■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
Did you know that dogs have their own beauty parlors where they, just like their human owners, can walk in looking drab, and walk out looking fab? Fabulous, that is.
Kim Carpentier has a colorful personality, and it really shows in her work. Her customers leave her shop, Grooming and Color, at 137 N. Harvard St., in downtown Hemet, happy, and many of them sport rainbow-hued fur. It’s not just a grooming shop; it’s a full-service beauty salon for your pet.
“I’ve wanted to be a dog groomer since I was 18. There were not many such creatures many moons ago when I lived in Mead Valley,” said Carpentier. “I’ve always reached higher than most people” she said. “For several years I was a bartender, but I didn’t go to one of these fly-by-night schools. I went to the Alcohol Beverage Control School in Cypress where I was taught that you don’t ever tell a drunk or tipsy [person] to just hand over their keys. I learned that you get more cooperation with something like, ‘Honey, I don’t want to look your family in the face over your corpse or go to the morgue to identify you.’ I found that a sympathetic approach worked better. The same approach works with stubborn or resistant animals.”
And while she is easy going, she confesses to having a military disposition.
“Both my father and husband were military,” she said proudly. “I grew up a military brat and married a military man.”
She learned from her father how to approach and handle animals.
“He’d just returned from a tour in Vietnam and we were living on base in the States,” she recalled. “Being Shore Patrol, he dealt with dogs on the bases where he was stationed. On this particular day, my brother started to pet a dog outside our quarters, but what my brother didn’t know was that it was rabid. Six in the morning and dad was in the bathroom shaving, getting ready for duty.
“The beautiful German Shepherd did not take kindly to my brother’s attention and began frothing at the mouth. Dad heard his yell and came flying out of the house with shaving cream all over his face. Both he and the dog had faces covered with foam. For almost six hours he wrestled with the animal, injecting it with numerous shots of Phenobarbital, which the animal resisted.”
Kim and her brother, somewhat spellbound, watched their father wrestle and ultimately subdue the rabid dog. When the Shore Patrol arrived to help, Kim remembers they were too afraid to get out of the truck. Her father would afterward explain to them some basics about dealing with animals, foremost, that rabid animals have amazing strength, and to always respect an animal.
“He taught us to never grab a dog by the tail or raise your hand as though to hit it. Always approach a dog with the back of your hand and it will most likely smell you and not feel threatened. Also, he advised us to always look the dog in the eye and make sure the animal knows you are the master, and to never show fear.”
Kim has worked with many veterinarians over the years.
“One of my favorites still has a business, and he just neutered my beautiful standard poodle, Travis, a couple of weeks ago. I worked for some well-known veterinarians – Doctors Dykstra and Handel in Laguna Niguel. I would drive my hotrod mini-truck from Mead Valley at 4:30 in the morning to be at their veterinary hospital when it opened at 7 a.m. That’s how much I loved animals.”
I don’t know about the veterinarians, but Travis thought I was his long-lost best friend. It’s been a good many years since I had so many kisses at one sitting.
Why, I asked, did she not go to grooming school earlier if that was her lifelong dream?
“At the time, I couldn’t afford to drive down to Orange County to the nearest grooming school,” she explained.
She finally gained admittance to a state-accredited school.
“The school had a two-year waiting list but they accepted me within four months because of my past history with animals,” she said. “There were two stages of training, but they took my previous work with veterinarians into consideration and allowed me to skip the introductory phases. I’d had loads of experience with both exotic as well as domestic animals. I was quickly dubbed ‘teacher’s pet.’”
She was quick to let me know that not all dog groomers are the same.
“There is this one guy on television who claims to be a groomer. He’s a joke. His TV audience doesn’t see when he’s off camera [allegedly] twisting and pulling on a dog’s ears. You simply do not mistreat animals.”
She claims she went into her own grooming business because she didn’t like the treatment some groomers gave to their charges and that, “I had problems getting a job. Some places wouldn’t hire me. Too qualified, they’d say,” she explained. “Truth is, I care too much for the animals to work in any place that isn’t totally friendly to animals. I’ve seen groomers smack someone’s pet or beat them. That makes me ready for battle.”
I believe she would become the attack dog herself if she encountered someone being mean to someone’s pet.
While she admits that her prices are higher than others, “if you are looking for cheap grooming, you don’t want me,” she said. “Go someplace else.”
She takes pride in her work, and Travis is her best advertisement.
“People see us on the street or in stores and right away they want to take pictures,” she said, smiling. “Folks actually lean out the window of their cars while driving to get a shot of Travis. That scares me because in a split second you can have an accident, even when you are paying close attention.”
Further, she offers something to her clients that no other groomer does, and it is a testament to how she pampers your pets.
Dogs that come to me drink bottled water. Tap water isn’t good for them. They are also fed the best food. My clientele isn’t where I would like it to be, but it is steadily growing. Previously, there was another groomer in this spot who had a bad reputation. I’ve worked hard to let folks know that I am new and caring; that I treat their pets like I would my own.” – Kim Carpentier
And I’m sure she does.
Toward the end of our visit we digressed to another subject: people who live alone or without family nearby, and how their pets become their family. These animals are loyal to such an extent that even when their owners are not necessarily nice or take them for granted, a pet dog will hang on because his or her love is unconditional. Can’t always say that about family.
I recall that my grandmother, in her 90s, always had her aging Chihuahua perched in her lap. One would have thought it to be her new baby. Maybe it is food for thought that we come into the world already anchored with family. We choose our friends and pets. Just sayin’.
I welcome comments.