Caring for Pets - A Special Privilege


November 30, 2012
By Rachel Koren
with Terry Bates

This article first appeared in the November 2012 PXE eNewsletter

For Terry Bates, owner of Tiny Bubbles Pet Grooming, animal loving has always been a way of life. When Terry was diagnosed with PXE in 2003, she had already been in the pet grooming business for about 20 years and owned two successful grooming businesses. Fighting a difficult battle with her eyesight has made the journey a challenge, but with the proper support and a lot of courage, Terry Bates is once again a successful business owner.

Terry started her pet-grooming career right out of high school at the American School of Dog Grooming in Warren, Michigan.  Her first grooming job was in her sister’s pet store before she spent 10 years running her own business out of her home.  In 1993 she opened her own storefront, which ran successfully for six years before Terry had to move.  She opened another business in 2003, but was forced to close down the shop as her battle with PXE became more difficult.

In 2009 Terry found out about an organization called the Michigan Commission for the Blind which provides a variety of services and support to Michigan’s blind community. The Commission set Terry up with a representative, Tammy Hough, to help her learn to get around without her sight. From seeing canes, to tape recorders, special pens and paper, to teaching Terry how to cross the street, Tammy made sure that Terry could lead an easy and comfortable life, even without her sight. But they both soon realized that such a life wasn’t for her.  Terry loves a challenge! 

The realization came when the Commission for the Blind began helping Terry find a job.  After an unpleasant stint in a retail store, Terry found a job she loved working with horses on a farm.  “I worked for four hours a day-they picked me up, and they took me there, and I got paid.”  This was fine for a while, but Terry struggled to find a permanent position.  Finally both Terry and Tammy realized that it was time to do something courageous. 

“They saw my drive and my passion and my abilities, and they said, let’s invest in you so that you can take care of yourself forever.”  And so, Terry was able to open her third successful grooming business, Tiny Bubbles.

Tiny Bubbles is run out of Waterford, Michigan in a ranch house style facility.  Currently the business is only for grooming, but Terry will be adding daycare and boarding options soon.  She runs her business with a “hands-on” approach, quite literally. 

“Other places try to use these machines for washing the animals, but you just can’t do that.  It does take us longer to do our work, but sometimes you just can’t cut corners.  It would be like cutting corners at a daycare.”  And customers have always taken notice of and appreciated Terry’s pet-centered business philosophy.

The Commission for the Blind didn’t stop at investing in Terry’s business.  They continued to provide support, both financially and with low-vision technologies that help Terry run her business.  They provided her with a special computer with a larger screen, and a computer program with a voice component that allows her to organize and manage the financial side of the business.

But great endeavors are unfortunately never without challenges.  While Terry is extremely proud of the business she has built, it has not been without adversity.  Even the day-to-day can still be difficult. Terry says, “I can’t really recognize the customers anymore, and I can still bathe and dry the animals, but I can’t groom them.” 

The hardest part, she says, is still not being fully independent.  Because Terry can no longer drive, her daughter must drive her to and from work every day. Sometimes what used to be simple tasks, like reading, can be time consuming if not impossible. But Terry strives to keep up a positive attitude.  She says, “Every day is a challenge, but that’s true even if you don’t have a disability.  If it’s worth it, it’s work!”  

Pat Manson wrote in his article Two Paths that there are two options when facing the challenge of vision loss.  You can continue on in frustration, trying and failing to do everything exactly as you did it before. Or, you can take a step back, accept your struggles, and figure out a way to do what you love in a different way. 


"If it's worth it, It's work!"

No road to success is easy.  But through her hardships, Terry Bates has made some amazing accomplishments, and is spending her life doing exactly what she has always loved to do.

Tiny Bubbles is located in Waterford, Michigan.  For more information about Tiny Bubbles Pet Grooming, visit Terry’s website.   

Read the Oakland Press article about Tiny Bubbles.
“Tiny Bubbles pet grooming holds grand opening: Michigan Commerce Bank helps those in need see better futures”