- Associated Press - Sunday, March 5, 2017

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - The fur flew, and the conversation was one-sided.

“You don’t want to keep licking because I might clip you,” said pet groomer Sylvie Schumacher, as she worked on Rusty the golden doodle at My Favorite Place in Dubuque.

Rusty wagged his tail and couldn’t help himself. Schumacher just worked around the licking. She said it takes 30 minutes to two hours to finish grooming a dog, based on its size.

“I have an Irish wolfhound that takes three hours,” she said. “That’s a big dog!”

According to market research, the industry is one of the few in the country to see consistently strong gains during the past 10 years. It has nearly doubled in size and keeps growing as pet owners seek luxury services for their animal companions.

“Everyone’s different. They have their own styles,” said Schumacher, 58, who runs the business with her twin sister, Lucie.

Another employee comes in on Saturdays to help with the 3,000-customer base.

“I have all of them in my phone,” Schumacher said, as she exhibited detailed bios and photos for several of the dogs. “It helps me book accordingly so that I book a big dog and then a small dog. We do about 15 dogs a day between the two of us.”

An online search brought up about 25 pet groomers in the tri-state area.

Jill Herman, of Littleport, Iowa, said her Guttenberg, Iowa, business, Pampered Pet Grooming, has a steady flow of customers.

“There are regulars who come in every six weeks,” she said. “I can stay busy. We treat them like they’re our own.”

The registered veterinary technician opened the store about four years ago. All groomings include a bath, nail trim, ear clean and a bow.

“I thought there was a need for it in the area,” said Herman, who used to run a veterinary clinic in Elkader.

Teri Olson, owner of Groomingdales in the Key West, Iowa, area, learned the trade 31 years ago from a friend. She then worked with two other groomers and has been self-employed since 1996.

“It’s kind of like an assembly line in here,” she said one day as she worked on a small Yorkie.

About eight other dogs waited in cages to either be groomed or picked up.

“Most clients make regular appointments,” said Olson, 55, who noted her customers come from Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. “I’ve groomed some from 16 weeks up until they’re 16 years old.”

The Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/2ljC7H3 ) reports that her daughter-in-law, Tasha Olson, has worked at the business for more than two years. They both agreed that some dogs are more challenging than others.

“They try to be the boss, but we always win,” Tasha said.

Teri has seen a lot of groomers come and go.

“Once (customers) find a groomer they like, they usually stay with them,” she said. “What we do is an art. It takes someone special to do this. You have to have a lot of compassion and a lot of patience.”

Sylvie Schumacher said people need to do some research before picking a groomer.

“They can find out from friends how the dogs are handled,” she said. “Get suggestions from word of mouth where the dog is well treated.”

Sarah Messner, of Darlington, Wis., opened a grooming business called Messy Mutts out of her house about four years ago.

“I love the extreme makeover of getting to transform a messy dog that stinks into a clean, cute pet that everyone wants to hold again,” she said, noting she has a couple hundred clients. “Some clients come in four, six, to eight weeks on average while some I might see two to four times a year.”

Messner grew up around animals on a dairy farm in the Wisconsin Dells area. Later, she worked in the Dells as a kennel hand at a boarding, day care and grooming salon, as well as in other Wisconsin communities in the grooming business.

“I have had a great opportunity to work with other groomers and vet staff along my journey to where I am,” said Messner, whose husband, Steve, helps bathe some dogs and “is also great at building, fixing and lifting when needed.”

“I have taken a class on coat carving, and this past Halloween transformed my black standard poodle into a zebra for fun,” she said.

She said her weakness is the business side “because I would rather just groom dogs all day.”

“But I think the saddest part of my job is hearing the news that one of my dogs I have gotten to know is sick, injured or even hearing of the loss of a pet.”


Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com

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