January 2016, was, to be perfectly honest, one of the most emotionally challenging years of my life. After suffering a period of mental ill-health, I made the bold decision to quit my full-time job in customer services. Having returned to work three times, and reducing my working-week, it still didn't feel like it was enough. I wanted to focus on my studies with The Open University, and spend my time with my dog Oscar, a fierce yet fabulous Patterdale Terrier. And for a while, it was working out. In between submitting assignments and writing up my final piece of coursework, I was job hunting, and volunteering with mental-health charities. On the day I sent my coursework to The Open University, my whole world fell apart. My long-term relationship ended abruptly, and my recovering health took a nose-dive again. In the space of six months, I lost everything that I loved and cherished.
I moved into my current abode in November 2016, and Oscar came to live with me. However, due to my ill-health, and the time that we had spent apart, Oscar was really unsettled and whilst I loved my dog to pieces, I had to make the heart-breaking decision to rehome him. I knew that my own journey towards recovery would be a lengthy one, and I also knew that it was unfair on Oscar to have someone who wasn't fully capable of looking after him. Oscar was adopted by his new forever family in December 2016, and has been with them ever since. In hindsight, I wish that he had gone temporarily to a foster family instead, but I felt at the time that having him adopted was the only option available to us both. Ultimately, you have to do what's right for your pet, however hard that may turn out to be. Over the years I have kept in contact with the kennels that found Oscar his new forever family, and they have given me updates and have sent me photographs too. Not a day goes by where I don't think about him in some way.
Yet, if it wasn't for Oscar, I wouldn't be here today, writing about becoming a Dog Groomer. He played an integral part in this particular journey. It didn't feel right for me to go out and get myself another dog, however, I still wanted to be in the company of canines. In 2017, my next-door neighbour took in a Shug (Shih Tzu Pug Cross), after his owner had passed away. I offered to check in on her four-legged friend whilst she was at work, and if he needed walking, then I was happy to take him around our local park. And my neighbour happily obliged.
I had put my studies with The Open University on hold, however, in 2017, I took myself to college to refresh my I.T. skills. During my time there, I was thinking about a new career for myself. I had read a newspaper article about a former I.T. worker in London, upon being made redundant, he became a dog-walker and was making a pretty profit out of it. Firstly, I considered this, yet, my anxieties would prevent me from doing this successfully. It was one thing walking my neighbour's dog around the park, it was another thing entirely to walk four dogs at once. I researched what I would have to do to become a dog groomer; and I looked at several websites that were specifically for mobile dog grooming franchises. But, alas, I couldn't drive.
Having completed and passed my I.T. course, I was to visit family in New Zealand over the summer holidays. Whilst there, I found myself being naturally drawn to having conversations with dog owners at cafes in Browns Bay and Mairangi Bay, Auckland. But, it was spending time with my cousin's dogs in Christchurch, that helped to make the decision for me. And, on my 39th birthday, whilst dining with my family in a Thai restaurant, I told them of my new career move. And, my aim, for my 40th birthday, was to have completed my first qualification.
I resumed my studies with The Open University in October 2017, and I was content being back on the study-wagon. I was also in a new relationship, albeit, long-distance. I had made appointments to see a careers advisor in my hometown, and they gave me the relevant information that I needed for becoming a dog groomer. In January 2018, I attended my local Chamber of Commerce, and completed a three-day workshop 'Digital Marketing for Beginners'. A few weeks later, I had enrolled on an SFEDI accredited 7-day workshop in Understanding Enterprise. This course was aimed at those who wished to start up their own business with the view of going self-employed. My financial circumstances also meant that I would get my own business mentor, with 12 hours free business advice, including a business plan to complete.
After my return from New Zealand, I had joined Slimming World. It transpired that my Slimming World Consultant, was also a part-time dog groomer. I could not believe my luck, as I hadn't met any other dog groomers before. One evening, I asked her advice on where to train and whether to go for a recognised qualification. She recommended the latter. And a month or so later, she sent me a link to the training provider where she had studied and qualified as a dog groomer. In May 2018, I enrolled for my first qualification whilst in the midst of revising for my Open University exam; and I also became a volunteer dog walker for a local animal rescue shelter. I successfully completed my City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate for Dog Grooming Assistants, and ProTrainings.eu Canine First Aid in time for my big 40 and had secured myself a volunteer placement as a dog grooming assistant in a local dog grooming salon.
And, yet, this is only half of my journey, as it's continuous. I completed my OCN Level 3 Diploma in Dog Grooming in August 2019, and I feel that life has come around full-circle since January 2016. The moral of this personal account? Never to give up in the face of adversity and everything that life throws at you, as there are better days ahead.
To be a Dog Groomer requires empathy, resilience, patience; physical and mental stamina. And a nothing but an abundance for, in Paul O'Grady's words: 'The Love of Dogs'.