It never ceases to amaze me how many people think dog groomers are too stupid to do anything else. What they don't understand is the amount of education and practice it takes to properly groom pets. Pets aren't the only ones abused by people. Daily my staff and I are abused, as well. Here are a couple of stories that happened recently.
As with any business, we are a for profit company. I pay my employees very well with starting wages usually higher than most industrial businesses around Pendleton. We have a mortgage on our building, utilities, supplies, maintenance, payroll, insurance, repairs, taxes, and more. It takes roughly $40,000/month just to keep the facility up and running and employees paid. Grooming equipment is not cheap. A decent set of shears can range from $250 per pair to $1800 per pair. Clippers that don't break and die within 6 months start at around $349.99 per clipper. I routinely use 3 different clippers on each pet to achieve the quality we are known for. To date, I have not received a regular paycheck since opening in 2013. As we increase prices inflation increases and eats up anything leftover that I would normally pay myself.
I think one of the most painful things is when I have loved, bonded, and cared for a pet for many years, but then a new groomer sets up with cheaper pricing and the majority of my clients flock to the lower cost and have no regard for the amount of training and love I have poured into their pet over the years. They seem to forget you get what you pay for. They don't care their pet wasn't groomed with the same level of expertise, with products with full ingredient disclosures, never placed in cage dryers, and the pet was groomed for speed and not quality. While we understand some may truly need a lower cost, it is always painful they don't feel the need to speak to me first to see what I might be able to do to help them.
One of the clients that recently left for cheaper pricing has an extremely old shih-tzu with many, many medical conditions. I took the time to research the conditions so that I would know exactly what to look for, how to treat the skin/coat symptoms, and I would know what to look for to alert her owner to changes. This pet routinely came into me for over a year completely caked in a yellow, gooey, skin infection. This took extra time, it took advanced safety precautions to prevent injury to the skin, exacerbating the skin issue, and having to rip my clippers and blades apart to clean the gunk out of them and properly disinfect them. I never charged extra for the extra work. I did it for my love of the pet. It was more important to keep her hair short so the skin had access to oxygen than to not groom her at all. Had I charged for all of the extra work it would have been an extra $25-$50 each groom. At a monthly groom over the course of 18-24 months while the vet battled the skin condition, that could have been an extra $450-$900 when averaging 18 months that I would have loved to have for my family. But I knew the importance of this pet being regularly groomed and wanted to make it as affordable as possible for the customer. But all of that was mute as they left for cheaper pricing. It hurts, it really does. This pup was my friend, and I miss her dearly, yet I will probably never be able to see her again. We called the client to ask if she was ok since we hadn't seen her in awhile and was met with a mocking tone of how they now go to someone cheaper who does not have the training or background I do to really be able to help pets with her conditions. The customer even made comments chastising us as if we are doing something wrong by charging what we do.
Lets talk about cats. Cats can be dangerous. One bite can lead to sepsis within 12-24 hours. I actually know people who have lost fingers and arms due to the severe infection that set in after a cat bite. My doctor is on standby with a prescription for antibiotics every time I take a bite or scratch from a cat. They are painful. I once had a cat completely sever the webbing between two fingers on my left hand. It took weeks for it to knit back together and to this day I still experience pain and discomfort with those two fingers. Usually when doing cat nail trims, it is relatively quick and easy. However, it is still dangerous. Cats are temperamental. They can be good for one grooming session and a little devil the next. Recently, while doing a nail trim on two cats the owner went absolutely insane over the nail trim cost of $25 each. Our general manager tried to explain to her that we are not immune to inflation, and that in order to stay in business we had to raise prices. The pet owner did not settle down and continued to belittle me and my staff, even going to the point to yell, "It's not like what you do is hard!" Excuse me Karen?! You physically do not have the ability to trim your cats' nails, and you want to yell at us saying what we do isn't hard? Grooming is a brutal business. We don't do it to get rich. We do it for our love of the animals. I have been mule kicked by a standard poodle who managed to crack my sternum, I have a tear in a rotor cuff and my shoulder routinely dislocates which requires a chiropractor appointment or to live with the pain until I can afford to go. I will have to eventually have to have surgery due to an injury I sustained from a large doodle. Daily we have to pick hair slivers out of our skin. Sometimes they fester and get infected. Most recently was one that imbedded into my eyelid until it abscessed and flushed itself out. Talk about painful!
Be kind to your groomer because you don't know what they do behind the scenes for your pet, the amount of abuse they take from the owners, the amount of ridicule, the amount of being treated as too stupid to do anything else, the strain their bodies go through. There are many days I feel so beat down and belittled that I question the value of my life. Treat your groomers how your pet treats them. With love, compassion, and friendship. They do this for pure love of pets. Don't abandon them for cheaper prices, have the decency to talk with them and understand what you do differently, their level of training and expertise, and if you're having a difficult financial time, most groomers rather work with you than lose you and your pup as clients. We grieve every time a pet leaves us due to being lured away by cheaper prices.