A veteran who served 22 years in the Royal Signals, completing tours of Germany, Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Falkland Islands, has taken her love for dogs and turned it into a career that has seen her grooming dogs in preparation for the famous canine show Crufts.
Verity Gough was in the Royal Signals, the British Army's professional communicators - a career far removed from the day to day life of a dog groomer, as she explained to Jess Bracey, BFBS the Forces Station broadcaster. She said: "I did get mortars land very close most days in Iraq where the back dirt from the impact would hit the roof of our sleeps.
"In Afghan, I worked for UKSF and would regularly go out on the ground to repair and maintain comms equipment in their remote, deep locations and got shot at a few times."
- The veteran-dog duo inspiring others struggling with civilian transition
- Former Navy chef bakes her way to success with brownies
- British troops reunite Socks the dog with owner
The veteran had planned to continue using her communication skills and taking them into civvy street but the COVID-19 lockdown led her down a very different path. She said: "Because of COVID and the lockdown, my two dogs were due grooming just as we went into lockdown, so I thought I'd give it a go myself.
"Made a right mess of it but in fact, I thought, actually I could do this as my career."
The veteran trained to become an advanced professional groomer and used her pension and the lump sum of money she got for serving 22 years to set up a grooming parlour in a smart pod in her garden.
Depending on which military pension they have been contributing to, service personnel can receive a one-off lump sum of three times their annual pension which is normally tax-free after 22 years of service.
Verity's canine pamper parlour, Forest Canine Grooming Ltd, is based in Coleford in the heart of the Forest of Dean. The dog groomer discovered during lockdown that the people who lived in her area were buying dogs to keep themselves company and so she now finds herself with a lot of four-legged clients, saying: "With all the lockdown, everyone was getting a dog because they were at home and they wanted company so the amount of dog owners and the amount of dogs at the moment has increased immensely.
"It's been incredible. I've been inundated with dogs since I've started to be honest."
A jewel in the crown for Verity is that some of her canine clients have been shown at the international dog show, Crufts.
For the event this year, she groomed a Japanese Spitz called Luna, a flat-coated retriever called Ranger and a German Spitz. She said: "Yeah, it's really exciting.
"I've been grooming them for the last year so before dogs are allowed to be shown at Crufts, they have to do intermediate shows, so I've been grooming them for those shows and they've been coming first."
The dog groomer has some top tips for making sure dogs competing at events like Crufts are as prepared as possible. Firstly, while brushing, make sure you get down to the skin and use a comb as well.
Verity says you have got to ensure, down to the "nitty gritty" that the dog is being groomed to the breed standard, saying: "There's a big Bible called 'Notes On The Grooming Table' which is the breed standard groom for every dog.
"It covers everything from head to tail, so it's just paying that extra bit of attention and making sure that everything is perfect for the day."
She also says that, in her experience, Shih Tzus are the most difficult dogs to work with, simply because they hate their faces being touched.
Verity recommends all new dog owners should prepare their canine companions as soon as possible for being handled so that, when it is time to get them groomed, being handled does not make them feel anxious. She said: "If you've got a young dog or puppy, socialise them early with handling their paws and legs, working around their face as well because those are always the problems areas, is paws and face.
"It's really important that the puppy gets well-adjusted to being handled in those sorts of areas."
Cover image: Verity with a canine client (Picture: Verity Gough).