Only a week ago, my poor dog looked like he had just been rescued from a puppy mill.
OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but not that far from the truth. He couldn't see through his overgrown eyebrows. Some of the longer hair on his belly and legs was matted. His odor resembled that of a wet dog--even when he wasn't wet. His breath..well, you get the point.
Although Jack isn't neglected or abused--in fact, he's quite loved and spoiled--his appearance wasn't exactly evidence of that.
Four years ago, Jack would never have looked this way. Four years ago, Jack was getting his teeth brushed at least three times per week. He was getting a thorough brushing once per week. Bathed and blow-dried every month. I even used cotton balls to clean out his ears and had a delicious lavender-scented after-bath spray for him. And on top of that, he was visiting our groomer every eight weeks without fail to get his adorable schnauzer cut. He was quite the catch among the neighborhood lady dogs.
Four years ago, Jack was a pampered pooch.
Three-and-a-half years ago our son, Henry, arrived. Slowly, Jack's pampering became less frequent. Diapers and baby baths replaced doggie toothpaste and lavender sprays. I had a difficult time making sure I got a shower every day while taking care of a baby; forget about bathing Jack, too.
Then a year ago, when Henry was two-and-a-half years old, I went back to work full time. That's when things really started to change. Living in a home with two working adults, an active toddler, and a dog doesn't provide much "spare time" to get things done. Now, instead of occasional baths, brushings, and teeth cleanings, Jack is heading to the groomer every eight weeks for his only pampering. No more baths in between groomings. No more brushing or blow drying. No more brushing teeth on a regular basis. Now I depend on others to make sure my pooch is taken care of--people I pay.
Sure, paying others to clean up my dog is easier and takes up less of my time, but part of the grooming process that I used to love was bonding with Jack. It was as if he knew I was taking good care of him, and he appreciated it. Now, I feel like a mother who sends her child off to boarding school because she doesn't want to deal with raising her.
It isn't easy being a young, working couple with both children and pets to care for. And although Jack still gets his regular grooming every eight weeks--see his not-so-puppy-mill-rescue-looking "after photo" to the right--I still struggle with feelings of guilt as his grooming appointments near and he looks and smells awful. Should I make his appointments more frequent? Maybe every six weeks? Or perhaps the answer is to put something else on the back burner once per month so I can give Jack a good bath myself--lavender spray and all.