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  • Writer's pictureTonya Ward Tysse

From Cruise Ships to the Grooming Table

So here we are on this journey through the steps of what led me to my business, Palmetto Animal Reiki.

After leaving the cruise line industry back in 2002, I found myself exploring new industries. This chapter started out working for resorts in Charleston for a few years, then to spending 3 years as a vessel boarding agent boarding ships in the area. There were also the side stints of work as a travel agent, as well as wedding and catering jobs.

Through all of these work environments, I gained valuable knowledge of what made me happy in the workplace and what did not. For example, I enjoyed the resort work thoroughly but did not care for the corporate dynamic and mentality that went along with it.

Yes, there is a corporate aspect of the cruise line industry, however, working on board, we crew members were not as affected by this mindset. We had a unique, very international working environment. If one could replicate the international harmony created on ships in the rest of the world, I believe the world would be a much better place.

The vessel boarding agent was an interesting chapter in my career path. At the time, I was the only woman working in this position in Charleston. I had entered the realm of the “good old boys”. The first month, I found it comical how every employee in the port would watch me with shock that there was a woman in this role (I am happy to say that now there are several women in these jobs in Charleston).

I laughed my first day when putting on my steel toe boots for work, reflecting on how my last ship industry job called for formal gowns and social hostess dresses. My world had shifted from a very feminine role to a very masculine environment. How had I moved from MC-ing ice carving demonstrations to climbing the occasional jacob's ladder 3 stories high to board a ship, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning?

I can see clearly now that the decision to become a vessel boarding agent was made from a place of ego rather than heart. I realized that I took the job to prove to myself that I could do it, not because I loved the work itself.


It was not until 2014—when I embarked on my next career as a dog groomer—that a career would tick off all of the boxes of joy.

My training started at a local grooming shop in the Charleston area, where the Universe had provided the perfect outlet for my training. You see, I am a "hands on” learner—I do not do

well watching and then doing. This place would require me to jump right in and start doing the work the first day.

First would be the bathing, then learning how to trim paws, etc., etc. Later in the months, I would elevate my skills to learning the difference between a "casual cut" and "show cut", proper scissor work, and so on. I would gain an understanding of what it meant to be a good dog groomer, how to manage the pups on the table when they were in fear, and how to use my empathic sensitivities to navigate their movements throughout the groom.

For example, if a client brought in a highly anxious dog, I knew that there might be a chance this K9 would bite if I moved too fast. My intuition would help me decide what was best for the situation. In a particular case, there might be a strategy of having the dog just sit on my table for a period of time before we started working. This might look like 20-30 minutes of talking to him, stroking him, or just sitting next to him while I followed up on emails in a quiet and calm manner.

It would soon become apparent that my fascination of working as a dog groomer had very little to do with the haircut aspect and had everything to do with the energy relationships of each animal on my table.

Animals read energy, they don’t respond from a place of ego the way we humans do. They know when something is pleasant and when something is uncomfortable and communicate it honestly through body language, facial expressions, and vocalization. As their guardians, it is our responsibility to listen and respond skillfully to their needs.

Being the sensitive empath I am, I found an avenue to hone my intuitive skills by reading dogs and what they were trying to communicate.

I was finally in my element.

So the question is, why did I leave this industry?

I received back injury from a pup knocking me down. I worked one more year after the injury, however, my body was telling me that I could no longer carry on with the physical nature and requirements of the job.

Deep down, I knew I had learned everything I needed to learn in this chapter. It was time to ask the question, “Tonya, what is your next right step?" And of course, in time I would be shown those answers.


So what was my biggest takeaway from this experience?

I learned that I can love animals unconditionally, regardless of their behavior toward me.

My inquiring mind wanted to know why, then, was I able to show such grace to an aggressive animal in fear, but wasn’t able to show that same kind of grace in other areas of my life?

I also wanted to know how I could transfer this knowledge to understanding my relationships with other people and circumstances I encountered in my world.

This would be my work and it continues to this day.

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Feb 28, 2023

Beautiful woman inside and out💕

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