Puyallup Herald

She’s seen it all in the pet-grooming game. Will that experience help her in Tacoma show?

When it comes to pet grooming, Heather Blomquist has seen it all.

Dogs, cats — even guinea pigs and ferrets — have visited her business, The Spotted Dog in South Hill, to get primped to look their best.

This month, the 46-year-old Puyallup resident is seeking to show off her grooming skills with one specific dog: an English springer spaniel named Cooper.

“I grew up with (cocker spaniels), so I kind of had my heart set on the sporting group,” Blomquist said in a recent interview at The Spotted Dog.

Blomquist is competing in the sporting group at the Northwest Grooming Show in Tacoma this month.

The event is both a trade show and a grooming competition, meant for professional groomers to show off their skills to the public. People from all over the country and Canada show up to compete.

“It’s a good way to test your skill,” Blomquist said.

The show has been running for more than a decade, with 1,188 in attendance in 2018. The 2019 show will be held March 21-24 at Hotel Murano, 1320 Broadway in Tacoma.

Groomers can enter in five categories: poodles, sporting breeds, wire-coated breeds, salon freestyle and all other purebreds. There’s also a creative styling contest, where groomers create designs in the fur of their pets.

In addition to the sporting category, Blomquist is competing in “Rescue Roundup,” where groomers are randomly assigned a shelter dog to groom in a way that brings out their personalities.

“Sometimes they’re adopted right from the floor,” she said.

The show also educates the public about the pet-grooming industry, Blomquist said. While many might know about dog shows like the Westminster Dog Show in New York, some might not know the work it takes to groom a dog to be show-ready.

Blomquist has three decades of experience in pet grooming. At a young age, she knew she wanted to work with animals and started grooming in high school. Growing up in Everett, she attended classes at the Sno-Isle Skills Center.

“I just fell in love with the grooming side of it,” she said.

Blomquist went on to attend dog-grooming school in New York City and earned her National Dog Groomers Association sporting breed certification. She’s now working toward her master’s certification.

She opened The Spotted Dog, her first business, four years ago.

Patience and attention to detail

Pet grooming takes a lot of skill — and a lot of patience.

For Blomquist, grooming is about knowing a dog’s anatomy and using the correct grooming tools to emphasize a breed’s physical qualities — or to hide their faults.

For example, if a dog with crooked legs comes in for an appointment, proper grooming of the fur can make crooked legs look straight, Blomquist said.

At the Northwest Grooming Show, groomers have about two hours to show off their techniques.

When she grooms Cooper, Blomquist typically starts with a bath, the she cleans his ears and brushes him, getting rid of any unnecessary fur, which makes styling easier later on.

Cooper is washed with shampoo, including special whitening shampoo to brighten his spots.

Every once in a while, Cooper attempts to escape the tub, but for the most part, he’s calm, Blomquist said.

The temperament of animals can range while their being groomed. If they’ve been coming for a while, most are used to the treatment.

While Blomquist is not Cooper’s owner, she’s been grooming him about every two months for most of his life. Cooper is now 4 years old.

After he’s rinsed in the bath, Cooper is hoisted out of the tub. Blomquist uses a scissor-over-comb technique to smooth and even Cooper’s hair. Then he’s off to blow dry.

Blomquist uses a special blow drying technique depending on what dog she’s grooming. With Cooper, she uses a flat tool meant to dry his hair straight, as is typical with English springer spaniels.

The entire grooming process can take Blomquist from an hour and a half to two hours.

The process is different depending on the type of dog. Blomquist’s coworker, Ally McEntire, is showing a poodle named Stella for the first time at this year’s show. While Cooper’s hair is groomed flat and straight, Stella’s curly fur is meant to poof.

At the Northwest Grooming Show, dogs must have at least six weeks worth of hair growth so that each competitor is working with the same amount of hair. Groomers are judged on technical ability and how closely their dogs match their breed profiles.

The upcoming Northwest Grooming Show will be the first time Blomquist has shown her techniques on Cooper, but she’s competed in prior years and won, most recently against eight other groomers in 2014. The number of competitors has grown in recent years, she said.

Blomquist lives in Puyallup with her two dogs, a miniature spotted dachshund named Dash and an Australian cattle dog named Lucy.

2019 Northwest Grooming Show

When: March 21-24

Where: Murano Hotel, 1320 Broadway in Tacoma

More information: nwgroom.com