Q&A with Joanne Farrell

Of Doggie Styles grooming and boutique in Colchester

Employees and their four-legged friends stand together at Doggie Styles Grooming and Boutique in Colchester on Jan. 30.  Pictured in the back row from left to right: Jess Ahearn with Fluffy, Heather Ramsdell with Brodie, and Joanne Farrell with JJ. Pictured in the front row from left to right: Suzanne Perry with Hank, Kathy Rowley with Marley, Emma Pouech with Lucy, and Abbey Maynard.  OLIVER PARINI PHOTOGRAPHY

Employees and their four-legged friends stand together at Doggie Styles Grooming and Boutique in Colchester on Jan. 30.
Pictured in the back row from left to right: Jess Ahearn with Fluffy, Heather Ramsdell with Brodie, and Joanne Farrell with JJ.
Pictured in the front row from left to right: Suzanne Perry with Hank, Kathy Rowley with Marley, Emma Pouech with Lucy, and Abbey Maynard.
OLIVER PARINI PHOTOGRAPHY

It may seem obvious that a dog grooming business is “dog friendly,” but owner Joanne Farrell is not kidding when she says Doggie Styles “is a very dog friendly place.”

Her nine staff members are all pet owners. “Everyone has a dog — or two or three,” said Farrell, “and they all take really good care of them.”

Not only are the staffs’ and clients’ pets well cared for, but the Doggie Styles staff has collectively fostered or adopted more than 50 dogs and cats from rescue organizations in the U.S. and Canada. “We donate grooming services, collect rescue supplies, host fundraising events, and have fostered for and adopted from Poodle Rescue of Vermont, All Breed Rescue Vermont, Humane Society of Chittenden County, Franklin County Humane Society, Potter’s Angels and Vermont Dog and Rabbit Rescue, to name a few,” states the company’s rescue page on their website doggiestylesvt.com.

Farrell, however, hasn’t always worked with animals. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Vermont and her Certificate in Massage Therapy from the Vermont School of Professional Massage. “I practiced massage therapy for many years until I realized I really needed to work with animals,” reads Farrell’s online bio.

A native of Burlington, and daughter of the Farrell Distributing family, she now lives in Milton with her husband of 15 years, Keith Cookson and his father Jim. “Jim lives with us and is essential when it comes to caring for our animals,” Farrell says, “since our family always seems to include at least three dogs.”

In 2003, Farrell trained as a pet groomer and began working at the Milton Vet Hospital. That’s where she met Jess Ahearn, who worked as a vet tech and a groomer for several years.

“Joanne wanted to do something with pets and I taught her what I knew,” said Ahearn, who also lives in Milton with her husband Mike, daughter Kelsey and their five dogs.

Ahearn and Farrell partnered and bought J&J Pet Grooming on Prim Road in Colchester in 2004. The two managed that store for almost two years before moving to the current Sunny Hollow location in Colchester, changing the name and making the business their own. Farrell is the sole proprietor now, but Ahearn is there everyday full-time.

Doggie Styles offers full service grooming for dogs less than 90 pounds and cats. Rates range from $45 to $65 per hour, with al a cart add-ons like nail trimming, teeth brushing, medicated baths and anal gland expression. New clients are welcome to call to schedule a meet-and-greet or get an estimate.

Emma Pouech, of Hinesburg, runs the front office for Doggie Styles. She manages the appointments as well as the boutique in the front of the shop. “The lobby’s fun,” she said in an interview earlier this month. “We carry dog sweaters from South American that are 100 percent wool, hand knit and fair trade. We have rain slickers, note cards by breed, collars, hoodies; you name it, we have it. There’s a little taste of everything for everyone.”

For those who groom at home, the shop also offers grooming supplies. “They’re proven to work well; we have used and tried all the different brands out there, and this is what we like best,” Pouech said.

Farrell recently elaborated on her dog grooming business.

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Q: How often do clients bring their dogs in for grooming?

A: People come in for a full groom, or often times they’ll come in for the Bath & Tidy every 4-8 weeks. The Bath & Tidy is designed for light maintenance between full grooms. Many clients find this service valuable, particularly in the colder months when dogs need to keep the warmth on their body.

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Q: How many clients do you have?

A: It was sort of a lucky break to fall into dog business in this area. We have about 4,000 active clients. A lot of traffic comes from Exit 16; people coming up and down the I-89 corridor.

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Q: Why do you like grooming as a profession?

A: One of the great things about grooming is that the learning doesn’t stop. Every day is different; it’s as creative, artistic or practical as you want it to be. It’s very rewarding work and a nice way to have a relationship with animals and their mommies and daddies. It’s just nice.

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Q: What makes Doggie Styles unique?

A: Because there are so many of us, we all have different specialties, so we can offer a wide range of services. Jess does cats and terriers; Suzanne does Goldens and Aussies; I do shih tzus; Heather does terriers and poodles; and everyone gets Yorkies.

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Q: Why don’t you take the larger breeds?

A: We don’t groom heavy dogs — that’s anything, say, over 90 pounds. Very few groomers do; there’s a hole in that market… It’s just to save our backs and keep our longevity in this career.

Most groomers end up with back injuries or carpal tunnel. You have to be careful with your body. All our tables are on lifts with a foot pedal, which helps with lifting the animals and getting a good angle for grooming. A couple of inches can make all the difference.

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Q: How do you keep groomers and dogs safe?

A: If you understand the dog’s language, nothing is surprising. Dogs never bite without warning, unless there’s a neurological issue. There are some pretty universal signs to watch out for.

We do our best to keep the routines as stable as possible. Dogs get the same groomers every time because everyone’s’ energies are different. The more we can stabilize the better. We’re working with sharp scissors, high tables, clipper blades, etc. Keeping the dogs calm and happy is really important for the safety of the dog.

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Q: What advice would you give to pet owners grooming their dogs at home?

A: Use a good shampoo and dilute the shampoo with water to make rinsing easier and the whole process faster. Brush the shampoo through the coat, and make sure to rinse all the soap out. Have a lot of towels on hand, and brush, brush, brush!

— Elsie Lynn Parini