By Daryl Conner
During the holiday season, I spend more time than usual thinking about things I am grateful for. One of those things is my long-time career of pet grooming.
Even though groomers deal with more poop and odiferous bodily fluids than most professionals, and beside the fact that pet grooming is not very glamorous, there are a lot of amazing things that come along with being a part of this industry. Here are some that top my list:
• “Playing” with animals all day. We joke that the general public has no idea how complex and challenging our work really is, and that is true. But, bottom line? We really do get to spend most of our waking hours with animals. From wiggle–butt puppies that wash our faces while we wash theirs, to stately seniors who bring calm and wisdom with them when they grace our tables, having this much time around pets is a blessing beyond compare.
• Interactions with kind people. Of course, not every client we encounter is a joy to deal with, but many animal lovers are just great folks, and meeting so many nice humans because of working with animals is a gift. Here is an example. My daughter and I were planning her wedding. It was to be a casual, farm affair, but she did want to serve the meal on mismatched, vintage china plates. I mentioned this to a few customers and word got out. Pretty soon people were showing up to grooming appointments with a pretty dish or two in hand. (“I found this at Goodwill”, or, “bought it at a yard sale,” or, “it was my great aunt’s.”) Soon every dish had a kind story attached to it. I believe that groomers meet a higher percentage of wonderful humans than people who have other careers do.
• Sensible shoes. I’m not kidding. I had a career where I had to wear panty hose and high heels. I didn’t like it. Wearing a comfortable, hair–repelling uniform and squishy sneakers to work is a huge bonus. And for ladies, makeup is optional. Most days the dogs kiss it off, anyway. The older I get, the more I appreciate the joy of being comfy while I work.
• Endless opportunities to learn. I’ve been grooming for over thirty years, (a fact that startles me.) I adore the fact that, though I am very good at what I do, there is still so much more I don’t know yet. Learning new tips, techniques and special skills keeps me fired up about my work. There are many groomer groups on the internet now where people share their ideas with others at a rapid rate.
• Creative expression. When I ask customers, “What do you have in mind for Mr. Bonkers’ groom today?” many reply, “Do whatever you think is best.” I feel like someone just handed me a blank canvas and a palette of bright paints. It is such fun to tweak and change up a pet’s hairstyle to make them look their adorable best.
• Fabulous support system. Recently a customer with small dogs that I groom regularly called to make an appointment to have her Scottish Deerhound tidied up for a show. I don’t know about you, but this is not a breed I see a lot of. And show grooming? I was clueless. A few key strokes on the internet later I had some nice guidelines from a major grooming industry goddess. I groomed the dog and she came home with a fistful of blue ribbons. The owner was thrilled, the dog looked great, and I had fun successfully preparing a rare breed. People in our industry are, by and large, very willing to generously share their expertise. This is not something to be taken for granted, not all industries are this way.
• Flexibility. When my daughter was a baby I did house call grooming so I could work hours when my husband was home to be with her. As she got older I worked more hours, eventually buying a mobile rig to work out of. Grooming offered me a chance to adapt my career to being a mom, and for that she and I are both grateful. Now I choose to work 4 days a week, and enjoy long weekends with my husband. I love that I can plan my work around my life.
• Educational opportunities. Though grooming is currently an unregulated industry, there are several certifying groups that offer ambitious groomers a chance to learn, grow, and gain credentials. Many allow students to do at least some of the work long distance via the internet, too.
• Trade shows. Pet grooming trade shows are a blast. Packed with vendors so you can actually hold tools in your hand before buying and see up close and in person what the latest and greatest offerings are, they also offer classes with industry leaders so you can learn new skills. Held across the country, there is bound to be one not far from you. There is nothing like getting to meet other people who enjoy this quirky career. I have laughed harder at trade shows than most anywhere else.
• Great earning potential. When I began as an apprentice groomer in the ‘80’s, I did it for half of minimum wage at the time, (around $2.25 an hour.) I cleaned kennels and scooped poop, and did anything my mentor asked of me, gratefully. Today, groomers who are willing to learn the trade well, and behave in an extremely professional manner, are in high demand. It is not unheard of to bring home six figure salaries in the industry today.
• The ability to be a blessing in someone’s life. Pets may be the portal, but really, we are in the people business. Every single time you encounter a client, you have the opportunity to be a bright spot in their day. This is a challenge I take on gladly, and find that in return, I bless myself.
As the year winds to a close and the holidays hold us in their grip, I hope you will take some time to think about the things you are grateful for. And I hope that your career choice makes your list. I know that grooming has been a tremendous bonus in my life. ✂