. They always seemed to be busy.

We left directly from the convention center after the Atlanta Pet Fair. The farm was less than two hours down the road.

I knew their barn had been used for special events and weddings for the previous 10 years. However, Bardel Bows had grown so quickly in the past few years they opted to stop doing events. Recently, they moved the bow company into the barn.

The barn was huge. It had a warm, friendly, and rustic elegance to it. The views from the lower level were amazing over the pecan orchard. Every bit of the space was functional. When I toured the work areas, I just smiled. It was more than just the gorgeous bows making me smile. It was their passion and attention to detail.

Success comes from sweating the details. Paul and Delise make a great team when it comes to details. Their personalities complement each other perfectly.

Here are a few of the items setting Bardel Bows apart.

  • Bardel Bows have been designed by a groomer – for groomers.
  • Delise owned a grooming salon in Georgia for years.
  • Bardel Bows has been producing high quality, hand-tied dog bows for the pet grooming industry since 1989.
  • All their bows are produced in Georgia by professional bow makers using the highest quality materials available.
  • All their bows are handmade using long-lasting and sturdy latex bands.
  • The unique design of Bardel Bows makes application a snap.
  • Bardel Bows stocks hundreds of different grooming bows making up collections for every season.

Bow detailWe were amazed at the level of professionalism and organization we saw at their headquarters. The VOLUME of bows and accessories – it blew my mind!! Every week Paul makes the rounds to their home based bow makers. He drops off supplies and picks up thousands of finished items.

Delise gave me a tour of the upper level of the barn. I was so honored. Not everyone gets to see this area. It’s very private and the creative nerve center of Bardel Bows. I could have stayed there for DAYS letting my own creative juices flow!

Delise and Paul have carved out a special niche in the grooming industry with their beautiful bows and accessories. However, their commitment to serve others goes way deeper than just running a successful bow business.

Mary Kay Ash said, “Give of yourself. Be of service to others. Only what you give can be multiplied back into your own life.”

We learned quickly that Paul and Delise live by this Mary Kay Ash quote. I think it’s a part of the warm southern culture. We saw and heard how they implement this thought every day in their lives, home, business, community, and how they interact with their employees and their customers.

Here is just one tiny example. They gave out over 600 cupcakes at the Atlanta Pet Fair to venders and clients simply to introduce a new line of bows. The new line was introduced in the early spring of 2018 and called the Cupcake Collection.

DogIf you haven’t tried Bardel Bows to accessorize your grooms, I encourage you to give them a try. Their bows and accessories are fabulous. You can even find our older Maremma Sheepdog, Pearl modeling a large Fancy Spring Frill collar and a princess crown. Plus, I guarantee you’ll have a wonderful experience with their entire team!

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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Salvage Work

Spring is here – and not a moment too soon!  Many of us will be seeing a lot of pets that are ready for a great makeover in the coming weeks.

As many of you know, I’m a big dog person.  Working on these large furry dogs that have a huge shedding problem is one of my favorite things to do in a grooming salon. Over the years I’ve gotten really quick with the process and rarely cringe, no matter what the size of the dog, nor the condition.

My #1 rule is: Never work on a dirty dog. If water can penetrate the coat, let your products do the job.

Working on a dirty dog is not only unpleasant, but it also takes longer to do.  There will be a lot of coat damage and breakage.  A dirty coat is dry and brittle. The dirt and dander trapped within the fur makes it more difficult to brush out. Working on a clean coat will be easier for both you and the pet – and much more enjoyable.

If there are large chunks that water cannot penetrate, go ahead and break up the tangle using the tool that is safe for the pet.  Don’t worry about removing it completely, just break it apart so the water and shampoo can do their job.

Prepare your bathing area.  If the dog is exceptionally dirty, use a shampoo especially designed for dirty dogs.  Using a follow-up treatment of a skin and coat conditioner after bathing twice (or maybe three times in some areas) will assist with the brush out and dead coat removal during the drying process.  Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to aid in getting the dog clean, like rubber curries or scrub brushes.  Make sure you have plenty of towels handy!

My favorite trick when working with this type of job is to bring my high velocity dryer right into the bathing area.  With the dog fully lathered, blow the shampoo right off the pet while it is tethered in the tub.  The slippery soap will allow the dirt, loose coat, and tangles slide out. The clumps will be trapped in the shampoo and will stick to the back wall of the tub, minimizing the mess.  Not all the shedding coat or mats will be removed but a lot will, making your job easier once you transfer to the drying table.  Once you have blown out the pet, follow up with the rinsing process.  Repeat this process as many times as necessary to get the dog “squeaky clean.”

Once the pet is clean and thoroughly rinsed, apply a skin and coat conditioning treatment before heading to the drying table.  Read your directions: some conditioning treatments need to be rinsed out while others do not.  Your high velocity dryer and a heavy slicker brush will be your best friends during the drying process.index

Rule # 2: Be Methodical and Thorough

First, blow out as much moisture and loose coat at possible with the air flow.  Use the highest power setting the pet is comfortable with along with a condenser cone.  Once you have pushed as much water and loose fur from the pet, remove the condenser cone and bring the air flow close to the pet’s skin.  “Boost” any loose coat out of the dog by lightly patting the area with a slicker brush where the air is striking the skin.

Continue to work over the dog in a methodical manner until your brush glides through the coat easily and no more loose coat is trapped in the brush.

Rule #3 – ENJOY!

When the dog is complete, it should smell clean and fresh.  The coat should be glossy and float freely as the dog moves.  There should be an irresistible desire to reach down and bury your hands in a freshly groomed pet.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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What are your favorite tools and shampoos to use for those tough jobs? What secret tricks did we miss? Let’s talk about it on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family.

Proactively Dealing with Skin and Coat Issues

Quote In A CircleThere are times in most professional groomers’ careers when customers mistakenly blame others for their pet issues. There are a wide range of possible scenarios that happen before or during the grooming process, including:

  • During bathing, a scab falls away from an older injury, making it look like a fresh wound.
  • Removing tight mats from the leather results in an ear hematoma.
  • A dog arrives for his appointment with fleas or ticks. However, the client refuses to believe their pet had them prior to stepping into your salon.
  • After trimming a pet with super sensitive skin, an area becomes inflamed once it gets home.

How do you proactively handle these situations and prevent having upset customers?

Three ways.

  1. Communication
  2. Honesty
  3. Proof

matted profileCommunication

The best start to effective communication is to get your hands on the pet before it goes into the grooming process – preferably with the owner standing right there. You’re going to be looking for anything unusual that could possibly pose a problem after the grooming is finished.

Let all your senses come into play.

  • What does the skin and coat look like?
  • What does the skin and coat feel like?
  • What does the skin and coat smell like?

Give the dog a visual once over. Identify any potential problems. Confirm what you may see by sinking your hands into the coat all the way down to the skin. Is there anything unusual? Lumps? Bumps? Mats? Filthy coat? Grit next to the skin?

To be proactive, it’s important to identify potential issues before the grooming process even begins. With severely matted pets this is critical. Talk to the owner. Point out the issue and offer a solution if you can. Discuss the potential risks and the benefits you feel are in the best interest of the pet.

Identifying potential issues in the skin and coat prior to starting the grooming process is a great way to start educating customers. Many clients have no idea how to best deal with their pet’s coat, the health risks associated with the lack of regular grooming, temperament issues, or the aging process. Most want to do what is best for their pet if information is presented in a sincere and respectful manner.

lengthsOwners rarely understand how we do our job or how our clippers work. Telling a client is one thing. Having a fake fur chart of how long each blade or guard comb leaves the pet can be extremely beneficial. It’s a physical tool to help educate pet parents. It clarifies blade lengths and defines the term “short” in a way clients can comprehend.

Some salons display solid pelts taken off severely matted pets. These matted chunks of coat – or pelts – serve as a great education tool. It’s not just for severely matted pets. They offer an excellent communication tool to talk about coat length, brushing techniques, and things hidden in the coat like bubblegum or fishhooks.

Unfortunately, we all have a few clients who are just impossible to educate. Careful, I can see your eyes rolling…

Let’s face it. During check-in we can’t always spot every potential problem in the dog’s skin or coat. If it is going to change the price or the look of the haircut, stop and call the owner to discuss it. If it’s extremely matted and is going to cost more to do the groom – you want to get verification to either proceed with the dematting process or opt for a much shorter haircut.

Personally, I prefer to emphasize the risks and slightly over-estimate the cost when I’m first talking to the owner. Thus, whatever I might find – or charge – is a welcome relief to the pet parent upon pick-up. If you do accidentally injure the dog or must charge extra, it does not come as a shock to the owner. In most cases, injury can be avoided, and the groom is less expensive than anticipated.

Whatever the case, it’s better to have too much communication then not enough.

Honesty

Whatever you have found in the dog’s skin or coat, be truthful with the client.

If it’s something minor, take the time to point it out and clearly show it to the owner. Tell them what you have done to help minimize the issue. Make suggestions on what they should do at home. Maybe it’s just keeping an eye on the spot or using some pet soothing appointment. If the issue has the potential to be a long-term problem, tell them how you plan to deal with it in upcoming grooming appointments, so you don’t aggravate the problem in the future.

We literally go over pets from the tips of their noses to the tips of their tails. It’s amazing what we discover as professionals. We are not vets and should never diagnose our discoveries, but we are trained observers. Whenever you find something out of the ordinary, tell the owner.

If I were to find anything I would consider a medical issue, it would be best to tell the owner what I would do if it was MY dog. Sometimes it would just be keeping an eye on something until the next vet visit. On other occasions where I feel it is critical the pet receives medical attention, I would tell the owner (if it was my dog), I would go straight to the veterinarian. I’ve even had a few situations where I called the vet for the owner and they went directly from the grooming appointment to the veterinarian.

We are all working in the best interest of the pet. Honesty can go a long way, coupled with sincerity and compassion for both the pet and the owner.

footProof

If you overlooked something at check-in, but discover it after the owner has left, document it. Having proof about the condition when the owner returns helps prove it was a pre-existing issue. It helps establish your case that you did not cause the problem prior to the grooming.

There are many ways to document or provide proof of the pre-existing problem.

Almost everyone has a cell phone with a digital camera. Use it! A photo or a quick video does wonders to prove a point. It’s important to get that initial shot when you first discover a problem. It might be a scab or flea dirt and fleas crawling through the coat. It might be a toenail that has curled into the foot pad.

Here are a few of the items I have collected over the years. Most of the smaller items have been put into plastic baggies.

  • fleas (preferably dead)
  • ticks (preferably dead)
  • maggots
  • hotspots
  • scabs and pus
  • bubblegum
  • rubber bands
  • fishhooks
  • burrs
  • matts
  • pelts
  • pine sap
  • grossly overgrown toenails
  • excessive blown or dead coat

I’m sure you have an extensive list, as well.

If you don’t want to get blamed for something, be proactive. Honestly discuss what you have found with the pet owner. You are the professional observer and trained professional. As a professional groomer, our job is not only to make the dogs look and feel better, it’s also to educate their caretakers.

Always remember, put humanity before vanity and do what is in the best interest of the pet.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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Have you ever been blamed for an injury you didn’t cause? How did you handle it? Let’s talk about it on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family.