Loreen Higgins chose pet grooming as a career 26 years ago because she has always loved animals.
But her new business venture is as much about her love for the dogs she grooms as it is about her love for their human companions.
“I love working with the dogs and I have some fantastic customers,” Higgins said.
Higgins, and her daughter, Renee Baldwin, recently opened Doggie Designs Pet Grooming on Market Boulevard in downtown Chehalis. The pair have worked together at several local grooming locations and said they have felt welcomed and overwhelmed by the positive response to their business venture.
“We love being downtown and we love that we’re right down the street from Totally Pawsome,” Baldwin said, referring to the pet supply store just down Market Boulevard from their location.
Higgins started grooming dogs in 1993 when she lost a previous job. Animal grooming was already a field in which she had some knowledge and decided it might make a good career.
“I grew up in 4-H always grooming and caring for my animals and this seemed like a natural thing to do,” Higgins said of her career change 26 years ago.
Baldwin was 12 when her mother began grooming dogs and she started working alongside her as her bather. From ages 12 to 18 Baldwin worked with her mother and then pursued other careers, but returned to the work several years ago.
“I love the dogs,” Baldwin said of what brought her back. “You have to love dogs in order to do this job. We’ve always had animals my whole life and when I was a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian but I didn’t pursue it. Doing this, I get to help animals.”
Doggie designs has four groomers, all of whom have trained under Higgins. Dogs are bathed in one of two bathing sinks, which include walk-up ramps for larger dogs. Except in extreme cases, they use an all-natural flea shampoo. How often their furry clients visit is really up to their owners, Baldwin explained. Some pooches visit every week, while others only come a few times each year. Baldwin said some of the services they offer include what is called a “comfort groom” which is a short haircut that minimizes the owner’s need to brush and maintain their dog’s hair, to a de-shedding treatment, which loosens and removes the undercoat and can help even short-haired dogs shed less.
“In my opinion, grooming is about making it easier to co-exist with your pets,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin said the summer season is the busiest time for dog grooming so at least this time of year, appointments are necessary but she recommends all clients make appointments rather than walking in.
Groomers at Doggie Designs specialize in working with animals that have maladies or previous trauma that make grooming more difficult for them. Baldwin said fear among pet parents as well as their dogs is one of the biggest barriers to getting dogs groomed. She explained that Doggie Designs groomers are trained on how to talk in a soothing voice to help pooches through any fear. Owner-approved treats are also a helpful motivator for dogs who are learning the ropes of getting their locks shorn. Groomer Lisa Marie said another important thing for dog owners to consider is setting their pup up for success by finding a groomer they like and building a relationship with them over time.
“Your pets are your family. They’re your kids,” Marie said. “The more time they spend with a groomer the more they feel like they’re with family, and that helps.”
The pet salon’s space was even designed to alleviate fears for pets and their owners. At this time, the shop is built entirely on an open concept. Baldwin said they will eventually add a sound barrier to the back section of the shop to alleviate the loud noises from their blow dryers, but the front of the store where the grooming takes place will always be open so that owners can watch if they so choose.
“People are skeptical about going to the groomer because they’re worried something is going to happen to their dogs,” Baldwin said. “We’re happy to be out in the open.”
And the mother-daughter duo continues to upgrade their space to make a better experience for dogs and their parents. They recently installed a safety gate keep the roaming rovers from sneaking out the front door. A local builder is also helping them build stalls where freshly groomed canines can await their owners.