This Is How You Groom a Dog by Shaindel Beers

1. The woman looks ridiculous with opera gloves and sunglasses on indoors. She makes a kissing noise to a tiny, ghost-white schnauzer puppy. “Yes?” Mara asks. The woman smacks a newspaper open on the counter. “This! Schatzi should look like this.” She points at a picture of a Best in Show Westminster winner. “I’ll do my best,” Mara promises. She wants to say that he’s a puppy, a different cut would be better, but she can tell this woman will have her way. “I’ll call before I dry him.” She smiles, trying to rush the woman out without seeming rude. She loves the dogs. It’s the owners that make her anxious. She sets the puppy on the grooming table. He barks excitedly, a squeak toy come to life. “Hush, little baby,” she sings. For a second, she remembers wanting a baby so badly, she could feel it in her bones. Now, lullabying the puppies calm is enough. 2. Mara trims the schnauzer’s little white beard, combs his eyebrows up. Her father hated anything German. This included dog breeds. German shepherds, Weimaraners, wiener dogs. Even little darlings like this client, Schatzi. “You don’t understand. You weren’t there,” he’d say. Then he would hide, again, behind his newspaper. She takes off her gloves, lifts the small pup from the grooming table, and dials his owner to say he’ll be dry in an hour, she can pick him up then. As she sweeps away the small piles of hair, ghost white, she thinks of her grandparents being puffed out as crematorium exhaust. She hums a quiet lullaby to calm the frightened puppy, turns the hairdryer on low and warm. 3. Most of the dog boarding clients want to be assured that someone is on-premises twenty-four hours a day. The woman with the schnauzer insisted she add it to her newspaper ad. “Otherwise, why should I trust my Schatzi to stay here? What if there is a fire?” Mara tells the woman she lives a block away and watches the kennels on a security camera app on her phone. What she doesn’t tell her is sometimes there are flickers across the screen that look like ghosts. Sometimes when she gets to the grooming salon, there are disposable gloves strewn everywhere. These moments she catches her breath, asks, “Daddy? Is that you?” She sings the Mourner’s Kaddish to herself as a lullaby, lets the biggest dog out with her, just in case.



Shaindel Beers is the author of three full-length poetry collections, A Brief History of Time (2009) and The Children's War and Other Poems (2013), both from Salt Publishing, and Secure Your Own Mask (2018), from White Pine Press. She teaches at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, where she lives with her son Liam, her husband Matt, and a menagerie of pets. She serves as Poetry Editor of Contrary Magazine. Learn more at

Art by Humane Society of Eastern Oregon Pet Rescue. To view pets ready to adopt in your area, visit


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