Silver Stylist

Grooming Matters

By Daryl Conner

“Age is a state of mind. Rather than ask ‘how I keep going’, instead ask ‘why would I stop?’” —Tina Hickman
Mon Cheri Dog & Cat Grooming

Many years ago, I drove past a grooming business that had a sign out announcing they had just hired a new groomer, and she had 20 years of experience. I remembered thinking, at the time, that 20 years was an impressively long time to groom.

This year will mark my 34th year in the grooming industry—a fact that still catches me by surprise sometimes. I am active on many Internet grooming groups and am delighted to find that there are plenty of people my age (58) and older that are still happily pursuing grooming careers.

I know that I have made some changes to the way I work as I age, and I wondered what other stylists do to ensure they are able to continue grooming in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond. Many of the groomers who responded said that they have reduced their work load.

“I groom less dogs than I used to. I don’t rush. Grooming keeps me young. It also makes my inner spirit happy,” says Theresa Rogers (Doggy D’tail, West Terra Haute, IN)

Also, many groomers in the 50 years and older group said they have implemented a weight limit. “I stopped doing dogs over 35 pounds a couple of years ago. It’s saved much stress on my back, shoulders, and legs. I am pretty sure this will allow me to keep grooming until I’m ready to retire.” (Felicia Moran, No Place Like Home Mobile Grooming, Waterbury, CT).

Cutting down on the number of days they work each week was listed as a good way to keep grooming happily, as well. Personally, I now work 4 days a week, and only groom one Saturday every 6 weeks for the handful of customers that just cannot come on a weekday. I love having Saturdays off with my husband for the first time in our married life.

Some of the people I asked said they exercise each morning before work, and/or take time to stretch and move about during the day between working on pets. To help with the stress that grooming can cause to their physical bodies, many groomers say that they eat as healthily as possible and drink lots of water. Beyond that, regular massage and chiropractor appointments are on the “must do” list for several of the people who responded.

Lori Eberly–Schroeder, who has been grooming for 33 years, (Lori’s Pet Styling, Ohio) added a different twist. “I used to get a massage once a month, but I decided I’d rather pay a higher electric bill and bought myself a hot tub. It is amazing when I have tight muscles.”

Using quality electric grooming tables is very popular with those who have groomed long enough to know the importance of such things. And several people responded with warnings to younger groomers to be sure to take care of their bodies now, so they can stay healthy as they age. Wearing good shoes, sitting when they can, being certain to use hearing protection and investing in quality tools to make the work easier were strongly encouraged.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that many people discussed that keeping a good mental attitude was important to their career longevity. After grooming for 44 years, William Lynch, (owner, Fuzzy Faces, Greenacres, FL) says, “I try to wake up with the right frame of mind. I am grateful that I get to go to work every day my whole life and be able to do the thing I love. Everyday I go to work and I pray to God and thank him for all the dogs he sends me. My job is so rewarding.”

Continuing education was mentioned by several groomers as being important to their career longevity.

“I make sure to keep going to grooming expos and classes to keep everything fresh and new, so I don’t get bored. I find trying new products and techniques keeps me motivated.” Linda Claflin, (Dog Gone Beautiful Styling Salon, Keene, NH).

Claflin elaborates on this idea, “To still love grooming after 50 plus years requires education. Continuing education for me, educating each dog I groom to my routine, educating my clients to keep a regular schedule.” Linda will turn 70 this year and says, “I Intend to continue styling dogs as long as I am able, cutting back as needed.”

Terms such as peaceful, no clutter, no stress, and drama–free peppered the replies I received to my query. It seems that as savvy groomers age, they tailor the way they work to best suit their personalities and preferences. For example, I went from a very busy, upscale salon to grooming pets one at a time in my home–based studio. I play classical music, feed the wild birds right outside my window, and set my hours to suit my lifestyle. It seems many experienced groomers create a more flexible work environment to enable them to continue loving what they do.

“A happy, relaxed groomer is my best achievement in life. Working as a groomer for over 40 years, I have become so much more understanding of dogs’ body language and relating to owners’ worry and love for their pets. This all comes with time and hard work. It’s not all about the money, (though that’s quite nice) but more about respect on both sides; clients, and myself.” Dawn Morris, (Dawn’s Dog Grooming Salon, Worcestershire, England.)

The groomers who chimed in about how they continue to perform the often physically challenging job of pet grooming as they grow older all echoed one common theme. They love what they do.

Laura Ray, (Tails Up, South Pittsburg, TN) may have said it best of all. “I need to keep busy doing something I love. Grooming a messy dog to a beautiful one makes me feel good. That’s my “drug” of choice. Right now, I can’t see myself retiring any day soon.” ✂

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