Thursday, February 19, 2009


My poor Shelties. For a month now, they have been suffering cruel neglect, and now have also suffered the cruel hand of abuse. Someone please call Sheltie Rescue.

OK, so that is in THEIR mind. I admit, they haven't had all of the luxuries that they are used to having lavished upon them lately. Not only have I been in and out of the hospital (where I am right now), but inbetween these hospital stays, I have denied them their favorite things: walking and playing outside. Now, it hasn't been entirely my fault. I have been out of work for a month(on docotors orders) and feel that, for some reason, not being able to work ALSO means that I am not able to go for our long winter walks. And NO, I am not able to sit outside on a 20 degree day and throw the ball/frisbee until my arm feels like its going to fall off either. I know. Its very unfair to the Shelties. I mean, they're looking at it like "woohoo! Mom's on VACATION!! When are we going to the park? Or hiking? Or to the mountains? Or out to PLAY??" They dont seem to understand that "mommy can't breathe". OK, that's a lie. They're Shelties. Of COURSE they understand. They just seem to "conveniently" ignore the fact. They seem to be blissfully unaware that mommy is PANTING when she does the simplest task. But I dunno. Maybe Im taking their repetitive bahviors that border line OCD the wrong way. I mean, maybe they're using their special Sheltie Jedi powers to heal me; if it wasn't for their incessant barking, or their constant staring that I can feel deep into my SOUL, then I proabably wouldn't get up and push myself at all. Maybe they aren't being pushy and demanding for their own benefit but for mine? Yeah. That's what Im going to keep telling myself. I know...what ever it takes me to get to sleep at night.

So, anyways, back to the horrible conditions that my dogs live in. The neglect, as stated above, has been obvious, and severe. They seem to conveniently forget that any energy that I DO have is expended on playing Sheltie-Speedway, Sheltie-Wars, or loading the Buster Cube with snacks. They just know that they miss their walks, and like to sit near the door with a pained, depressed look on their face to make sure that I don't forget that they are suffering too. But the abuse. The abuse just started. The abuse has been so bad, that when I came into the hospital this time, and they asked me if I felt safe at home, I honestly contemplated saying "No. No I do not." But then I realized if I told them the truth, they probably would have had psych down there so fast I wouldn't have even had time to explain before they slapped the straight-jacket on me. No, I do not feel safe at home, because I am convinced that my Shelties are plotting against me. They are plotting evil, retaliatory things. And now I am scared.

What has turned my sweet and innocent (looking) Shelties into revenge-seeking mad-dogs? I'll tell you what. It is something that strikes fear into the hearts of every Sheltie out there. Something so scary, every fiber of their being is shaken. They actually quake in their little Sheltie-boots when they hear the dreaded word uttered. And that word is:

B A T H.

I know. Im hoping that the Sheltie Parents out there reading this had the decency to cover their Shelties eyes. I dont want to be the reason for Shelties all over the world running amok in a frenzied panic. I dont want to be featured on the 6 o'clock news. I dont need that kind of press. It's bad enough that my Shelties are forcing me to even right this blog, so that they can get their story of peril and the meanness of their owner out there. I'm waiting for the Sheltie Police to come kicking down my door Van Damme style any minute now. I can just see it: they stun me with super-sonic, high pitched Sheltie Barking, and then they bring me under control by using their powerful "Sheltie Eye" and intimidating Mean-Teeth. It's a scary thought. But Im going to continue with the story anyways. Because the threat of the Sheltie Police is strong, but the duress from my OWN Shelties is stronger.

It started out completely innocently. My mom was pressuring me to give the girls a bath for a long time now. And I totally would have complied, if it wasn't for that small, insignificant, yet ever persistant problem of being unable to breathe. And being as anal-retentive and over-protective as I am of the Ladies, I refuse to send them to a groomer, or have my mother bathe them. (I used to work at a grooming shop, and know how rough groomers can be when the dogs don't cooperate, and, lets face it, when my mom doesnt force dry or blow dry the girls, but just leaves them to air-dry, they just don't look or feel the same. So I had to do it...) So I put it off for as long as I could. I mean, they weren't's not like they run around herding sheep all day. (*chuckling to myself* Yeah RIGHT...) And haven't I already mentioned the inability to get outside for walks or for play sessions? If anything, their DUSTY, not dirty!! And Shelties coats are wonderful in that they shed dirt very easily (Ive had the girls up to their chests in thick, caked on mud. But as soon as it dries, it just crumbles and falls right out of the coat) and they don't smell like other dogs do. So, sure, they could have USED the bath, but they were OK not having one for a bit. I mean, I kept their feet and nails trimmed and checked their ears to make sure they weren't dirty. I was doing what I could, with what I had.

But, since they put in the stent last week to try and alleviate some of my breathing problems, I started feeling better. So, I decided why not? Why not give it a go, and see what I can do?? It will be good for my doctors to know what I still can/cannot do when I go to see them next week for a follow up. I mean, without me trying things and getting data, how will they let me go back to work? So, I planned on brushing them one day at home, and then the next day bringing them for baths. I don't bathe them at home because it's much harder; too much hair clogs the drain, my back hurts too much from bending on the floor at the side of our tub, and it's much harder to dry them. We go to a self-serve dog-wash, where you bring the dog, and they do the clean up. In theory, anyways. I mean, you have to rinse down the tub walls and clean the hair off the floor so you don't get charged an extra fee. But that is still WAY easier than doing it at home. And they are usually stocked with all of the grooming supplies that you need: brushes, combs, scissors, shampoos and conditioners. Although I have all of my own stuff, so I bring it along.

So, I started the brushing on one day, and I called and booked the grooming-room for 2 hours the next day. My mom was going to drive us all up (it was her only day off...she really is a Saint!) and then let me see what I could do. But she'd be there to finish the job, if necessary. If only we knew then what horror was to transpire.

I started, like always, with Heidi. She's got a lot more coat than Shelby, and it is thicker and more typical for the breed. Also, because it's a lot longer, it requires more trimming too. I worked on her, brushing, combing and RAKING (with an under-coat rake) for about an hour and a half. Finally, I trimmed her feet, ears and bummy (which is totally embarassing for her...). I then worked on Shelby. Shelbys coat is much shorter, and less dense in some ways. Her undercoat is very cottony, and therefore she has a TON of it. So, she took me about the same amount of time. By the time I was done clipping her, my arms felt like they were going to fall off. It's been a long time since I've worked that hard! And you can probably see why, if you look at the picture. I probably could have made a whole new Sheltie baby-sister out of all the hair! But I do have to say (and not because they are making me...) that they really are quite easy to groom. You know, for dogs that have more hair than body mass. They both lie down on their sides, and are content being line-brushed and combed. There are a few parts that they arent the biggest fans of, though. They dont really like getting their nails clipped, dont really like getting their ears cleaned and they find getting their bummies trimmed totally hoffifying and embarassing. But over all, the brushing part isn't that bad. Its when we get in the car and, just when theyre thinking that I am finally taking them some place fun, we get out at the bath place. The looks on their little Sheltie faces are priceless...their eyes dialate, their ears go back, and they start whining pleadingly: "Please don't bring us in there! PLEASE don't bring us in there!!!" But, alas, an appointment has to be kept. And in we go, towards the impending doom.

Now, where we go the "bath house" is a small room with a tub, cage bank (for cage drying) and a grooming table. That's really it. I bring all of my own brushes, combs, cleaners (ear cleaner, shampoos, conditioner, etc.) and also bring a blow dryer and an extension cord. (The outlet is across the room from the grooming table, near the cage bank.) I have the same routine for each dog. I start with Heidi (who is visibly shaking) and put her up on the table and brush her a little bit. Only to make sure that there are no tangles since yesterday, and to get any more loose hair off (yeah right, like there can possibly be any more hair to come off...) One of the first things they teach you in the grooming class I took in college is: "if you don't need it, don't wash it". So, once the coat is all set, I clean their ears. I use an all natural product that, although it works, smells pretty bad. I can just IMAGINE what it must smell like to them. I don't blame them for wrinkling their Sheltie noses, and moving their faces away. After their ears are done, I put them in the tub. And this is the point where they are fully aware of the trauma that is about to take place. This, I think, is the place where the evil plotting of revenge starts. It is certainly when I start getting the dirty looks...

So, theyre in the tub. I start by hosing them down (after I've checked the water temp, of course). This first part is where I lose my Shelties and gain Whippets.

I have no idea where my collies who have fur to survive on the Shetland Islands went. I have two skinny, naked Whippets. Huh. I'll have to keep a look out for my Shelties... Anyways, once theyre all wet down, I have them face the wall, away from the drain. I proceed to (cover you Shelties' eyes here...Oh, and if your squeemish or have a weak stomach move on to the next part) pull up their tails and (*gulp!) empty their anal glands. Yeah. I don't really mind doing it, but THEY certainly do! They turn and look at me like they cannot BELIEVE what I am doing. Like I am some kind of perve enjoying it. Yeah, OK girls. THIS is why I give you a bath. Because I really, REALLY want to empty your anal glands. OK. Right. Anyways, after that mess is over, I rinse them down again. (If you've ever emptied a dogs anal glands, this is an obvious step.) Then, I shampoo them. Oh my god, you'd think that I was dumping acid on them and then lathering it up. Again, I am amazed at the expressions these dogs give me sometimes. When the shampoo first goes on, its squinted eyes, a lowered head, and a puckered face. Then, they start to look pitiful.
And Shelby is the QUEEN of the pitiful "woe is me" look. I mean, I think this dog has it down to a science. I swear that when Im not home, she practices in a mirror like a model going to their first casting call. It's pathetic. And what's worse, is that she SWAYS back and forth...I asked her if she was enjoying it' and gets so relaxed that she starts sleeping standing up. She insists that that's totally ridiculous, and that she is just trying to avoid passing out from the fumes eminating from the frothy lather. Yeah, OK Shelby. Your a sleep-stander. And you're in denile.
Here are some examples of Shelby's pathetic look:

So, after the lathering stage, which does take a while, as you do have to get ALL of that hair clean, then I rinse them. Again. As soon as all of the shampoo is out, I put on the conditioner. I don't use too much, because I don't want their coat to be heavy or greasy. But I do use enough that I notice the difference. I leave that on for a few minutes (all the while, they stand in the tub giving me the most evil, disgusted looks I have ever seen on a dogs' face) and then rinse it off.
Once everything is out of the coat, I squeeze it dry, and then grab the towels. Yes, towles, as in plural. That coat can hold a lot of water! After towel drying them to the point where they look a little more Sheltie like, I then get the "secret stuff". A friend of mine told me about this after she used it on her corgis and I noticed how wonderful their coat felt. The secret stuff is: Show Sheen. Yes, it is used for horses, but it also works wonders on a dogs coat too. Its almost like tefloning them. They stay cleaner longer, and their coat stays pretty and fluffy. I spray them down (again, enough to notice, but not enough to weight down the coat or make it greasy) and then I force dry them.
Not Quite there yet, but getting close!

Are we done YET??

They're actually really good with the force dryer. Even though it sounds like F-14's taking off in the grooming area, they really don't mind. I think they do the equation in their Sheltie heads: Bite loud hose that blows air at you, stay wet. Tolerate loud hose that blows air at you, get dry. Stand there and be good, and shake on command while air from loud hose blows at you, get dryer faster! They figure it out pretty quick. Of course they do. They're Shelties. So, after a few go rounds with the force dryer, I then stick them in the "puppy oven". OK, its not really called that. I don't actually mince them up, put them in a "puppy oven" and make delicious Sheltie pies and Sheltie MeatLoaf. Its the cage bank, and it has the blowing hoses of a BIG dryer attatched to the front. They HATE it. They hate it, because they hate me. They hate me, because I position the hoses in just the right way, that no matter where they are in the cage, they're getting blown dry. They can't lie down, sit up, or stand with out the warm air flowing through their beautiful hair. OK, see, this is the problem. This isn't exactly how they see it. They see it as being stuck in this tiny box where they are absolutely miserable. They can't lie down, sit up, or stand because the ANNOYING wind is being blown through their STILL WET hair. This is where the evil looks really take off. This is where Heidi shines. Where her sister has perfected the "Oh My GOD, I am the saddest most pathetic creature on this entire Earth" look, Heidi has the "I am so angry I cant even stand to look at you, but Im going to force myself because I want you to SEE the anger and annoyance in my EYES". Another new model who spends all of her time practicing. Thats it. No more shiney surfaces at Sheltie-face height at home.
Finally, when Shelby is done with her bath, I stop Heidi's blatant torture by removing her from the "puppy oven", and putting Shelby in there instead. Now comes the final, but no less abusive step of being blown dry by hand. Shelby stays in "the oven", and Heidi goes back up on the table. And I get out my pin brush, and line brush her again. I want to make sure that they're no longer wet (which, I have to admit, must be uncomfortable and can lead to hot spots) and make sure that they have that beautiful, flowy Sheltie coat that everyone loves. I want to make sure that they're not full of cow-licks from sitting or laying awkwardly in "the oven". This usually doesnt take long. Heidis pretty good at this, but her one BIG pet peeve happens during this step: I try to blow dry the hair leading from her neck to her ears. She HATES it. She ducks and dodges like a WWI dog fighting pilot. Shes a pro. Fortunately, it doesn't last that long. No, not because I physically pin her down saying "you're going to sit still, and LIKE IT!" (although the thought has crossed my mind...) but because the table is up against the wall, so I just have to find the right angle where she can be comfortable (i.e. not able to twist her head like an owl) and I can get the job done. Once she's "fluffed and buffed", I get Shelby. Her drying process in the "puppy oven" is a bit shorter, so I have to hand dry her a little longer. It doesn't really matter, because shes great at it. Not nearly as "sensative" (i.e. EVIL) as Heidi, so it's not so bad.

So, FINALLY, I have two gorgeous, fluffy, tefloned, clean Shelties. And they know it to. Its like that commercial that you see during dog-shows: the Petco one where the terrier runs by the mirror after his ball, but stops midway and looks at his reflection. Then he stops AGAIN on the way back after getting the ball. Yeah. That commercial was clearly made by some one who owns or has owned Shelties. These dogs can't walk by a CLEAN CAR without checking themselves out. It's a little disgusting. I knew I had snobs, but didnt realize they were so vain.

So, all in all, the bath-day went alright. I made it through (albeit VERY slowly-it took 2 1/2 hours just for baths and blow drying!) and was still breathing at the end. The Shelties survived too. They have PTSD, but they made it. In fact, it turned out that we were all pretty exhausted when all was said and done. They were so tired that they went home and slept. Actually, they tried sleeping at the bathig place. And as they were still tired when we actually went to bed, I felt comfortable enough to even sleep with both of my eyes closed that night. I did not worry about waking up with a pillow (or clean Sheltie body) over my face, trying to smother me. Now that they're rested however...I've got to watch my back. I see them together a lot since bath day; which is unusual, because theyre Shelties. They usually like their space. Seeing them togther so much is unnerving. I KNOW that they're plotting something truly spectacular. I'll make sure to check my toilet seat for plastic wrap before I go, and make sure that there aren't hidden doggy "gifts" (you know, the ones usually left OUT SIDE) in my shoes. You never know when you have dogs this smart. You've gotta be on your toes. Sometimes they use their gifts for good (I'm waiting for my tax return, done and filed by the girls a few days before this alleged "incident of abuse") and sometimes they use their gifts for evil (like standing on each others backs to get my socks/undergarments from INSIDE my 3 1/2' tall hamper with a LID on it). I'm starting to wonder if they're really doggy Jedi, or whether they have gone over to the "Dark Side". I'm worried I no longer have Yoda and Obi Wan, but the Evil Emporer and Darth Vader. I'll just have to turn them back to good: lots of treats, and lots of toys. Bribery can go a long way with Shelties...
Ed. note: I wrote this in two parts, one in the hospital, and one when I got home. I have to say, there is nothing more amazing, heart-filling, and constant than a dogs ability to forgive. I think that my absence last night did not go unnoticed. I think they have stopped being angry with me because of the (*whispers*) bath. They were so happy and over joyed to see me from my brief stay away; it was really heart warming. I know I missed them so much it hurt...for just the brief few hours over night. It was them that I focused on when I was getting the IV in and the blood-draws. And I didn't notice if the Shelties in my thoughts were clean or dirty; all that mattered was that they were there for me. And I hope that, despite the awfulness of the baths, I have been there for them. If they love me even half as much as I love them, it's all worth it. Evil looks and all.


Sara said...

What great photos! Isn't it funny how their ears slowly go from down as low as can be when they are wet, and then gradually perk up as they start to dry off? I am always amazed at how tiny my shelties look when they are wet. Makes me think I need to feed them.

Wishing you the best of health!

Ricky the Sheltie said...

Wow - Heidi and Shelby survived all that and now they are even more gorgeous than before!

Hope you are making progress and feeling better each day.....

Anonymous said...

My sheltie does the same thing, and will give an evil look in my general direction for at least a day after his bath....too funny!!

Anonymous said...

hi i own a baby sheltie girl too! and well she whines while she is being bathed but well she revenges on us by shaking whenever she had the chance to spray shampoo and water on us! lol she is an evil sheltie.HAHA.:D ur shelties are really cute too!