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20140402 BowpiDremel2

Bowpi is an angel about getting her nails filed by Dremel. She’s easy to physically manipulate, and will just flop into my lap like a sack of sand during the process.

20140402 BowpiDremel1

Yes, note the pouch of Fruitables treats nearby. I spent several weeks warming up both Bows to the Dremel after I first got it, conditioning them to associate the sound of the motor with treats, then working them up to the whirring file making contact with their toes. I don’t consider the food a bribe; it’s a mood enhancer, putting them in an agreeable state so I can do things that would otherwise irritate or freak them out.

20140402 BowpiDremel3

Bowdu is a different matter. Even though he comes running for handouts at the sound of the Dremel, he does not like to be held, nor does he typically like his paws to be handled, especially with purpose. A groomer back in Taiwan traumatized him on this one. She did nail trimmings for about $3, and routinely cut into the quick, calling it “normal” part of the process. Well, after seeing his face streaked with blood because he was frantically trying to paw off the grooming loop with his damaged nails, we put an end to that.

After that, he got downright violent about any attempts to trim his nails, even at home. I basically gave up… until I got the Dremel.

Bowdu gets his nails done in the car

I found that he is relaxed and non-reactive when sitting in one of his favorite places — the car. So that’s where I do his nails, and it works out beautifully for both of us. I just pack up the Dremel for our regular outings, and take care of it after he’s been thoroughly chilled by a nice long walk.

Once, a passerby commented on my “spoiled dog” getting manicured in the parking lot. He said it lightheartedly, probably a joke because it seemed an odd place for the occasion, and I must have looked a little ridiculous, crouched in the leg area of the passenger-side front seat while Bowdu perched like a champ above, patient paw in my hand.

But I was annoyed by the assumption that I was doing something excessive for Bowdu, and therefore “spoiling” him. (My parents, who don’t understand my relationship to the dogs, frequently use that term too.) How is this radical notion that working with our animals, in full consideration of their history and their feelings, an act of “spoiling”? Knowing his trauma, I meet him on his terms. That’s just basic consideration out of my sense of responsibility to him, acknowledging his capacity to express fear, personal preferences, and trust.

From that day on, I’ve been making a conscious effort to excise that term from my vocabulary, because I don’t see my pets in terms of wasted resources. I’d rather have our “spoiled” relationship where we can relish our mutual excesses, instead of a “normative” relationship, contained and impoverished.