Many people wouldn’t know how to get along without their pet. Their little personalities are entertaining, and their empathetic spirits amaze their owners and friends. Caring for them in return is often a burden of love. Well, until it’s bath or nail clipping time – then it’s just a burden. There are plenty of professional groomers available, but how is a pet owner to know who to trust?
Sarah Heckaman, owner of Countryside Pet Salon in Warsaw, believes there are four qualities that mark a good pet salon – professionalism, cleanliness, compassion and education.
After spending several years as a veterinary technician, Heckaman was ready for a career change.
“I enjoyed it, but I didn’t like the strict schedule,” she explains.
When the opportunity to apprentice with a groomer came along, she decided to take it.
“I just fell in love with it,” Heckaman says. “I ended up doing a couple home-school courses to continue my education.”
Eventually, Heckaman opened her first salon, Countryside K-9 Pet Salon and Lodge in Winamac, 20 years ago. When she married and moved to Warsaw two years ago, the company came too, and was reestablished in her garage.
Heckaman’s love for animals and decades of learning manifest in her patient and confident handling of her furry clients.
“I try taking it easy with new dogs, or dogs who are scared or didn’t have good experiences,” she says.
Since it’s clean and the loud noises are kept to a minimum, owners also tend to enjoy coming to Countryside Pet Salon.
Since Countryside is a small business, Heckaman can devote all of her attention to one pet at a time.
“Everything is one-on-one,” she says. “So when their pet comes in, nine times out of ten, they’re the only dog in the room. It’s a very low-stress environment.”
Although a majority of Heckaman’s clients are dogs, she sees cats and other pets as well.
“I’ll even do nail trims on guinea pigs and rabbits,” she says. “I’ll do birds and even a few lizards for nail trims.”
Even for the largest canine client, the average appointment at Countryside lasts two hours or less.
Every pet who comes to visit Heckaman automatically receives the deluxe package.
“I’m more of an all-inclusive groomer,” she says. “Instead of having different things that people can pick, I pretty much do what your pet needs to have done. When they come in, they’ll go into the tub first. They always get two shampoos, a facial scrub, a luxury conditioner, and then I hand dry everybody. Once they’re totally dry, they’ll get their nails trimmed. I’ll check their ears, make sure they’re clean, then I would give them whatever haircut you want them to have.”
After that, Heckaman takes a glamour picture of the pet for the Countryside Pet Salon Facebook page. There are also a few add-ons available for those who ask for them, like vet-approved hair coloring.
Heckaman also keeps an eye out for possible medical issues that a pet may have.
“[As] groomers, we see your pets maybe six to eight times a year, where your veterinarian only sees your dog once a year,” she says. “So we have an advantage to where we can find problems – lumps, bumps, sores and things like that. We can point those things out to you and say, ‘This probably needs to get looked at.’”
Heckaman also sees her work as a first line of defense against injuries brought on by poor nail maintenance and allergies.
In her spare time, Heckaman competes at dog grooming competitions.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she says. “There’s a lot of good camaraderie going on and a lot of good mentoring going on.”
Countryside Pet Salon is located at 1640 North 600 West in Warsaw. Walk-ins are not accepted, so schedule an appointment by calling Sarah Heckaman at 574-225-1029. To view post-appointment pictures of her clients and to learn more, visit countryside-pet-salon.business.site.