First Person Singular

(KK Ottesen)
Sunday, November 4, 2007

When I come to the door, most of my clients -- meaning my dogs -- are not really happy to see me. Some of them love being groomed, but most of them don't. They just wish I'd come over and visit and leave the grooming stuff at home. But 95 percent, 98 percent of my dogs are really good, believe it or not. They sense that I'm no-nonsense, and they'll sit still while I brush them because they know that we're here for business. Not that they're threatened by me, but that I'm like the alpha dog. Dogs are pack animals. They're used to having the one leader, and most of them don't want to be the leader. Probably one of the biggest problems that pet owners have is that they aren't alpha enough with their dogs.

Dogs spend their whole lives observing us. We're not watching that closely -- we've got our jobs and our kids and everything -- but they just focus in on us. They know what's going on more than we realize. People will say, "My dog started getting nervous two hours before you came." Maybe they said my name. Maybe they cleared a spot where I usually groom the dog -- some subtle little trigger that they didn't even know, but the dog knew. One of my customers, he has three dogs, and they're a little bit naughty, so sometimes he likes to tease them. The night before I come, he'll say, "Marty's coming," and they all start to freak out. I think it's almost more the anticipation than the actual. When they're on the table, they sort of accept it.

When they're done, they just are crazy with excitement. I don't know how much of it is they know they look good, or maybe they hear their owners fawning over them, or it feels good to be washed and clean -- or they're just so relieved that it's over! One thing I always think, and this is just my guess, but have you ever been traveling or on a camping trip where you weren't able to take your usual shower, and when you finally get to take that shower you know how good it feels? I wonder if that's how they feel.

Interview by KK Ottesen

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