The Groomers: any normal dog’s worst nightmare with its hundreds of unfamiliar sounds and smells. Then there are the strange people messing with your fur, touching your face… or worse – your paws! We all know our pets are not very fond of their trips to the “Puppy Salon”, but we never think while they are there they could be in any danger. Hair cuts, nail trims and shampoos are just part of any dog owners routine hound maintenance package, but there is a fatal truth which sometimes goes unseen until it’s too late.

Meghan Heeter couldn’t believe her husband, Mike, had agreed to get another dog in the fall of 2008. One dog seemed like enough, but when she informed him of the idea to call the dog Pi, his inner Math geek imagined a studious dog with a calm disposition and he caved. The scruffy female Brussels Griffon that came to join them could not have blown his idea more out of the water.

Pi came to rule their 1,200-square-foot bungalow home with a bug eyed and crooked toothed craziness. Badger, the couple’s Wheaten Terrier, was often assaulted by 11 pound Pi’s bark and confidence. One of Pi’s favorite past times became shredding paper and it was one which she seemed to take the utmost joy in. All the while the couple indulged in her blatant disregard to keep peace and calm in the household, their hearts were being stolen. Pi and Meghan were inseparable and Pi often sought out Meghan for comfort. As the dutiful master, she could provide shelter behind her towering human legs in scary times and in times of rest, warm cuddles on the couch. When Meghan held little Pi in her arms she could feel their hearts beating together and it allowed the bond they had to grow solid. And so life continued this way for almost four years, each day better than the last.

As a wirehaired breed Pi needed regular grooming to keep her coat in its beautiful dishevelled state. Meghan was no stranger to this fact and booked Pi to visit a new groomer on June 15, 2012. Dropping her off rang with a little more resistance than normal, but Meghan shrugged it off to normal doggy behavior and left her cherished companion in the seemingly capable hands of the groomers. It was a choice she would come to replay over and over in her mind.

Groomers deal with a number of different animals, but mostly cats and dogs on a regular basis. On a standard day there can be anywhere from one animal to higher double digits coming in and out the salon. It’s easy to imagine that on a busy day, time is precious. To help with the work load often times groomers get one dog prepped while finishing off styling another, providing a steady stream of work. On occasion dogs are left with slip leads on, which if left unattended could possibly do harm to a wriggly or bold dog. Sadly this was the case with Pi.

Left in an empty bathtub with a just a slip lead around her neck Pi tried to jump out and was left to strangle herself while the groomer stepped away to see to another client. By the time she returned there was nothing that could be done to save Pi’s life.

Being able to state that what happened to Pi was a one off, a fluke, a horrible single occurrence could never soften the blow, but to report that it has happened to other dogs, to other families proves it needs to be spoken about and in a hurry. The sad fact is Pi’s situation is not a single occurrence, it has happened to countless other animals in a variety of different ways. Not only have dogs strangled themselves at the groomers, but in back yards, inside homes and in the bed of owner’s pick-up trucks. Stories have been accounted of dogs that have even strangled themselves inside their own areas of safety and comfort – their cages. When restraint is being used on a dog without proper guidance and supervision the repercussions can mean lives lost at the hands of simple, preventable mistakes.

So what can be done? Simple knowledge and prevention are the cure. If you are a dog groomer, do not leave a pet with a leash or slip lead attached in a high place. Provide safe, secure areas for client’s pet within sight and never leave under any circumstances a pet unattended. Nothing is worse for business than a preventable death held to your own careless account.

If you take your pet to a grooming salon, take the time to get to know the groomer and their policies and procedures. You trust your best friend to the hands of a stranger, the least you can do it get to know them and their working environment a little better.

Measures can be taken within the home and surrounding areas to insure the safety of your pet. Do not leave a pet tied up outside within reach of anything which your pet could climb off of or jump over. You should always make sure if they need to be tied up there are no obstacles in the range of your pet’s chain to lessen the chains reach and cause restriction on the neck. Collars which break away when under stress can be purchased for your pets, these are highly recommended for cats which go outside and who are out of sight from their owners. Cats are more likely to climb on things and a normal collar could get stuck on any number of things, leaving your cat to hang by its collar, helpless.

Pets that are kept in cages should not be kept in them longer than necessary and they must be kept without any leashes or restraints as they can get caught within the wires of the cages and cause tension around the neck area. Leashes can also get tangled around limbs and cause circulation issues or injuries. Dogs riding loose in the back of pickup trucks have long been a problem not fully dealt with. Not only do dogs jump out and hang themselves from trucks, but they can also are jump out while the vehicle is moving and be drug behind, hit another car or incur serious injuries once hitting the ground. If a pet has to ride in the bed of a truck proper restraints must be used, even for a short trip. Another alternative is a secure cage for your pet to be housed in while traveling. All these types of pet items can be found both on the internet and your local pet stores.

What happened to Pi and the Heeter family should, in turn, help us to understand that life is precious and our pets rely on us ultimately for their care and support. As pet owners we should all uphold our promise to give our pets long, happy lives and keep preventable harm from coming their way.

Written by: Renee Rhoades-Harrison