When I grow up: Okeechobee girl wants to be a dog groomer

OKEECHOBEE – Because she wants to combine petting dogs with making money, 6-year-old Chloe Harmon thinks a dog grooming career would be perfect for her.

Jeanni Bayless agrees that dog grooming is a great career. For her, it is in the blood. Although she did have some other dreams; when she was young, she thought of becoming a phlebotomist and later of becoming a police officer. When her mom opened Katie’s Pet Parlor 26 years ago, Mrs. Bayless knew what she wanted to do.

Katherine (Katie) Teagan had been trained by Robbie Arthur, who had worked at Okeechobee Veterinary Hospital.

Jeanni Bayless with Teddy

Chloe Harmon is ready to groom her pets

According to Mrs. Bayless, there are two ways to become a dog groomer in Florida. You can go to a school to become a certified groomer or you can work as an apprentice for another groomer until they feel you are competent. At that time they will present you with a certificate of completion. “As you train,” she said, “you will learn to read the dogs. Not all dogs enjoy being groomed. Some love it.” The different breeds of dogs are groomed differently, so there are many things to learn, much like a hairstylist learns the different haircuts their clients ask for.

In their shop, they see a lot of pit bulls, labradors, cocker spaniels, yorkies and poodles. When she first started, they used to see a lot of Scotties and Westies, but they don’t get many of those in the shop anymore.

Mrs. Bayless’s daughter, Lea Hammond, has helped in the shop since she was a little girl and is training to be the third generation in the family of groomers. Animal rescue is another thing the women of the family have in common. They all have a soft spot for animals thatt need help. Mrs. Bayless has five rescue cats right now, she says.

Mrs. Bayless and her husband, Jack, are both volunteer firefighters in Buckhead Ridge. They have three children — Lea, and two boys, David and Shawn. She has one grandson, Charlie, and another grandchild on the way.

Her advice to Chloe and anyone else interested in becoming a dog groomer is that you need to really love animals and have a lot of patience. She said that, unfortunately, because of insurance they are not allowed to let anyone under the age of 18 work in the shop even as a volunteer, but sometimes veterinarians have vet techs or they might be allowed to let you volunteer.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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