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AUBURN — A dirty dog and a single moment of inspiration more than 30 years ago led Christine Smith to pursue a career in dog grooming.

Like many people in their early 20s, Smith said, she was wondering what she wanted to do with her life. Then, one day, while sitting out at the lake with her then-boyfriend watching his dog walk along the shore, this idea popped into her head: I want to be a dog groomer.

"His dog was getting filthy, honestly," Smith laughed. "I feel like it was a gift. It was just something that popped into my head and I went with it."

That moment led Smith to what is now a 29-year career in dog grooming. She attended the Rochester Institute of Dog Grooming and educated herself by attending seminars and trade shows, and reading books. 

"I knew in my gut that I wanted to do this and I love it," Smith said.

Brand new to the Auburn area, Smith said her whole career — including the move to Auburn — has always been very serendipitous. So much so that it became the name of her new business: Serendipity Grooming Salon.

For the past 24 years, Smith owned her own salon in the Marcellus area. But she said a new owner bought the building she operated in and had other ideas for the space. 

"So here I am," Smith said. "Life changes, and this is my new path and I love it, love it, love it."

She added that her friend Renee Smith-Ward, the owner of Wag-N-Tail, told her about the 1 Bradford St. location in Auburn and has been trying to get Smith in the space for more than 15 years. 

"I said 'OK, time for that leap of faith,'" Smith explained. "It just feels so right, literally almost everything fell into place."

Smith detailed her journey of opening in Auburn while shampooing Beauty, one of her pooch clients that followed her over from Marcellus. She said that it's been busy since her June 1 opening, and while she's had a good number of clients follow her move, she is also making new connections and grooming new dogs already.

Services at Serendipity include dog grooming, bathing, haircuts and trims, brush outs, nails, ear and gland cleaning — "you name it," Smith said. As of right now, Smith is taking all breeds of dogs; however, her new space is smaller than what she's used to. After having a few large-breed appointments, she said, she'll see how it feels and make a decision on sizes if she finds it doesn't work well for the dogs.

"I want to keep it relaxed. This is home away from home here," Smith said of her salon, explaining that she typically only takes in two dogs at a time so she can stagger her appointments throughout the day to give more one-on-one attention to each dog.

Smith imagines that her services are similar to other groomers in the area, but noted that she has yet to meet all the other local groomers. She is looking forward to Smith-Ward introducing her to the community, which they already have plans for.

While she's loved dogs her whole life, Smith admitted that her inspiration to become a dog groomer caught her off-guard initially because she used to be afraid of dogs.

"I loved dogs before, but from over there," she laughed as she pointed to the other side of the salon.

"Some of the scariest things in my life are the things I want to do," she added, saying that a fear of water is also what led her to learn how to kayak.

Just like her initial inspiration for her career, Smith said some of the best things in her life "just pop up," and launching Serendipity has, so far, followed that same trend. 

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Staff writer Megan Ehrhart can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or megan.ehrhart@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @MeganEhrhart.

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Towns Reporter