Stories & Lit
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Grooming Sweetie


I wrap my arms around the terrified dog, making a conscious attempt to slow my breathing, letting her feel my heartbeat, which is so slow and steady it surprises me. Eventually, she relaxes and rights herself, and I finish the clipping, moving onto the scissor work. I trim around her feet. I brush out her ears and tail, scissoring stray ends.When it’s time for the clean face—new for me (and truly scary)—I call the teacher. She does one side, using a #7 blade against the grain, cutting the hair to a sixteenth of an inch, and miraculously, I do the other! Sweetie trusts me to run the buzzing clipper under her eye and down the bridge of her long nose, under her chin and over her muzzle, leaving her face as smooth as a peach. With my teacher nodding her approval, I step back to assess my work.

Under the bright lights, Sweetie’s short auburn fur shimmers like velvet. Her clean face dominated by those large glowing eyes is beautifully expressive. I smile broadly, gazing at her, and I swear I see Sweetie—like some lovely flower unfolding new petals toward the sun— stretching her old but still-elegant frame to new heights.



Denise Kirshenbaum lives in Wilmette, Ill., with her husband and two dogs; her writing has appeared in More magazine.

Photography Margo Harrison

More in Stories & Lit:
Royness: The Love and Healing of a Dog
A Pup with a Sting Allergy
Learning to Love Louie
How Labeling Affects How We See Our Dogs
Freddie Flealoader
A Youthful Folly Leads To A Career Saving Animal Lives
Strawberry Blond
Lucy Dawson: Dogs As I See Them
No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story