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Keeping Cool During Grooming Competitions

My name is Tristian Ranson and I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. It’s a funny thing how I became involved in this industry, grooming. I was trying to figure out the best way to pay off student loans. I consider myself to be so lucky because in my life’s journey I found something that I fell in love with, without even actually having to seek it out. I started out as many do at PetSmart as a bather and excelled to becoming a baby groomer. I’ve been grooming about 6 years or so.

However, I always tell people I’ve only been seriously grooming for about 3 years. The reason I say seriously is because after my first competition I really began to learn and understand the importance of grooming and all that is required to become an excellent groomer. This inspired me and I began to seek educational resources and opportunities from anywhere and everyone who would give me the information.

I often think about my first competition. As I was headed to the completion or a trade show, I was uncertain as to what to expect exactly, causing me to be a bit nervous; and is a clear reminder of how this all started. My friend Natalie and I made a pact to do our first competition together and we chose the Bichon. Many people thought we were crazy for choosing such a challenging breed, but our hearts were set on it and we were in love with the breed. So, we found a breeder that would let us volunteer with them. I know, at least for me, I thought I totally understood the breed, and little did I know it was just the beginning. I can’t remember whose idea it was to compete, but I always think to myself “thank you for encouraging me.” Had I not been blindly encouraged to compete I’m sure I would not be competing the way I do now without that first experience. Needless to say, I caught the bug.

Thinking about it now, I’ve competed 6 times and placed 3 times. I placed 3rd at Groom Expo West which was my first time placing. My next placement was at Silicon Valley Pet Event, where I took 1st place. My third placement was at San Diego Grooming Academy where I placed 2nd. I have learned so much from each competition and I’m so grateful for all the great judges who have given me a part of their personal knowledge, informing me of my errors and also let me know things I have done well. All in all, this has fueled my fire and desire to become an expert groomer.

My most unpleasant experience at a competition? This is a good question. I would have to say it was this year at Groom Expo West in 2020. My unpleasant experience had nothing to do with anyone but myself. I prepped my dog, Pascal, and I felt like I did the best prep in my entire life after completing my lesson with Gabriel Feitosa, who is my groomer idol. I just knew it was going to be my best competition ever, however I did not have the outcome I anticipated. Well I was late and had to take an alternate route to Pasadena through the mountains and my poor dog got car sick. I am normally quite controlled, but I totally freaked when I saw he was sick and had thrown up all over himself. I arrived at the competition and couldn’t shake those feelings of anxiety. I felt that if I would have been able to bring myself back to calm, I could have been able to perform better and enjoy the competition more. Looking back, there was so much positivity in that moment. My former coworkers rinsed off my dog and dried him quickly so that I would be able to start my competition. The Utsumi Company gave me a fluffing comb mid competition that saved me a good bit of time. And if I would have been able to get a hold on to those things sooner, I could have done so much better for my dog with everyone supporting me. Needless to say, this lesson has been learned.

My most positive experience was the same year 2020 but in Rescue Round-Up. First off, I was given a free entry the year before. “Thank you, Barkleigh.” I saw one of my peer’s pet was quite nervous and needed some help to calm down, so I took some time to assist them. I was able to leave my dog to go and help her calm him so she could finish his face and legs. This was positive for me because one of the reasons we all do rescue is to make a difference in the pet’s condition. We also hope to help get that pet placed with a permanent family. Yes, it’s a competition, but if we are competing with love and care, working towards the same goal win or not, the real positive experience and win is being present with each other and the dogs. It made me feel so happy to be able to assist someone and their dog which is something I will always do in any competition when I recognize the need.

Through my journey I’d like to recognize a few people who have really made a serious mark in my life as a groomer. Gabriel Feitosa, who as I’ve stated before is my groomer Idol. So many things I could say about his positive outlook and encouragement he has given, even at a distance. Myke Ross Of San Diego Grooming Academy who has relentlessly pushed me forward since the day he met me. He has given not only educational support that has helped me to grow but also business advice which is invaluable. This especially comes as a great support having a new business I recently purchased. I just celebrated my first year this month, as The Pet Spa at Laguna in Elk Grove, CA. I am grateful for Hydra Pet Society for being the first to pick me up as a PR person, this is something I have always wanted and it truly made me feel recognized by a product I love. Ivonne and Gabriel Rangel who have been everything to me in my journey of becoming a West Highland White Terrier Breeder. They also educated me on other ways of scissoring and grooming pets. And so many others and who have just been open with me or lead by example. I am grateful for all lessons and knowledge intentional or not. So, thank you to everyone that has been a part of my journey from start to date.

2020 has been such a transcendent year for me as a groomer there has been many successes as well as setbacks. One major obstacle has been the onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Due to this national emergency, business has been slower than I desire, however, this time has been significant and has allowed me to focus on building my business, renovating my salon and finding new, safer ways to serve my customers. Another major challenge has been finding good contractors that are honest, consistent, and believe in the vision of my business. Building a grooming salon definitely doesn’t come with a manual but I always remember there is a lesson to learn in all experiences which encourages me to keep going and moving forward in new business ventures. In light of new ventures, I have been missing the world of competition and have been very intrigued by the idea of competing virtually. Although I haven't signed up for a virtual competition just yet, keep your eyes open, I may just compete! I am also still very excited about 2021, the second I get the green light that other shows will be open, I will be there. So, look for me and if we haven’t met, I’d love to chat!

Competing has been an amazing part of my life and for someone who is considering it I would just say, go into it with an open heart. Do not place any expectations on yourself and focus on what you know. Do your best and certainly the rest will come to you. As a groomer who loves this industry - the people and the dogs, my mantra is always “If we start everything we do with love, win or lose and everything in between, you will come out on top. It’s all about perspective and if you rest on the positive, in the end once all is said and done, you have won in some way shape or form.”

At Ryan’s Pet Supplies, we are CONSTANTLY amazed and inspired by the wonderful groomers we have the privilege of interacting with. Not only is Tristian a wonderful groomer, but reading his experiences with competing, we felt like we were actually there. It’s true that groomers not only do it for the “glory” but also for the love of the dogs. Thank you, Tristian, for sharing your story with us and encouraging groomers to continue learning by competing and attending trade shows.

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Stay tuned for our blog next week: “Dealing with the Loss of a Pet”