Groomer to Groomer

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Grooming In Costa Rica

Profile: Laurie Sklar

Grooming Matters

By Daryl Conner

I often wonder what it is like for groomers in different countries. I asked Laurie to tell me about her experience working in Costa Rica.

“I groom in a tropical paradise with nature all around me,” says Laurie Sklar. She has been grooming in exotic Costa Rica for eight years. I often wonder what it is like for groomers in different countries. I asked Laurie to tell me about her experience working in Costa Rica. She is originally from the U.S. but told me, “I moved here shortly after I got married. The plan was to spend two years here, but it’s been 24!” Laurie was not a groomer then. “I’d never even had a dog... never wanted a dog. My first dog ever in my life showed up the day after Thanksgiving many years ago in my backyard. I wondered if he was dead. I threw him a turkey bone; he woke right up. He was a street dog, and I named him Ferengi.”

Street dogs are very common in Costa Rica. One source stated that there are over a million stray dogs roaming the country. “In terms of the street dogs, they go with the scenery. There are zillions of them, and they just live on the street and somehow survive,” Laurie told me. I found the concept of roaming dogs to be troubling. Then I read what a writer named R.A. Luis on a Costa Rican travel blog wrote: “For some people, it is hard to understand we are a whole different culture. We have dogs... and we love them the way we do and period. It is incredible that some people would like to change the way we love dogs... It is our country! Of course there are stray dogs around, but they are good dogs most of the time. Not a big problem.”

Laurie said, “I have had quite a few dogs since Ferengi showed up, and many had health, skin, and coat issues. Those dogs sparked the decision to become a groomer. I had no idea what it was all about but decided to just do it.” She attended a grooming school in the U.S. and began attending trade shows. “I attended my first show in Burbank, California, and took Teri DiMarino’s bather/brusher seminar. I wrote down everything that she said.”

So what is it like grooming in a tropical paradise? “My clients are mostly ex-pats and a percentage of Costa Ricans who value their dogs and want them to look correct.” Laurie said, “Getting them to brush or comb them is just as hard here as it is anywhere!”

Getting the types of grooming products that we have in the U.S. can be a challenge. There are virtually no grooming products sold in Costa Rica. This makes it very costly and difficult. Getting supplies is one of Laurie’s biggest problems. Permission is needed by a government agency to legally import shampoos, etc., even if it is for your own personal pet. For a business, it is more difficult and extremely costly, as each product has to get permission and go through scrutiny. It is virtually impossible to do this cost effectively as a small business. A lawyer is needed, as is plenty of money and patience.

“And if that does not make grooming seem tricky enough,” Laurie adds, “rent prices are sky high, and grooming fees are about half of what groomers make in the States. Costa Rica is an expensive place to live, but grooming prices only go so high.”

I was still fascinated about those street dogs! I asked Laurie if she ever grooms any of them. “I don’t go and grab dogs right off the street on my own, though I often feel bad and am tempted. Disease is quite probable, and they could be fear biters. It is too risky, I feel.”

But she helps street dogs just the same. She offers grooming for rescue organizations. “I have a few clients in my area that rescue dogs. They do adoption fairs and other dog awareness events. My client will bring me a few for a makeover, and that’s how they come to me. She has a standing appointment for every Friday. All dogs from her were former street/stray dogs with stories to tell.” After they have been pampered and trimmed by a kind-hearted, talented professional, their stories take on a happier note, because no matter what country you are in, grooming matters. ✂