Buzz, snip, readjust, wash, readjust, splash, dry, readjust, clip, readjust, br--readjust, brush, repeat; the everyday not-so-simple task of a dog groomer.
Gwen Lohens, owner of Auntie Gwen's Pet Grooming in Liverpool, is one of those groomers. Her job is to take care of the dogs, “make sure they're clean and tidy, clip their toenails, get their ears done, get their anal glands, done pretty much what people don't want to do themselves.”
Although she only came to Queens County last April, Gwen's pet grooming experience started long before then. Twenty-four years ago, to be exact.
Gwen says she doesn't really know why she wanted to be a groomer, but she did know one thing was for certain: her love for those canine companions.
"I always wanted to work with animals somehow. I've always had dogs, ever since I can remember," she says. "I went around and asked all the different groomers in the area, there wasn't too many at the time, if they would take me on to do an apprenticeship type thing."
Gwen did an apprenticeship in Bridgewater where she was living at the time, then went to Moncton for a two-day dog grooming training course.
"Of course they found the two worst dogs for me to groom, to see how I was going to be," says Gwen. "But I passed that and everything went good."
Since completing the course, Gwen has worked on her own. She began her grooming business as a mobile service, going from house to house, which she did for a number of years.
Gwen says she has always liked the Queens County area, so when it was time for a change she knew where she wanted to go.
"This is a nice town with nice people, and it was time for me to give up the truck," she says.
When she first opened her shop on Main Street, Gwen says she didn't like much. Every morning she was bombarded with multiple pooches, one after the other, instead of having them spaced throughout the day.
"It was like an assembly line," says Gwen. "Bath them, throw them in a towel, dry them, and keep going that way."
But things have changed for the better, both for Gwen and for the dogs.
"Now I just book one dog a time," she says. "It’s good. It's not so stressful for the dogs."
Gwen says her favourite part about her job is seeing the difference she makes in a dog's life. Just by grooming them to be comfortable, Gwen says she can notice a huge difference in the attitude of a dog.
"It's the best when you see them after they're all finished, they're all happy and dancing. I just like to see when they're all cleaned up and they feel better," she says. “Sometimes I get some that are really matted, it's nice to see how it changes them."
But there can be challenges. When she first began, Gwen didn’t know if she would be able to continue because of the hair. "By the end of the day it was everywhere, sticking into everything."
Gwen did eventually get used to the mass amounts of hair that stuck around after each dog, but she still finds a challenge in dogs that aren’t used to her.
"I usually get along pretty good with them, but you get some who will freak out, and you can't do anything about it," she says. "They usually get a lot better for me over time, when they get to know me and I get to know them."
Gwen says she finds she can get a lot further with the dogs by talking to them and comforting them, rather than trying to be rough and forceful.
"You can't do that too much or you won't get anywhere," she laughs. "But you've got to let them know you're not going to kill them or anything."
Gwen says she would like to grow the business a little more, including getting more grooming supplies she knows work really well, and possibly a customer self-bathing area.
"I would like to get another bathtub, so people can come in and do their own thing like bathe their own dogs," she says. "It's a little cheaper for them that way, if they do their own work."
When she can, Gwen volunteers her time with Queens SPCA. She is mostly helps with the fundraising aspect, but would like to get more involved when she has time.
“It's all about the dogs. All about the cats too,” she says. “Trying to make it better for them. Somebody's got to help them.”
And help them she does, but this is something Gwen has found goes both ways. Working with them over the years, Gwen says dogs have taught her life is too short to stress over the little things.
“There's no pretending with them. Whatever needs to be done they do it, it doesn't matter who's looking,” says Gwen. "The unconditional love thing is the best part about them. They may not like what I do to them, but most of them still like me afterwards. It's nice to see them after when they're happy."