For Shelby Montoya, dog grooming is about more than baths and haircuts — it’s about relationships.
Montoya, 23, was voted the island’s best dog groomer in this year’s Best of Whidbey contest, and to anyone who has seen her work, it’s clear to see why.
When Montoya’s clients walk into Posh Puppies, the dog grooming salon where Montoya has worked for the past four years, she greets the dogs and owners alike by name with her characteristic friendly banter. She asks the owners about their families and knows what’s happening in their lives.
“I love the people,” she said. “It’s nice — you know the dog’s story, and you know the people’s story, and you know why they have that dog, and you know what dogs they had before they had these dogs, and they wish you knew their dogs, because you would have loved their previous dogs. It’s really sweet.”
Montoya also takes care to make her dogs feel comfortable. The key to dog grooming is to get the dog to trust you, though bribing them with treats also helps, she joked.
Montoya is a long-time Oak Harbor resident and graduate of Oak Harbor High School. Though she’s always loved dogs, her first foray into the world of dog grooming was something of a coincidence. A friend of a friend shared on social media that her work was hiring, and Montoya, who was looking for a job at the time, followed up before she even knew what the job was.
It turned out to be “the best job ever,” Montoya said.
She started out as a dog bather, then was trained as a groomer. Shortly after starting her job at Posh Puppies, she adopted a dog of her own — the first of four, so far. Three are whippets, named Magic, Bon and Star. The most recent addition to the family is a smooth collie named Birdie that Montoya and her husband adopted earlier this year.
“I’ll always get more,” she said with a laugh.
Montoya said her favorite thing about dog grooming is that there’s always something new to learn about dogs. There are different haircuts, styles and breed standards, and she said her coworkers are an unending wealth of knowledge on the subject.
It’s knowledge Montoya puts to good use. When she isn’t working, she enters her own dogs in shows and agility contests.
Montoya has many interests and hobbies outside of dogs. She enjoys hosting game nights and karaoke parties with her friends; visiting Disneyland, her favorite place in the world; and volunteering at the Whidbey Playhouse as a director, producer, actor, educator and more.
Though she admits she loves to involve dogs in all aspects of her life.
“I try really hard to get dogs in every single show that I do (at the Playhouse),” she said, laughing.
Montoya said her job as a dog groomer is hard work that’s easy to love. She added she was thrilled that her clients and other community members voted for her for Best of Whidbey, because it’s a testament that she’s achieving her objective as a groomer: more than anything, she wants her dogs to feel comfortable being groomed by her, and their owners to rest easy knowing their dogs are in good hands.