Giving Back: Groomers to the Rescue

by Daryl Conner

“They just seem to find me.” These six words were repeated to me over and over when I asked pet stylists why they were involved in animal rescue. Indeed, as I write this there is an elderly black pug tucked into a fuzzy blanket snoring on my desk. Her name is Poppy and she found me 12 years ago when fellow groomer Linda Laivins, who volunteered to groom pets at the animal shelter in Memphis, Tennessee, asked me to provide foster care for the two-pound, flea riddled waif until a forever home could be provided.

Linda Laivins

At the time I was actively involved in fostering kittens, but had a hard rule to never accept foster dogs. I broke the rule this one time and have been vacuuming up pug hair ever since. In my quarter of a century being active in the grooming industry, I’ve often been overwhelmed with admiration at the amount of rescue work provided for dogs and cats by groomers.

I have witnessed groomers take pets into their homes, spend hard earned money on food and veterinary bills, organize fund raisers for rescue organizations and donate untold hours of time to do everything from walk dogs, clean kennels and even leave their warm houses at any hour of the day or night to help capture lost or abandoned animals from the cold. There are unsung heroes in our industry, and that is something we should recognize and be proud of.

Sandy Blackburn

Sandy Blackburn, owner of the Groom Room Pet Spa in Attica, Indiana, started out small. “All my pets are rescues and they seem to find me when I’m not looking for any. There are so many pets out there that need a home and not enough good homes to go around.”

After years of taking in unwanted animals and finding homes for them, she began Sad Souls Pet Rescue in August of 2011. (www.sadsoulspetrescue.webs.com) Blackburn is currently applying for a 501c3 tax-exemption status for the organization and is finding that more challenging than pet care by far! She said, “As groomers many of us tend to go over and above for local pounds and rescues. I always have and I have placed many pets that were client surrenders. But opening up my own rescue has been a mission of love that I never thought would be as rewarding as it has been. We do fundraisers and accept donations, but the bottom line is that much of what we do comes out of our own pockets.”

Sarah Drouin

Stylist Sarah Drouin donates her time at the Delaware Humane Association. “I can remember when I was learning how to groom I used to think, ‘When I get good I want to volunteer at a shelter- I want to make the dogs look and feel great.” That is what she does now, showing that she is “good” in more than one sense of the word. “I don’t just automatically shave dogs down; I do a full service groom from start to finish, bath, blow dry, nails, ears and a haircut.

Of course, some pets have to be shaved because of the condition they are in, but I believe people are more apt to adopt a ‘cute’ pet. I want these dogs adopted out as quickly as possible. I’ll do anything I can to help; I upload some dogs on my business Facebook page, giving information about them and including a link to where they can be adopted. One little Bichon mix name Willy had been at the shelter a long time. A week after I fixed him up he was adopted out!”

What a wonderful feeling it is to see a dog that had been previously overlooked taken home after it is carefully groomed. Drouin continued “I love the dogs at the shelter. I don’t have money to donate but I have time and I love the reward I get- the reward being that my heart is filled with so much joy seeing the dogs act much different after they are groomed.” That is something all groomers have seen; the attitude change after a dog is clean and looking fabulous. That difference in demeanor and appearance is sometimes just enough to make a dog adoptable.

Coleen Zuber

For the last 14 years Coleen Zuber from Muddy Paws in the Guild, Ontario, Canada has donated her time at least once a month providing pedicures for Pugs. “As you know, Pugs getting their nails clipped is not one of their favorite things. We use a Dremel tool to buff their nails and donate $7 from each pet to Pug a Lug rescue.” (pugalug.com) One month Colleen helped to raise $500.00 for a Pug named Brian’s hip and leg surgery. It boggles the mind to think how many thousands of dollars this groomer has donated, working one claw at a time!

Tica Verret

Groomer and bow and pet accessory maker extraordinaire, Tica Verret, has a soft spot for Poodles.

“I love helping the rescue groups. I help them by donating my time and by grooming any poodle or poodle type dogs. I feel this is my way of honoring the poodle breed and giving them a helping hand to find a home. A few years ago I was called by an animal group that had found over 48 Standard Poodles in a warehouse in small crates. My family and I drove for 1½ hours to start shaving poodle after poodle to make them comfortable. Every dog found a home, and it was great to be a part of that rescue. I will never forget it!” Verret is one more example of a groomer who spends her time “off” with clipper and scissors in hand, donating time and talent, with a huge helping of love on the side.

Liz Czak

Liz Czak, owner of Yankee Clipper Pet Grooming and Supplies, LLC, opens her salon door to any dog or cat from the local shelters and she and her staff give them complimentary makeovers. She also offers free grooming to service dogs. “It is just my way of giving back, why would anyone not do this to help the animals?” Maybe it is just something that goes along with whatever it is that drives us to be groomers in the first place.

Leigh Anne Izzo

Leigh Anne Izzo wrote me, “I have loved animals ever since I can remember. When I was a child I always had cats follow me home, so of course I would feed them, (and get yelled at) but that wouldn’t stop me! I just felt so badly for animals that lived on the street and never knew any love.” Over the years Izzo has rescued countless cats, paid for veterinary care and found homes for more than she can count, or had the truly wild ones altered and released them. “I still see them and feed them and they are happy as can be!”

Kathleen Sepulveda

Sometimes things in the realm of rescue get a little creative! Kathleen Sepulveda told me, “I have been involved with Japanese Chin rescue for the past 20 years, mainly in fundraising. I use creatively colored dogs at most fundraising events. After being approached by Animal Planet to do a unique story about the Japanese Chin on the TV show Dogs 101 I was able to turn a unique fashion show featuring Chins and Drag Queens into a fundraiser for the National Japanese Chin rescue. We raised $1,000.00 for the rescue group that night.” You can read more about this spectacular event at http://www.christinespetgrooming.com.

Lois Brown

It seems that the individual rescue stories become a blur to those who work to save animals. But Lois Brown remembered a specific tale: “Miracle. She was a Shar Pei that had been kept in a breeding kennel and didn’t really know what people were. It took me two months before I could get my hands on her without her running away or trying to bite because she felt cornered. Once she learned to trust me, she climbed up into my lap and become just the sweetest dog imaginable.” Brown continued, “Why do I continue doing rescue? I guess it is because the dogs on death row need an advocate. They cannot speak for themselves; many are just there due to unfortunate circumstances. I’ve placed many dogs over the years and when I hear the stories from those owners or they come back to me for another dog, it makes me feel like I’ve made a difference.”

I could only fit a fraction of the stories of good hearted groomers into this article; the input I received was heartwarming and overwhelming. Groomer and rescuer Jessica Uzzetta told me that she not only grooms rescue dogs for free but also provides a foster home while they are waiting to be placed. She includes the following signature line in her email: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” Mahatma Gandhi. If we are to judge the grooming industry by this standard I would have to say that we are greater than we give ourselves credit for; quietly, humbly making the world a kinder place one pet at a time.

It seems that the individual rescue stories become a blur to those who work to save animals. But Lois Brown remembered a specific tale: “Miracle. She was a Shar Pei that had been kept in a breeding kennel and didn’t really know what people were. It took me two months before I could get my hands on her without her running away or trying to bite because she felt cornered. Once she learned to trust me, she climbed up into my lap and become just the sweetest dog imaginable.” Brown continued, “Why do I continue doing rescue? I guess it is because the dogs on death row need an advocate. They cannot speak for themselves; many are just there due to unfortunate circumstances. I’ve placed many dogs over the yearsand when I hear the stories from those owners or they come back to me for another dog, it makes me feel like I’ve made a difference.”

Jessica Uzzetta

I could only fit a fraction of the stories of good hearted groomers into this article; the input I received was heartwarming and overwhelming. Groomer and rescuer Jessica Uzzetta told me that she not only grooms rescue dogs for free but also provides a foster home while they are waiting to be placed. She includes the following signature line in her email: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” Mahatma Gandhi. If we are to judge the grooming industry by this standard I would have to say that we greater than we give ourselves credit for; quietly, humbly making the world a kinder place one pet at a time.

Add Comment