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 by Laurie Buckley!

Passion 4 Pooches, Articles by Laurie Buckley

Matted, stinking, neglected - and still filled with love

I fell in love today. Now admittedly, that's not an unusual occurrence for me. In my work, I fall in love every week, if not every day and sometimes even a few times in the same day. The object of my affection this time was a three - year-old cock-a-poo named Benny. It just happens that Benny reinforced a phenomenon that continuously amazes me.


Benny the cock-a-poo was rescued the day before, but not in the traditional sense. His new owners were relatives of his previous owner, who for whatever reasons was unable to care for Benny properly. Benny arrived for his grooming appointment severely matted from head to toe. Groomers refer to these types of mats as "carpet mats,” meaning that as you shave them, they come off in one long piece. He was filthy and smelled of urine and feces, some of which were still stuck to him. His head and face were also covered in sand spurs.


According to his new owner, Benny, a 20-pound dog, had been kept in a cat carrier. There was also some indication that Benny may have been hit, because he was very fearful of hands above his head. At the very least, he had been truly neglected at the hands of a human being.


Benny was definitely nervous as we began shaving his hair. We worked slowly and quietly. I continually talked to him and told him what a good and handsome boy he was and how much better he would feel when we were done. But the truth is that shaving off mats this severe is uncomfortable, at best. Mats that are this close to the skin must be worked away from the skin as you go. He was particularly sensitive about his feet, and for good reason. His feet were covered with two inches of mats.

The amazing phenomenon isn't that Benny didn't try to bite my hand off. In grooming, dogs who try to bite are all in a day's work. No, the part of this story that never fails to astound me, is that Benny not only tolerated this painful process but that he loved me as much as I loved him! Benny didn't hate human beings! He didn't hold a grudge against mankind for his previous treatment! He exuded love and trust. When we took a break, Benny stood on two legs to place his paws on my chest so he could kiss my face. If he didn't like what I was doing he would nudge and kiss my hand. Eventually, he even took treats from me. And he'd only known me for about an hour!


Benny is not an exception. We often se rescue dogs in a lot worse shape than Benny. Mimi from R.A.I.N recently brought in a Shih Tzu named Saltly. Salty was recovering from being hit around his head. Now granted, Mimi provides very loving foster care to these dogs. But after what he had been through, do you think Salty was aggressive and mistrustful? Do you think at the very least he was shut down and withdrawn? No, Salty exuded love. He didn't even mind my working around his head. He was very affectionate and really just wanted to please.


This brings me to my point. To my mind, dogs are really the embodiment of love. And while this has all been said before, it never fails to astonish me. Where else can you find such unconditional love? To whom else can you show your very worst side, and they love you anyway? And while never completely forgetting, who else will forgive so easily? Some moms and dads, maybe. But as for the rest of us? Not likely. The other part of this phenomenon is that for those of us who get this, dogs bring pure JOY into our lives. I don't know about you, but there aren't that many things in this world that I can point that bring me out and out joy. Happiness, love and contentment, OK. But joy? That’s a little harder to come by. And I see it in my work all the time. The 300 pound motorcycle guy with the tattoos, who comes in cooing to his Chihuahua. The elderly widow, who says her poodle, was her rock after her husband's death. The empty nest couple that have a new lease on life since adopting a lab. I see the joy in their faces and I can relate.


It is my hope that through this column, we can share information that will help all of us to be great pet owners. These amazing beings ask for really very little and give us back so much in return. They deserve our best.


Laurie Buckley is the Head Groomer at the Pet Care Center of Nassau - Ritsy Klips in Yulee. She is the owner of AniMassage, an in-home massage services for dogs and horses. She lives in Fernandina Beach with her 16-year old Golden Retriever mix, Jake and 11-year old Border Collie mix, Mae. Send questions to passion4pooches@yahoo.com or call 415-0632.