Lucy Foster has had many jobs over the years but says she was always destined to be a dog groomer. She tells reporter Jess Lee what it's like spending your day surrounded by fur.
Fluffy, matted, long-haired, short-haired - Lucy Foster's clients come in all shapes and sizes.
The Remuera resident found she had a knack for dog grooming when she was just 11 years old but it wasn't until she was well into her 50s that she turned the hobby into a career.
The 70-year-old now owns her own dog grooming business in Ellerslie where each client is treated as if he or she is one of the family, she says.
It was her stepfather who bought Ms Foster her first dog, a golden cocker spaniel, with specific instructions that she must groom and take care of it herself.
"I truly loved all the grooming, caring and training," she says. "I seemed to have a flair for handling dogs - they were my passion."
She began entering her dog in competitions, eventually bumping into his breeder who was less-than-impressed by the dog's crimped do.
"I used to wave his coat by kinking it all into waves after his bath. The breeder got a terrible fright, he was horrified."
He soon set her straight on the correct way to groom a cocker spaniel.
Showdog grooming was very different back in the 1960s, she says.
"We used to strip the spaniels by hand [plucking out stray hairs rather than cutting], there were no machines in those days."
She kept up the grooming as a hobby while working over the years as a vet nurse, teacher, wages clerk and a drugs counsellor.
It wasn't until she met her natural father later in life that she discovered it is in her blood. He and his mother bred and groomed dogs.
Ms Foster's team do everything from dog washes, de-matting and nail clipping to scissoring breeds into different styles.
Grooming your dog used to be seen as a luxury but it is now considered much more of a necessity, she says.
While in her care dogs are given lots of hugs to make them feel less nervous and they respond with lots of "kisses", she says.
But it's not all fun and games.
Caring for other people's four-legged friends can be physically demanding, especially lifting large dogs.
"Some will roll on their backs or lean on you and won't stand up," she says.
"The hardest part is drying the dog because most of them don't like that. We have a variety of blowers so they don't get scared."
It is experience and a caring nature which make a good dog groomer, she says.
"I'm a truly blessed person saying I've got a job that I love. It has gone beyond my expectations, I'm absolutely in love with my work."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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