Grass Valley cancer survivor gets back to business |

Grass Valley cancer survivor gets back to business

Donna Brock, shown here with Gino and Gypsy, is the owner of Best in Show Dog Grooming on McCourtney Road, next to the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
John Hart/ | The Union

After running the Best in Show Dog Grooming business on South Auburn Street in Grass Valley for 13 years, in 2009, Donna Brock was told she had breast cancer. Brock thought to herself “This can’t happen.”

“I have grandkids and children and a husband of 34 years,” Brock said. “I have way too much life to let this beat me. There’s no way. You make your own destiny. You lose your hair, you’re sick, you don’t want to eat, but you never give up. You never surrender.”

And that’s exactly what Brock did.

Four years after being diagnosed with cancer, in May, Brock reopened Best in Show Dog Grooming, now located at 11310 McCourtney Road in Grass Valley, as a cancer-free survivor.

“It felt good,” Brock said. “And I just wanted to get back in the world because it’s time to be a part of life and see people and get back to serving my clients and the dogs that I love.”

Brock’s love for dogs all started with a Spitz named Sam. “We would have little faux dog shows with me and my friends,” Brock, 55, recalls. “And we would have cupcakes as prizes, I think I was 8, and I would bring dogs home, little stray dogs, I brought all kinds of creatures home.”

Recalling her first experience grooming a dog, Brock said “It was as a child but it didn’t turn out very well. I tried to do some cool things and I couldn’t do it right. But I remember I thought, ‘Hey I kind of like doing this.’”

Since then, Brock has taken countless dog rescues into her home, taking care of them and perking them up with grooming skills she has learned after more than 30 years of working at local pet stores, such as The Obedient Dog and Incredible Pets, where she learned the dog grooming craft.

After opening Best in Show in Grass Valley’s Village Center in 1996, Brock said she enjoyed getting to know the local community better and expanding her client base. For Brock, dog grooming was not just about making the dogs look good, but feel good as well.

“I like it all. I like that you can take a picture of a dog when he comes in and he’s just overgrown and dirty and been playing in the pasture, and they’re kind of like ‘Ah crap, I’m dirty, I don’t want to be here and I’m embarrassed,’” Brock said. “By the time I get done with them I take another picture of them and they’re up and they’re ears are up, and they’re looking out the window and are like, ‘I’m pretty.’ You can really see it in them.”

Brock, though, let go of the business after being diagnosed with breast cancer, traveling to and from San Francisco for chemotherapy treatment from a former customer who was an oncologist at the University of California San Francisco medical center.

Brock said her therapy left her nauseous and unable to smell or taste food. To compensate for her loss in senses, Brock remembers watching the cooking channel for shows with cuisine personalities such as Bobby Flay, and would pretend that the Ensure that she had to drink during her treatment tasted like the food she saw on television. Brock said she would watch it all day.

“I would also watch America’s Next Top Model, because I had no hair, I had nothing, and you feel puffy because of all the meds and stuff,” Brock said. “So I’d tell myself ‘I’m going to be OK, I’m going to look like that and I’m going to eat food and I’m going to be OK.’ I just kind of convinced myself that it was going to be OK.”

In 2012, Brock underwent a successful surgery that removed a tumor. As her body began to heal, Brock said her husband recommended that she get back to grooming and caring for dogs again.

“He said ‘Let’s bring your shop to the house. Get yourself stronger and do it a little at a time,’ because with cancer you have a tendency not to want to get back out in the world,” Brock said.

Brock bought some kennels and grooming equipment and built a board and sitting area in her home to take in dogs for her clients. To get back in the habit of things, Brock also began grooming dogs at her friends shop once a week. This past summer, though, Brock decided to open Best in Show again, to give local dog owners and her previous clientele the services she feels are unique to the county.

“I’m different, I offer a more home environment,” Brock said. “I won’t say that I’m better than anyone else because everybody has their own qualities, but I think I’m different and I offer different amenities. It’s just kind of a peaceful environment for them. I give them what I would want.”

Brock offers full-service grooming for small to medium-sized dogs, including nail and pad trimming, brushing, bathes with cleansers and conditioners, blow drying, combing, ear cleaning, and bows and scarves when owners request them.

With space and equipment set up at her dog shop and at home, Brock also offers customers an option for dog sitting or boarding, which allows dog owners to leave their dogs with Brock, for a fee of $25 a day. Clients who are away on a long trip can check up on their dogs by visiting Brock’s Best in Show Facebook page to see pictures and updates on the dogs Brock is caring for.

“She’s wonderful with the dogs,” Shirley Struck, a customer of 10 years, said. “Donna does a beautiful job grooming them and she’s just a terrific person. She treats them like they’re her own, they’re always well-groomed. She just goes 150 percent when she grooms them and takes care of them.”

Best in Show customer Kim Janousek has had Brock groom her cocker spaniel since it was 3 months old, and says when Brock took a break from the business several years ago, other grooming shops they went to couldn’t even get their dog out of the cage to bathe.

When Janousek heard Brock was reopening her shop, she was delighted.

“She doesn’t have anybody else washing the dogs, she knows the dogs really well. I don’t feel that it’s really a job for Donna, it’s more like a passion,” Janousek said. “She’s just great at what she does, and I can’t imagine anybody not being satisfied.”

But for Brock, her business is about giving her clients a place they can go where they can trust their dogs will be safe and treated well.

“Best in Show means the best you can get,” Brock said. “At a dog show if you’ve won Best in Show, you’ve won it all,” Brock said. “I wanted it to be the best. That’s what it’s all about.”

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To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email or call 530-477-4236.

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