This New Milford woman started pet grooming at 9. Now, she’s opened her own business

NEW MILFORD — While some people change careers many times throughout the course of their life, resident Erica Beatty doesn’t appear to be one of them. She has worked in the pet grooming industry since she was 9, and has just opened her own dog grooming business in town called The Gentle Touch Pet Salon.

As a preteen, Beatty, who grew up in Sherman, raised and showed sheep.

“My great aunt Nancy, who lived next door, had a sheep farm. I had six sheep at a time and showed them at the Bridgewater and Goshen fairs, and at The Big E,” Beatty said. “We had to wash and dry them, trim their hoofs, and sheer them to get them ready for the shows, so I had a little bit of a background there, doing that.”

When Beatty was 16 and a student at New Fairfield High School, she learned about a job as a dog bather for a woman who owned a Danbury dog grooming salon called Magic Touch.

“I tried it out,” said Beatty, who is now 38.

She fell in love with the work and has never looked back.

“I remember learning the whole process of bathing and how to do it properly,” Beatty said. “My mentor was an excellent teacher.”

In 2000, she became a groomer at Petco in Brookfield, where she worked for nine years. Later, she co-owned Pampered Pets on Executive Center Drive in New Milford.

Four years ago, she and her business partner relocated the business to New Preston.

“We got a really good offer from our new landlord at Aspetuck Animal Hospital, which is attached to Pampered Pets,” she said.

At the end of November, Beatty left to venture out on her own for the first time.

“I was very ready to branch off and do my own thing,” said Beatty, who has three dogs — Doug, a corgi; and two mixed breed dogs — Willy and Rocky. She lives with her boyfriend Nicholas Wagner and her two teenage sons — Kane, who is 15, and Damien, who is 17. Damien works at her new store a few days a week, as a dog washer.

The Gentle Touch is in a 972-square-foot space previously occupied by Amanda Rose Salon and Boutique.

Services

Services The Gentle Touch offers includes a shampoo, tooth brushing, a luxury spa package, and nail and face trims.

Also offered is a paw pat treatment, which is a creme or wax that goes on the pads of dogs’ feet that helps protect them from ice and salt in the winter and keeps the paws from cracking.

Aside from dog grooming, Beatty also grooms cats, which includes bathing them and cutting their hair.

She said cat skin is a lot different from dog skin. Grooming cats has to be done much more carefully than grooming dogs, due to a cat’s unpredictable temperament, she added.

“It’s taking a big risk, taking in a cat. You never know how they’re going to react,” said Beatty, adding she has gloves and muzzles in case the cats bite or scratch.

Beatty said she’ll work on any breed, size or temperament of dogs.

To get dogs comfortable prior to their service, she said she tries to exude positive energy.

“The energy that you project to the dog is the energy that they’re going to take from you,” she said. “If you’re nervous or scared, if you’re confident or calm, than that is what they feel and how they will react.”

Additionally, she pets and talks to the animals, and tries to get a sense of their personality prior to performing the service on them.

“Typically, it should only take a couple of minutes if the dog is receptive to any kind of new person,” she said.

Beatty said her greatest challenge with branching out on her own, however, doesn’t have anything to do with the animals themselves — “it’s handling the business end of things, such as making sure all the paperwork is set and keeping up with QuickBooks and bank accounts,” she said.

The dog grooming industry

The dog grooming industry as a whole hasn’t changed much in 20 years, said Beatty, “except that people have gotten more creative with different hairstyles.”

She said she would like to offer dog hair dying services, which, she said, is a newer trend.

“You can do so many different things with it,” she said. “You can design and shave the dye into dogs’ coats.”

She added the dog grooming business thrived during the height of COVID-19. Since it was considered an essential service, it was allowed to remain open — and business was booming.

“Last year, we were possibly busier than we’ve ever been,” she said. “People were home with their pets all the time. Plus, a lot of people got new pets during the quarantine. No matter what happened, people still wanted to take good care of their pets, so even if they couldn’t go many places, their pets were a priority.”

Beatty said she plans to remain in this business for life.

“It is just very satisfying having dogs come in all dirty and matted and then be able to send them home in a much more comfortable state,” she said.

The Gentle Touch Pet Salon, 72 Park Lane Road, New Milford, can be reached by calling 860-488-3433, emailing thegentletouchpetsalon@outlook.com or visiting thegentletouchpetsalon.myonlineappointment.com .

sfox@milfordmirror.com 203-948-9802.