Belen dog groomer opens school for students


Just because your doggie’s name is Scruffy, doesn’t mean he has to live up to the moniker, not with Belen’s first dog grooming school now open — Dog Grooming School by Shari’s Pampered Pets, in Belen.

Owner Shari Mathews-Gallegos, a graduate of Tara Lara School of Dog Grooming, has been a state certified pet groomer for 30 years.

Ungelbah Daniel-Davila-News-Bulletin photo: Kimberly Benavidez, left, a student at Dog Grooming School by Shari’s Pampered Pets, in Belen, and school owner Shari Mathews-Gallegos, work on grooming a deaf and blind dog.

She originally thought about going into the veterinary field, but realized she didn’t want to deal with the sadder aspects of animal care, such as sick and hurt animals.

So she chose grooming, because it was a “happier” side of caring for animals. Her first job after school was grooming at Mesa Vista Animal Hospital.

She opened her own grooming salon in Belen in 1985 and says because there are no state regulations on dog grooming, it has become more and more difficult for her to find quality groomers over the years.

“Groomers are a dying breed of people,” said Mathews-Gallegos. “There’s not many groomers out there anymore, and the ones coming in claiming to be groomers are not qualified to do grooming. …Unfortunately, if you’re not trained properly on how to handle difficult dogs, the proper techniques of holding, clipping, scissoring, everything, dogs get injured.”

She said her other goal is to also produce graduates that genuinely care about the animals’ heath and wellness and not just about “the all mighty dollar.”

Mathews-Gallegos considers grooming part of the animal’s health maintenance, and said they always send pets back to their owners with report cards. The cards, for example, might indicate if the dog, or cat, needs its teeth cleaned, or has an issue the groomer feels needs to be addressed by a veterinarian.

“It’s not just about making the dog look cute or pretty. It’s about heath and wellness, you know, cutting the nails, cleaning the ears, draining the anal sacks, checking the teeth,” she said. “Grooming isn’t just for beautification, it’s a health maintenance.”

She said as groomers, they see “all kinds of things,” including a dog that recently came in that she said probably had 2,000 ticks on it, which they removed.

Her favorite part of grooming, says Mathews-Gallegos, is seeing the transformation in the animals, not just physically, but in their personalities.

“They can come in with their heads bowed down and be kind of bummed out, and then you clean them and all that, you put their bandana on them and they start wagging their tail and they’re very happy, like, ‘Oh, look at me, I look good,’” said Mathews-Gallegos. “It makes the dogs feel better.”

She says once the school has been open for the requisite two years, they will apply to become state accredited. To graduate from the course, students must complete 510 hours of study, which includes written examinations, practical and hands on practice.

Mathews-Gallegos says 90 percent of what she teaches is hands on.

“The best way to learn this profession is hands on working on the dogs,” she says.

If students choose to do full time, the course lasts 12 weeks. However, there are also part-time night classes available. Full-time classes run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, while part-time occurs from 5 to 9:30 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Tuition for the course is $5,000, which covers all equipment, such as sheers, which are the students’ to keep.

“It’s a good profession. I’ve been able to raise my daughters in it,” said Mathews-Gallegos, adding that the profession also contains job security since a machine will never be able to groom a dog the way a human can.

For more information, contact Mathews-Gallegos at 864-7946, or visit the school’s website at

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