Groomer's Carelessness Claims Dog's Life: A Cautionary Tale

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


  1. Anon says

    Wow, that’s the one thing Groomers are taught to NEVER EVER DO EVER.
    I worked at a Kennel and we NEVER left dogs alone. People that did, even for a second, were fired automatically and should have never been there in the first place.

    I am so sorry, even though words don’t help much.
    I wish for you the best, in whatever may come.

  2. says

    I have been a dog groomer for over 14 yrs now, and we NEVER leave an animal alone, on a grooming table or in a bath tub. If we have to step away, we ask the assisting groomer to come and watch and sit with the dog. We are a cage free grooming facility and always have been. Many accidents can happen while the dog is in a cage or crate, especially if a cage dryer is attached to the cage. What happened to Pi is a very sad story, and my heart goes out to the owners. I’m sure the groomer feels bad also. But accidents are preventable in any grooming shop.

  3. Christina - Deaf Dogs Rock says

    The one time I took my deaf dog Nitro to a groomer to have his nails trim, it was a total disaster! I always go with him whenever he sees a Vet or anyone and this one time I didn’t because there was a half stall door where I could see the top half of the groomer from another room. Then all of a sudden I heard this horrible noise. It sounded like a deaf person screaming from agony. I thought to myself, that can’t be my Nitro can it? Then I looked and couldn’t see anyone from the half door so I ran back. There was another guy with a hair dryer drying his dog and so they could not hear me screaming to stop. When I got to the half door there was three men holding my beautiful well mannered deaf dog to the ground and he was screaming! I totally freaked out and told them to STOP! All they had to do was hold a treat in their hands and Nitro would have easily let them trim his nails but instead they bullied him to the ground because all they saw was a big male boxer. I felt so guilty but learned a very important lesson. No one sees my deaf dogs, not even the Vet without me being with them 100% of the time. I also do all my own bathing and nail trims for all five of my dogs. I will never ever trust another person with my dogs. That day Nitro got an early “pool day” because it was a warm day in March. I got his pool out and we played in the pool for hours so he would try to forget what happened to him and I would try to feel better about my stupidity.

    • ZombieUnicorns says

      You said yourself that you couldn’t see what was happening, so how do you know your dog was behaving well? It sounds like you have unintentionally raised a dog that does not know how to behave without you around. That’s a shame.

  4. linda says

    I have been a dog groomer for almost 2 years. I have never, ever left a dog on a table or in a tub to do anything. I always treated everyone’s dog as if it were my own. I can’t believe they left the dog in the tub to take care of another client. That’s just horrible!

  5. linda says

    I have been a dog groomer for almost 25 years. I have never, ever left a
    dog on a table or in a tub to do anything. I always treated everyone’s
    dog as if it were my own. I can’t believe they left the dog in the tub
    to take care of another client. That’s just horrible!

        • Splash says

          Are you dumb? A “cat’s neck.” The word is describing possession, hence the apostrophe. That’s not being a grammar nazi, it’s using the language I properly. I’m sorry if you’re not as literate as the rest of us.

          • Splash says

            p.s. Your username should have an apostrophe, too! OK, NOW you can call me a grammar Nazi. :p

  6. Scruffydog says

    That poor baby! I can’t even imagine getting a call that this would have happened to my dog! my heart breaks for them it really does….. this groomer needs a change in careers because obviously this is not the job for them… I have a wonderful mobile groomer that comes to my house and only has to work with my dogs…… in-between I will trim them myself…….. my condolances to Pi’s family….

  7. says

    I worked for a groomer one time and I saw first hand how horrible the dogs were treated. I QUIT after I told him what I thought! I have 7 dogs and groom them all myself. I’m sure there are many groomers out there who look at their job as more than “just a job”, but there are many out there that do not take the precautions necessary to make sure the dogs are safe in their care. This is a horrible thing that happened, and totally preventable!

  8. Kat says

    I had a toy poodle growing up. We always took him to the same groomer for all of his 17 years and he adored her, as did she with him. She even send us a card when he passed. Over the holidays one year, she went on a trip with her family, and we had to find another groomer for him. He had apparently bit her, and was never welcome back(Take in mind this dog had never bit anyone before or since that moment, or showed signs of ANY aggression). We later found out that our dog was not the only one who disliked her. We don’t know what she did to him, or the other pets, but she soon went out of business and moved away. We now have a shih-tzu that dislikes his feet being touched. She spends about a half hour talking and playing with him, gently touching his feet before she clips his nails to make him more comfortable with her. It’s VERY important that your pet is comfortable with the groomer, along with yourself. Take the time to shop around for groomers, ask around for reviews. Sorry for the rant.

  9. says

    I was a groomer very briefly back in the 90s, and the only one in the shop who was willing to bathe cats. I had one that had never had a bath before, so I put the lead around her neck, and as soon as the water hit her she went ballistic, bouncing all over the tub. She flung herself behind it, and that’s all I could think was she was going to strangle herself. I reached back to grab her, not even realizing there was a ledge connecting the tub to the wall that the cat had landed on. Well, she got me good in my left hand and arm, my writing hand, biting me so hard my fingers went numb. That was okay, I wasn’t going to risk her choking. What made me quit was the groom manager’s reaction–she just stood there staring as blood is pouring from my puncture. She finally grabbed me a towel, and then conferred with the manager of the store–but no one knew what medical facility they use, and they took their time figuring it out. Then the debate came on who would drive me. The sign specialist finally said she would–IF it didn’t count as her lunch. So any groomer should know you NEVER leave an animal unattended in a tub. NEVER. Or on a table. No matter what. They come first always.

    • ZombieUnicorns says

      Groomers also know to NEVER put a slip lead around a cat’s neck period. That story sounds awful, and I’m sorry that happened to you. But you never put a lead around a cat’s neck!

  10. Mom to Dexter and Echo says

    This is a terrible story, and sad that this has and continues to happen. I have a different story, the reason our two miniature schnauzers DO NOT wear collars unless on a walk or a lead with us paying attention. They were out in our fenced back yard one day when the two young schnauzers were roughhousing like they always do. the older one Dexter (by 10 months) got his bottom jaw caught in the collar of his younger brother Echo. I was at work but by the time my fiance (Chris) got outside to untangle the two Echo was unconscious. Chris began to rub the little guy and was considering mouth to snout when Echo sprang back to life. We still aren’t sure if there are any long term effects as he is still only 2 years old but this is why our little boys don’t wear collars. Yes a trip to the vet came and she said he appeared to have not been harmed but not to be alarmed if later in life seizures appear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *