Time for a Change (aka Midlife Crisis Take 2)

Thomas Edison said of his initial attempts to invent the light bulb I have not failed. I have tried 10,000 things that won’t work.

I haven’t tried that many things, but the point is I haven’t given up the search for what will work and by “what will work” I mean what work I can do that will make me happy while helping to pay the bills.

I define joy by watching my dogs run after a ball in the sun. The flapping of their ears and tongues hanging out sideways is about my favorite sight in the world. My dog’s head resting on my legs when I sleep gives me comfort. Dogs are always in the moment. Granted they have questionable short term memory, so it is easier for them, but each ball chased, each antler chewed is the only ball or antler that matters. The one thing that is guaranteed to make me smile is a dog, any dog. Old dogs, puppies, big and little, they have always had a direct connection with my heart.

Two dogs running outdoors with tongues out

The question became how can I get paid to pet dogs all day? I didn’t consider grooming at first. I don’t know if it was fear of the less pleasant parts of the job or just that it just didn’t register, but ever since I have started considering it I have gotten more and more excited about the prospect. One of the first things I did was Google search YouTube videos of expressing canine anal glands. I know that is about the least pleasant thing a groomer is required to do. I proceeded to take a shot at dealing with my boy Goose’s issues and found that it was totally doable. I also spent a couple hours with my groomer. He let me wash two small dogs and brush a miniature golden doodle and chatted about his experiences as he took care of his customers. It was fun. I understand that this isn’t the equivalent to 40 hours a week; 52 weeks a year, but I liked it.

Brown dog with curly hair

I need to feel a sense of accomplishment in what I do for a living beyond a direct deposit twice a month. A clean, happy dog sounds like a tangible accomplishment that would satisfy beyond the almighty dollar. I have always enjoyed the gratification of a task that produces visible results; mowing a lawn or painting a room. The idea of seeing multiple happy dogs in any given day, in spite of those that might be less than pleased to be bathed, I think would enrich and happi-fy my life.

From a purely practical standpoint the pet care industry is an industry that has not suffered as a result of the recent economic environment. Pet grooming and boarding is expected to see annualized growth of over 5 percent per year for the next 4 years. $53 billion was spent on pets in 2012 and that number is expected to be close to $55 billion in 2013. As a groomer, one is an independent contractor of sorts earning half of each dog. One’s income depends on the number of dogs groomed and the length of time it takes to groom each dog. The average is about 6 dogs and our market generally starts their prices at $45 allowing for variables such as size of customer and length and condition of fur. Using those estimates one could expect to earn a gross income of $32,400. And that is as an employee not a shop owner.

We have visited one grooming school and intend to visit a second. The training takes approximately 500 hours, most of which is hands on. Grooming, as it turns out, is more than just baths and nail trims. There are a multitude of hairstyles specific to certain breeds to learn and scissoring skills to master, but I have always said I can be taught anything. My love and respect for animals is already there, I just need to know how to do the job.

I won’t lie. I am frightened. Change is always scary. But at the same time I am excited. I envision a little storefront of my very own in the future. I can literally see it in my mind. It will connect me to my community. I will have regular customers and my days will be filled with flying fur and wagging tails and I will be able to make an appropriate financial contribution to our household income. I want to be happy in my work because life is too short to spend that much time not being happy. I have been blessed in so many ways and maybe it is asking too much to ask for one more blessing, but I feel like it is a sin not to try and find my way. It is a crime not to make the most out of this life. I have the opportunity to take a chance on a dream, and by the way not that outlandish a dream – not trying to be an astronaut or a ballet dancer; I really want to make the most of it.

So here I go again: another career change and another school and another certification. After all this I will be the investment advisor, realtor, culinary artist and hair stylist to the dogs. It is a shame that dogs don’t need investment advice or real estate and that I never learned to prepare dog food at a Cordon Bleu school, but damn if I am not gonna make some pooches pretty while they make me smile.

Close-up dog's head