It's been one heck of a week. In this blog post, I'm going to tell you how my pack life quickly turned into a serious situation and how I chose to deal with it - and what the consequences were. (holy drama!)
One of my clients called me to inform me that they had taken their dog to the vet because he was itching so much. This dog has had skin issues in the past, but this case of itchiness was vet worthy. And I'm so thankful that they did because their dog had dog lice (duh, duh, duuuuuuuuuh).
If you have never dealt with dog lice before, here's a quick crash course:
- dog lice are species-specific and cannot be transferred to humans or cats (phew!)
- lice are very small but still visible to the human eye (unlike fleas that are really hard to spot)
- lice don't jump around like fleas but are very contagious to other dogs if they get on them. They are transferred mostly by dogs rubbing each other, or by falling off and grabbing on to another host
- lice, like every other insect, lay eggs. So when treating lice, you have to do several treatments in order to kill any newly hatched bugs as well as wash any bedding or places that your dog may have been sleeping.
So, after receiving this news, I sent out an email to all my clients to check their dogs for lice hoping that it was an isolated case. In the meantime I checked Jaxsley, and low and behold, he had lice. I also got a text that day saying that a third dog had lice.
Ok, so 3 dogs reporting back with lice in one day. Not good. The next workday I found 1 other dog with bugs on her. 4 down.
I decided to continue doing pack walks to all my other clients but I inspected each dog before they got into the van. And this decision was a mistake.
In my previous experiences with lice, it was abundantly clear that the dog had lice upon the first inspection because the infestation was pretty far along. What I didn't take into account was that I could be looking for 1 or 2 bugs on a whole dog. I learned this after inspecting the same dog multiple times and only after watching him scratch a bunch and me really digging into his coat did I find 1 bug. This totalled our confirmed lice dogs to 5.
And this is how my pack life turned into a Max 8 situation.
If you aren't familiar with the Boeing 737 Max 8 situation: One plane crashed in October killing 189 people. 5 months later another one crashed killing 157 people. After the first crash, Boeing could have grounded all of the planes, but it wasn't until the second crash that they figured out (or admitted, I don't know) that there was a mechanical flaw in the plane and then made the decision to ground all of the Max 8s until they remedied the situation.
While my decision to continue pack walks for 2 days didn't kill a tonne of people (thank whatever religious or spiritual or other things you want - because I sure do!), it did put all of the other dogs in my pack at risk of being infected. Hindsight is always 20-20.
So after a pile of tears (never mind sleepless nights and many a skipped meal), I decided to cancel ALL of my pack walks for the remainder of the week and ALL of the next week. This would total 7 days of cancelled pack walks. The reason I decided to do this was to allow ALL owners to treat their dogs with a flea/tick shampoo (most brands have the same chemical that kills lice, though I'm not sure why they don't put that on the package) once by the immediate weekend, and again 7 days later to kill any lice eggs that may be on their pets. Even the dogs showing no symptoms. I wasn't taking any more chances that I may have missed 1 bug on 1 dog.
This was a pretty aggressive decision and totally inconvenienced ALL of my clients. Way to punish everyone for the poor fortune of a few. I was prepared for harsh words, lost clients and all sorts of backlash for my extreme decision (if you are a client and reading this and still want to deliver those, please do. I am mentally prepared!).
What I wasn't prepared for was the complete support from everyone. Despite my telling them that their dog may have been exposed to lice and they had to wash their dogs twice along with all their dog's bedding (and theirs if their dogs sleep on their beds) not to mention couches and carpets. All of my clients understood the situation and have presently been understanding. (again, if you are a client and reading this and are pissed off, let me know!)
I am very thankful that this was the outcome of my decision. However, the work is not done.
Knowing that I've totally inconvenience my clients by cancelling pack walks, I've been working extra hard to deliver short private walks to every client that needs them. I've been working overtime to confirm with every client that they've treated their pets (I have a spreadsheet going!), to touch base with them about visits, check-in on their dogs, deliver shampoo, offer to help wash dogs or do anything (no one has taken me up on that offer yet!) and schedule my short walks to make sure I'm with their dogs at optimal times in the day. My 7-10km walking days have suddenly turned into 18-24km walking days and my income for these 7 days has been slashed.
After a week like this one it's a beautiful reminder that while Silver Jet Dog is my job, I don't do it for the money. I do it for the dogs and the relationships that I build. I am happy to do this work. And while I much rather spend time with my pack, my recognition that my first job is to keep my pack safe enabled me to make the decision that I did.
The lessons and opportunities that I am taking away from this seriously unfortunate occurrence are good ones:
1. I get to spend a bunch of one on one time with many of my clients. This has been the perfect opportunity to work on leash work and on building a stronger bond with them.
2. I'm taking the biggest hint EVER from the universe that I need to slow down my "go-go-go!" a little and take more time to smell the roses.
While my days are no shorter, I am still taking the opportunity to really think about the future of my business. I'm here to build relationships with your dogs and you. That will always be my goal and what I get up in the morning to do. I think that this is a good little introduction to my next theme of blogs that will be all about that Silver Jet brand and experience that I'm hoping to develop AND deliver with every service.
The question on your mind may be: where did the lice come from? The thing with bugs like this is that it literally could have come from anywhere. A groomer may have not cleaned their tools properly, a dog may have had a play date with a dog carrying lice, a dog may have gone to the dog park and picked it up. It is nearly impossible to tell. While lice are often associated with unkempt dogs, very well-groomed dogs are also at risk of getting lice. The fact that there is lice in my pack means that my 4-legged clients are living wonderfully social lives and I am thankful for that.
Until next time, happy lice free trails
Holly, Duke and Jax (now lice free!)