The Rockwood Files: “Shave and a haircut…”

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Sometimes, in an effort to save money, we take on things we have no business messing around with – things best left to trained professionals. We put on our practical “do it yourself” hats and say stupid, fate-tempting things like “How hard could it be?” And then we find out.

When temperatures hit 90 degrees last week, I told Tom we’d have to make an appointment to get our dogs, Holly and E.J., shaved for the summer, as we do every year around this time. He agreed, hesitantly, because he knew the trip to the doggie salon for two large dogs usually runs around $150.

But there was no question it needed to be done, especially for Holly, who has more fur than your average polar bear. Thirteen years ago, we adopted her as a puppy from a local shelter. All we knew about her was that she was a sweet, tiny, blonde ball of soft fur. The people at the shelter told us she was a Newfoundland breed, and we smiled and said that sounded nice because, at the time, we had no idea that Newfoundland puppies grow up to be roughly the size of a Volkswagen.

When I took her to the veterinarian for shots, I stroked her soft fur and explained to the vet that she was a Newfoundland puppy we’d just adopted. An older man who’d seen his share of puppies, the vet chuckled and told me I had not just adopted a Newfoundland dog. “Well, then what kind of dog is she?” I asked.

“A little yellow dog,” he replied, making it clear she was simply a mixed breed true to her pound-puppy heritage.

As our little yellow dog grew up, we were relieved when she didn’t get too enormous. The vet was right about her mixed breed status, but I believe she definitely has a Newfoundland somewhere in her gene pool because her fur is impossibly thick and starts shooting out of her skin in huge tufts of wispy hair about this time of year. If we didn’t shave her in this heat and humidity, I’m afraid she might self-combust.

So Tom decided to solve two problems with one trip to Wal-Mart. He came home with a forty-dollar set of electric dog clippers, which he said would allow us to shave the dogs and keep more than a hundred dollars in our pocket. Brilliant plan, right?

The electric clippers came with an instructional video on how to trim your dog’s hair. We watched the first five minutes of the video but then turned it off because the script sounded like it had been written for idiots. It talked about how the proper use of this excellent grooming tool could even improve our dog’s self-esteem. Geesh! We didn’t have time to hear about dog psychology. We were ready to get the job done.

So we set up lawn chairs in the garage and brought in Holly, our first victim, assuring her it wouldn’t hurt a bit. And we didn’t physically hurt her during the hour-long shaving debacle, but, if the poor thing sees her reflection in a rain puddle anytime soon, her self-esteem will go right in the toilet. She looks – how should I say it – rough. Real rough. It turns out that shaving a dog is not nearly as easy as it looks on the instructional video.

On the bright side, there are a few areas of her hair I’m proud of – smooth, wide swaths of short hair that look almost like a professional’s work. The problem is that those few smooth spots are surrounded by clumps and lumps we couldn’t quite get to as well as naked divots where we were a tad too aggressive with the clippers. In short, she looks like she was shaved by a hay thrasher. A frustrated, misguided hay thrasher who did not watch the instructional video.

We didn’t finish the haircut completely. After more than an hour of shaving, we knew Holly was tired of our amateur grooming attempt and we were exhausted and covered in enough dog hair to create an additional dog. The dog’s legs were still kind of shaggy but we’d managed to get the bulky hair off her body and she did look a lot cooler.

Before the haircut, she weighed about 70 pounds. She must be considerably lighter now, though, since it seems like we shaved off at least 15 pounds of hair – most of which is still rolling around the floor of our garage like Texas tumbleweeds.

We were too tired to tackle shaving the second dog that same weekend, so we’re putting it off until next Saturday. But after the second dog sees the job we did on the first, there’s a fair chance he might run away before the weekend. Who could blame him? I hope he gets a professional haircut before he comes back home.

rockwoodheadshot2010compressed1.jpgGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.