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The Bright Future Of Cat Grooming - Groomer To Groomer Magazine - September 2015

The Face Of Rescue

The Face of Rescue           

One Saturday afternoon, a customer of vet tech, Justin Leeanders, was running errands. She was driving over a bridge when she noticed a towel that appeared to be moving. She turned around, parked her car, and went to see what it was. Inside the towel was a tiny, emaciated dog. Someone threw the dog over the bridge, into the river, to drown.

This was not to be!

The woman took the little dog to the animal hospital where Justin works. This picture was taken the day she was brought in. She weighed 2.14 pounds after she was shaved, due to matting.

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When Justin saw this little dog it was love at first sight. He always wanted a rescue yorkie — a match was made. He named her River. With tender loving care, she began to bounce back, gaining a little over a pound in two days. She gained three pounds in one week and her hair began to grow. River was thriving. Justin was over the moon with his new baby.

He took her everywhere.


Where ever she went everyone fell in love with her.


Don’t you just love a happy ending! River, from the river, found a forever home, in the arms of pet stylist Justin Leeanders.

Sandy Blackburn wound up in rescue after her son found a family of orphaned baby opossums in their backyard. Sandy contacted a friend, who is a wild life rehabilitator, for advice.


After falling in love with caring for these babies, Sandy found herself rehabbing a family of baby squirrels. She was hooked!


Then the fun began. Sandy realized this was her calling. She obtained a license in her state as a wildlife rehabilitator. She discovered a non-profit group called Baby Warm. They help rehabbers obtain an incubator to keep the babies warm, as this is a must-have for survival.

When Baby Warm opened a fund for Sandy on the Internet for donations to cover the $450 cost, groomers jumped on this cause and came to her rescue. Sandy had her incubator before she knew it! Sandy now rehabilitates squirrels, opossums, raccoons, and rabbits — just about anything.


Sandy also runs a Facebook page My Little Slice Of Heaven, where she states, “I run an orphanage for wild critters. I do everything in my power to save helpless animals because it’s a life.” The hardest part is losing a baby to the Rainbow Bridge. It’s heartbreaking because every creature she fosters is important to her. Sandy knows there will always be another that needs care.

A new trend that has grown over the years is incorporating rescue into a grooming competition. It all started with Rescue Rodeo at Atlanta Pet Fair in 2010. Now many shows are on board. The concept is brilliant. Producers couple with rescue organizations to bring dogs to the show to help increase their odds of being adopted.

Participants pay a registration fee and a drawing is held. It’s the luck of the draw as to who winds up on your grooming table. All are in desperate need of a bath and haircut. These shelter dogs are truly a classic “before and after.”

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The transformations can be amazing at the hands of a skilled and caring pet stylist. That’s the fun and challenge. Anything goes in the Rescue Rodeo! Lion trim, Asian styling, teddy bear face, lion cut … it’s up to you.  The creative juices flow.

The groomers have a blast! This has gotten so popular that as many as fifty pet stylists groom their fannies off to compete for first place. This is an important cause that is near and dear to everyone’s heart. Those new to competition grooming often jump in and compete for the experience, fun, and camaraderie. Many of the dogs find new homes at the show and go home with a new family. When animal lovers and pet stylists unite and put their heads together everyone wins.

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The best part … seeing a snoozing, adorable, adoptable pup on the shoulder of a pet stylist at the conclusion of Rescue Rodeo. Due to Nicole Kallish’s outstanding job, a groomer at the show adopted this little guy. Mission accomplished!

My grooming client Alex Goulet is very special. Losing her seventeen-year-old Border Collie Mix, Rafikki was a heart breaker. I saw Rafikki every six weeks for five years. She was adopted when Alex was in college and was by her side for her wedding and the birth of her three daughters. After Rafikki went to the Rainbow Bridge, Alex could not live without a four-legged friend. It just so happened she had a friend, Tara Nolan, founder of Tails Of Time Dog Rescue. With Tara’s help, Alex became the Mom to not one but two shelter dogs, Pepper and Winfield.


Her family was now complete.

Callie Krakauskas, a family member, got a Dogo Argentino fifteen years ago and fell in love with the breed. She is now the Mom to two rescue dogos, Aspen and Maddox. 


Callie has recently taken over the reigns at DC Dogo. This organization is dedicated to “Rescue and Rehabilitating Dogo Argentinos.” Now that Callie has taken this organization national, it’s growing and operates coast-to-coast, including Alaska. Callie states, “We have rehomed 65 dogs, 30 over the last 12 months.” The deaf male puppy Callie has recently fostered has found a loving home in Pennsylvania.

Pet stylists and animal lovers step up when they see a need, whether it be finding pets a forever home, opening their home to a rescue pet, running a rescue, helping animals heal, or returning them to the wild. There’s no better feeling then helping a four-legged creature “get back on his or her feet.” We are all lucky to have many options. Rescue comes in many shapes and sizes. When you love animals, it’s easy to give back and pay it forward, at the same time.

*Photo credits: Justin Leeanders, Sandy Blackburn, Nadia Bongelli, Nicole Kallish, Alex Goulet, and Callie Krakauskas


Ellen Ehrlich is a mobile pet stylist who loves to think, talk, read, and write about pet grooming. Next to grooming, Ellen loves to empower, motivate, and inspire other groomers to be the best they can be. For more information go to:



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