Julie Gray considers herself to be a fourth-generation pet groomer.

Julie Gray considers herself to be a fourth-generation pet groomer.

That's a lot of snips and probably a few snarls over the years.

The Westerville resident owns Julie the Groomer at Good Dog Grooming on Cleveland Avenue in the Northland area. Gray has been a professional groomer for about 27 years; she opened the shop at 5084 Cleveland Ave. in a former veterinarian's office April 1, 2009.

"And I wasn't fooling," she said.

Gray said one of great-grandfathers came to this country from Ireland and was a professional handler of Kerry blue terriers and Afghan hounds. One of her grandfathers raised and trained German shepherds. Her mother got into showing dogs in the 1970s and also raised Afghan hounds.

"I think the first time I picked up a pair of clippers I was 14 years old," Gray recalled. "I love it. It's a passion. It is a skilled trade. However, there has to be some sort of artistry and passion for the animal. I wouldn't do it as a swift career change to make money, because then you're in it for the wrong reasons."

It also is necessary, said Gray, who was born in Chicago but has spent most of her life in Westerville, to get along with the real clients, the owners of the cats and dogs, mostly the latter.

"I haven't met a dog yet that could drive itself to the groomer," she said.

Anita Pham, also of Westerville, brought in her two dogs, a Lhasa Apso and a Bichon-poodle mix, for their biweekly visits to Good Dog Grooming. She said she's been bringing "my two girls" to the salon for the past six years, after getting a recommendation from a neighbor.

"Overall they love it, and they look beautiful every single time they get done," Pham said.

"We've got people who come once a week," Gray said. "They want a nice, clean dog and they don't have to brush them.

"It's our job as a groomer to educate the clients. We're here to treat your dog's skin and coat, as well as to give you a smile."

Mindy Helt, who grew up in the Northland area but now lives in Westerville, has been working at Good Dog Grooming for almost four years.

"I never really envisioned being a dog groomer, but I can't envision doing anything else," she said.

Regular clients "become almost like an extended family," Helt added.

"Mindy and I are a fabulous fit," Gray said. "We balance each other out."