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Category: Tips & Tricks

An Intro to Self-Care for Pet Professionals

Grooming is a physically demanding career. Between lifting large dogs, standing all day, and the repetitive motions that come with brushing and shearing, you can quickly find yourself in a world of pain. Groomer Déja Pearson, from True Vibes Unleashed says that you can avoid pain in the body with yoga and has even set up her own business to combine all of her passions of grooming and yoga. Follow us on this journey of self-care and self-love for groomers.

Please introduce yourself and how you came into the grooming industry.

My name is Déja Pearson and I am a Dog Groomer, Yoga Teacher, and Reiki Practitioner. I am the owner of True Vibes Unleashed where I groom dogs and teach yoga to pet professionals online via YouTube and Instagram videos. I am 29 years old and a mommy to three dogs: True, a cuddly and loyal Border Collie mix; Que, an extroverted and brave Miniature Schnauzer; and Darla, a blind yet shockingly graceful Shih-Tzu. My love for grooming dogs was seeded in the summer of 2006 when I was 15 years old. My friend and I asked his grandmother to let us take her Chow Chow to my house so I could brush him. We sat with him on my second-floor balcony in East Cleveland, Ohio as I coaxed out tons of fluffy golden undercoat. Every day in the summer I would admire my work as he sat proudly on his porch like the Japanese Hachiko statue. This experience was the first time I became curious about becoming a dog groomer, but I chose to go to college for digital art instead.

 

In 2009 I enrolled at Kent State University with majors in Visual Communication Design and Electronic Media Production. I wanted to create videos and design websites. Three semesters in I realized college wasn’t for me. I came back home and got a job as a cashier at Whole Foods until I figured out what I wanted to do next. This is where I began developing a healthy relationship with food and overall wellness. After a year and a half with the company, I picked up a second job to save up enough money to move. After all this time, I still didn't know what I wanted to pursue. With no higher goals, more working hours, and less sleep I became very unhappy and unfulfilled inside. My work performance plummeted and I was let go from both jobs. That was when I became sick of working just to make a paycheck and began to develop a passion. I wrote a list of everything that makes me genuinely happy and compared each item to see which made me happiest and the word “dogs” came out on top.

I began calling every dog business in town. I would have taken any position just to be around them. I landed a job at a luxury pet hotel as a kennel attendant. As I’d carry blankets from one section of the expansive hotel to the next, I took the time to peek into the grooming salon. I loved watching how the groomers would hold the dog still and talk to them as they scissored around the pup's head and feet. I would squeal with delight when I saw a small dog prancing out of the door with a bow on top of her head. I put a bug in my manager’s ear to let me work in the salon bathing the dogs that would be picked up that day. From the moment I placed my fingertips in soapy fur I fell in love and never looked back. I enrolled in grooming school with Animal Behavior College. I could have completed my hands-on training where I was already employed, but I wanted to expand my horizons and see if other groomers did anything differently in another salon. ABC sent me to a small shop located about thirty minutes outside of the city on the grounds of a kennel and pet memorial park. After I got over my initial reservations of working on land that provided cremation and burial services for pets, I was able to see how the passing of a pet can be a beautiful experience and the perfect way to appreciate the life they lived. The land is gorgeously adorned with flowers and trees. A creek passes alongside the grooming salon and various nature trails are easily within reach.

I completed my hands-on training under a very skilled groomer of 20 years and earned enough hours to graduate. Neither of us felt I was ready to groom on my own yet, so she offered me a full-time position as her grooming assistant. On my off days I would make house calls to practice doing full grooms on my own. A year later, in 2014, I began working for myself at the same salon and I am still there to this day.

What has been the best part of grooming for you?

It’s the entire experience of transforming a dog! It’s extremely satisfying to me to watch dirty water escape down the drain or fluffy undercoat being peeled away with a force dryer to reveal a smooth and shiny coat. I love the fact that I now have so many friends that are dogs and my relationship with them involves helping them feel their best.

What has been your most negative grooming experience?

The worst part of grooming was getting home and feeling the aftermath in my body. As a groomer I spent most of the day moving my body and supporting the weight of my animal friends. I commonly groomed dogs over 75 pounds, so the added weight and resistance of these dogs certainly contributed to my back pain. I understood why some groomers only accept dogs up to 40lbs. The repetitive motions of scrubbing, brushing, combing, and scissoring wreaked havoc on my shoulder blades and wrists. The days I did in-home grooming involved carrying my table and heavy equipment into a home and sometimes up and down stairs. Sometimes I’d have to wash a dog in the bathtub, so I was on my knees and bent over awkwardly in order to reach every part of the dog’s body. I was always tired, weak, and hurting, but the love of the job kept me coming back.

 

Please explain how you came up with the idea of yoga for pet professionals

I tried to deal with the pain by getting regular massages, but I didn't get much relief. I found a private massage therapist who practiced foot reflexology, light therapy, aromatherapy, and acupressure. All of these modalities working together provided the most relief I had felt since I started grooming, but it was very costly, and the results didn’t last long. After about 3 months of regular visits, she suggested that I quit grooming because it was doing too much damage to my body. I was only 25 years old and I was heartbroken that I might have to give up something that makes me this happy so soon. On the other hand, I didn’t want to develop back problems and wrist issues before I turned 30 years old. For the next few months, I weighed my options. Do I keep grooming and deal with this pain that is becoming increasingly unbearable? Do I find another job to save my body? Could I really see myself grooming for the rest of my life if I already feel like this after three years? 

A friend introduced me to yoga, and I blew it off many times. I thought it was nothing more than sitting on a yoga mat and doing light stretches. It reminded me of when I’d lackadaisically stretch before basketball practice in high school. One day, I was sitting on my couch in tears because the back of my legs hurt on a level they never had before. My friend led me to the middle of the room and said, “Go ahead, get in child’s pose.” I reluctantly and very much so like a defeated toddler got into Child’s Pose. I sat on my heels, rested my torso over my thighs, and let my forehead touch the ground. He then said “melt,” and walked off into another room. The world faded away; I was taken inside my body. I felt my muscles relax and release. Each breath became deeper and a calm washed over me. I have no idea how long I was there, but I was transformed when I finally lifted up and opened my eyes.

The next day I noticed I wasn’t in nearly as much pain as I was used to feeling. I downloaded an app called Yoga Studio and practiced with it almost every day. I wasn’t sure if I was doing the poses right, so I began to go to classes. Once I found a studio I liked, I went a few times a week. What I loved most about being in the presence of a good yoga teacher was how he or she used their words with music to send the class on a journey of self-discovery. The first change I noticed after a few weeks of regular classes was that I wasn’t running into the corners of walls. I noticed when I tripped over something, my hips were so loose that they’d automatically correct themselves and keep me upright. I used to accidentally break equipment all the time but now I was much more graceful. I got stronger and grew confidence. I woke up one morning and didn’t feel a hint of pain anywhere in my body. I felt long, strong, happy, and confident. Through yoga, I developed a deep sense of self-love, compassion, patience, and awareness. In yoga classes I learned how to breathe consciously to energize my muscles, focus, and calm my mind. I took those lessons with me to the salon and when I experienced what a difference these principles made in my grooming career, I knew I wanted to share it with other groomers and people who work with animals in general.

We are occupational athletes! When we are taught to groom, we spend hours focusing on topics like effective bathing and scissoring techniques, how to execute standard breed trims, and how to clip or Dremel nails. I noticed the industry lacks the extensive physical education I feel we need to have a higher quality career. We have many tools in the industry like ergonomic equipment, rubber flooring, and comfy shoes, but many of us don’t learn how to warm up our bodies before a day of movement, how to consciously move our bodies during work, or how to revive and strengthen our muscles at the end of the day. This is even more so true for those who are self-taught or learned on the job. I enrolled in an 8-month Yoga Teacher Training Program with Awake to My Soul so that I could safely teach yoga and spread the benefits to the industry. I combined my love for grooming, yoga, reiki, digital art, writing and video production to create True Vibes Unleashed. I want to help you free your body so you can do what you love!

What would you like to say or would like pet professionals to know about striving for a healthier lifestyle? 

I would say the most important step is to develop self-love. Love yourself exactly for who you are today regardless of your weight, what your hair looks like, or how you feel in the moment. Self-love helps guide your decisions and helps you get back on track if you fall off. You only have one body to live in your entire life. You're in this body and in your mind all the time even when you sleep. You'll be with yourself through decades, life changes, wins and losses, and when friendships or loves to begin and end. It's never too late to develop real love and compassion for yourself. When you have a healthy relationship with yourself, your thoughts become your biggest cheerleader when you want to make positive changes in your life.

Ways You Can Develop Self-Love:

1.Look into your own eyes in the mirror and say out loud, “I Love You.” Saying it aloud is important, it’s a truth teller. Did you feel happiness, or did it make you feel weird inside? Don’t dwell too much if you don’t feel a positive reaction. Just do it again tomorrow and every day until telling yourself “I love you” gives you waves of gratitude that you can feel throughout your body.

2. Think of your future self as a different person. Ask yourself, “What can I do right now that my future self would appreciate?” No matter how small the gesture is, be sure to give your past self some gratitude when you benefit from that gesture. 

3. Plan a vacation! In our industry, time can get away from us especially when we are booked more than 4 weeks out. Groomer burnout is a real thing and can be prevented by not only taking time off, but spending it doing something you truly enjoy either with yourself or those you love. Take this time to rest and get back to the other parts of who you are. Many of us were on a "forced vacation" during quarantine, but this type of time off may have caused stress and anxiety for business owners. If quarantine was the first time you've had time off, please consider taking a vacation on your own terms as soon as you're able to.

If you have shopped at Ryan’s Pet Supplies before, please include your favorite products (forgive us, we have to ask 😉 – we ask every interviewee!)

I have ordered many products from Ryan's in the past because of the huge inventory and fast shipping. My favorite product is my Paw Brothers Low-Low Electric Grooming Table! Love that it has a cubby for my phone and electric outlets on the side of the table. It makes grooming large and geriatric dogs much easier because of how low it can get to the ground. I also love my Tikima Mandarin Style Grooming Smock!


Thank you for reading our blog! We couldn’t be more grateful to Déja Pearson from True Vibes Unleashed for sharing her story with us and giving us an intro to self-love. She does an amazing job of combining all of her passions into one truly unique business. Our mission is to take care of people that take care of pets and that means your minds and bodies too! We are excited to provide a supportive community that is focused on lifting each other up and sharing our experiences. Groomers can be very hard on themselves, so we hope it inspires you to love yourself and love your body. Remember self-care is not selfish. 💜 You have to take time to take care of yourself so you can take care of others.

Follow Déja Pearson on Instagram or Youtube. Check out her website here.

Stay tuned for more self-care blogs. We believe taking care of yourself is truly important and that groomers need more resources to learn how to. We will be working with Amanda Fouche, aka @the_fit_groomer for an additional upcoming blog on self-care and there will be another blog with Déja Pearson with 3 Yoga Poses for Groomers.

Tell us on Facebook or Instagram about what blogs you’d like to see. If you’d like to share your story, please DM us. We are always looking to share uplifting groomer stories with our community.

Until next time, stay safe!