Pampered Pets: Four-Legged Friends Live Luxe

By SANDRA WEYANT | Jul 12, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Everyone loves to be pampered, and that includes our furry friends. After all, they are a part of the family and deserve to receive the royal treatment. One way to make your pet feel special and fur-bulous is through professional grooming. Even though animals “groom” themselves by licking their fur or hair coat, it’s not the same as being bathed and brushed by an owner or groomer.

Salon manager Holly Cohen has been a professional groomer at PetSmart for six years, and has experience clipping and coiffing a variety of dog breeds, as well as a special certification for grooming cats. PetSmart, located in Manahawkin, offers two grooming packages: either a bath or haircut. The bath package includes washing the pet, clipping its nails and cleaning its ears. The haircut package features the same services plus a haircut.

As a professional groomer, it’s easy to learn and love each animal that comes through the door. Among Cohen’s regular and beloved clients is Dusty, a 3-year-old Sheltie, short for Shetland sheepdog, who visits for weekly brushings and a bath every six weeks.

Dusty’s owners, Denise and Nathan Miller of Little Egg Harbor, said Dusty has been coming to PetSmart to be groomed since he was 11 weeks old and 11 pounds. Dusty just celebrated his third birthday on June 30, and is now weighing in at 50 pounds. Along with being a strikingly handsome dog with a luxurious coat of fur, he is also quite the scholar, having participated in three obedience courses and earning three degrees.

Cohen is trained to deal with difficult or anxious pets, but luckily Dusty is not one of them. Most people consider grooming to be a fun job that involves playing and interacting with animals, but Cohen says it requires a lot of patience. In order to help each pet get acclimated with the setting, she talks to the animals and pets them to make them comfortable. Sometimes nail clipping requires more than one person for the job if a pet seems scared. One person will clip the nails while the other distracts the dog by petting it.

“We have muzzles and cones, the ones typically used for after spay or neuter procedures, but we don’t like to use those,” Cohen said. “Muzzles can freak the dog out worse than the process of grooming. And with cats, once they are stressed or start panting, they have to go home, even if we are in the middle of shaving or washing.”

Though Dusty enjoys being brushed by the groomers, he is not a fan of it at home. He looks forward to his haircare routine and sprints into the salon. “We all call him the Energizer Bunny back here,” Cohen said.

Because Dusty’s fur is long and luscious, his humans prefer that he does not get a haircut. Once he is thoroughly combed out, he gets sprayed with his favorite fragrance, a coconut cologne that he uses to attract all the female dogs on the block. After he is all fresh and clean, Denise and Nathan pick out a bandana for him. Dusty doesn’t like to play dress-up often, but he does sport a sweater in the wintertime to keep him warm, and he has a raincoat for walks outside. Winter boots are a definite no-no, though. Dusty prefers to feel free in his natural state of furriness, without clothes.

Still considered a puppy, Dusty is a ball of energy everywhere he goes, and coincidentally, balls are his favorite toys. He has the run of the house and the fenced-in backyard. The Millers bought Dusty the biggest and best dog beds for several rooms in the house, yet he still sleeps either on the couch or in bed with them.

Nathan “cannot be without Dusty,” so the Millers have equipped their Jeep Wrangler with a special setup for the pooch. “The back seat folds up on my Jeep, and there is a little area and that is his place,” Nathan said. “Everyone always says he is a beautiful dog, so I got him a Beautyrest bed for the car because he is beautiful. The whole Jeep is covered in hair, but we don’t care. Wherever I can bring him, I will.”

Barnegat Light dog park, located on West 10th Street on Long Beach Island, is Dusty’s favorite place to play and meet other canines. Denise and Nathan drive more than a half hour each way to take him there every week. Denise and Nathan’s grandson, who was 4 years old when they adopted Dusty, named the dog after the character Dusty Crophopper from Pixar’s “Planes.” Similar to Dusty the dog’s coloring, the character in the movie is orange and white, so it seemed to be a perfect fit. “Plus, Dusty gets very dusty when he plays at the dog park,” Nathan said.

Pampering a pet goes beyond physical enhancements, such as grooming. Most people know that the real way to an animal’s heart (and a human’s) is through food. Food is love, and when it comes to treating their dog, the Millers surely know how to show affection.

Dusty is accustomed to fine dining, and expects a delicious steak from Golden Corral every week.

“For just $2 or $3 we can get him a nice piece of meat. Sometimes we go to McDonald’s and get him plain hamburgers. He loves it,” Denise said.

Dusty also likes a sweet treat after his meal: vanilla ice cream served in his doggie cup, but not too often or he will get a stomach ache. When he is home alone (and not), Dusty is resourceful and can make his own snacks. To beat the heat, he helps himself to a refreshing piece of ice from the refrigerator door. He hits the button with his snout and crunches on the frozen water. Having a long nose also comes in handy when he wants to steal snacks off the kitchen counter.

“I guess people would say he is ill-mannered, but he is just hungry,” Nathan said.

For those seeking more extreme grooming services for their four-legged friends, Cohen explains there are many fun options to try, like a funky-fresh hairdo or chalking.

“We do have coloring and stenciling, and a lot of people get that for the holidays: red and green for Christmas, blue stripes and red stars for Fourth of July. We call them Pet Expressions, and we have a station set up for people to see the designs,” Cohen said.

Chalking typically lasts anywhere from one to two months, depending on the pet’s fur. To apply the colors, the groomers wet the chalk with a spray and brush it on using a toothbrush until it gets into the fibers of the hair. Stenciling is performed with a toxic-free aerosol can, and the dye is sprayed into the stencil outline on the fur.

“We have skulls and crossbones, stars, hearts, crowns and holiday-themed images, anything you can think of, really,” Cohen said. “Some people think it’s silly, but we get a lot of younger people and kids. Parents will get it done for kids’ birthdays. I had a client that was Elsa from “Frozen” for Halloween, and they dyed their dog blue on the ears and tail to match her dress.” Cohen’s most difficult design to date was creating a rainbow tail because she had to keep it steady and avoid getting the pigment in the dog’s behind.

In addition to coloring the fur, pet parents can also give their dogs a pedicure using pet-safe nail polish for extra-pretty paws. Nail polishes are available for purchase at most pet stores, but can also be found at many online retailers. There is no limit as to how to make your pet feel loved and appreciated, but in terms of grooming, Cohen recommends that long-haired pets should be groomed every six to eight weeks, and should be bathed every four weeks (no sooner or the skin will become dry and irritated).

Regular grooming visits can significantly improve your pooch’s well-being and comfort, so it’s important to establish a grooming schedule for your pet, similar to your own personal care routine. “We see a lot of matted dogs this time of year. It’s hard to calm the dog when they are in pain while getting shaved. Make sure you bring your pet in often, not just in the summer to get an overgrown winter coat shaved off,” Cohen said.

Come visit Holly Cohen and her team of bathers and groomers at the Manahawkin PetSmart and help your fur babies stay cool for summer with a fresh cut.

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