Sonya, originally from Peebles, was raised on a farm, and grew up working with 4H and FFA activities. She says, "I always wanted to work with animals. I was looking for a clean, professional, trustworthy place to have my own dogs groomed and realized I needed to open one."
Sonya's passion for animals was well known; a Hobart coworker nicknamed her Elli May after the Beverly Hillbillies character. He said, "that's what you should name your shop, Elli May's. We have 5 groomers now, and we all answer when someone asks for Elli May."
The staff includes Sonya Sammons, Stephanie Ames, Elisha Ward, Pam Kelly, and our newcomer Sara Carter. Six days a week, they groom about four animals every hour in summer. Out of Season, they groom 2 dogs every hour. Stephanie says, "Older dogs are the biggest challenge; they can be so fragile. She says they're still grooming dogs that came in as puppies. They're practically family. We see them regularly and we get so attached."
Skin problems are a huge issue locally, according to Sonya. "We use and stock the Shampoos local vets, recommend. A lot of dogs can't handle perfumes and additives. We see so many allergies and skin problems, sometimes dogs and cats are shaved to help with allergies. Owners can get flea treatments, shampoos and skin products at Elli May's, as well as pet accessories. I try to stock what our customers want." She shares pet tips on the website and enjoys showing off pictures of happy, well-groomed customers.
Animal attraction isn't in the job description but it is all in a day's work. Sonya has accumulated nine dogs, most of the legacies from customers who knew she would provide a good home. "My dogs are my life. I've smuggled them into some wonderful places. They have their own heated, air-conditioned building and a radio. Actually, my dogs have a better life than I do."
In addition to their own pets Stephanie, who was once attacked by a dog when she was only 11, have taken in four wiener dogs and a cocker spaniel named Abby for clients who could no longer take care of them. She says, "I was scared of dogs most of my life. Now, I'm with dogs all day and can't imagine doing anything else."
Although dogs don't like their nails trimmed, or their anal glands expressed, she says they never tranquilize or punish an animal, no matter what. "We give them time to calm down, and start again. Not every grooming goes quickly, but we don't want any animal to be hurt or to hate coming here."
They keep records for each animal, and, because many of their clients are senior citizens, offer pickup and delivery service for a nominal fee. For the customers with 4-5 dogs, Sonya's in home nail trimming is a major convenience. Six years ago Sonya purchased the building they'd been renting, adding spaces for bigger dogs and a window that lets customers see exactly where and how their dogs are being handled. She says, "Professional grooming is more than just putting on bandannas and bows. I want people to know they can trust us with their animals." The groomers each mention how all the dogs have different personalities, and they agree with Sonya, who says, "Meeting the animals is the best part of the business- and we get to see them again in six weeks."
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