On the corner of South Cherry and West Adams, husky howls and barking can be heard in the air, though usually only for a few minutes. On that corner in downtown Muncie, sits Amy’s Pet Spa.
Owner Amy Shears has been busy since she opened in November 2022, and her business is only growing. Kelley Stewart, Shears’ neighbor and owner of Sit-Stay-Play Pet Grooming, recently broke her wrist, leaving Shears to help Stewart’s clients in the midst of a pet grooming shortage.
Throughout the time after the pandemic, according to Groomer to Groomer, the pet population increased by 24 to 30 percent in the United States. Though there are plenty of pet groomers, about 310,000 according to IBISWorld, there aren’t enough to keep up with the new demand.
From working at a parrot rescue in Ohio to fostering hundreds of dogs, Shears knows pets. In Muncie, she has volunteered at Animal Rescue Fund, Muncie Animal Care and Services, Action for Animals and Grateful Rescue.
Though Shears primarily works with dogs, she also offers grooming to cats, exotic birds and other small animals.
And if you’re wondering, yes, Shears has heard the joke before. “Amy Shears’ Pets” was a no go.
Pet grooming is in Shears’ blood. Her mother was a pet groomer when Shears was a child, so she was around animals from a young age. At 13, the Westfield native got a job at the Hamilton County Animal Shelter, and when she was in 4-H, Shears showed dogs and guinea pigs.
“Working with animals comes naturally,” she said. “I was always that weird kid that was sitting over with the cat that doesn't like anybody, but it was in my lap.”
Shears moved to Wisconsin and became an apprentice for a pet groomer named Jenn Nelson in 2010. Then, when she lived in Ohio, she would visit kill shelters and take home dogs who were supposed to be euthanized that week. Working with all these pets and trainers helped Shears become more confident with animals.
Sophie Richau, friend of Shears and customer at Amy’s Pet Spa, said Shears is a miracle worker when it comes to Richau’s husky, Koda.
“He doesn’t freak out with her, and I’ve never seen anyone be able to do that,” she said.
Though Koda has separation anxiety, Shears was able to calm him. Richau said Koda is always excited to see Shears, and after visiting Amy’s Pet Spa, he was the fluffiest and best smelling he’d ever been.
Shears prides herself on being able to take care of animals who aren’t always the easiest to work with.
“The best ones are when people come here as a last resort … and they think no one will take them,” she said. “Being able to do that for the dog and put the people at ease because they’re just trying to take care of their pets, and sometimes, it’s just a little harder than they would hope because of issues they have had before or just anxiety in general.”
Shears said it helps that she uses what she calls “gentle grooming.” Instead of having a bunch of pets in her spa all at once, she only schedules one animal at a time, unless they are family or live in the same household. This way, the pets don’t have to worry about being distracted or made anxious by other animals.
“We just take our time and figure out what they like, what they can tolerate,” Shears said. “If they get too stressed out, especially the little ones, then they can have heart attacks or strokes, so you have to be super careful.”
Gentle grooming allows Shears to give the pets breaks when they are anxious, leaving the animals calmer and happier.
Shears said loud noises like the dryer can be scary for animals. She tries to act calm and upbeat, so the pets can pick up on her feelings.
Animals aren’t the only ones to be concerned with during the grooming process.
When Shears finishes off an appointment and blow dries the pet’s hair, she puts on a mask or a head net mesh, similar to what a beekeeper wears. Shears said she has to wear the mask to keep from getting animal hair in her mouth.
“It gets in your eyes and in your mouth,” she said. “I’ve had a hair stuck in my ear before, and it’s itchy for like forever.”
Due to all of the hair in the air, pet groomers can develop groomer’s lung. According to Groomers Online, this is when pet hair travels into the lungs and inflames the lung lining, scarring airways and causing a chronic lung condition.
Still, wearing a mask is a small price to pay for doing something Shears loves.
“I love it because I get to help the dogs,” she said. “It’s kind of zen just working on a dog in here.”
In 2009, Shears started doing pet photography, and she opened Fur in Focus Portraits. She plans to combine this with Amy’s Pet Spa in the spring.
Currently, Shears’ packages at Amy’s Pet Spa are a bath, a bath and trim, a full groom, nails and shed less treatments. Each package differs in price based on the type and size of the animal. The packages range from $15 to $85.
According to Thumbtack, the average pet groomer costs between $60-$90 a session.
As a part of the bath package, Shears will brush, bathe, trim nails, check ears and glands and blow dry the animal. With full grooms, she performs all of those tasks and cuts the pet’s hair as well.
Marie Jones, returning customer at Amy’s Pet Spa, said she has taken her and her mother’s dog to Shears a few times, and said she could tell how much Shears loved animals from the first time she met her. Jones’ mother’s dog, Zoey, can be a bit tempered, yet Shears is able to calm her down enough to put her to sleep.
“Amy is a dog whisperer,” Jones said.
Jones’ dog was taken from her by an ex-husband, so after having to go through nine months of attorneys and the police to get her back, she is cautious of who she takes her dog to.
“I knew there was no else I’d want to trust to take care of my baby,” she said.
Shear said she doesn’t want owners to be ashamed to bring their pets if the animals have difficulties or if the owner’s haven’t brushed them out in a while. Shears said poodles, for example, get matted easily, so sometimes owners are embarrassed to bring in their dogs.
Shears wants to help and do what is best for the pet. She also doesn’t mind letting an owner stay if they are worried about their furry friend.
“It means a lot to me because this is their baby, to leave them with a stranger can be nerve racking,” Shears said. “That’s really rewarding.”
Shears and Stewart are looking forward to having events where people from the community can bring their pets and learn tips to help them. Shears said they want to have a movie party where guests can bring their dogs, an Easter egg hunt and a “Howl-a-ween” event.
Amy’s Pet Spa and Sit-Stay-Play Pet Grooming will host a dual grand opening to celebrate their businesses March 4.
Contact Lila Fierek with comments at email@example.com.
The Daily News welcomes thoughtful discussion on all of our stories, but please keep comments civil and on-topic. Read our full guidelines here.