The pride & the groom

Lancashire Life - - Promotion -

Emma Gough has put her heart and soul into her dog grooming busi­ness, writes Emily Roth­ery

For 34-year-old Emma Gough, dog grooming is more than just a job; it has given her the mo­ti­va­tion to over­come a ma­jor heart op­er­a­tion and she is clearly pas­sion­ate about her newly cre­ated busi­ness and the cock­tail of canine clients that she lov­ingly cares for.

Dogs of all breeds shapes and sizes greet me at the door – and these, bar one, just belong to the Gough fam­ily. ‘I’ve al­ways had dogs and can’t imag­ine life with­out them, but it was the heart surgery that led me to a new ca­reer path,’ says Emma.

When Emma vis­ited her doc­tor in Novem­ber 2017 with what she thought was a chest in­fec­tion, she was found to have a heart mur­mur. Fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion alarm­ingly re­vealed that Emma had a se­ri­ous con­gen­i­tal con­di­tion and a bi­cus­pid valve had caused aor­tic steno­sis. ‘The doc­tor at Black­pool hos­pi­tal said that I was a med­i­cal marvel in that the con­di­tion hadn’t been de­tected be­fore, de­spite two preg­nan­cies and liv­ing the busy life of a work­ing mum.’

It was a dif­fi­cult time as the fam­ily had to be screened for the con­di­tion. For­tu­nately, they were given the all clear, but Emma faced open heart surgery where the valve would be re­placed with a bi­o­log­i­cal valve. Emma’s hus­band Chris picks up the story: ‘There were com­pli­ca­tions and the op­er­a­tion that should have lasted four hours lasted eleven. It was stress­ful to say the least and at one point I lost the plot and went to get Emma’s name tat­tooed on my leg!’ Chris can laugh about it now know­ing that the op­er­a­tion was a

suc­cess and that Emma has made a re­mark­able re­cov­ery.

Emma’s love of dogs shines through as we chat but Mazie, Emma’s old­est dog, holds a spe­cial place in her heart. Mazie sits nearby keep­ing a watch­ful eye on us. ‘Mazie is re­ally the ma­tri­arch around here and dur­ing my re­cov­ery she was with me all the way. She was a great com­fort to me and know­ing that I needed ex­tra TLC, she kept the other dogs away.’ With un­canny em­pa­thy the seven-year-old cock­er­dor sensed her owner wasn’t well and pa­tiently stayed by Emma’s side as she slowly built her strength and

in­creased her daily walks.

It comes as no sur­prise to learn then that, af­ter com­plet­ing her ses­sions of car­diac re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion at West­mor­land Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal Emma de­cided to em­bark on a ca­reer that in­volved dogs. ‘I did a lot of read­ing while I was re­cov­er­ing and de­cided that I would try the in­tro­duc­tory course to dog grooming pro­vided by Myrescough col­lege which was held at the amaz­ing Canine Health and Hy­dro near Gis­burn’.

Emma laughs as she re­calls her first taste of dog groomimg: ‘My first dog was a huge husky and it looked as if it was snow­ing. He howled all the way through, but it was beau­ti­ful. Then I was given a bulldog which is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent breed. I en­joyed ev­ery minute of it and came out bounc­ing. As soon as I could drive again, I signed up for the full course and now hold Level 2 and 3 City and Guilds’.

Be­neath the smiles and happy per­sona there lies a strong re­silience that surely has gone a long way in aid­ing the road to Emma’s re­cov­ery and new ca­reer. Emma’s open-heart surgery had taken place in July 2018 yet only months later she was com­mit­ted to driv­ing a round trip of 86 miles per day for three days of the week – a to­tal of 38 days. By the end of Fe­bru­ary 2019, she had qual­i­fied and soon af­ter that Plan­ta­tion Paws was up and run­ning.

‘I couldn’t have done it with­out friends and fam­ily. We built the cabin over win­ter. There were a few hitches, but we got there. I’ve had so much sup­port through­out.’

Emma’s cabin is sit­u­ated in the fam­ily gar­den at Plan­ta­tion Bridge which lies be­tween Ken­dal and Win­der­mere. She has a very clear ethos when it comes to her now thriv­ing busi­ness. ‘I wanted it to be pro­fes­sional but not clinical – more like a home from home for the dogs.

‘The own­ers tell me they love to bring their dogs here as it is so re­lax­ing. They can see ev­ery­thing that I do and my love for dogs. Their dogs are free to play in our field that lies at the back of the gar­den or jump in our pond should they wish. I will pick up dogs if nec­es­sary and take time with ner­vous dogs or dogs with health is­sues. It’s all about work­ing to suit each dog’s needs and mak­ing sure they are happy and re­laxed.’

On the morn­ing of my visit it is Bobby’s turn to be spruced up. Bobby, a small black poo­dle and reg­u­lar client, snug­gles into Emma while we talk be­fore hav­ing his bath and grooming ses­sion. ‘I never feel iso­lated. I love to be in my shed with the dogs and the ra­dio on. I’m so lucky I get to spend my days with these gor­geous crea­tures. Never mind di­a­monds are a girl’s best friend; for me it’s dogs’, laughs Emma.

‘I can fit my work around the school run so it’s per­fect. Clients also tell me they like the fam­ily at­mos­phere when the chil­dren are play­ing at home. My chil­dren al­ways want to know what’s go­ing on with the dogs. Eleanor, who is five, loves to pop in and help me when she can while Stan­ley, seven, en­joys com­ing with me when I walk the dogs. Chris also steps in to help me some­times too.’

Emma also fos­ters dogs for Cre­tan An­i­mal Pro­tec­tion which res­cues dogs from Crete. She cur­rently owns two lemon re­triev­ers that have been res­cued and has am­bi­tions to set up a res­cue cen­tre in the fu­ture. But for now, Emma is de­lighted to see her busi­ness go­ing from strength to strength. She cur­rently has about 75 clients and would like to build it up to 100 this year.

She hopes that her story will be a re­minder to oth­ers to have any sus­pected heart prob­lems checked and that her jour­ney will pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion for oth­ers in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion. ‘I’ve worked re­ally hard and I’m re­ally proud of my lit­tle busi­ness. I’m a great be­liever that ev­ery­thing hap­pens for a rea­son.’ con­cludes Emma.

ABOVE: Emma grooming Bobby LEFT: Emma, Chris and Mazie

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