Special to the Cape Charles Mirror by Clarice MacGarvey
A hefty breed sow in need of a hoof and tusk trim may have been one of the most challenging grooming tasks to confront Miechella Decker, owner and operator of Dave’s Pets in Exmore. But with decades of grooming experience, an understanding of pet psychology and a deep affection for animals, Miechella strives to put every animal, and its owner, at ease whether for a bath, nail clipping or full shear.
Miechella, a transplant from New York by way of Vernon, New Jersey, says that the key to grooming is gentleness and taking time to establish trust. “Many grooming facilities can appear clinical and unfriendly in their environment or manner,” she says. “This can frighten or even traumatize an animal coming in for grooming.”
Creating stress for a pet is unnecessary according to Miechella. Her approach is friendly and patient. She advises giving the animal periodic breaks during the grooming session to help them relax. “Because of tight schedules, many places are unable to take the time required to engage the animal in a friendly way,” she says. “The goal is move the pet in and out to maximize appointments. We allow plenty of time per pet to ensure the animals at ease, safe, looking good and happy to return.”
When animals resist grooming, or seem difficult during clippings or baths, Miechella points out that their reactions may be misunderstood. “They are usually expressing fear, so it is essential to reassure them with kind words and a soft touch. “Often, pet owners are amazed that they don’t have to be muzzle their dogs with us,” she says. “We show them we care by spending time playing with them before the grooming tools come out. This helps them associate us with fun.”
Miechella has plenty of experience as a groomer, working with dog rescue agencies for many years as well as in veterinary hospitals. She also worked with an animal psychologist and the trainer owner of Canine Companions in Sussex county New Jersey.
With the cold weather still a threat to pets, Miechella offers some grooming advice to protect your pet’s health when temperatures drop:
1. Don’t shave your dog down to the skin in winter. That longer coat provides extra warmth.
2. If your dog is long-haired, simply trim to minimize the clinging ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can dry his skin, and don’t neglect the hair between his toes.
• If your dog is short-haired, consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
She also points out that pets burn extra energy to stay warm in colder months. Feeding pets a little more food can provide the extra calories needed.
Dave’s Pets, one of the few full-service, independent grooming boutiques on the Eastern Shore, is located at 3515 Main Street in Exmore. Open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (757) 442-7442.