Story by Carol Jackson
Photos by Bernie Laframboise
What do Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow, the music industry, art and dog and cat grooming have in common, you ask? I’ll tell you: Lori O’Brien, dog/cat groomer extraordinaire.
Lori works out of West Woodward Animal Hospital on 9 Mile. She grooms both the clinic patients and non vet patients. I’ve known her since 2003, but was amazed to realize how much I didn’t know about my friend before this interview. I guess we all have a lot of layers to peel off before we get to the core!
I asked Lori about the past lives that led her home to her pet grooming business in our fair town.
“I graduated with an art degree from Wayne State University. My passion for art has no boundaries. I worked my way through all my schooling, got my degree and taught for a short time.
“I ventured out into the music industry for the next 15 years. I worked hard, lived in New York City, Minnesota, Los Angeles and Detroit. I traveled with the small and big bands: Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow, to shamelessly name a few! It was quite the 15 years, I wouldn’t give up one minute of it. I have friends all over the world. However, as industries change, so must some of the loyal staff. I could see the handwriting on the wall.
“Since Detroit is my hometown where my parents are (Father is a retired Detroit detective, mother a nurse and successful sister), it started to make sense to close down my career and find my calling in Detroit.
“During my last couple years in music, I became obsessed with animal rescue, and was introduced to Animal Cops Detroit. I made my friends tune in every time it was broadcast. Then a germ of an idea started. I love dogs, I love cats. I took the leap of faith, quit the big-paying job and in 2003 moved back to Detroit.
“I was determined to find my calling, so I started out smart, worked at small vet clinics, at MHS as an adoption counselor, doggy day care facilities, learning the ropes to the next step. Grooming. I went to school in 2008, found I have a natural talent and a complete love affair with every dog and cat (and occasional bunny) I met. I was truly home. The grooming has evolved into dog-sitting (your place or mine) and dog-walking. Anything your dog or cat needs outside of vet care, I’m up for it.”
I asked how she is different from other groomers.
“We have a lot of talented groomers in and around Ferndale. My experience allows me to be multi-faceted. A lot of groomers don’t groom cats. I love cats, but find the clinic is too stressful. So I cut nails, etc. at the client’s homes. And working at the Michigan Humane Society gives you an education no one else has. I’ve worked on big dogs, small dogs, severely-matted, embedded collars, abused pets. When a dog leaves with its family and the family is in tears because I was able to get the matts out, and now they won’t hurt the dog when they brush it — that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”
And her dreams for the future?
“Well, I want to continually get better at my craft. I want people to know they can approach me on the street. I usually come back from the grocery store with a couple of dog sits or grooming jobs. I want to keep the trust people place in me. I know my life to this date doesn’t look like there is a thread that runs through where I was and where I am today. But it took the same passion, love and creativity to become a fine artist and promote music that it takes to groom animals. I get to give and receive love, and use my creative side to create designs in grooms. Sometimes I draw a picture of a beloved pet. My job is like working on a moving train, either you get kisses or pooped on!”
On a personal note, Lori is a gifted artist, one of the funniest story tellers ever and a loving, compassionate person. She has been watching my pets since 2008 and we all love her.
Contact Lori at 248-414-9700