Shiloh is a three-year-old black and white shih tzu. In January, the pooch visited Artistic Dog and Cat Grooming in Cranston for the third and final time. It was during his nearly five-hour grooming session that Shiloh lost an eye, and Susan Dwyer is speaking out now about the experience in hopes the salon will pay her bills and issue her a formal apology.
Daryl Noonan, owner of Artistic, contests some of Dwyer’s claims and said in an interview this week that he is willing to pay for Shiloh’s medical expenses, though he denies the salon’s liability for the injury.
Dwyer said she dropped her three-year-old pooch off at Artistic Dog and Cat Grooming at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 28 and was told to come back at 1:30 p.m., a longer wait than she was typically used to or comfortable with. Still, Dwyer left and returned at 1:30, at which time she was told to come back in another 45 minutes. When she came back 40 minutes later, she was informed that they had had an “incident” with the dog. She could hear workers swearing in the back room.
Donna, the woman who normally groomed Shiloh, was working another job that day, so someone else, a woman Dwyer believes is Noonan’s daughter, was grooming Shiloh.
Dwyer was informed that the daughter had assisted Donna before and therefore the dog would be comfortable with her. When Dwyer returned to the groomer, Donna was there. Dwyer was told Donna had been called in to assess the “incident,” which was a severe injury to Shiloh’ eye. Dwyer was infuriated.
“They should have called me and gotten him medical attention,” she said. “He was bleeding and in shock. His eye was all red and bloody.”
Noonan said Shiloh is what they call a “challenge.”
“He’s an aggressive dog that thrashes and flips out,” he said.
Noonan said the salon frequently deals with aggressive dogs and makes the owners of such dogs sign releases before the grooming sessions. (He said Dwyer signed such an agreement, but is willing to compensate her for the medical expenses to “do right by her.”)
During Shiloh’s visit to the salon, Noonan said the dog began to “freak out” and two groomers were required to subdue it. The dog was then muzzled.
During the removal of the muzzle, Noonan said the dog began thrashing and hit its eye. Noonan said the groomer did not cut the dog and the injury was self-inflicted.
Once Dwyer retrieved Shiloh from the groomer, she took him to Ocean State Animal Hospital, where they assessed the damage to the eye. The doctor there encouraged Dwyer to take the dog to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, where a veterinary ophthalmologist could examine the injury. At Tufts, they performed an ultrasound on the eye and told Dwyer the dog had suffered a full lateral corneal laceration, likely caused by a blunt, sharp object like clippers or scissors. The veterinarian said there was no chance for the dog to regain vision in the damaged eye, and it would be less risky to remove the eye entirely than try to repair it.
The veterinarian removed the eye, replaced it with a prosthetic, and sewed the eye shut, a procedure that required Shiloh to stay overnight in Boston. While preparing the dog for surgery, the doctors found abrasions and bruising above the injured eye. Dwyer said the dog was “absolutely not” injured in any way before his visit to Artistic.
The total medical expenses for the dog totaled $3,000.
“I sobbed all the way home,” Dwyer said.
In addition to the physical damage, Dwyer said the dog was traumatized from the experience and needed to learn not only how to function with one eye, but how to trust again. His recovery took weeks.
During the weeks following the surgery, Dwyer said she did not reach out to Artistic.
“I was too angry with them,” she said.
Dwyer said she has received no correspondence from the salon since the incident, a claim Noonan denies.
“I called her in the first two weeks,” he said, stating that he felt badly about the injury.
About six weeks after the injury, Dwyer said she sent Artistic a certified letter with her medical bills enclosed. Noonan recalled the letter, calling it “very nasty.” Dwyer received no response to the letter. She followed up with a few e-mails and then partnered with an attorney to send additional letters, none of which she said elicited a response. The attorney also looked into Artistic’s insurance and found they had none that would cover Shiloh’s injury. Noonan confirmed that, saying in the state of Rhode Island, dogs are considered personal property and his insurance wouldn’t cover the dog’s injury.
Dwyer’s lawyer advised her to keep the complaint private until then, at which point he advised her to go to small claims court. However, the small claims court limit in Rhode Island is $2,500. Dwyer said she waited until now to reach out to the Beacon, which she did through a letter to the editor because she didn’t want to tamper with her case.
Similar reasoning prevented Dwyer from not calling Artistic.
“I couldn’t hold my mouth,” she said. “I put it all on paper so I wouldn’t lose my cool.”
But Noonan said he wanted a phone call and is willing to pay the $3,000, though he said his salon is not responsible for the dog’s injury. He said he is waiting to speak with Dwyer about the matter.
In addition to the incident with her own dog, Dwyer mentioned a case in 2007 where a dog hanged itself at Artistic. Noonan said no dogs have ever died at the salon, but Channel 10 covered the story of the four-year-old golden retriever’s death at the time and their report includes a statement from Noonan that confirmed the dog’s “collapse” at his salon.
What Dwyer wants now is her money and for Noonan to admit the salon’s negligence.
“It’s not a cut or a toenail; it’s his eye,” she said. “First of all, you don’t let kids run your shop. They cut him and he cried and bled and they panicked. They cleaned the blood off him and put him back in a cage. He’s my baby. I never should have left him.”