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FAQ's - Why I became a Pet Stylist by Charmaine Bright

It was a toss up between Hairdressing for humans or dogs. As a child I liked platting and styling hair on any victim I could get my hands on or my Barbie doll and I instinctively loved animals. I would always bring the stray dog home and couldnít understand how adults could just drive by. I helped nurse many injured birds back to health and persuaded my parents to drive me to the vets with injured wildlife that came across my path. My family's dogs would come on holidays with us and we had cats, goldfish, hermit crabs, axolotyls and the neighborsí rabbits to contend with over the years.

One of my family dogs was Buffy, a poodle cross from Hornsby pound who we took to be groomed by Jenny Eade at Hornsby Heights. I had done work experience at a Hairdressing Salon and ended up volunteering time with Jenny to try out dog grooming. This is where I fell in love with Standard Poodles.

In 1998 I started my own grooming business I went with the thought of ďdo what you love and the money will followĒ. I havenít looked back and wouldnít have any other job. If I win lotto, Iíll be grooming at animal shelters instead.

 I imagine that grooming to me is like music to a dancer, itís an obsession, a passion. When grooming I am in my element, the world outside just doesnít exist. After grooming a dog several times you get to know them better and they become my furry friends. Truly, I have a friendship, a connection with them.  Thatís why IĎd like to know when they are unwell or if they have passed on to the rainbow bridge.

I take a lot of pride in making dogs look and feel wonderful. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing them go home prancing and giving full body wags knowing they are beautiful and loved. I love it when the dogs drag their owners into the salon and canít wait to say hello and be pampered. I see my role as trying to make the relationship between the owner and their dog better, by making then fall in love with them again by how they look and smell. Puppies make me melt I canít get enough of them Ėitís an addiction. Some owners are hard to please but I cherish the compliments of my groom, the unexpected gifts and cards of appreciation, the phone calls to thank me for informing that their dog needs to see the vet and the unexpected tips.

Yes there is the barking, noisy dryers, defecating, vomiting, putrid smells, pussy ears and wounds, fleas, ticks, caked on poop and eye sleep, ingrown nails, anal gland discharge. I get hair splintered in my skin, interwoven in my eyelashes, up my nose and down my throat. I get scratched, licked, sneezed on, threatened to be bitten, bitten, growled at, drooled on and drowned in soapy water all with a smile and all because of my love for animals.

I sometimes have to deal with a clientís, pushiness, ingratitude and negligence of their dogs. Some clients expect me to treat their dog well, as they are paying for a service but fail to treat me well. They underestimate how much skill, patience and compassion is required with this exhausting, physically hard job. I am a sensitive person and thatís why I can relate so well to sensitive and shy dogs but I have learned to toughen up to dealing with mean humans and I just focus on the dog. My salon mostly attracts the clientele that have a strong relationship with their dog and they expect it of us too.  Nothing could have prepared me for the neglect I have seen in the past 7 years, gangrenous cocker spaniel ears, a seedling growing in another dogsí ear, extremely flea infested coats and extremely felted coats that come off in one piece for example. At one stage I almost lost faith in the human race in how some dogs were treated. I donít know how animal welfare workers deal with it every day. Vet nursing wasnít for me either because of the surgery aspect.

Stray dogs still always seem to find me and I still try to reunite them with their owners. I canít help but pat every dog down to the skin checking for matting, I always have dog hair on my clothes, I live and breathe dogs and animals, my house is full of stuffed dogs, porcelain poodles. Most gifts I receive are dog or cat related. I miss my dogs deeply when Iím away from them. I canít walk past a pet shop ever! Iím always in the pet section of the book store. I know people by the dogs they have. Some people think Iím crazy, over the top and have unbalanced values towards animals. I say you have to be different to make a difference.

Grooming, itís a calling, it IS personal, it IS ME !

Charmaine Bright
Australian Certified Master Groomer

As printed in Dogs NSW Magazine August 2006


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