From shaggy to chic: dog grooming on MV is a labor of love.


It’s almost closing time for Rose Walsh of Oh My Dog MV — she’s covered in fur of all colors, and her clothes are soaked in dirty dog water — this is her happy place.

“I opened up my business in 2017. Before, I had known Ellen Blodgett for some time, and I had a dog that needed grooming. We had to reschedule a bunch of times, and it was just so difficult to set up an appointment because everyone was so booked,” Walsh told The Times.

Blodgett, who owns Dog Gone Pretty, suggested that Walsh try grooming her own pup. After a few tries, Walsh realized that she would have to learn a bit more before relying on her own grooming skills to keep her dog clean and happy. “The first time I tried grooming, the dog looked like Frankenstein. I tried it first in my kitchen — we had dog hair in our food for like a week,” Walsh laughed.

For decades, Walsh had worked in medical management, but she had always wanted to start her own business. After doing some research, she realized that there was a huge need for dog groomers and pet care on the Island. “I came to the conclusion that the Vineyard didn’t need another wedding planner,” Walsh said.

Walsh found a mentoring program out in Mashpee, where she went off four days a week while her kids were at school to learn the trade. The first thing her instructor told her was that she was going to give her the dirtiest, stinkiest, wettest, most matted dogs to wash. “‘This is the coldest, wettest job you will ever have,’ my mentor told me. ‘But if you can like the washing part, then you can like doing the rest of the job,’” Walsh said. “I was soaked to the bone, stinking like a wet dog, and it was the best thing I had ever done in my life.”

Not only does Walsh love working with dogs and making them and their owners happy, but she began to read more into the health benefits of keeping pets properly groomed. “Every dog I groom, I find out who their vet is, I ask the owner about surgeries, diseases, their temperment. There’s a lot to it, and it’s important to know the dog’s history in order to best care for them when they’re in the shop,” Walsh said. She learned that groomers are often the first line of defense when it comes to skin problems and other health issues.

At the end of October last year, Walsh discovered skin cancer on one of her client’s dogs and promptly notified the client. Walsh said that, for certain dogs, blow drying the coat with a high velocity dryer is the only time when a dog’s skin is completely exposed. She continued to say that if a dog’s fur isn’t regularly brushed and becomes matted, the mats can hold water, bacteria, and fungus up against the skin and cause some serious problems.

Getting your dog’s nails trimmed often is also an important protocol to optimize the health and comfort of the animal. When nails grow too long and begin to curl, Walsh explained, dogs shift their weight to the rear of their paw. This can cause joint problems and can even affect the orientation of the spine. “Grooming is so much more than just making the dog beautiful, although a fresh cut definitely is the icing on the cake.” Walsh said. “Some of these clients drop off their dog that has more sand in its coat than Lucy Vincent Beach, and they come back and pick up this clean, fluffy, bejeweled, wonderfully perfumed dog. Both dog and owner are grateful every time.”

Renata Rovani and Gleyzi Rodgrigues, owners of Salty Dawg MV, started grooming in 2020 right before the pandemic. Two weeks after opening their doors, COVID shut down everything. They used that time to take online courses, and practice grooming on their own dogs. Eventually, the two groomers lost their brick-and-mortar location and began a mobile grooming service. “We found out fast that it wasn’t that easy, but we found our current location in Edgartown soon after that, and we have been there for almost three years,” Rovani said.

One thing Rovani said she enjoys most about dog grooming is the variability of each day — there’s always a different breed with a different temperament — and although she is used to the occasional ornery or anxious dog, she said some dogs are angels on the grooming table. “Smaller dogs I find harder because they don’t stay still as much, but it really depends on how the owner trains them, and how used to being groomed they are,” Rovani said.

Right when a dog comes through the door, the first thing the Salty Dawg team does is trim the nails. Then they thoroughly check for ticks or fleas. If the dog’s fur is too matted, it will need a heavy-duty shaving. The groomers will also teach their clients how to properly brush their dog, how to care for the specific coat, and how to trim nails. “This helps us out because the dog is getting used to the process at home, so it’s much easier to groom in the shop,” Rodrigues said.

Rodrigues stressed that some dogs take much longer to groom than others, depending on breed, cleanliness, temperament, how accustomed they are to grooming, and what the owner is looking for. “Sometimes we have 14 dogs in a day, but they’re all just baths and nail trims. Other dogs like a standard poodle that’s getting a show cut can take up to five hours,” Rodrigues said.

Gabe Bergeron, owner of The Pawfather, said he has loved dogs ever since he was a little kid. His grandmother would enlist his help in clipping the family dog’s nails — he would brush the dog, clean her ears, “in a sense, this whole thing kind of started when I was young,” Bergeron said.

Over the years, Bergeron’s family had a German shepherd that he helped de-shed every season when the weather got warmer, along with a little chihuahua that he also helped groom. “All three of these dogs had different coats, different conditions, different things that we had to work on,” Bergeron explained.

Bergeron got interested in dog grooming as a career a few years ago. He knew the need on the Island, and wanted to start his own business that incorporated his love for dogs. After over a year of online tests, in-person training, and hundreds of hours logged standing at a bath or grooming table, Bergeron became a certified groomer. “It was a lot, learning about health conditions, skin care, and of course knowing all the different kinds of cuts,” Bergeron said.

While training out in the field, Bergeron saw it all — there were upwards of 40 dogs in the grooming shop each day — “so it was a really incredible learning experience before I went out and did it on my own,” he said.

One focal point of Bergeron’s grooming practice is scrupulousness when it comes to the health and happiness of the dog: looking for signs of health concerns that the owner might not be aware of, along with projecting an air of calm and positivity, so that the dog associates grooming with a fun and relaxing experience. “You kind of need to read the situation and not force the dog too much. At the same time, you have to introduce them to new experiences like having their paws handled or being up high on the grooming table with a hammock under them,” Bergeron said.

Although Bergeron loves spending time with dogs, he said one of the greatest senses of gratification for him is knowing that the animals he grooms will be healthy and comfortable, and it’s always a treat when the owner shows up. “They come to pick the dog up and they just have this huge smile, it’s really rewarding,” Bergeron said.

For Groomingdales owner, Mary Grasing, she has been enjoying her dog grooming career for decades. As a kid, she had dogs, cats, gerbils, rabbits, and animals of all kinds. When she moved to the Island from the Midwest, Grasing had a friend who was working for the previous owner of Groomingdales. “My friend told me I would really like this job,” Grasing said. After working at the shop for nine months, Grasing was offered the opportunity to take on the business once the owner moved to Hawaii.

Grasing immediately dove head first into grooming — she received education from the National Dog Groomers Association, went to trade shows, and got to learn the ins and outs of the business. Now, after 30 years of experience, Grasing finds each grooming session to be a unique bonding experience. “You have your hands all over them, from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail,” Grasing laughed. “Some dogs get excited to come to the shop, they hop right up on the table and start throwing a party.”

Grasing said she is fortunate to have become a part of the grooming community on the Vineyard, and to have been introduced to many new fulfilling opportunities and relationships through the trade. “All the groomers are so supportive of each other. We give each other clients, lend equipment, offer tips and other help,” Grasing said, “and it’s just so heartwarming to see how much people on the Vineyard care about their pets, whether you’re a groomer or a client.”