Romeo, the Shih Tzu “with a bad attitude,” was calm as clumps of matted black-and-white hair fell to the table beneath him.
A rescue dog with a history of aggressive behavior, Romeo now has a loving home. He returns to the Hanover Humane Society for occasional “TLC” at the hands of resident groomer, Josetta Liner.
“The behavior that he had – this is a 360 from where he used to be,” Liner said, combing mats out of the small breed’s tangled tail.
Liner has worked with Hanover Humane since they relocated to their Ashland location in 2006. Grooming operations there help offset the cost of maintaining operations at the 65-run kennel, which houses rescue animals and boards pets as well.
Considered a “master groomer,” Liner has more than 20 years of grooming experience and has also shown dogs in competitions.
“It takes a lot of patience but it’s rewarding to see animals happy,” she said.
Liner’s favorite breeds are Schnauzers and Airedale Terriers, but she grooms all breeds of dog as well as felines. Her experience isn’t limited to domestic pets, however; she’s worked with bears, lions, monkeys and snakes, to name a few. While these species might make some squeamish, Liner finds comfort in the animal kingdom.
“When you have your hands on that many animals on a regular basis, it’s relaxing. It is actually relaxing, it’s comforting,” she said.
While she may be relaxed, Liner works on a regular basis with animals that are anything but calm. Her approach is to not to force the grooming, which can be traumatic for nervous animals or feed into the aggressive nature of some dogs.
“We get a lot of temperamental dogs here, a lot of older dogs, I do handle a lot of aggressive dogs; it’s a matter of training to break them out of their aggression, moving a little slower with them and taking a little bit more time,” she said.
Liner added that she prefers working with Hanover Humane as opposed to a commercial groomer.
“We don’t have that time crunch and pressure of people gawking at us and staring at us, so we can really spend time and work with the dogs,” she said.
Liner said that even the most difficult dogs eventually bond with their groomers. That wasn’t the case recently, when she had to finish a grooming job left half-done after a different groomer gave up on a difficult client.
“Occasionally people…try to take animals we perceive as being a little different some place else,” said C. Lynn Pulley-Paine, development director with the Humane Society. “And we did have a dog that came here that was half-groomed because the people at the other grooming facility said we’re not going to touch him anymore.”
While Liner has primped show dogs, she has a number of horror stories from her time in the field working with neglected animals. A Yorkshire Terrier once came to her with trouble walking because the fur on its legs was matted to its chest. There was another more grisly case.
“I had a dog once that was matted and damp underneath, and I didn’t notice before, and it had pockets of maggots under its skin,” she said.
Another time, Liner shaved a Collie’s coat and proceeded to send it to the vet for treatment because it was covered in ticks and had become anemic.
“As far as that goes, it’s a job you have to have a stomach for,” she said.
At Hanover Humane, Liner works with pets by appointment and also works to help rehabilitate the Humane Society’s rescues, which makes her a real asset, according to Pulley-Paine.
“A lot of time when we go to pounds or we take in owner surrenders, [Liner] will kind of rehabilitate the animals for us. We’re working with it medically and she’s working with it to groom it, to get the skin in good condition and the mats off of it,” she said. “We’ve had some here that are just in really bad shape and we can’t make them available for adoption until we actually see that rehabilitation process.”
Liner added that as she works with the animals, she is able to learn more about their behavior, information that is relayed to whomever decides to take them home.
“We can say, ‘He really doesn’t like taking a bath so you have to be patient with him,’” Liner said.
But with time, and affection, animals come to enjoy the process.
“They also love…when they’re clean and they get to home and get all that extra attention at home about how beautiful they are, how good they look and how good they smell,” Liner said.
Hanover Humane Society
12190 Washington Highway, Ashland VA
Boarding, Grooming and Training
Adoptions and General Information