NORTHWOOD, N.D. - Amy Sheggerud wants every dog she meets to have its day.
The owner of Amy the Dog Groomer gives canines of all colors, shapes and sizes the royal treatment in her home-based parlor in Northwood, offering services from cleaning ears and clipping nails to washing and drying.
Sheggerud opened the grooming business in 2013, three years after she and her husband Darren left Bloomington, Minn., to move to his hometown of Northwood. A former senior sales manager for Conagra, Sheggerud wanted a job that didn't require spending time on the road away from her family.
After the Sheggeruds moved to Northwood, their senior dog, Maggie, a Schnauzer, developed health issues that made taking her to a groomer difficult, Sheggerud said.
"I thought, 'I can't put her through this because it was hard for her and hard for me,'" she said. "I decided I would groom her myself." Sheggerud began taking classes in grooming, but before she finished her coursework, Maggie died. After taking a break while she was grieving the loss of her dog, Sheggerud decided she would finish taking the classes she needed to get certified as a dog groomer, sensing there was a need in the community.
"I thought 'I love dogs, what if I can make a career out of it?'" Sheggerud said.
During her training, Sheggerud groomed more than 70 dogs, from Pyrenees to toy poodles, at no charge to their owners so she could gain experience. Shortly after she received her certification, she participated in a business expo in Northwood which confirmed her hunch that opening a grooming parlor in town would fill a community business need.
"People were so excited to have a hometown groomer. People booked me that day," Sheggerud said. "It's been a whirlwind since then. I thought there would be some months that would be slower than others, but it's constant.
"I started part-time, but the need was so great, I went full-time. I could work 24/7. Spring is super busy. You get all of the farm dogs that haven't been groomed all winter and the ones getting Easter pictures with their families."
Customers bring their dogs from towns across Grand Forks, Traill and Steel counties, and a woman who moved to Detroit Lakes, Minn., from Northwood, still brings her dog to Sheggerud to be groomed.
Owners and their dogs appreciate the one-on-one attention Sheggerud gives them. She learns about their health histories and treats each dog as an individual based on that history and on their personalities.
"Every dog is different," Sheggerud said, noting that the first grooming usually takes longer because she is getting to know the dog and vice versa.
After examining the dogs for lumps and bumps and checking their ears and teeth, Sheggerud bathes the dogs with shampoos selected for their skin types.
"Everybody gets a blueberry facial," she said. "The dogs love it."
After the dogs are clean, they are dried, brushed and, if needed, clipped in an area of her sun porch. The dogs enjoy watching the birds at the feeder outside the windows while they are on the grooming table, Sheggerud said. When the grooming is finished, the dogs can play or lounge on the porch.
"They lay on the futon in the sun," she said.
"It makes me a better person," Sheggerud said. For example, the dogs have taught her about loyalty.
"They have undying love for their people." Simply being around dogs cheers her up, she said. "Watching dogs play, it's just medicine for the soul."
The grooming trade she learned to help Maggie ultimately healed Sheggerud's own heart after the Schnauzer died, and continues to bring her joy, Sheggerud said.
"I get to be with dogs all day, what's not to love?"