Jaws of Life

By Emily Rupe

“Twas a Saturday with a full moon expected that evening. Need I say more? Every kennel had an occupant: an incessant, howling, banging resident. Both human and canine customers, wrapped in some mystic force’s embrace, felt compelled to issue impossible or ludicrous requests and behave as if all common sense was lost. It was only 10 a.m., but I had already come to the conclusion that it was going to be a margarita night once I survived this test of moral and mannerly fortitude.

After politely locking horns with a geriatric customer who refused to forsake vanity for the comfort and safety of her 14-year-old Schnauzer, I thought it best to work on the mindless Lab mix shave down. While not a showcase piece or one for the portfolio, at least it would be easy money with a sweet pup and would allow me some re-composure time. For the next hour and a half, I labored on the Lab mix, turned up the tunes, and put my mind to ease. Upon completion, I promptly put him back into his kennel and began to work on the next beast.

Just as I started the next unwilling victim, I heard our bather yell for me from the back room. Our bather Tyler, the owner’s 21 year-old son, is the embodiment of the Brawny paper towel man sprinkled with a little Gordon’s fisherman strutting in either a pink or purple smock. A former football player, he’s huge. Quite frankly, I think he could pick me up and toss me, so to hear that urgency in his call was unsettling. I knew it could be nothing good. Without missing a beat, I put my current project up and went to see what all the commotion was about.

Reaching Tyler, I saw what had riled him up and caused a slight panic. That sweet, simple Lab mix had decided to bite the metal kennel door and inadvertently got his snout stuck between the rungs. With his mouth wide open and teeth overlapping the bars, we needed to figure out how to free this dog from his self-induced moron moment. Without the risk of losing teeth, we couldn’t just apply pressure and push from the front, so I sent Tyler to the tool kit for a pair of pliers. The both of us quickly ran through our options out loud: have Tyler attempt to bend the bars with the pliers, get the kennel door off and tote the door with the dog to a professional, or try and manipulate from behind and see if we can get the right angle so that the dog can free himself. We decided to try the third option with the other two as last resorts.

I greased up the bars with some conditioner and positioned my chubby rear in the kennel behind the dog. Tyler held the door open, and I twisted and manipulated the unhappy prisoner. Just as the pliers were looking like our only option, POP! The nose was free, and teeth were unharmed. We both panted, caught our breath, and said a thank you to the Big Guy upstairs. As if a telepathic bond were shared, we both said in unison, “Let’s not put him back and attach him to a table out front instead!”

Lesson learned, embarrassed, or merely exhausted, the Lab laid down and quietly lounged until his mom came. As she paid his bail money, she inquired as to how her little furry man behaved. Of course we told her what a sweet boy he was and how we appreciated having such a good one during this hectic day. We casually mentioned that, in the future, we’ll avoid the kennel completely and groom him straight through so as not to risk injury, since he likes to chomp on the kennel door in protest of his incarceration.

What flowed from her mouth next made me want to take my palm to her forehead and yell, “DUH!” “Oh, yeah! I should have remembered that! He has a history of getting himself caught. Heck, once at the vet, he got stuck so bad they had given him a muscle relaxer to knock him out, because he’d given himself lock jaw. They practically had to get out the Jaws of Life.” It took every ounce of restraint for both of us not to fly over that counter like spider monkeys. About to give myself lock jaw from gritting my teeth into a smile, I replied, “Oh, good to know. I’ll just make a note of that in our records for next time.” It had officially gone from a margarita to a straight tequila night. “

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