Animal Buddies NEPA Move Forward

"I don't know what to do."

Mark Grabowski and his wife Alicia are the owners of Animal Buddies in Wilkes-Barre.  The couple's dog, cat, and rabbit grooming business was running, purring, and hopping along just fine until the pandemic.  When Governor Wolf issued his stay at home orders most businesses were forced to close their doors. Animal Buddies wasn't given any special treatment.  The doors shut.  Mark and Alicia waited.

I'm not sure when Mark first called my show, but I remember him telling me that he didn't know what to do.  He was ready, willing, and able to go back to work, but he didn't want to find himself in trouble with local authorities.  Mark didn't expect answers, which was good because I didn't have answers. 

During one call, I asked Mark if groomers were licensed by the state. When he said they weren't licenced by the state, I suggested that maybe he should just open up his shop and safely resume operations. I thought he had nothing to lose.  Mark didn't want to break the rules.  I respect that.  Truth be told, I'm not a big rule breaker myself.

As the months passed, I'd occassionally hear from Mark. On May 21, 2020, Mark called in and expressed a bit more frustration than usual. Mark was worried about pets who had gone without grooming for months. He worried that unclipped nails would curl under and into the skin of the animals. He didn't want to see animals suffer.  Mark shared a story about his unsuccessful attempts to get answers or help from local elected officials. 

During a commercial break on my show, I wrote the following e-mail to both the Governor's office and the PA Department of Health:

Is there any sort of official statement on why animal/pet groomers are unable to resume their work?

Animals aren't transmitting the virus to people.  Vets are doing their own version of "curbside delivery" where you pull up, pass the pet, wait in your car, and they bring the pet back when they're done.  Groomers could do the same. In fact, I'm pretty sure most people already drop off their pets for grooming services.

I have a listener who calls in from time to time. He's been making calls to local elected officials. No response.  He just wants to work. He's worried about pets not being properly taken care of and knows he can help.  

What's the story?  Anyone he can talk to?

This is probably the part of the story where you're expecting me to tell you that they snapped their fingers and Animal Buddies was allowed to immediately reopen.  If that's what you were expecting, you're going to be disappointed.  I'm sorry.  This is a pandemic, not a fairytale.  

It's wasn't all bad news.  During a chaotic time, my e-mail helped put animal groomers in a spotlight. It was a small spotlight, but that's all Mark needed to hear. He wanted to know someone was listening. I was happy to make sure Mark's voice was heard.  It was truly the least I could do for someone who listened to my voice on a daily basis.

The next week, it was announced that Luzerne County was going to move to the green phase of the Governor's reopening plan.  Animal groomers could go back to work.  Animal Buddies could reopen.  

I didn't get any more calls from Mark, but that's not where this story ends.  

About two weeks after Luzerne County went green, I received a card (as seen below). It was from Mark. He wanted to say thank you.  

The next day, I called Mark, but he was too busy to talk.  An hour later, Mark called back. You can hear our call on this page.  

Far too often, we ignore the little things. We forget that the little things can mean a whole lot more than the big things.  Being able to hyper focus on the little things is one of my favorite parts of this job at WILK.  I truly believe that when local radio embraces the little things, we're at our best.  When we're doing our job, you're not just listening to us, we're listening to you as well.

Jason Barsky

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