Recently, someone referred to me as an “industry old timer.” I wonder when, and how, I had become an “old timer.” Silly as it sounds, I still feel like a newbie in some areas. My first certification was back sometime in the early 1980’s with Professional Pet Groomers Certification (PPGC); the International Professional Groomers (IPG) predecessor, and all I knew about certification was what I had read in some magazines that were delivered to my salon. A few phone calls, some preparation, and I was on my way.

My certifiers were two groomers named Pam Lauritzen and Vivian Nash. I had no idea who they were in the industry but in idle conversation I learned that Vivian had recently won Best Groomed Dog in Show at something called “Intergroom” in New Jersey. As a dog show person, I perked up at the prospects of competition of any kind. There was an apprentice certifier named Liz Paul working with them and she chimed in that I should consider competing. Pam and Vivian agreed. Liz gave me her phone number and told me to contact her about some contests coming up in the state of Florida. Wow! I was dumbfounded!  I had two of the industry’s “biggies” and this third person apprenticing under them telling me I should consider competing. So I did.

I took Best in Show in my first competition, Best All Around in my second and NDGAA Grand Champion Best in Show in my third. Competitions were quite a bit different then. There was no Novice or Intermediate class in most contests. It was all Open class. My award for the NDGAA win was a trophy, a case of shampoo, a stand dryer, $50 (I think), and a paid entry to that “Intergroom” show in New Jersey, where I would meet Shirlee Kalstone. And, the rest is personal history.

All of us started as newbies at one time or another and it is fun to look back at the “biggies” from back then and how we all formed friendly relationships. It has also been great to have witnessed so many of the big name groomers of today get their start. But what about the professionals who started it all?  Who taught the people who taught me? Who brought them into the industry and guided them to their success? What inspired them? It was like they had just “appeared” out of nowhere. Or had they?

The recent loss of a great friend and industry icon, Jerry Schinberg, prompts me to sit at my computer and consider the people, the knowledge and the history that our industry has lost in recent years. Sally Liddick, John Nash, Liz Paul, Lynne Carver, Dorothy Walin, and Robert Reynolds, to name a few of the ones I am personally familiar with. Some of these names are familiar to you and, I am sure, a few are not. There are many who came before these icons who, sadly, I never had the pleasure of meeting. We must pay attention to the past or the history of our industry is in jeopardy of becoming lost.

Let’s take Dorothy Walin, for instance. Salon owner, groomer, author and judge, Dotty was active in the dog show world as well as grooming. Anybody today who works with an industry company or demonstrates product at a booth has Dotty to thank, as she was a pioneer in this area. A woman in the man’s realm of a growing industry, Dotty worked with Oster to put professionalism into our world. She remembered every dog you showed to her and every hair that was out of place. We lost her in December, 2013.

In 1969 Robert Reynolds founded the National Dog Groomers Association of America in the hopes of uniting pet groomers through membership and communication. He passed in 1985, right before I began competing. His son, Jeffrey, carries on his legacy in this long standing organization.

John Nash is missed in so many ways. A teacher, Johnny was the founder of the Nash Academy and the International Judges Association (IJA). A kind, thoughtful person, and active advocate of continued education, Johnny was always there to help whenever and wherever needed.

Lynne Carver and Liz Paul were contemporaries of mine, both having extensive backgrounds in the dog show arena that carried over into the grooming contest ring. A grooming school owner, Lynne was one of the original Board of Directors of GroomTeam USA. The name Liz Paul became synonymous with style, flair and winning ways, as she set so many standards that are still held in the ring today.  Anybody who knew them both recognized them as two completely different people, but they both shared an eagerness to help newcomers in any way they could. They were both friends of mine and I miss them both dearly.

What can we say about a fellow groomer named Sally Liddick? I still remember getting my first copy of a tabloid-style publication called Groomer to Groomer and meeting her and her business partner, Gwen Shelly, at my first NDGAA show in 1986. They were introducing a new reminder card system and highlighting their Groom-O-Grams. Their nervously-delivered, informative skit was choreographed down to the second and, like all seminars at that time, they gave their dissertation on stage during competition. Look at how far the industry has come with Sally’s help.

And you can’t say “Jerry Schinberg” without thinking “All American” or “Creative Styling”. The originator of both the show and the competition, Jerry’s loss leaves an enormous hole in our industry. I am pleased to have called him my friend.  The All American, now owned by Barkleigh Productions, is the oldest, continuously running grooming trade show and competition in the world. Notice I didn’t say “the first”, as there were others before. Jerry took what he learned from others, tweaked it, perfected it and made it his own. The Best in Show judge for the very first All American was Shirlee Kalstone and the person she put up for this award was Romaine Michelle, two people, I am pleased to say, who are still active in the industry.

Shirlee and I converse often and I try to visit her whenever my travels find me in New York. Recently, she suggested a project for the two of us; to document the history of the professional grooming industry. The consummate innovator, Shirlee’s history in the industry is extensive. Some of her greatest achievements are as an author of numerous, well known grooming books and articles, as well as the founder of Intergroom. With her all-encompassing background, both in the United States and abroad, she is the prime “go to” person to collaborate with on this project, as she learned with many of the others who have gone before and initiated much of what is today’s protocol. Giving credit where credit is due, GroomTeam USA was originally brainstormed by Shirlee and Jerry. Additionally, Shirlee created the awards concept that was to become the Cardinal Crystal Grooming Achievement Awards. She and I will be working on this project together and we look forward to contacting some of the “old timers” who continue to make their mark in the industry today and some who have chosen to step back into the shadows of retirement.

I know there are probably a number of you thinking this will be a boring “old timer” story. I can guarantee you, it will be an interesting read about the transitions from then to now and the people and events that made it all happen. There are a number of things that happened that are a source of laughter today. You may have noticed my comment earlier that seminars were held on the stage during the contests. Contests rarely started on time and, on occasion, they continued well past show closing time. Judges would prejudge, start their class, then “disappear” for hours, only to return just when time was up and the class was ready to be judged.  The length of time for judging was insane! One time I had a judge comb through my Mini Poodle for over five minutes! (No, I didn’t place). Dogs would be on the table for hours on end leaving groomers and dogs totally exhausted. And did you know that some shows actually had a blade length restriction? Nothing closer than a #15 could be used on a poodle.

Here’s something you will never see today: We used to smoke in the ring!!! Bad enough most of used to smoke, but the smell of burning dog hair in the ring really got to the promoters one day, specifically Jerry and Sally Schinberg. The decree passed down was “No smoking in the ring”, so we would have a friend stand ringside and hold our cigarettes and an ashtray just on the other side of the ring ropes. This eventually morphed to “No smoking in the exhibit hall”. During judging time we would hold each other’s dogs so we could run into the hall and get our nicotine fix. Finally, the edict of no smoking, passed by government legislation, put the proverbial nail in the coffin for many of the smokers.

When did we stop being “dog groomers” and start calling ourselves “pet stylists”? And now we have “salons” not “shops”. Certification organizations are helping to set standards within the industry. More and more continued education seminars and trade shows make learning so much easier, and far more fun! Social media, like Facebook, adds a different dimension to sharing information. And, the talent we see in the ring today is nothing short of astounding! These groomers we watch and admire today are the old timers of tomorrow. They will look back and wonder where it all came from. I look forward to taking this journey with Shirlee into the history of our beloved grooming industry and answering some of those questions for these groomers and, to be honest, myself as well.

Obituary: ‘Dogfather’ Jerry Schinberg unleashed new era for grooming pros

by Maureen O’Donnell • Reprinted courtesy The Chicago Sun Times

For many pet groomers across the nation and around the globe, Jerry Schinberg was the “Dogfather.”

Back in 1973, when dog groomers were largely viewed as beauty school drop-outs, he started one of the first conventions for the trade, according to the book, “How to Start a Home-Based Pet Grooming Business.”

Over the next 40 years, the industry expanded into a billion-dollar-plus enterprise and his All American Grooming Show grew into the biggest in the Midwest and the longest-running grooming convention in the world.

Mr. Schinberg could be picked out by his big grin and the silly red, white and blue hats he wore at the “All American” event. “He made it fun,” said Todd Shelly, whose Barkleigh Productions bought the rights to the convention a few years ago. “You weren’t at the show with all of your competitors. You were there with your peers—people that shared the same passion.”

Attendees from as far away as Australia, Europe and Japan journey to the convention—held for decades in Rosemont, and now in Wheeling—to learn the latest in canine hair-cutting. They attend lectures on topics like “42 Reasons Why Teeth Brushing is Healthy for the Pet and Profitable for You” and “Why Are Those Ears so Bad?” Vendors sell everything from $15.99 blueberry facials to $1,000 scissors.

The wackiest part of the show is its finale, a “creative” grooming contest in which patient dogs are trimmed, sculpted and colored with vegetable dyes to resemble figures out of a Peter Max fantasy, from fishnetted Wild West “saloon girls” to U.S. Marine Corps mascots. In recent years, the contest expanded to include compliant cats.

Mr. Schinberg helped develop the grooming equivalent of the U.S. Olympic team, GroomTeam USA, composed of elite winners of multiple competitions. They go on to vie in international contests, a feat that can catapult careers, Shelly said. In 2013, the team brought home a gold medal from Barcelona.

Mr. Schinberg, 75, of Des Plaines, died Dec. 20 at ManorCare in Arlington Heights. He had battled diabetes, heart ailments and colon and pancreatic cancer.

Groomer to Groomer magazine called him “one of the most influential people in the history of the grooming industry.”

In 2011, he was honored with a lifetime achievement “Groomy,” an award from the New Jersey-based American Grooming Industry Foundation Trust.

“Jerry was a champion for groomer education and helping groomers become more professional,” said Linda Easton, president of the International Professional Groomers association. “His passing will leave a huge gap in the leadership of our profession.”

“People say they look up to me,” he once told groomertogroomer.com, “and all I can think is, ‘I’m just a plain old guy.’ ”

Born in Maywood, California, Mr. Schinberg grew up in Chicago and Skokie. He graduated from Von Steuben High School and learned pet grooming from a friend’s father. As a young man, he acted with the Encore theater troupe but decided to focus on the pet industry when he opened his shop, A Tondeur, a salon on Milwaukee Avenue in Niles. He even groomed cats—and rabbits.

He met Sally Schapiro on a ski trip. In a video on groomertogroomer.com, he recalled, “She said to me, ‘What do you do?’ and I said, ‘I’m a dog groomer.’ And she said, ‘a WHAT?’ ” They spent their first date working at a dog obedience show.

They wed in 1967. “Jerry wasn’t the life of the party—he was the party,” said a longtime friend, Holly Kahan. “He and Sally have been our theater dates, travel mates, card game partners, recipe testers, and on and on.”

He never had to resort to sedating dogs and cats to groom them, said his daughter, Denise.

“He was just so good with them. He was like an animal whisperer,” she said. “They had small muzzles if the dog was really out of hand.”

Though he loved dogs, Mr. Schinberg didn’t own any as an adult. “The reason why is my dad trained dogs; he did obedience and he boarded dogs at the house,” his daughter said. “We always had at least one dog at the house.” When clients took winter vacations, “We might have as many as 11 dogs in our big backyard.”

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Schinberg is survived by another daughter, Jill; a sister, Cheryl Mendelsohn, a brother, Herb, and one grandson. His services, which drew poodle-shaped flower arrangements, have been held.