As a young boy growing up in Argentina, Jorge Bendersky never dreamt of being a firefighter, a baseball player, or a superhero. He always wanted to work with animals. Luckily for him, his aunt worked as a dog groomer and began giving him lessons when he was only 11 years old. Soon Bendersky had his own kennel, and, at 17, he became the youngest person in Argentina to judge a national dog show.
Not long after, he left Argentina and headed for New York City to make a career in grooming. “I knew if I wanted to take grooming to another level—a level of glamour—New York was the place to be.”
In 2008 Bendersky gained the attention of high-profile names when he took home third place on Animal Planet’s reality series, Groomer Has It. Today P. Diddy, Ralph Lauren, Gisele Bündchen, and other animal-loving celebrities call him at all hours of the day or night to make sure their dogs shine with the “in crowd.”
After a long day of shampooing, cutting, and brushing, Bendersky finds tranquility by coming home to Tito, his 4-year-old Pomeranian. We caught up with Bendersky to learn more about his grooming secrets and Tito’s bedtime rituals.
TAILS: What do you think separates you from other groomers out there?
Jorge Bendersky: I see [grooming] as a bonding experience between a human and a dog. When you see animals grooming each other, it’s a way to show love and affection. I try to do that when I groom a dog. When I teach people, I try to show them how important the relationship is with our dogs. I think how I handle and understand dogs is one of the things that sets me apart. Then I customize every hairstyle for the life of the dog. If I walk into a house and I see a bicycle and running shoes, I know the dog will have to have some kind of sporty haircut. If I walk in and see a line of Louis Vuittons by the door, I know the dog will have to be drop-dead gorgeous—because they are going to be walking next to those shoes. From each person I get a vibe about their lifestyle, and I come up with the best haircut to enhance their life.
You once said, “Knowing how to brush your dog saves lives.” What did you mean by that?
Brushing your dog is not only a bonding experience, but when you do it thoroughly, you get to have visual contact with every inch of their skin. That is the best way for early detection of skin rashes, cuts, bugs, allergies, and ear infections. You see all of that when you brush your dog properly.
How did Tito come into your life?
I was always so busy, I never thought I’d have time for a dog. Then a friend of mine said I needed to have a dog in my life. He was the perfect size and fit my lifestyle. He’s my little buddy. It doesn’t matter how hard your day is, just having a dog waiting for you gives you enough distraction to rewire your brain before you go on to the next task. You play fetch with your dog for a minute, and that is all your brain is focusing on. The dog will not judge you. He just wants to share love. Having Tito at home is my little heaven.
What is bedtime like with Tito?
He doesn’t like to watch TV in bed. He can be a little grumpy. He won’t come into bed until he hears that I’ve turned off the TV. He will chill in the living room until I’m done.
Is he a pillow hog?
He tries. I’m still uncomfortable with sharing my pillow, so I gave him his own little pillow.
Does he steal the covers?
He likes to stay on top.
Does he snore?
Yes! He’s better now. He’s 4, and it’s freaking me out. He’s middle aged!
Does he like to cuddle?
Sometimes. Only on his own terms. He likes to cuddle for a few minutes and then he goes to his corner. It’s not what I want—it’s what he wants. He’s super-independent. I have five different cameras around the house at floor level, so when I’m at work, I can watch him.
That’s very James Bond!
I know! I love it. I want to see what he’s doing when I’m not home.
And what does he do?
He just sleeps.
What do you think he dreams about?
I think he dreams about smells. He’s very into sniffing everything.
What do you still have dreams of doing?
I love what I do. I am extremely glad. I feel like I’m at the top of what I do. I would focus more on meditation. I would also like to educate more [people] about how to groom their dogs. I’m a cowboy who grooms dogs. I think eventually Tito and I would like a weekend place. I do love the city, but I need a tree to hug. I don’t like the beach that much. I want to have a horse more than a bathing suit.