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March 2016

Why Can't Our Pets Live Forever

When I stare into the cloudy eyes of my elderly poodle Jesse, I often wonder—why can’t our pets live forever? This old timer no longer hears the garage door open or his name being called. He sleeps more, eats less, and moves slower. His chocolate brown coat has thinned and is sprinkled with white. At fourteen, Jesse is a senior citizen.


I worry when I think about the future. Many owners of geriatric pets do. I can’t imagine life without Jesse and yet I know I must face reality. The sad fact is we outlive our pets. It doesn’t matter how long they have been a part of our family and our lives. Love and bonding does not have a time frame set in stone.

Jesse recently had a health scare that forced our family to discuss the inevitable, trying to come to grips with what the future holds for our elderly pet. Just thinking about life without our dog makes my heart skip a beat. He changed my life.

This is what pets do; they are a source of comfort, friendship, inspiration, and unconditional love. It’s not “just a dog” or “just a cat”, by any means. Losing a beloved pet is losing a treasured family member and something every owner must face.

Many people go through the grieving process when they lose a pet. The process is similar to losing a family member or friend. It occurs in stages: denial, anger, guilt, depression, acceptance, and resolution.

Grief depends on the role the pet played in your life. Perhaps it was your childhood pet or a rescue situation. If it was a working dog, that person might not only be grieving the loss of a best friend, but also the loss of independence. For many that live alone, including seniors, their pet was a source of companionship. If you cared for your pet through a protracted illness, you likely grew to love him/her even more.

As I thought about the grieving process, I asked this question on the Facebook group Grooming Smarter “How has losing a beloved pet affected you?”

Losing her own dog resulted in Christa Kanellis becoming a groomer. She used every bit of love she felt for the dog she lost and put it towards other people’s dogs. Heidi Bulmer said, “My whole routine changed when I lost my dog at seventeen. Now, when I groom the senior dogs, I am more delicate and compassionate. I am more patient with their owners.”

Here are some suggestions if you have lost a pet:

  1. Try to find new meaning and joy in your own life.
  2. Stay connected with friends.
  3. Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel.
  4. Reach out to others who have lost pets.
  5. Take care of yourself, emotionally and physically.
  6. Maintain your normal routine, especially if you have other pets.
  7. Create a legacy.
  8. Seek professional help if you need it.

You are not alone. Find fellow animal lovers, family members, and friends that understand what you are going through. Ask your veterinarian or local shelter if they can recommend a local pet loss counselor or support group. There are message boards, chat rooms, pet loss hotlines, and pet loss Bereavement Support Groups on the Internet. Reach out.

There is a special book called For Every Dog An Angel, by Christine Davis. Christine loses her forever dog, Martha, unexpectedly. When Christine wrote her story, she found peace knowing Martha was happy and watching over her. She began healing. Martha let Christine know it’s okay to find another dog to share the love she has to offer.

There is no timetable for mourning a loss. A bereaved owner knows no other creature will replace the pet they lost. However, when the time is right, the warm eyes of a new four-legged friend may capture a heart again. 

Ellen Ehrlich is a mobile pet stylist who loves to think, talk, read, and write about pet grooming. Next to grooming, she loves to empower, motivate, and inspire other groomers to be the best they can be. Ellen is the author of The Successful Pet Groomer, Go Mobile And Succeed, and 49 Essays on Pet Grooming. For more information, go

Charging Hourly

One of the biggest challenges in running a grooming business is giving a phone estimate. Even though the customer was interviewed about the previous groom, breed, weight, coat condition, health, and temperament of the pet, it’s still difficult. Answers can be open to interpretation. There are unknowns. Does Miss Kitty like her face washed? Is Fluffy matted? Is Coco cooperative for nail trims?

Some pet owners do not know the answers to our questions. They have been brushing their pet but not doing it effectively or using the proper tools. They may be taking a wild guess on what the pet weighs. Mom and Dad can be unaware Rover is crabby at the salon because the previous groomer withheld this information, afraid they might not bring the dog back. Some owners do not realize the dog or cat has health issues, fleas, ticks, skin problems, ear issues, etc. I have come across pet owners who stretch the truth when making a grooming appointment, even fib.

I was unpleasantly surprised back in the early days of my mobile grooming business when I knocked on the front door of a new customer. Here I was, expecting a friendly border collie around forty pounds, when I gazed upon a molting German Shepard mix that was an easy sixty pounds plus. When I brought him into the grooming van he growled.

I realized he would require two baths, two desheds, and additional handling. A pet of this size and temperament could add thirty minutes to an hour. The estimate I gave the new client flew out the window. I didn’t ask enough questions. I underestimated.

From my experience, a large percentage of the dog’s I see for the first time are overdue for professional grooming. The result is more labor and cleanup; more hair to wash, dry, brush, comb, demat, deshed, clip, and scissor. To make grooming a positive and safe one, this process cannot be rushed. The pet may need additional time if they have health or behavior issues. The groomer may have to factor in more time if the pet goes “potty” and requires another round of bathing and drying. Judi Stratton agrees,” Usually the first appointment takes the longest just to learn the personality of the pet and do the job correctly.”

Charging by the hour is gaining momentum in the grooming industry. I’m all in favor. Charging hourly ensures the pet stylist will be paid fairly for their work, whether it is a first time client, a pet overdue for grooming, a pet with issues, or a specialized trim. Many times pet stylists are underpaid for their hard work by giving a price or range.

What do we say when a client with a new or overdue pet asks the familiar question, “How much?” A good place to start is giving a price based on a similar pet and trim groomed at your hourly rate on a maintenance schedule. Don’t give a range. You could be shooting yourself in the foot. Be careful —don’t fall into the Breed Trap when giving an estimate. All breeds are not created equal. The photo of the two shih tzu’s side by side is the classic example of why charging by the breed does not work out financially for the pet stylist.


Saul Henebery from K9 King Dog Grooming spent two hours grooming this rough collie. Saul stated, “I see this dog a few times a year. If I saw him regularly, it would take half the time.” This is why charging hourly is so important. A pet that is not groomed on a maintenance schedule takes more time then a pet that is groomed every six weeks or less.

ChargingHourlySoulman Henebery‎1     ChargingHourlySoulman Henebery‎

Every pet owner has the right and should ask for an estimate when making a grooming appointment. That being said, the pet groomer does not have a crystal ball. They do not know how long the groom is going to take, especially for large, coated dogs. They can only make an educated guess. Let your customers know that after grooming, if they keep the pet on a maintenance schedule the groom fee will be less. Everyone wins! Let this be your Mantra — Charge Hourly.

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 their best. Ellen is the author of The Successful Pet Groomer, Go Mobile And Succeed, and 49 Essays On Pet Grooming. For more information go to: