"I love mobile dog grooming better than having a shop," said Diane Pribbenow, owner of Clippers Professional Mobile Dog Grooming.
The main reason she loves her career is the one-on-one time spent with the dogs. She can provide more personalized care; there is no overhead and she doesn't need to deal with employees.
"Your pets are your family, and people say, ‘I don't want to leave my little Fluffy all day alone in a shop,'" said Pribbenow.
According to her, having a groomer come directly to one's home to groom the family pet is great for animals who freak out around the noises of the other dogs barking, or other dogs that might be more aggressive. There is no need to load up the dog, leave it at the groomer's for most of the day, then pick it up and bring it home. Being near their own environment is less stressful to the dog, and more convenient for the owner.
A bath, a brush and a hair trim are the foundation of the full-service grooming Pribbenow gives her clients' dogs.
In the back of her van is a waist-high, steel bathtub.
"You'd be surprised how much I can lift. I've even lifted a Great Pyrenees," she said.
Dogs she cannot lift are able to get into the tub by first climbing on her grooming table, which has hydraulic lifts.
She also trims nails. On smaller dogs, she cleans their anal glands. She uses a special ear cleaner on cotton balls to clean and deodorize the ears. Some breeds, like poodles, get a lot of hair in their ears, so she gently tweezes it out.
No trip to the doggy stylist would be complete without doggy perfume and a bandanna or a bow. And she always makes certain her doggy clients get holiday goodies, like a treat bag on Halloween, and candy for Valentine's Day.
The cost of the mobile service is based on the breed of the dog and whether the pet is long- or short-haired. For instance, a bath and brush for a Labrador retriever costs less than doing the same thing to a collie and then shaving the collie's fur down.
"I tell people to expect an average of an hour-and-a-half for grooming -- again, depending on the dog," she said.
A charter member of the Arizona Association of Professional Pet Groomers, Pribbenow said she "fell into" her second profession. She was a dental assistant for 23 years.
"The strange thing is, I always wanted to have my own business. My number-one thing I wanted was a place like the diner from the Happy Days TV show," she said with a laugh.
She and her husband, Dennis, were living in Cave Creek at the time. Dennis convinced her the restaurant business was ‘dog-eat-dog' and suggested pet grooming instead.
"What?! I know nothing about grooming," Diane protested.
He told her, ‘If anybody can make a go of it, you can. You have the personality to work with people and animals.'
There was a grooming/pet store for sale at the Town and Country shopping center, so she bought the turnkey business with the intent of managing it.
"But then I thought, ‘If I am going to own a grooming shop, I need to know a bit about grooming."
She apprenticed for two of the experienced groomers, who told her what supplies she would need. Diane estimates 99 percent of groomers start out with similar training.
She also went to seminars and read books on her own, something she continues to do today.
"I started out practicing at home on stuffed animals," Diane said. "Once in the shop, as I got better, a groomer would say, ‘Here, I've groomed one side of the face, make the other side look the same.'"
That apprenticeship was 16 years ago.
Although Diane prefers grooming dogs, she has worked on some unusual pets in her career.
She gave a bath to a pot-bellied pig, trimmed the toenails of a desert tortoise, and there has been the occasional ferret, rabbit and guinea pig to groom.
But, please, don't bring her any cats, she said.
"It's not that I don't know how," she said, smiling, "it's just that they are no fun to groom."
You can reach Pribbenow's mobile dog grooming service by calling (928) 595-2925.