“This is a great CareerTech program,” Peters said. “It offers live work, life skills, computer training and Celebrate Recovery, a support group for drug users.”
CareerTech donated computer hardware and digital curriculum and provides some of Muddy Paws’ operating money. It also offers placement help for graduates.
In addition to completing on-site coursework, students go to Tulsa Technology Center’s Lemley campus, where they can take classes in entrepreneurship and computer fundamentals.
There’s good money to be made in the dog grooming business, VanCleave said, noting one student graduated while she was still incarcerated and living in a halfway house. She was making $800 a week.
Program graduates leave with a pet stylist groomer certification and $1,000 worth of tools, financed by Pets Helping People.
When Lea Ann Eastteam graduated from the program, VanCleave hired her to stay on as a groomer.
“Working here isn’t a job,” Eastteam said. “It’s like family. We get spiritual support and friendship. It’s life-changing.”
Eastteam said the training and subsequent job have helped her stay off drugs and repair relationships with her family. She is now caring for her grandchildren — with a lot of support from VanCleave and the Muddy Paws staff.
Not all dogs are excited about the prospect of being groomed, but VanCleave said all her groomers are able to work with ill-tempered, difficult dogs.
“Other dog grooming shops send dogs here that they can’t deal with,” she said.
For the dogs and the women, she said, it just takes someone who is willing to give them a chance.
Connie Romans is communications and marketing coordinator with the state CareerTech Department. She can be reached at Connie.Romans@careertech.ok.gov.