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Category: Groomer Interviews

The Oily Groomer: How Holistic Pet Grooming Changed my Career

How I got into the pet industry:

I prefer to think I was always a part of the pet industry; I just didn’t accept it as my career for a long time. I was born into a show dog/cat family. From a young age, I had to help prep the dogs and cats my parents were actively exhibiting and assisted in keeping the animals that were out of the ring in tip-top condition. So, I like to say I was born with a brush in my hand. I was a working pet groomer for show people I knew and also pet owners that were referred to me. I loved working with the animals but never thought grooming was a “real” career, just a hobby that I loved. In the late 90s, I decided to make it my “real” job and took all I learned from the other previous careers I pursued and created a more natural holistic way of grooming. I incorporated my massage training, aromatherapy and, also my dog and cat rescue experiences into cultivating a grooming style that considers the animals’ perspective. I opened my own shop in the early 2000s and jumped in headfirst to my newfound holistic grooming style. I haven’t regretted that decision in the 20 years since officially calling myself a professional holistic pet groomer.

How did you discover holistic grooming?

I like to think of my evolving into a holistic pet groomer as a happy accident. A series of events that actually were synergistic in my growing and learning how I wanted to help the animals I was blessed to work with. I was working as a Licensed Massage Therapist for humans and taking classes for animals since I was always grooming as my “side hustle”. I knew the animals could benefit from the massage techniques, to help calm their grooming anxieties. Since I worked with both dogs and cats, I sought out massage instruction for both species. Then my middle child was born with severe allergies to almost everything she encountered. I had to delve deeper into products, ingredients, nutrition, and healthy alternatives to help my daughter. I took many classes, always including animal therapies in my studies since working with rescues I always had some physical/emotional issues to try and contend with. I began applying massage and aroma therapeutic methods into my grooming practices, eventually earning my masters in both animal massage and animal aromatherapy. When clients started to refer to me as The Oily Groomer, I knew this was the only way I wanted to work with the animals, taking their whole being into consideration, making them so much more than just a haircut.

Why do you choose to incorporate it into your grooming regimen?

Choosing to incorporate holistic practices in my grooming was kind of a passion project for me. I have always felt that if I was open to “listening” to what the animal is trying to tell me, I can do so much more to help, than just focusing in on the general aesthetic of a well-clipped coat. Once I decided that I was going to do things very differently than most pet groomers, I had to commit 100% to the betterment of the animals I was working with. There was no middle ground here, I had to consider them completely, body, mind, and spirit. I knew that their skin and coat were one the greatest indicators of their general health and well-being. Poor skin/coat means there is something negative systemically going on with the pet. I learned early on to work alongside some amazing local holistic and integrative veterinarians, who supported alternative therapies like massage, acupressure, and aromatherapy. As a pet groomer, we can never diagnose any animal. However, we are the first line of defense, since we see, feel, and interact with these pets on a more routine basis than the veterinarian does. In my practice I always take a complete health and wellness history of the pet I am working with for this very reason. I put together a comprehensive care plan for each pet that always includes their owner’s input as well as their veterinarian. Holistic pet grooming should always include as many other voices involved in the care and well-being of the pet. Rule number one in holistic pet grooming is we never do anything TO an animal when we set our intention to do what we can FOR the animal. Energy and intention are in everything that I do.

How does holistic grooming benefit the pets/owners/groomers?

Holistic pet grooming is so beneficial to all who take part in it. First off, the owners understand the ‘why’ we groom pets in this way. The owners take into account that their pet is being cared for in such an insightful way, that their pet’s perspective is considered at all times. This shouldn’t be a new concept for grooming, but it is, and I am thrilled to be ushering in this new wave of holistic pet grooming. Most grooming was done in a high-volume, fast paced, quantity-over-quality setting. Holistic grooming is very low volume, one on one sessions working intentionally with the pet, their owner, and not against them. Time is considered for the pets’ comfort level and not just how long it takes to complete a haircut service. A holistic groomer’s motto is always humanity over vanity.

Pet groomers who have adopted this more holistic philosophy towards their grooming style, have far fewer accidents and injuries occurring, suffer from less burnout, and see over time animals who were once difficult to work with become more compliant. All this is possible just by removing the stress/anxiety triggers and replacing it with positive intentions and more deliberate connections with the animals. We as holistic pet groomers have removed the stigma of working slowly, intentionally, and energetically with an animal and made those our main goals in our grooming practices.

Why do you prefer to teach holistic grooming?

Teaching holistic grooming has evolved greatly, especially since COVID took hold of our society a few years ago. With online options becoming the norm over the past few years, I have been blessed to have opportunities to reach so many more pet groomers hungry for a change. Teaching holistic pet grooming online has presented some challenges, but none that cannot be conquered with some ingenuity. We are a videocentric society today. Most groomers learn best by watching and listening, we are great at reproducing what we see. Online learning opened the door for many groomers to experience new ways to groom. Holistic pet grooming took a huge leap forward when we were able to teach these methods online. During the pandemic, the groomers had some downtime and dedicated a portion of it to their continuing education and the betterment of their craft. I am so humbled by the opportunities that have come my way via online learning. I currently teach for two different platforms at the moment. I teach at Mary Oquendo’s Pawsative Educational Training and I teach individual classes on a host of topics (business, wellness, holistic pet grooming, personal development, and more!) for the groomer always from a holistic mindful point of view. I also am lucky enough to teach alongside some of the best grooming educators in the industry through online summits that have topics that relate directly to the heart of the pet grooming community.

I also teach 3 different state-certified diploma courses for The Whole Pet Grooming Academy. This school is located in Beautiful New Hampshire, but they also have an amazing online learning experience for anyone who wants to learn holistic pet grooming techniques. These are level 100-400 courses, that issue a full state Master’s degree/diploma at the end of a course. The courses I teach are:

·        Canine Massage Therapy

·        Animal Aromatherapy

·        Holistic Feline Grooming

I am also the director of education for Twin Tails Cageless Grooming in Glendale Arizona. I physically teach holistic grooming to our academy students (AZ Pet Grooming Academy) Students who complete our 16-week hands-on and lecture-based curriculum are given a grooming position at the 3 different Twin Tails locations. We are currently working with the State of Arizona post-secondary education for our full licensure, to be considered a sate sanctioned trade school.

I have also taught at CAVIT Central Arizona Institute of Technology working with the veterinary assistant program, giving them insight into what holistic grooming is all about. I have taught all over the United States, including big expos and at little mom and pop shops. I don’t care where I teach, as long as I can bring my passion for holistic grooming to my community of groomers. I love being a holistic groomer, but mostly I love being a groomer, I can’t imagine my life any differently. Teaching is how I give back, how I can help empower more groomers, how I can inspire better practices and how I can stay active and relevant in the industry I love. Teaching is the most joyful activity to me, I want to see many many more groomers not just like me, but better than me, because when you know better you do better.

My advice to readers:

Never stop learning, it’s the only way to truly grow. Always make it #morethanahaircut

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