International Interviews: Australia & Sweden

By Mary Oquendo

One of the wonderful things about Facebook is that it brings the world a little closer. When Groomer To Groomer wanted to do an international issue, I had no problem finding international groomers to interview!

Let’s start with Jessica Schiott from Sweden.

Me: How did you become a groomer?

Jessica: It all started when I became ill from my job. I was stressed and depressed. When it came time to go back, it was obvious I just couldn’t. I would be right back where I started: stressed and depressed. A local grooming shop was looking for an apprentice and I saw an opportunity to grab an old dream. Within the year I out grew it and set out on my own.

I began to attract clients who were looking for a one–on–one experience for their dogs. Many had felt that the assembly line grooming was stressing their pets and resulted in cookie cutter grooms. It became my niche.

Me: Grooming as a second career has become the norm in the United States—myself included. Tell me about where you live?

Jessica: My town, Helsingborg in Skåne Sweden, is a big city in a small package. Do you know what I mean? I love it, because it is near Denmark and the rest of Europe. I think we have the narrowest sea in the world only 4km between Sweden and Denmark. The nature is fantastic! The lovely sea and its beaches, the forest on the hills, and the countryside.

Me: I live In Danbury, Conn. Very similar. Close enough to major cultural hubs such as NYC and Boston, and beautiful New England is in my backyard. How long have you been grooming?

Jessica: For about six years now. In June 2016, I opened my own shop: Hundarnas Salong in Helsingborg.

Me: What sets you apart from your fellow local groomer?

Jessica: I am a Fear Free shop. I took a course about a year ago from two veterinarians who travelled from Spicewood, Texas to Sweden. Dr. Marty Becker is the founder of the program.

It’s really interesting when you change the environment, your state of mind and how you handle the clients; you get so much better results!

I often invite owners to be present when their pets get groomed. I have always heard that this will stress your dog out even more, but my experience is this a BIG myth! Initially, the first minute is a little more difficult, but the rest of the 1–2 hours is smooth sailing. The bonus is that you can educate the owner on how to maintain the coat between appointments.

I handle animals differently from when I first started grooming. I have gone from doing whatever it takes to make it work, whether the pet liked it or not, to listening to the pet and working with them. I never use force and always reward. I make time to play with the animal before they go home, so they leave on a positive note.

Me: Can you share a tip with your American counterparts?

Jessica: Self–improvement is important to me. I find one thing a week that improves my workplace or myself.

Me: How do you take care of yourself to prevent burnout?

Jessica: Sadly, I’m one of those who always thinks about others (mostly pets) and hardly about myself. I am making more of an effort as I have Type 1 diabetes. I eat healthy, drink a lot of water, walk my two dogs at least four times a day and get monthly massages. Of course, I take better care of my dogs and have them on a strict training schedule as one of my two dogs has a bad back and arthritis on all four legs. He is only six years old so I’m doing all I can for him.

Me: I can totally relate to taking better care of my dogs than myself. My new diet regiment involves asking myself if I would let my dog eat this!

Onwards to Australia with Wendy Radziejowski.

Me: How did you become a groomer?

Wendy: I became a groomer after my husband bought my little fluffy dog Josie for me. When I took her to the groomer, there was a “help wanted” sign up and I was looking for a change of careers. My love of animals pushed me to ask if I could have a trial day to see if I liked it at all. After the first day, I was hooked.

Me: That is exactly how I got my start. That “help wanted” sign sucked me right in. I haven’t looked back since. Tell me about where you live.

Wendy: I live in a growing community with new houses going up all the time. We are also a multi–cultural area with lots of community groups. I spent my teenage years growing up in the area; Springfield, Queensland, Australia.

Me: What sets you apart from other groomers in your area?

Wendy: To my knowledge, I am the only groomer in the area that is a holistic groomer and the only one that offers reiki. I only do a small amount of dogs per day. On a busy day, I may do seven dogs, but that includes three or four dogs from the same family. I take into account the personalities when scheduling any given day.

New dogs always get a two hour window, and I take pride in the fact that I have turned around many a difficult dog. I offer support to the dog’s family by discussing diet and behavior with them.

I am the only groomer in my area to be in The Australian Model Dog Grooming Team, and the only local member of the Association Of Holistic Pet Professionals. My shop is loaded and gridded with crystals and I employ the use of essential oils. I always let the dog choose the oil.

Me: I’m in the same association. How long have you been grooming?

Wendy: I have now been grooming for twelve years, going into my thirteenth year. I started in a very busy salon and now groom at home in my garage salon.

Me: Can you share a tip with your American counterparts?

Wendy: My tip would be, always be open to learning new things; always listen and remember your clients and fellow groomers are not perfect. Try not to judge; we are all different.

Me: How do you protect yourself against burnout?

Wendy: I suffered from burn out. It was why I started grooming at home. I wanted to provide a less stressful environment for both the dogs and myself. I truly disliked working under the pressure of time and how it stressed the dogs out. I wanted to provide a calm and nurturing environment for the dogs to be groomed in at their own pace.

In addition, I also struggle with endometriosis, adenomyosis and auto–immune disease. I now keep my hours to Monday–Thursday, 9am to 5pm. Phone calls are answered and returned during my business hours only. I also do yoga, reiki and meditation on a daily basis. I have monthly massages and also acupuncture when necessary. My health is the most important thing, both body and mind. If I am well I can groom to my best ability.

When we look past our borders, we realize that people aren’t that much different. I have far more in common with these groomers than what makes us different. It’s the similarities that bind us, while the differences offer up a learning experience. ✂

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