By Melissa Viera
Every family is unique. An outsider could flip through the pages of a family’s scrapbook and only imagine the feelings attached to old ticket stubs, pressed flowers, scraps of paper, and photos. For the family that created those memories, every piece gives them the chance to live the memory again.
Within every family, large or small, there are challenges, losses, and heartbreaks, but the amazing thing about families is the way they come together and become stronger than ever even during hard times.
“My family, even though we are small, are my inspiration,” says 27–year–old Alexis Sanches, head groomer, and manager at “Wicked Clean Dog,” a dog grooming salon and spa in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.
Sanches has been an animal lover for as long as she can remember, and even before. “One thing I can say is; mommy or daddy was not my first word. My first word was doggy,” says Sanches. “I had a bunch of animals and a large variety growing up.”
Before she began learning to groom, Sanches had another dream; she wanted to help people in a meaningful way. “After high school, I planned on following in my grandmother’s footsteps and started school to become a registered nurse,” she explains. “I always dreamt of helping people and becoming a nurse for children.”
In 2010, Sanches lost her grandmother—a devastating and life-changing loss for her and her family. “My whole world had fallen,” says Sanches. With the loss of her grandmother, Sanches had, for a brief period, lost her passion and motivation as well. “She was my best friend, someone who I admired. She was great at listening to me and guiding me in a positive direction.”
Sanches knew that her life was going to change. She took time off from school to gain a new perspective and give herself the opportunity to find her passion in life again after such a heartbreaking loss.
At the time, Sanches’ mother, Faye, was working a corporate job in a management position. One phone call that Faye made to her daughter would be the change that Sanches needed, and it would be the start of a new journey for the whole family.
“My mother who is my anchor called me one day and said, ‘Hey, you love dogs, I love dogs, let’s open a business together and create something great; just you and I grooming some dogs. Become a dog groomer! You only live one life, let’s make the best of it and be closer as a family.’ “
Although Sanches knew she needed a change and there was no denying her love for dogs, the idea her mother sprung on her was a surprising one that she had to process.
“A dog groomer? What do they do? How am I going to help people by dog grooming?” Sanches asked her mother. “At that time, I didn’t know how rewarding dog grooming was and how you can help an animal and also their owner,” explains Sanches. “I love dogs and my life was going to change and change in a positive direction. My mother then set me up as an apprentice with a family friend of ours.”
After months of commuting four hours daily to the salon where she was learning to groom, Sanches decided to get a grooming job closer to home. During her time apprenticing and working as a groomer, she learned how to do both show trims and quick and functional pet clips. She enjoyed the work and enjoyed learning. She found her job to be very fast–paced and learned the importance of practicing good time management while grooming.
Sanches continued to grow as a groomer and finally, her family would take the next step together. Her mother decided to quit her corporate job and open a dog ‘Spaw’. Sanches would be the head groomer, and her father, Chris, would also be heavily involved in the business.
“I couldn’t believe I was going
to be head groomer. How cool!” I didn’t realize how much work I would have to apply into a new shop but what a rewarding feeling every day,” says Sanches.
As a family, Sanches and her parents worked hard and their clientele quickly grew. Each one of them had their own important role in the business and by working together, they were able to build on their individual talents to make their business unique.
“My father Chris is an extremely talented artist and a computer
genius. He creates custom pet portraits for our shop and makes some pretty neat collars. He’s very creative,” says Sanches.
The name of their business is a name that New Englanders can relate to. “Not many people know what the word wicked means but us New Englanders know, it’s a part of our vocabulary.” As for the custom line of collars, they are called ‘Wicked Dog Collahs’. “If you’re from New England, you know we do not pronounce our ‘ar’ at the end,” explains Sanches.
Owning and operating a business with her family might not have been what Sanches was expecting but she immediately found she loved not only grooming, but being a part of a family business. She continues to find inspiration from her family even when faced with challenges.
“Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew, but my team always comes together as a team. I couldn’t have asked for a better team over the years. We all contribute something special at Wicked Clean Dog,” she says.
Along with grooming, Sanches also has an interest in essential oils. “I like to use essential oils for myself and for the dog that I’m grooming. The oils can help with relaxing the dog, especially if the dog is scared or has bad anxiety,” Sanches explains.
She has her own products called ‘Wicked PAWlistic’. “I make some spritzers for relaxing, some that can help your pet during flea and tick season, a nose and paw softener, and also an ear wash for infected ears.”
Sanches is always growing as a groomer and as a business manager. She has plans to continue expanding with both her products and her business. “I believe if you’re passionate about your work, you should expand your mind and incorporate everything you have to offer into your work,” she says. She is also passionate about giving back, and Wicked Clean Dog helps the community by donating to many fundraisers and charities and doing free work for the local shelters.
Learning to groom from the ground up and coming together with her family to create a business has been something truly special for Sanches. Sometimes when life changes directions suddenly, it is the family who really do know best. Sanches has found a career that she enjoys doing and the work that she does makes her clients happy—a part of her dream all along. It is her family who came together and turned one idea into a successful business that will keep growing for many years to come. ✂