Six days a week, Jennifer Collings goes to what many people would claim as a dream job: pet grooming.
She and her 10-member staff see about 35 dogs daily Monday through Saturday at Shed, Bath and Beyond, along with a few cats each week. Each standard groom includes a full massage bath, nail trim, ear cleaning, anal gland expression, sanitary clip, hairstyle of the client’s choice and bandana and fragrance.
Teacup size doggies to Great Danes frequent the salon about every six to eight weeks, receiving what some clients’ may refer to as their “spa day.” However, each happy animal leaves Collings’ nearly 10-year-old business with more than a pampered experience. Their owners see the value in what a quality groom does for their kitty or pup, and what a trained and experienced groomer continually teaches them about caring for their pet.
Collings grew up on a farm in Princeton, Missouri, surrounded by all kinds of animals such as horses and cattle. She loved dogs, especially miniature Shelties like one of her families’ first named Snoopy.
Despite being an avid 4-H member in her youth, Collings pursued vocal music performance, obtaining a degree from a St. Louis university in the trade and working semi-professionally for a couple of years in the industry. In 2005, she came back to the Columbia area and decided to pursue a pre-vet curriculum.
She soon got a side job at a kennel in Columbia. The owner, a master groomer, offered Collings a pet grooming apprenticeship and she accepted. Even though she said her first experiences were “terrifying,” she gained confidence the more she practiced.
“People think, ‘You get to play with dogs; that is the coolest job ever.’ They are right; it is great. But you can’t tell people exactly what it is like,” she said. “You are dealing with an animal. It doesn’t speak English, it can’t tell you what it is feeling or if it is comfortable. You learn mannerisms of dogs and a lot of patience. … It took the full two years to really learn everything.
Even then, I didn’t feel 100 percent confident until about three or four years into grooming.”
Moving to the Jefferson City area after working a couple years at the kennel, Collings then groomed out of a veterinary clinic’s basement for three years until she established Shed, Bath and Beyond in 2009. In 2012, she moved her business from its original location to its current residence at 815 E. High.
Kathleen Schenewerk was a part-time employee who started with Collings and is now a pet groomer and still working with Shed, Bath and Beyond. Most of the ladies Collings trains stay on to work for the popular pet grooming business.
“When I first started off, it was really stressful and a lot of hours. It is nice to be able to take a breath because of our wonderful staff,” she said.
Collings and her staff still do not get to ease into their work duties at the start of the day. It is busy from the get-go.
Pets are dropped off between 7:30-9 a.m., with pickup times starting at 11 a.m. and staggering throughout the day. Collings arranges each client’s groom this way to have a guaranteed idea of what each dog or cat needs and time to complete those services fully and safely.
Additional services may be added such as the FURminator de-shed treatment, medicated baths for fleas, dry skin and allergies, blueberry facial to moisturize and help remove tear stains, “pawdicures” that help moisturize dry, cracked pads and more. Then, it is time to fill up the bathtubs for the canines.
“We have three bathers here in the morning, and we bathe all the dogs,” said Collings, noting they use organic, top-of-the-line shampoos that have no soaps or oils that will irritate or strip the skin. “We also use no-heat dryers and have climate control in all the rooms. It is super comfortable and very safe for them. It is their spa.”
The dogs are then groomed, adhering to standard American Kennel Club breed cuts and finished with each pet owner’s specification.
Collings learned many of these cuts during her training and now teaches her staff the same techniques and in following, “Notes from the Grooming Table,” which is a top resource that details grooming standards for different breeds. Even though there are grooming guidelines for AKC breeds, Collings said it is important to also look at what the owner can handle and maintain at home.
“How I would cut Sophie, an American Cocker Spaniel (she sees as a regular client), and an English Cocker Spaniel is different. … Then, you have long coated breeds like Shih Tzus or Maltese, and there is no specific standard for them. For example, Maltese don’t get cut; they are supposed to be full coated. So, I will tell clients you need to pick the length that works for you or find a length that is manageable for you at home,” she said.
Collings said often some designer and hybrid mixes, such as the Goldendoodle, don’t have a standard cut and not recognized as an AKC distinct breed. She and her staff get to know the dog’s coats
Grooming ‘Go-To’s’ To Use At Home and temperaments, which are different for each canine.
“Until the dog is full grown, we are not 100 percent sure what we are working with. We adapt – groom six to eight weeks at a time – the distance between grooms,” she said, noting dogs grow hair about a 1/2 inch a month, the same as humans.
Where dogs are washed, dried and groomed, cats are a “whole other ball of wax,” Collings said. She and her staff could let the dog have a time out if they are getting upset or anxious. However, cats are groomed first and then bathed in case they are not feeling completely relaxed at the salon.
“For cats, once they get upset, you are done. There is not a lot you can do at that point. You have to do what you can, as quickly as you can and as safely as you can,” she said. “Safety is our No. 1 priority here. We have eyes on all the animals at all times.”
Not only do four different staff members handle and watch the dogs throughout the day, they also feel everything on them. From giving a massage bath to running clippers and hands through their coats while grooming, Collings and her staff can feel anything raised or abnormal. In fact, one dog came in six weeks after her previous grooming session, and a lump had popped up on the back of her neck, turning out to be cancerous once tested.
“Luckily, they were able to catch it early enough, and the dog will be fine,” she said, noting each dog is sent home with a report card about its visit that also provides any health concerns. Pet owners also receive a phone call with serious issues. “In six weeks, something can happen as opposed to seeing a vet once a year. Grooming is so important. Even if you bring your pet in for a bath, we are still going to see and feel things to help be that health check for them.”
Collings practices what she preaches, taking avid care of her 8-year-old dog Mattie Sue, her cat Pickles and a new Golden Retriever puppy, Pumpkin, she got for her 6-year-old daughter Olivia.
She also hopes to expand her education and services once Shed, Bath and Beyond moves into a newly constructed facility, which is tentatively set to open in October. Its design provides a more functional layout and added amenities, including space to kennel pets.
Knowing second generations of families see the care their pets have after visiting Shed, Bath and Beyond, they are equally excited to see Collings’ business and services continue to grow in the community.
“The clients, the gratitude and the families that keep returning get to you. I can’t tell you how many people panicked when I put the ‘For Sale’ sign out in the yard. ‘You are not closing, are you?’ ‘We will follow you anywhere!’ I love them,” she said. “We realize we have something special here with our staff and our clients. We are very blessed.”
For more information about Shed, Bath and Beyond, visit call 573-632-4DOG or visit ShedBathAndBeyond.com.