Just a Groomer?
By Daryl Conner
As pet stylists, take pride in the many important and meaningful things you do every day
My parents wanted me to be a nurse or a teacher. Those were respectable careers for a young woman coming of age around 1980. But I had been harboring a little quiet dream all my life... I wanted to work with animals. To my family’s thinly disguised horror, I became a pet stylist. The career fits me like my favorite pair of blue jeans, and I have been happily grooming cats and dogs for almost 30 years now. But for a long time I would reply, “I’m just a pet groomer” to the question, “What do you do?”
Twenty-two years ago, I made a friend named Terese when I groomed her dogs. I hadn’t known her very long when she heard me say that I was “just a pet groomer.” In her sweet, soft voice she said, “JUST a groomer? Why, I would think being a groomer would be a career to be proud of. Just think: people trust you with their beloved dogs and cats. For some people, that pet is family. And you take good care of those pets and make them beautiful. That seems pretty important to me!” I began to rethink the way I perceived my career choice that day. I still think about it.
It is my good fortune to be able to attend trade shows across the country as the representative for the German Red Clipper. Many weekends a year, I am surrounded by groomers for hours on end. There is a real pleasure in this; no one understands a groomer quite like another groomer! We speak the same language. We all know the joy of meeting a new puppy or kitten client and the sadness of saying goodbye to an animal we’ve cared about for years. Each of us has some hilarious story to share that involves anal sacs.
It’s sad for me to realize that there are many, many stylists out there who see themselves as “just groomers.” In the years that I have been involved in our industry, I have seen wondrous changes. Pet stylists are more respected than they were in the past. There are new tools and products being developed constantly to make our work easier and more efficient. Educational opportunities abound; even stylists in very rural areas can find career-enhancing information within the reach of their computer keyboard. Many groomers now build businesses that not only support their families while they work but are entities that can be sold for a nice profit when the time comes to lay those scissors down.
And then there is this: I recently put an inquiry out on the Internet asking for groomers who are involved in animal rescue work to contact me. My email inbox was flooded, and the stories I read warmed my heart. Groomers from across the globe told me stories of how they have rescued individual pets and have been involved with local rescue league groups to offer free grooming, foster care, fundraising assistance, and more.
As a community, we groomers are making an impact on abandoned, abused, and homeless cats and dogs. Groomers are often at the front line when rescue situations happen, offering their skills and compassion to make a difference.
I once read that the average pet groomer has his or her hands on more animals in a week than most people do in their entire lives. All of that hands-on contact offers us an education in the health and well-being of pets, which is priceless.
Many years ago, I found an odd little lump under the rear leg of a beloved, elderly cat. The lump was in a place where the average owner rarely pets their animal. I brought it to the attention of my customer, and she hustled Elsa the tabby off to see her veterinarian. He told her, “If your groomer had not found this lump, Elsa would be dead in a matter of months.” Surgery and treatment provided Elsa with several more years to bring her human companionship and pleasure.
Pet stylists from everywhere tell me they have had similar experiences over and over again. Vania Velotta (Cleveland, OH) told me, “I had a Westie that was a regular customer. When he had a couple of ‘accidents’ during his visit, I knew that was unusual for him. I asked the owner if he was drinking a lot of water lately, and she said he was drinking and urinating a little extra. I told her that a lot of times that can indicate a bladder infection or diabetes, so she should get him checked out as soon as possible. The next time she came in, she said that she’d taken the dog to the vet, and he was, in fact, diabetic. Then she said, ‘And you know, my husband was having the same symptoms, so I made him go to the doctor. Turns out he’s diabetic, too.’”
Just a groomer, indeed. Our work is meaningful, relevant, and important. The time has come for us to take pride in what we do. We have skills that few others in the world share, and we must admit that each of us does have a really great anal sac story! ✂