Melissa Verplank


Certified Master Groomer, Video Instructor, Curriculum Development, President & Founder of Paragon

Melissa Verplank has over 30 years of experience in the pet industry. Her mastery of grooming techniques has won her numerous awards at both national & international levels. She has owned or operated multiple businesses including:

  • A fleet of mobile grooming units that serviced the greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area
  • A grooming salon that grew into The Paragon School of Pet Grooming
  • A luxury pet care facility called Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa
  • White Dog Enterprises which publishes her award winning books, Notes From the Grooming Table and Theory of Five along with other educational products for the pet professional.
  •, an on-line educational streaming video library for pet professionals.

She was at the ground level of the voluntary certification testing programs, earning her Certified Master Groomer title in the mid 1980s. Melissa was a member of the traveling team for GroomTeam USA – representing the United States in World Team Competition in France in the early 90s. Later, she was the GroomTeam USA Team Coordinator, served on the Board of Directors, and currently sits on the Advisory Board. She assisted in the start-up of the International Judges Association and is an approved grooming judge with the United Showmanagers Alliance. Ms. Verplank is highly sought-after industry speaker, contest grooming judge, author, and a two-time Cardinal Crystal Achievement winner.

While Melissa no longer teaches at Paragon, she is still active within the realms of the pet industry.  She and her husband, Marc LaFleur, spend time on their 123-acre Black Falcon Farm, where they promote Friesian horses. Together, she and Marc enjoy all types of outdoor adventures including trail riding, fly fishing, hiking, and scuba diving. Melissa also loves healthy gourmet cooking. Their four-legged family includes three Maremma Sheepdogs, a Bernese Mountain Dog, seven cats, six Friesian horses, and an array of chickens.


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