Cindy Oliver has always loved animals — especially dogs. And when she decided she couldn’t be a veterinarian, she discovered a relative career as a groomer — marrying her creativity to her first love.
Oliver, who has lived all her life in Cleveland, is married to Alan and they have two daughters, Allie, 11, and Ainsley, 7, both students at North Lee Elementary, and three dogs, Paisley, Sassie and Charlie. Her husband works at M&M Mars.
She is a graduate of Bradley Central High School and earned her bachelor of science degree in animal science/agriculture from Tennessee Technical University. She is certified, also, in pet CPR.
This is her 19th year in dog grooming and she is celebrating 10 years with her Rollin’ Dog House. This idea was born of the thought that customers should not be inconvenienced by waiting all day at the groomers, she said.
And for the Rollin’ Dog House’s 10th anniversary, she upgraded to a bigger mobile.
The air-conditioned and heated salon on wheels is equipped with everything needed for grooming services.
Her expertise in dog grooming went to a new level when she attended a pet fair in Atlanta in December 2005. After attending several classes in working with dogs, she went to an art class and was introduced to creative grooming.
“I can do that on a dog,” Oliver decided, and her career in creative dog grooming took off. “It’s painting on a blank canvas,” she explained. Creative grooming is done when a groomer uses a dog’s hair as a canvas. Oliver sketches out the design on paper and then carves the design in the dog’s hair. It is then “painted” with nontoxic, animal-safe hair dye. Sometimes the design doesn’t call for color. The carved design may be accented with “bling,” like she did on Sassie (Allie’s black poodle) taking first place in Atlanta the weekend of March 9.
Paisley, her white poodle, in three years, has had three designs. It takes from four to six months for the hair to grow out for another design. The detail work of the design takes time. From creating the design to finishing it takes 20 to 30 hours, working in two-hour sessions.
Oliver said she has had only one negative remark since she started competing in 2009. “It’s amazing,” she said. “The dog gets so much attention ... more sociable. She enjoys seeing people smile when they see the creation of a “painted” poodle.
When they fly, the dogs are allowed in the cabin. On a recent trip, Paisley even had her picture taken in the plane’s cockpit with the pilot. And in the terminal, she was surrounded by people snapping her on cell phones. The trips usually include “me and my dogs,” Oliver said, along with a friend or another groomer sometimes. Her husband and family, she added, are very supportive. “He stays home and watches the girls.”
The Oliver team has garnered numerous awards and titles, placing in the top three in shows in Texas, Pennsylvania and Atlanta.
Last year she was in six competitions. In Atlanta’s Pet Fair, Paisley and Sassie were first. In the Intergroom competition, Paisley was first and in Las Vegas came in third, and Paisley was first in the Chicago show. In Ohio and Las Vegas shows, Oliver placed third in Creative Class with Paisley and at the All-American Groom Show, she placed first in the Creative Runway Class with Sassie. Paisley placed first and received the People’s Choice in the Creative Class.
Oliver, who led in points in Runway and Creative, finished the year with a nomination for Creative Groomer of the Year.
In September, 2013, a film crew did a documentary on “Top Dog — Clashes of the Poodles” based on creative grooming and the top groomer in the United Kingdom, Su Eld-Weaver, and those she competes with.
The crew spent six hours at the Oliver house interviewing dogs, the girls and her husband. Everyone, she said, was involved and had fun being a part of it. Oliver, who sings with Heartsprings, put new words to “My Bonnie” to sing about the dog.
The documentary, a positive film, aired in December in the United Kingdom.
When people want to do a TV show about the dogs and creative grooming, she always asks, “Is it positive?” She said she will not participate in negative reporting. Concerning the creative grooming, she said, “I wouldn’t do it if harming dogs.”
Creative grooming, Oliver said, has made them known and opened doors for them. Three calendars have featured her dogs — Sassie was the first. When one story on a calendar appeared in the Banner, Oliver got a call saying, “Just saw your dog.” Sassie has been on the Good Morning show — her 15 seconds of fame — and, also, on Talk Soup and Chelsie Lately.
Of course, Oliver said, she will continue her work with Rollin’ Doghouse. The Rollin' Doghouse is a member of the National Dog Groomers Association of America and International Society of Canine Cosmetologists. Oliver is a board member of Pet Stylists of Tennessee, and board member and secretary of Creative Groomers Association.
Oliver said more than likely, her daughters will follow in her first footsteps. “Allie is learning as she watches and helps — and draws, too. Ainsley’s attention span is shorter,” she added, “but she loves to help as I’m grooming one of the dogs.”
She is looking forward to the next Intergroom competition in New Jersey. Last year at Intergroom, she said, Paul Nathan, a photographer, took photos of the show dogs for his new book “Groomed,” which was released recently. And she is considering Las Vegas and Chicago, as well as Hershey, Pa.
“Can you take us there?” questioned Allie and Ainsley.
“Maybe ... you’re old enough.”