Gray Auld, owner of Saving Grace Grooming, knew what they wanted to do for a living almost from the beginning.
“Growing up I worked for my parents’ laminating company during the summers, but dog grooming was actually my first real job,” Gray said. “I started part time while I was in college studying Conservation and Wildlife Management.”
There weren’t too many jobs available for wildlife researchers in the area, so they ended up working in and managing grooming salons for multiple corporations.
Then in 2017, they decided to open their own business so they could put to practical use all the knowledge gathered to create an environment that was best for pets and their owners. A born animal lover, Gray was happy to spend the workday helping dogs, and sometimes cats, to be comfortable as well as stylish.
I envy Gray for being able to work all day with dogs. (As a high school teacher, many days I’ve looked out at my students and wished they were puppies.)
I ask them why they chose the name “Saving Grace” for the business, which serves the Central Bucks, Upper Bucks and Lambertville areas.
“I chose the name because we donate a portion of our profits to various animal rescues and LGBTQIA+ charities. From the start it has been important to me that my business makes a difference in any way we can.”
“My birth name was ‘Grace,’ so it was originally a catchy play on words and alliteration. Now my name is ‘Gray,’ and my pronouns are they/them. I’m non-binary and have been publicly trans for the past 3+ years. While the name ‘Grace’ doesn’t fit me personally anymore, the name ‘Saving Grace Grooming’ still fits our goal as a company that has a positive impact on the communities around us.”
I ask Gray how they found the people who work for them. I’ve watched my husband wrestle with our dogs to trim their nails, and I say I think it must be challenging to find people with the necessary patience.
“I honestly think my team found me,” Gray says. “For my part, I do my best to create a safe space and treat my team the way I wish past employers had treated me. The most important thing to me was finding genuinely good people who care about the animals we work with. We are peas in a pod. Somehow, we all fall somewhere in the LGBTQIA+ community. We all love animals and nature, and we all love and support each other.”
Gray pauses. “I know this probably sounds like just a line, but considering I am estranged from my family, I feel extremely lucky to have found people who are more like family than employees and coworkers.”
If you read the profiles of the four who work with Gray at Saving Grace, you come away with a sense of how much animals truly mean to them.
Ember: “…with this job I never stop learning.”
Kayla: “Animals helped me get through all the rough patches life presented.”
Tara, the only cat groomer, reports she has “…two dogs, four cats, two horses, and two human children.”
Wren says “I strive to be patient with all the pets that step onto my table. The rewarding sight of those post grooming zoomies, or a pup seeing our van and instantly wagging his/her tail, or the small face kisses of a nervous pup finally warming up to me make my job worth doing.”
All grooming is done in one of their state-of-the-art, self-contained vans. Gray says, “Mobile grooming allows us to build relationships with owners and their pets so everyone is comfortable and satisfied.”
Their services run the gamut, but my favorite has got to be “Breath Refresh for clean teeth and minty breath.” I imagine this is for dogs just re-entering the dating scene after the breakup of a long-term relationship who want to put their best paw forward on that all-important first date.
Gray mostly grooms pups “who are either difficult or used to be very difficult but have adjusted to me. These types of grooms are very rewarding. I love to be able to work with a dog and see their progress as they realize that being groomed isn’t the worst thing in the world.”
The downside to working with animals you’ve come to cherish is missing them sorely when they’ve passed on.
“There was this little rescue terrier named Benny whose parents loved him so and took such great care of him,” Gray said. “He had a lot of health issues and more specialist doctors than even most humans see in a lifetime. Benny hated grooming because of his skin and ear infections. I tried to do it as quickly as I could so he could get back to his parents. He passed away recently… I will always miss Benny and his amazing family.”
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