Teaching continuing education classes for the dog grooming industry at conferences around the U.S. forced local resident Barb Hoover to write an outline and notes for one of her classes.

By RIMSIE McCONIGA
rmcconiga@leavenworthtimes.com


Teaching continuing education classes for the dog grooming industry at conferences around the U.S. forced local resident Barb Hoover to write an outline and notes for one of her classes.
When she realized a lot of groomers are unable to travel to conferences in distant locales and were therefore unable to participate in the classes Barb offered, she decided the next best thing would be to morph the class notes into a book outline to make the information more readily available for groomers across the U.S. and the world.


Her effort to widely distribute these tips and helpful information has resulted in an unexpected honor. Last week, Barb won the 2018 Book of the Year award at the GroomExpo Barkleigh Honors event. She still has trouble believing she is now not only a published author — but also an award-winning author.
She didn’t think she had a chance of winning and didn’t prepare a speech, but when her name was called at the ceremony, she made her way to the stage and ad-libbed a heartfelt expression of gratitude.
“It’s still a little unreal,” says Barb. “I was extremely honored just to be nominated. The other nominees were very deserving. I wasn't quite prepared to actually win. It is a huge honor to find that other groomers found my book to be helpful and deserving of the award.”


Her book, “The Difficult Dog,” explains reasons why a dog may have a hard time with the grooming process and what groomers can do to make it a less stressful ordeal for the dogs and an easier process for themselves.
Old injuries, arthritis and deformities can cause canine pain, and many dogs are defensive due to the discomfort of these ailments and don’t particularly want to feel vulnerable in a grooming setting. They might also feel afraid of not being in their comfortable and familiar home environment. Being handled by strangers often adds to the multi-stress experience.
To help manage a dog’s fear and discomfort, Barb believes it’s very important to pinpoint why they don’t like the grooming experience.


“On a healthy, social dog who is used to the process of being handled and the noises of the salon, grooming should be enjoyable,” she said. “It is not ordinarily a painful or scary process. If a dog is having a hard time, we need to find the triggers and work around them. It could be a different handling approach or a different trim style that can be accomplished that keeps their physical abilities or disabilities in mind.”
Barb’s family always had pets when she was growing up and her love of animals has only deepened over the years. She has adopted and fostered many animals. Many are older and sick dogs who would have a very small chance for adoption.


One of the dogs she rescued named Krissy had severe medical issues and had been diagnosed with an auto immune disease that attacked her skin. When Barb adopted her, Krissy’s prognosis was unknown due to the extent of her illness.
“With no history, we didn't know how long she had been in that condition and how much damage was done to her skin because of it,” says Barb. “We were able to give her two really good, healthy years before she passed away.


“I have a soft spot for senior dogs and medical cases interest me. I am blessed to have a lifestyle that allows me the ability to help them.”
Barb’s home is presently shared with three standard poodles, a toy poodle, two cats, an African grey parrot and two parakeets. And although the birds don’t interact with the dogs and cats for safety purposes, they all get along well.


“My house wouldn't feel like home without them,” says Barb.
One of her current special-needs dogs is Wonder, a 1-year-old standard poodle who has severe heart defects and under-developed lungs and developmental delays.
“He, on the other hand, doesn't know that and is the happiest dog I have ever known,” says Barb. “I could not take on the special cases without the support and help from my veterinarians, friends and family. I have amazing friends and family that are always willing to help and many times financially as well. Without them backing me, being there when I need to travel, helping me with treatments and just being my sounding board, I could never do it.”


Barb believes the animals she rescues help her every bit as much as she helps them.
“Seeing them living full lives, never feeling sorry for themselves, taking each day as it comes, puts life into perspective for me,” she said.
Her years as a groomer at Professional Pet Grooming have taught her many things, including how to deal with the challenges groomers face regularly, such as unreasonable expectations from a few pet owners, including clients that don’t understand that the finished groom depends on the dog’s coat condition and behavior.
“Groomers are often referred to as lazy or cruel for shaving a matted coat rather than brushing it out,” says Barb. “Brushing out a matted coat can be very time-consuming and often uncomfortable for the dog. Personally, I don't think it's fair to put the dog through it, as they don't understand why they are expected to stand up and stand still for many hours for the gentle brush out. My motto has always been that it's just hair, and it will grow back. Humanity before vanity. The dog's welfare always comes first.”


Most dogs require professional grooming every four to eight weeks, according to Barb, and although the stressors that some dogs experience in grooming are not breed-specific, she says dogs that are not regularly groomed don’t always understand the process and it can be a little scary for them.
“If they come in with mats or tangles, the process can be uncomfortable for them. The weight of the mats can pull on the coat and irritate the skin,” she said.


For young animal lovers who would like to groom pets, Barb suggests they read every book, watch every video and read every website that has to do with grooming and with training and behavior.
“There is so much to learn and to take into consideration when working with dogs. We need to learn ways to communicate with them, to train them and to gain their trust,” she said.


After 33 years as a groomer and 10 years in groomer continuing education, she values the relationships she has built with dogs and their owners. She also treasures the friendships she has made with groomers around the world and the opportunity to travel across the U.S. and to Europe.
“I really enjoy working with owners and dogs in a way that teaches them to allow and accept grooming,” says Barb. “I like to work with the dogs at their pace as they learn that the large dryers and clippers are not evil machines out to get them. I get so much satisfaction from the dogs running in, happy to see me, and looking forward to getting my full attention on just them as we spend a few hours together making them clean and beautiful.”
Barb’s book, “The Difficult Dog,” can be ordered at www.lulu.com/spotlight/barbhoover