This is the final part to this blog series, The 3 C’s of Grooming: Calm, Confident and Compassionate. So far I’ve discussed why I believe that being calm and confident is an absolute must in order to groom dogs successfully. I also shared where I believe these two qualities come from, and how we can obtain them. In this article I will be discussing the last piece of the puzzle, which is Compassion.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines compassion as:
: a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.
: pity for and a desire to help someone
I wholeheartedly agree with the first definition, but I have a hard time accepting that compassion is a feeling of “pity for” someone. The word “pity” usually implies that we feel sorry for someone; meaning that we feel that we are somehow above that person. This is not compassion, in my opinion. Compassion says, like the English Reformer, John Bradford, “But for the grace of God, there go I.” It is the ability to understand that we are all suffering in some way, and that we are all connected through those experiences. I love Cesar Millan, if you haven’t noticed from previous blogs and my YouTube videos. One of the best lines I’ve heard him say is, “You can never help anyone that you feel sorry for. If you want to help somebody, you cannot allow yourself to feel sorry for them.” That episode of the Dog Whisperer was life-changing for me. I realized that I often do feel sorry for the dogs that I groom, and that negative energy does not help the dog. In order to help the dogs in my care, I must see them as no less than me. We both experience pain, fear and sadness. Rather than feel pity, I should feel connected. I used to think, “I have to help you because you’re such a mess.” I now think, “We’re going to get through this together because I understand your suffering.” Compassion is the ability to care deeply for another because you feel connected with them, not because you pity them.
While living in Chamblee, GA, we had to make trips to the coin laundry several times a week because our washer and dryer broke. On one occasion I took my two girls with me to give my wife some much needed time to herself. They were 6 and 3 at the time, and they loved playing with the pool table! I tried teaching them the rules of the game, but they couldn’t care less. They would use the pool sticks like hockey sticks and guide the balls into the holes. In just a few moments my 4 quarters were spent, and they’d want to “play” it again. I gave them about 5 dollars worth of quarters and told them that was all they could spend. Then a guy that looked homeless came and started playing with them. I kept a close eye on them just in case, but he seemed genuinely nice. It was so nice to hear them laughing. Even when his shot would get interrupted by an unexpected slap shot, he would just laugh and try to shoot another ball into another hole while one of my girls played goalie. We talked later while I folded the clothes, and I realized that his set of circumstances could have happened to anyone. It could’ve been me standing in his shoes. He told me about his father, a great man with high morals, who he was never able to make proud before he passed. He told me that is name is Robert, after his father, and he wishes he could be half the man his father was. This man had been through a lot of shit, and I truly felt a deep connection with him. I didn’t pity him, or feel sorry for him. He never even asked for any money. He just needed to talk to someone. This was a good guy that had fallen into some tough times. “But for the grace of God, there go I.”
One day I was getting off the exit to our house, and there standing on the side of the street was Robert holding a sign that read, “Will work for food. Anything will help. God Bless.” I opened my window and called out to him, “Robert! How are you? It’s good to see you again!” He immediately hid the sign behind his back, and stammered for words as if he was embarrassed. He said, “My father would roll over in his grave if he knew I was out here doing this. I hate doing this. I hate being out here like this having to beg. I wish I was more like my dad.” I felt for this man. My heart went out to him, and I wanted to give him some money but I had none. I, myself, was going through some very difficult times, and I wished that I had something to give him. That’s when I realized, I’m pitying him. I shouldn’t pity him, just like I wouldn’t want anyone to pity me. We were both going through some difficult times, and I was no better than him. I looked him in the eyes, and told him, “Robert, you know all the good qualities about your dad that made him so great? All of those qualities are in you. Everything that made him great, all of it is in you too. You have what it takes to be a great man like your father was, and I’m sure he’s proud of you no matter what you do.” He nodded, and we looked at each other in a way that words were no longer necessary. I felt compassion for him.
Without the quality of Compassion, grooming dogs can be a very frustrating and difficult experience. Without compassion it is nearly impossible to interact with some unreasonable dog owners. So where does compassion come from? How do we fill up on compassion when we feel low? I believe that true compassion comes from being compassionate toward ourselves. It takes practice, but try to develop a habit of being kind to yourself. Treat yourself like someone you really love and care about. I used to say things like, “Why am I so useless?” “Why am I such an idiot?” and “I’m worthless!” I remember telling people, “I know I’m hard on other people, but that’s because I’m harder on myself than anyone else.” Isn’t that the truth? We’re often so hard on ourselves, and sometimes we say things to ourselves that we wouldn’t even say to someone we dislike. Something that has helped me tremendously is being able to say, “… but I’m getting better.” For example, “Man, I messed up on that Bichon’s feet. But I’m getting better at that.” Every time I let myself off the hook, I find it easier to let others off the hook as well. I find that when I am kind to myself, accepting and understanding, it comes out naturally when dealing with others. We cannot give out what we don’t have. It is still a practice for me, but I am becoming more aware when I’m feeling upset, embarrassed or frustrated with myself. At those times, I talk to myself the way I would a really good friend that I cared about – or better yet, my daughters. I would never rail into them for making an honest mistake the way I do myself. “Be careful how you talk to yourself because you are always listening.” Lisa M Hayes
On my journey to becoming the best dog groomer I can possibly be, I have found that in doing so I have become a better person than I used to be. Dr. Wayne Dyer says that true nobility is not about being better than anyone else. It’s about being better than you used to be. I believe that dog grooming provides us with the greatest opportunity to become better each and every day. The 3 C’s of Grooming can be applied to all areas of our lives. Being calm helps us to be more mindful in stressful situations. Being confident means that we respect ourselves for doing the things we know are right. Being compassionate means that we love ourselves so that we can love others. To be an excellent dog groomer means to be an excellent human being. Not perfect, but excellent. A mentor of mine that I highly respect told me once, “Perfection is unattainable, Excellence is not. It’s always nice to work with excellent people; it’s almost impossible to work with a perfectionist.” When we expect ourselves to be perfect, we will naturally expect it from others as well. That usually results in frustration with both yourself and others. Rather than try be perfect, be kind to yourself and others and things will be perfect. This will make you a compassionate person. I don’t think that the 3 C’s have to be in any particular order. Being compassionate can help one become more confident in themselves, which can help them be more calm in stressful situations. Being confident in oneself can help them be more compassionate towards others, resulting in a more calm state of mind. Rather than think of the 3 C’s as a linear recipe to follow, I think it would be better to view them as interconnected and co-dependent like a triangle.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this 3 part series. I really hope you enjoyed reading these articles. My intention is to share my thoughts and experiences to help add value to your grooming experiences. Thank you again for your time and attention. I am so grateful for you.