Lenny Persad has been a dog groomer in Lincoln for over 24 years. He and his partner, Henry Koegel, opened the ECO Pet Spa and Market on Burt St. in Saugerties this past May. Originally from Trinidad, Lenny moved from Brooklyn to Saugerties ten months ago.
How did you come to be a dog groomer?
Many years ago when I immigrated from Trinidad I was looking for work. I was living with my uncle in a tiny room. At that time I didn’t have a green card and couldn’t easily find work. I was willing to take almost any work I could find. One day while I was walking in Brooklyn I saw a “Help Wanted” sign in the window of a pet store. When I went to see about the job they asked me if I could bathe a dog. I thought, “What do I need to know to bathe a dog?” So I said I did, but, of course, I didn’t really know how to bathe a dog professionally. They hired me but, because I had no working papers, the hours were long and the pay was low. I worked five days a week from 8:30 to 6 p.m. for $100.
This was in 1987. I was lucky to have a job. I wasn’t even legal in this country. After I worked there for a year, a woman who was a friend of a friend and had a grooming salon in New York City on the Upper East Side hired me and paid me a lot more money. I worked for her for ten years, and eventually opened my own place in Brooklyn.
What kind of training did you have to become a dog groomer?
I am really self-taught. When I started out there were no male dog groomers. It was all women. When I went to work in the salon on the Upper East Side, the women groomers there taught me how to groom. The owner eventually went on to have three locations. I learned a lot there in ten years.
Tell me about a typical day as a dog groomer.
Well, things are really much slower up here. I was used to grooming up to 30 dogs a day at my business in Brooklyn. Here I might groom eight dogs in one day.
Depending on what the owner wants, I would bathe, perhaps give a flea bath, clean ears, trim nails, and give haircuts. I shampoo and condition hair and then each dog requires a different haircut. Some clients want special things like having the dog’s nails painted, bows in the hair; it just depends on the customer’s wishes. Just like you wouldn’t cut your own hair, a groomer can give special care that can’t be done at home. I believe dogs, like people, need to look and feel their best.
I also groom cats, which is something not many groomers do. Cats are much more difficult to groom. They can’t stay in a bath more than a few minutes. Cats are more prone to stress. You have to be very careful with them. They can become quite ill if they aren’t groomed properly.
What is the most difficult part of your profession?
Certainly not the dogs. The dogs are fine. It’s the customers. Oh Lord, they can make your day. Most of my customers are great, but now and then you get people who are never satisfied. The hair’s too long or too short!
Are there certain breeds that are more challenging than others?
Yes. Yorkies, for example, have very straight hairs that can look very uneven if not cut correctly. You have to know how to use different scissors and tools. Also senior dogs can be a challenge. Due to health issues they may not be able to stand as long; or they might have arthritis and so you have to work with them differently. I would say puppies are the hardest. Of course they can’t sit still, but more than that, they are afraid of the tools. They don’t like the buzzing of the clippers or the dyer. They have incredible hearing to begin with so I put cotton in their ears, and I have these little hoodies I put on them while I dry them that buffers the noise.
What is the most unusual or surprising thing that’s happened since you’ve been in this profession?
The hardest and most traumatic thing that happened was once when I was grooming a King Charles Spaniel that I had groomed for many years, he became very ill during his grooming. We didn’t know he had an enlarged heart and neither did his owner. We rushed him to the vet across the street but he later passed away. It was very sad for me because I had known him for years. I was also nervous about how his owner would react, but later she came in to say she was grateful we had done all we had for him.
What is the most interesting or enjoyable part of this job?
I really love to see how different they look after they’re groomed. I love the before and after looks. I also like to see the customer’s response when they see their pet looking so good.