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Meet Emily Perez

“When I was a child, we could never have a dog,” Emily says with a touch of sadness, “and that was the one thing I wanted.” It was a gap she quickly filled once she was out on her own, with a Boston Terrier named Eleanor Mae, or Ellie.


Not long after that, while Emily was in college, she happened across a job ad online for a groomer. “I started then and never stopped,” she says. When Emily brought her skills to DSK several years ago, the whole community quickly began reaping benefits. Handlers get to skip making those separate trips to the groomer, and they can work with one dog while another is in Emily’s capable hands.


What makes working at DSK so attractive to Emily? “The dogs are trained!” she says, laughing. And as performance dogs, she adds, “They’re also conditioned.


“The average dog gets tired standing so long on the grooming table,” Emily explains, whereas canine athletes are up to the challenge.


Show dogs, performance dogs, couch potatoes –

     all have their place


Emily’s work runs the gamut from couch potatoes who only need grooming a few times a year to get rid of dead hair and keep their coats in condition, to show dogs bound for the breed ring. What might surprise the neophyte is that performance dogs need grooming attention too. Basic hygiene is important in obedience, especially in the Novice and Utility classes, where judges examine the dogs by touch. In agility, the chief concern is to make sure dogs’ nails are clipped, especially when they run on synthetic surfaces where a long nail can get caught and cause serious injury. Fuzzy paw pads can be treacherous in both agility and obedience by causing dogs to slip and slide.

Preparing dogs for the breed ring, though, is where the professional groomer can really shine. In a setting like DSK, many

people have been showing their particular breed for years and have long mastered the art of grooming that breeed. “What I usually get,” Emily explains, “are people who say, ‘This is my first time showing this breed.’ ”


Often, too, people bring their recently retired show dogs to Emily. The dog’s breeder may have handled the grooming while the dog completed his championship, but “He’s home now,” Emily says, so she takes charge.


Emily often develops a strong bond with dogs she grooms. “We’re buddies,” she says of those who come in frequently. She thinks of them as extended family and often receives spirited greetings when she sees these dogs at shows and trials. Sometimes the bond runs so deep that Emily has to duck out of sight when the dog goes into the ring.


Breeds and project dogs


Emily is not one to shy from a challenge. “By far, Poodles are my very favorite breed to groom,” she says. In fact, she’s mastered grooming of a great many breeds, but with nearly 200 AKC-recognized breeds, on occasion she’ll be asked to take on one that’s new to her. Still, “When you know how to do a dog in that family,” she notes, “it’s not hard to adapt.”


How does she feel when she sees a big mess of a dog walk through the door? “I love those big project dogs!” she says. Plus, when she’s done, “It’s cool to see the dog look exactly like she’s supposed to look.


“The owners are always so happy, and you feel like you’ve really accomplished something,” Emily says. Occasionally they’ll smile and ask with mock credulity, “Is that my dog?”


Sometimes, too, a pooch comes in who isn’t a prime breed specimen, and Emily gets to employ her skill to hide the dog’s flaws. In cases like these, the owner is likely to exclaim, “She’s never looked so good!” Then dog and owner walk off happily together, a little extra spring in both their steps, and Emily smiles to herself, wondering just how many professions there are that bring this kind of joy, and deeply grateful to have found one.



Emily grooms at DSK by appointment only on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Text her at 314-546-3195 or email her at to set up an appointment. 

Van Halen and Tyler enjoy full spa treatment, along with their good friend Janie.

Looks like Tyler has control of the rubber ducky. What a life!

The fine art of hand stripping

Unlike most groomers, Emily enjoys hand stripping, the process of hand plucking dead hair from a dog’s coat rather than simply giving a haircut. Most breeds don’t need to be hand stripped, but for those who do, hand stripping is vital to maintaining the dog’s coat texture and density.


Perhaps surprisingly, hand stripping isn’t painful to the dog when done properly.  Still, it’s a painstaking, exacting process. Early in her career, Emily was told by an older groomer, “It’s labor intensive, it’s very boring, and you’re going to give up on it.” Undeterred, Emily gave it a try with her Cairn Terrier, Sunshine, and was pleased to find it not onerous but relaxing. “It is labor intensive, but it’s also enjoyable,” says Emily, who likens the activity to knitting.


“Most groomers won’t take the time to hand strip, or else they never learn it,” she adds. After all, it might take three hours to hand strip a Westie, for instance, while you could give that same dog a haircut in half an hour. Still, when you love your job, those three hours can be a breeze!

The groomer’s dogs


Emily trains and shows her own dogs in conformation, obedience, and agility.


Ten-year-old Ellie, the “Old Lady Boston,” was Emily’s first dog. Next came Isabella, a white toy Poodle. “Isabella and Ellie are the cheerleaders,” Emily says, for their performance siblings, Tyler, Godzilla, Bowie, and the newest addition, Van Halen.


Tyler (Polesitter's Walk This Way UD BN VER RE MX MXJ) is a standout English Springer Spaniel who’s built a fabulous record in obedience and agility and will eventually do tracking as well. Godzilla (Talavera's Bringing Down Tokoyo) is a two-year-old Boston who’s training to show in conformation, obedience, and agility. Bowie (Talavera's Ziggy Stardust) is a two-year-old Boston who’s preparing for an obedience career, while the youngest member of the bunch, Van Halen (Reignon's You Really Got Me), is a black miniature Poodle who’ll compete in obedience and agility. 

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