I have the unique experience of having been a pet groomer for a good part of my life. Not too many writer-artists can say that, so it was a clear choice for the letter ‘g’ in my alphabetical posting.
I started in grooming during high school as an summer job. I bathed dogs. It was awesome. Later, after my first attempt at college and a few more degrees I never did anything with (including beauty school), I went to pet grooming school. Not just any school, but a well-respected one in the industry: Nash Academy.
Nash are the people you see judging competitions. Nash are the people who take the craft seriously. And, as much as I managed to screw up my 20s in lots of other ways, I’ll never regret my time at Nash. I loved the place. As a student there, you’re family. Covered in dog hair—but family.
In the years to follow, I groomed on and off. Even after getting my degree in graphic design, I groomed part-time. Poodle sculpting is an art. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. But grooming is tough on a body-there’s a lot of standing and arm strength involved, plus a good dose of carpal tunnel inducing scissor work—and my aging body now prefers a desk or an easel.
Which is fine. I come from a family of artists and writers and I was the black sheep who resisted the siren call the longest. Design and words are in my blood and it’s what I do now full-time, just like the rest of them.
In the last decade, my grooming speciality was cats. That’s not too common in the grooming world, as groomers are often very much dog people and cats kind of like to rip dog people to shreds, especially in shops filled with barking dogs. I had a special hand with cats and miss grooming them the most. I also miss telling the “I shave pussy for money” jokes.
Onward before this gets too long!
Grooming is a lot like being a freelance graphic designer.
You can have some seriously hairy projects. You can get bitten or have your arm humped (okay, maybe not literally in freelancing). You have to know a lot of formatting and design rules, whether it be for dog breed or publication. You’re always updating your equipment and sharpening your tools (good shears are expensive, no joke; so is a MacBook).
There are time crunches and deadlines and usually more work to get done in a day than minutes on your watch. Long hours are expected, but the money can be good (especially for a cage-bank of Persian cats or an e-commerce web site). Ridiculousness abounds, but there are tearful moments of job pride too.
What’s really cool and amazing about both being a groomer and being a graphic designer is that ooh factor you get when people ask you what you do for a living. And the chance to look forward to work every day, because no matter how weird things get at the shop/office—they’re always fun.