I can remember many years ago I was in the check-out line at one of the big chain pet stores where the groomers are only behind glass and everyone can watch them grooming. The man behind me said to his wife, “What a horrible job, having to fight with dogs all day”. His wife replied, “I know, I wonder how often they get bit”. It really hurt my feelings at the time because I just started working at a grooming shop and that was my dream, to work with animals! Those were the last of my worries. I had been running a rescue for Siberian Huskies for many years before I finally made the choice to leave my desk job in the corporate world and follow my dream. THAT was a horrible job, for me. Sure, I made a lot less but I was happy.
Even at a young age my pets were one of the most important things to me. I was the kid that brought every stray home that I came across. But I do have to say that even now they seem to find me. One day I was vacuuming my SUV at a gas station and was in the back seat when I realized there was a huge white boxer sitting in the hatchback watching me. There had to be 15 other cars there and he jumped in mine. He had no collar but he had a chain with a padlock on it that had to weigh 20lbs. We tried to find the owners but no one ever claimed him. He was intimidating because of the way he looked and people were afraid of him. But he was the biggest goof ball around and we found him a wonderful home.
And then there was the time when we had a bad storm and part of my fence fell. All four of my huskies got out (huskies will run if given the chance) and were roaming the streets. It was very late and it is really hard to find your dogs in the dark. But I would stay out all night looking if I had to. I was driving down a side street when I saw what I thought was a family of skunks or possums crossing the street, but no, it was a family of Chihuahuas. It was the mom and dad and two puppies that couldn’t have been more than 4 weeks old. So of course I had to stop and get them but they were scared out of their minds. I caught the dad and one of the puppies fairly easy but the mom and the other pup was a different story. A woman pulled over to help me catch the other two. When I pulled into my driveway my husband’s reaction was “only you would go out looking for 4 huskies and come home with 4 chihuahuas”, I had to agree. No one ever claimed them either. Who loses 4 dogs and doesn’t even look for them? Now my mom owns the mom and dad, my daughter owns one of the puppies, and the other puppy went to a family friend. By the way, I got all my dogs back also.
But back to why we do what we do. I have had many people ask me why I picked pet grooming as a career and honestly in the beginning it was because I loved working with animals. I mean I worked with the rescue dogs but you can’t make a living off that. If you have done fostering, you know that money comes out of your own pocket more then you ever planned. But the more I got into grooming the more I grew a passion for it. To me grooming is not just a job. I see it as an art because it takes a creative mind to be a groomer. Every dog is different and you have to see them the way you want them to look and create that with the hair they have. I went to a grooming seminar many years ago that had a scissoring workshop and they had a couple of women from Japan there to show us their technique. Oh my goodness it was like watching Edward Scissorhands grooming a dog. They explained that in Japan they have to go to a four year college to become a dog groomer. The first year of that they never even touch an animal. I admire that about them and they are a perfect example of the art of grooming.
I still love the art of grooming but now that I have been grooming for over 13 years, I feel that as a groomer it is my responsibility to educate pet owners on why it is important to keep up with their pets grooming needs. It is not just for looks, it can also affect the health of your pet. Groomers see every inch of your pet, more than even your vet covers. We find cuts, sores, hot spots, and tumors that the owner never even knew were there. We aren’t vets so we can’t diagnose your pet but hopefully you can get them to the vet before it becomes a huge problem. Matting can also cause a lot of problems so I feel I should show the owner the proper way to brush their pet in between grooming. Brushing a dog with a lot of hair can be tricky if you don’t know the proper way to brush and don’t have the right tools. Then you have the dogs that don’t need haircuts but shed A LOT. Showing the owners how to keep the shedding under control can be very useful.
It is very important to prepare your puppy for a lifetime of grooming. I wish more breeders would educate their puppy buyers on the grooming needs of the breed they are buying. One of my favorite things is when I get a poodle puppy in for it’s very first grooming visit with us and when I have to shave it’s feet and face they don’t get really scared and squirmy. It is very natural for them because some poodle breeders start shaving the feet and face as early as a couple weeks old. This makes it so much easier on the puppy and the groomer and greatly reduces the risk of injury. I encourage new puppy owners to bring their puppies in as soon as they get all their shots. It is a lot easier to train a young puppy how to behave when being groomed then the 9 month old puppy that has never been to a groomer. Most people don’t know that at around 7-9 months of age your puppy is becoming an adolescent and he is going through a coat change. They bring their puppy in for the first time and the puppy is completely matted and has to be shaved. That can be a traumatic experience for the puppy and the owner. The owner has great intentions of keeping the puppy fluffy and has no problems with the coat up to this point. If they knew about the coat change they could have prevented having to shave the puppy. So I feel that education is the key.
So finally, to answer the question why I do what I do. I am a believer that everybody is put on this earth for a reason. I have trained a lot of groomers that learned to groom beautifully but they were missing something that can’t be taught. I was watching something the other night about this 6 year old boy that was playing the piano like he has been playing for 30 years. He was gifted with this talent and what he has can’t be taught. No matter how big or small your gift is, and everyone has one, I believe that you should share it with others. I have never had a fear of dogs, even from a young age. But I also have always been able to read dog’s body language and it seemed natural, no one ever taught me this. When I am grooming a dog I can feel their body structure change before they even try to fight or bite. I am proud to say that through all my years of rescue and grooming I have only been bit twice and neither of them were bad. But both were my fault because I was not paying attention. I groom a lot of dogs that have been turned away by many other groomers because they were so hard to groom. If a groomer gets bit really bad that could end their career and I understand that. But you have to build a trust with these dogs and it takes time and patience and I get a lot of satisfaction seeing these dogs change with time. Working with animals is what I was meant to do and I truly believe that!