Pet lovers the world over dream of having jobs that involve working with animals, but a lot of those dreams remain just that. Perhaps it’s because they don’t know what kind of careers exist in the pet industry, or wouldn’t know where to begin to get the right training. But there are a lot of educational opportunities out there, from online programs like FetchFind Monthly Pro to physical academies to on-the-job training and apprenticeships. For Larissa Vaughn, a lifelong animal lover, turning a passion for animal care into a profession as a dog groomer for a large specialty pet retailer was a smart career move.
By the time Larissa Vaughn was 10 years old, she tells us, she was “that kid”—the one who knew every dog in the neighborhood, and gave them baths just for fun. Not yet thinking of dog grooming as a career, Larissa started out as a nanny. Her clients loved the way she worked with their children—but also appreciated the way she handled their dogs. In fact, one of Larissa’s nanny clients first encouraged her to look into a career as a groomer, and called the family’s dog groomer to recommend Larissa! Before long, Larissa was helping out at that groomer’s independent salon, where she worked for two years before enrolling in PetSmart’s Grooming Academy.
Larissa loved the structured opportunities the Grooming Academy offered its students. She appreciated the fact that all students study for 60 days and groom 125 dogs before being accepted into the Pet Stylist Development Program. Upon graduating, Larissa knew she was well prepared to groom all types of dogs safely and efficiently. Larissa notes that PetSmart’s grooming process is faster and more effective than the process she used in the independent shop where she got her start. “Bathing, grooming, drying—everything’s done for a purpose, and the purpose is safety. If you do it right, you understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and you’re getting dogs done faster, too.” That’s good for business as well as for the dogs, who have more time to spend with family, playing with friends, or learning a new trick!
Larissa has always valued community. “The salon is a little community of encouragement and helpful feedback from more experienced colleagues,” she says — a point demonstrated a moment later, when a colleague popped in to share a fun story about the dog he’d just groomed. This sense of community and encouragement isn’t unique to Larissa’s location, she explains. “You go into [any PetSmart] salon and think, ‘Yep! That’s a PetSmart family!”
Larissa also applies her creativity, precision, and love of animals to her study of illustration, and is considering becoming a medical/veterinary illustrator. From grooming to drawing, it all starts with observation and a deep understanding of anatomy, function, and movement. Whether grooming dogs or drawing them, Larissa strives to create a work of art every time!