“He is so soft, clean, and…well, he just doesn’t smell like a dog?!” is a common refrain as Quinn and I travel our world together. This is because one significant responsibility of a Guide Dog partnership is the grooming, which ensures Quinn is always appropriately clean for the many public places we visit. It is an almost daily duty for us to spend 20 minutes in a grooming routine that Quinn loves entirely.
The trash and grooming kit being set on the floor is Quinn’s cue to come lay in my lap for the thorough combing, which helps remove all excess fur from his dual coats. The double coat of the lab insulates them well in summer and winter, but provides an amazing amount of fur due to the coat constantly adjusting for the changing temperatures and other weather conditions. Grooming will not prevent him from leaving some fur behind, as my clothes too often show, but the grooming does reduce the amount of shed fur significantly. It also helps to remove dirt from his coat and makes him the very clean dog for which he is renowned.
A “Zoom Groom” is a rubber finger tool used to help massage Quinn and stimulate the oils in his skin – a process that keeps his fur particularly soft. Given regular grooming, there is rarely need for water-based baths, and this is even healthier for the pup. Of even more significance is the fact that this process allows Quinn some relaxation to begin his day, and also gives me a chance to let my hands tell me things about his health, which my lack of vision might prevent. I can ensure that he has no injuries by his reactions to the massage, as well as by the lack of swelling, hot spots, or other physical abnormalities. Frankly, it is yet another part of the bonding process essential to our work, which also just so happens to make Quinn ready for being out in public.
The final touch to our daily session is the brushing of Quinn’s teeth. This treat makes it all worthwhile for him, as he loves the various dog-flavored toothpastes available. I love knowing that the enzyme-based toothpaste does much of the work just from Quinn licking it, while the finger brush I use reduces the plaque to ensure strong, healthy teeth and a healthier Quinn long term. The challenge I face is convincing Quinn when we are done, and that he really does not need to lick any more of the toothpaste!
Monthly, we add an ear rinse to the grooming process, Odi-Rinse, to promote clean and healthy ears. Quinn is not so fond of this treatment, but the results are too good for him to miss. We similarly check his nail length. Good weather means enough pavement work to naturally keep them ground down, but the dewclaws always need attention. I ask for help to actually cut Quinn’s nails to avoid unnecessary risk to the ‘quick’ – the blood flow into the nails of dogs. Regular trimming keeps the claws from catching and causing Quinn a more serious problem.
A final ‘secret’ in our routine is the special occasion, doggy cologne spray for his back. It is a dog deodorant that Guiding Eyes made available to us. It is safe for Quinn, and he seems to regard it as a special treat, based on the extra wriggling just before and after its application. He may not always suit up in his tuxedo, but for those semi-formal times, he is ready to go the extra mile. That is why despite the occasional bog bridge debacle, he can quickly convert to the dapper dog of fame. He does draw the line at mousse, and no Dippity-Do or dippity-dog is in his future!