This is a favorite quote of mine, and it resonates deeply with my message of compassionate grooming. “You see, it’s the love with which you do things that radiates; it’s not the things that you do”~The Ra Material~The Law of One
There are a lot of murmurings right now in our industry over the Fear Free, Stress Free, New Age style grooming. Lots of different approaches, many different philosophies all to do what some of us have been doing for a very long time. But if you haven’t been grooming in this way, there is always time to make a positive change. When I first started out grooming, I always put Gentle, Holistic, Grooming on all my cards and marketing materials. People would always get hung up on those words together. Gentle? Holistic? How much skill does it really take to shave a dog? (I know you have been asked that question before.) Why would you want to point out you are intentionally gentle with the animals you groom? Holistic, what the what? I just want my pet clean and cute? So, you see I have been explaining my services long before these wonderful programs and buzz words started popping up and around the pet grooming industry. I was always the weird, different, granola groomer or my favorite nick name The Oily Groomer. I embraced compassion for the whole animal a long time ago and never looked back. Keeping a mindfulness about myself, my work and how I do my job has served me well, even though it was a rough crowd out there. I never turned away from my passion for compassionate care and therefore those that were searching for a different kind of grooming for their pets sought out my services. I am so delighted to see so many seasoned and new groomers looking for a more healing approach to their grooming philosophy. Taking a good look at growing in compassionate care is now the goal for many groomers out there. But how do I start? It is easier than you think….
Compassion, do we ever really think of our profession as a compassionate one? We as pet grooming professionals often lose sight of why we became pet groomers. Ask most pet groomers why they are in this profession and they will tell you many different reasons, but usually one reason is because they connected deeply at one time with a pet.
In the grand scheme of things, compassion should be our number one priority. We often get caught up in the daily grind of our lives and forget about the “why’s” in our business and focus only on the how. By doing this we cheat ourselves and those around us of our most prized possession Compassion.
Do you know the true meaning of compassion? It might be different than what you’ve heard before. It’s so much more than feelings of empathy or care. Based on the Latin roots of the word, the meaning of compassion is to “suffer with.”
Webster’s dictionary defines compassion as: Noun, a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Those are slightly misleading words, sympathy and sorrow and alleviate suffering. Not all the pets and people we see are suffering (that we know of), not all are stricken by misfortune. However, we can apply these related words as well to compassion’s definition:
mercy, empathy, tenderness, sorrow, benevolence, humanity, sympathy, kindness, grace, compunction, lenity, heart, yearning, clemency, softness, consideration, condolence, charity, commiseration, humaneness
Of all those related words, Humanity, humaneness, kindness, tenderness and heart stand out to me as a professional holistic pet groomer. I begin each workday the same way. I take a few minutes before I start my work to center myself. I push all the negative and draining thoughts from my mind and body. I meditate (focused prayer) on releasing all that energy to the universe and ask it to replace it with compassion and love. I ask to share it with the animals and people I encounter through out my day. I make a promise to myself that I will let go of any judgements to humans and animals. I give myself permission to let those negative emotions pass over and through me, allowing only patience and tolerance. Yes, it sounds great, but it’s not easy to stick to! I struggle daily to keep myself open to being nonjudgmental and compassionate. When you feel yourself losing that compassionate heart, or frustration is creeping in it is easy to re-set. Take a minute, yes 60 seconds, to step away, refocus your breathing, shake off what ever has you distracted from your connections and get your mind right so your body can follow the cues. Simple and easy to do for anyone, anywhere at any time. You just have to do it!
Pet Grooming is a very “it all has to be done” kind of job. This is self-imposed and also client expectations of us as professional pet groomers. We basically have one job to do (give a haircut) and there is a finite amount of time for us to complete each task for each pet. Customers expect us to have a can-do attitude when it comes to grooming their pet. They also expect us to be compassionate when caring for their animal. Sometimes customer expectations are realistic and sometimes they are not. We as pet groomers should have a strong desire to alleviate any suffering that animal may encounter while in our care. However, how much of your energy is actually focused on the animal and not just on the job at hand? When we compartmentalize the animals we encounter, we lose all energetic connections. We need to always keep in mind that compassion and focus on the actual living breathing being we are working with is imperative. Notice I said with, I didn’t use the term working on. We are working with these creatures and this is the 1st step in understanding compassion. Like the etymology of the word, we need to understand that we have to be ready to “suffer with” this animal as it goes through the routine of a grooming session. Now we never want to make anyone actually suffer but look at each thing you need to do to complete your job, with the point of view of the animal always in the forefront of your mind and actions. A grooming session can be loud, scary and set off a host of anxiety triggers to most pets. We need to understand that to a pet who is new or fearful, these sights, smells and energy vibrations can be a very frightening experience. Now imagine being whisked up and away from your owner, and doused in water and soap, scrubbed, and then put on a table while they blow warm air forcefully all over your body from a very loud machine. That’s only the beginning of the process. Now put yourself in those four paws, and think of how that, and the entire grooming process feels from that individual animals’ point of view. This is what I mean by “suffering with” that animal. Maybe we can change the word from suffering to sympathizing or having empathy for these pets that cross your hands and hearts daily. Closing off all else and connecting with them in in a complete way is compassionate, humane behavior. Treating the animals like the unique energetic individuals they are, instead of just an inanimate object you need to get through quickly and move on to the next. Isn’t it time you re-examine your grooming practices? Are you grooming in a high-volume way that does not allow for any type of compassionate interactions with the animals? Now is the time to shift your focus and your energy on why you groom, more than the actual “how” or the mechanics of it. High volume grooming is not a sustainable way for us as professionals to work. It takes it’s toll on our bodies, mind and spirt, as well as the pets we are trusted with. There are always going to be busy days, hectic days, chaotic days in our business, it’s how we handle them that matters to us and our four-legged customers.
How do we find, regain or discover our compassion?
As groomers we are faced daily with a wide variety of scenarios between humans and animals. How do you approach these situations? Do you let emotions, frustrations and external problems affect how you do your job? Are you able to separate yourself from all these “things” that affect all of us, and place your focus on what the animal is trying to tell you? By taking a little extra time during the grooming session, try and slow down, hone in on your natural ability to connect with the pet you have in front of you and just breathe, relax and be mindful of all the things you are asking this animal to do for you. If you can not spend any extra time with any pet while working, then possibly you need to approach your whole grooming system with a new compassionate set of eyes. Our goal in compassionate grooming is to never force anything, but with gentle loving kindness meet that animal where they are and know that sometimes it takes more than one grooming session to get the “job” done.
How do we get the job done, yet still maintain a balanced and tender approach to the pets and people?
Look at each pet individually, knowing and understanding that no two pets are alike. Begin to train your human customers to see grooming in a new way. We are never looking for perfection in a groom, but what is perfect for that animal at that time. Example: “Fluffy may be a little un-even, but she was really struggling with having her legs touched today, so we didn’t force her, and we did what we could as gently as possible. I noted her discomfort in her file, and the next groom we will try again. Thank you for understanding that this isn’t about a perfect haircut, it’s about treating your pet with kindness and listening to them”. Each day is different for us, and also for them. Just because they have a grooming session that day doesn’t mean it’s their perfect day to get groomed. We all have encountered the grumpy/anxious/naughty pet one appointment and the next time you see them they are in a better mood. We do what we can to help them, in that moment. Of course, you have to re-adjust your booking times and prices to reflect the additional time with each pet, but overall these are small changes to your business, with a much larger impact on your customers who truly are looking for that stress free compassionate grooming session for their pet. Working with both animals and humans, trust has to be the main ingredient in our business formula. If we can explain to our human customers, why we are doing things this way. In turn they will feel like they are actively choosing your compassionate grooming services over other grooming businesses who have a different philosophy. Once you understand the lesson every client is not for me, it stings less when a client tells you they aren’t interested in your “new style” of grooming. There is enough for everyone, and with the right marketing, education of yourself and the customers, you will draw in the people and pets that are looking for you. If you have an open mind and heart and are willing to do the work in a compassionate way, prosperity and positive will flow your way.
Here are a few ways to be more compassionate in your daily grooming routines:
Time is relative. Understanding that each animal will require a different amount of time, each time they are groomed. Not based solely on the haircut but based completely on that animals overall well being while in your care.
Re-evaluate how you book your grooming sessions and your price structure
Talk to each customer about the changes you are making with in your business and why.
Leave more space in between your appointment times. This allows you to slow down and not rush through your time with that pet.
Groom one pet at a time. Stay with that animal through the entire session. Remember building trust is what the whole grooming experience is about.
Give pets with special needs, extra attention, slow deliberate movements, keeping yourself calm and gentle always. Never groom while frustrated with an animal.
Keep some nice ambient music in your background or water sounds, chimes etc. Also have some soothing aromas, even just some nice clean fresh air will help keep your grooming space open to positive energy flowing.
Less pets in the grooming area. By not having kennels filled with barking frightened animals, this reduces the energy of fear and frustration in the grooming area.
When bathing, incorporate some gentle massage techniques, use a softer spray of water and wash faces with a washcloth to avoid getting product in the eyes.
Towel dry as much as you can, incorporating bunting or towel wrapping techniques to help keep the pet calm. These also work wonderfully for nail trims as well.
Utilize stand dryers, handheld dryers, fans and gentler drying speeds on the HV dryer.
Cover the ears with a Happy Hoodie or use cotton to muffle the noises during the drying time.
Keep the de-matting to a minimum. There is no “gentle” way to dematt a coat. Look at the animal with the owner present and come up with a “better” grooming schedule and style to avoid matted coats. Remember we are not judging; we are offering compassionate suggestions and solutions.
Take time for yourself. Step outside and stretch, get some sunlight. Eat through out your day to keep your energy up and your mind functioning at its peak. Keep some healthy snacks that you can grab and grub on while you are working.
When you feel the effects of energy draining, make sure you re-charge yourself. You can not serve anyone if you are broken.
Groom happy. Happiness is contagious, spread it everywhere. See the beauty in what an amazing career we have. We are blessed to work with animals and to learn from them. Be happy about making changes that will benefit you and the pets in your care for many years to come.