DeKALB – Heather Roozee always knew she wanted to work with animals.
Roozee, owner and pet stylist at A Groomery Pet Grooming in DeKalb, was recently ranked the No. 5 groomer in the United States. To earn that title, the DeKalb woman won Best Groomed Dog in Show at all three grooming contests she competed in this year, culminating in the Pet Pro Classic in Dallas, Texas, last month. She took home the top prize each time with her Airedale terrier, a 3-year-old male named Zeppelin, named after one of her husband’s favorite rock groups.
“We name all our dogs after singers,” she said.
Roozee also placed first with a standard poodle, first with a miniature poodle, third with a standard poodle and third with a mixed breed. At two of the three shows, she had two dogs in the Best Groomed Dog lineup.
Originally from Hinckley, Roozee “has been all over” before settling in DeKalb with her family.
“It’s that small town thing, you think it’s better somewhere else,” she said.
After apprenticing at the Naperville Animal Hospital in 2000, Roozee opened her own business on Locust Street in DeKalb in 2003. After three years there, she moved to her current location at 124 E. Hillcrest. She grooms both dogs and cats, by appointment only.
Roozee talked with MidWeek reporter Doug Oleson about animals and the pet grooming business.
MidWeek: Did you have pets when you were growing up?
Heather Roozee: We had dogs and cats and hamsters, all the little critters. But my first love was horses.
MW: When did you start grooming animals?
HR: About the fifth grade. We had a little poodle mix. I used these old junky clippers that were probably about 20 years old at the time. It wasn’t a pretty haircut.
MW: Does someone need a license to groom animals?
HR: You would think so, but no. People are always surprised when I tell them that. If a groomer says they’re certified, they mean from the school they went to. It doesn’t mean much. It is coming, though. California, being the leader in everything, is working on it.
MW: So how does one learn to groom?
HR: I had to learn by apprenticing at the Naperville Animal Hospital in 2000.
MW: Do you have a specialty?
HR: I can do scissor cuts, hand stripping, breed trim and pet trim. At this point, I can pretty much do it all. I’m always taking continuing education.
MW: Do you prefer grooming cats or dogs?
HR: I love grooming cats. I couldn’t say they are easier; I have a good rapport with them. They’re fun.
MW: Is there a big difference between grooming a big dog and a small one?
HR: Not really.
MW: What’s it like to be a pet groomer?
HR: It’s a very physical job. I don’t think that people realize that. It’s a job with a lot of repetitions. When you get home from an eight-hour day of dealing with 50-pound dogs, you’re tired. When you’re doing that five days a week, year after year, it takes a toll on your body.
MW: So tell me about these competitions. You won best of show three times?
HR: There are three levels. I’m on the expert level. I’ve won best of show at three different trade shows with my Airedale, Zeppelin. He’s 3. It’s more about the prestige than the money. You don’t go into it to win money.
MW: So how does one get ranked the No. 5 groomer in the country?
HR: It’s by Groom Team U.S.A. They rank you through these contests where you are awarded points over the course of a year. There are 14 competitions. I competed in three and won best of show in all three.
I usually go to four a year, but I couldn’t this year. It’s a lot of travel. ...I only went to Dallas to make sure I would finish in the top 10. I wanted to cinch it. I was in seventh when I went down there.
MW: What does it mean to be in the top five?
HR: Every other year, the top five groomers in the country compete as a team in the World Grooming Competition. In October, Groom Team USA brought home the gold from Barcelona, Spain, where it competed against 16 other countries.
MW: Do the points you earn this year apply to next year?
RH: No, you have to start over every year.
MW: So how does it feel to be considered the fifth best groomer in the whole country?
RH: It feels good. I am liking it. I’ve been competing for seven years now and never got in the top 20 before, so being in the top five is quite satisfying. Which means I have to work even harder.