Hot Diggity Dog: A Day in the Life of a Dog Groomer
All Breed Dog Grooming owner and groomer Stephanie Arredondo greets the shop’s live-in cats, Marcel and Prudence, as she balances the cash drawer for another busy day in the pet salon. They glide around the room, swishing their tails and winking their eyes as if to say “Good morning.”
“I like coming in in the morning,” Arredondo says at 7 a.m on Thursday, May 15. “It’s quiet.”
As she checks voicemails for appointment requests and changes, Arredondo explains that often she opens at 7 a.m. to accommodate dogs with medical or special needs, who wouldn’t appreciate the noise and activity later in the day. Sometimes, maybe once or twice a week, she grooms cats at that early hour too. The salon normally opens at 8 a.m. Today there are no special needs animals waiting, so she continues with her daily tasks. Arredondo grooms animals Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in New Richmond. Tuesdays she is in her salon in Somerset, which is located inside the Animal Luv Inn (1584 32nd St., Somerset). The other days of the week she helps run the business-side of her husband’s chimney cleaning business, Nick’s Chimney Service, from an office in the hallway next to the New Richmond salon.
As she checks email and voicemail, she realizes she and the other three groomers on staff that day have a full schedule. That’s nice to see after a lackluster winter with terrible cold and snow.
“It’s nice to have a wait list on a weekday,” Arredondo said. “It’s a sign the weather’s getting better.”
Arredondo said it’s important to groom dogs year round, not just in the summer. She recommends grooming dogs every eight weeks, especially the long-haired breeds. She likens them to people, who need to groom and bathe regularly.
At about 7:20 a.m., Chanteal “Bitty” Strand comes in and readies her station for her first dog of the day. Brittany Bader, the animal bather on staff who is training to become a groomer, also arrives and prepares to wash the first dog of the day, which is Arredondo’s Pomeranian/Shih-tzu mix Moto. The bathing room is separate from the main part of the salon, mostly to keep the water and noise from the dryers contained.
“Moto thinks he’s the boss, so he corrects everyone,” Arredondo said as Moto trots through the salon, seemingly scolding the other animals. Both Strand and accounts manager/groomer Mandy Atzmiller bring their dogs, Bear and Jackson, to work with them.
When Atzmiller arrives shortly after 8 a.m., Arredondo excitedly shows her some new products she got in, including some shedding brushes. Arredondo has been thinking of adding retail lines to the salon for awhile, which would include cute little clothes, collars, bowties, brushes and combs.
At 7:30 a.m., two Lhasa Apsos, Reggie and Rayne, arrive for a day of pampering. Before Reggie is bathed, Arredondo “roughs in” the shape of his haircut so as not to waste shampoo on hair that will be cut off anyway. She then dabs a small amount of baking soda in his ears, which helps dry up any “goo.” Bader whisks him away to be bathed and dried before his grooming really begins.
Throughout the course of the day, each groomer typically grooms five to six dogs during a shift. A typical appointment runs between three and four hours, Arredondo said. But that includes drying time, taking them out to go to the bathroom, and resting in a kennel in a darkened room with soft music playing once they’re all shiny, clean and dolled up with a bandana or bowtie.
About mid-morning, Daisy the St. Bernard arrives for her appointment. The massive dog good naturedly greets everyone like old friends. It takes both Bader and Atzmiller to lift her into the washtub.
Throughout her day, Arredondo grooms six dogs: her dog, Moto; Reggie the Lhasa Apso, Max the Shih-tzu; Mickey the Labrador retriever; Sandy the Labrador/Shepherd mix and Kowe the Shih-tzu.
She said when she began grooming 13 years ago, she learned show grooming, scissor grooming and breed standard cuts. She said, believe it or not, dog “hairdos” get outdated just like humans’ hairstyles.
“We learn something new all the time,” Arredondo said of attending seminars and following grooming groups online. “We always can learn more.”
Around 10 a.m. as Arredondo works on Mickey, an old, sweet black Labrador, she gently cleans her ears with a soft wipe. Sometimes the girls have to remove a tick, or a few. She gently clips Mickey’s nails, trims the fur around her paw pads and files the nails smooth. When Mickey is finished, Arredondo takes her outside to a grassy area near the salon to do her business.
Salon manager Brianna “Midge” Cooke pops in on her day off with her 6-month-old son Jerdon. Everyone pauses for a few moments to coo, snuggle and talk to the little boy.
Next comes Max the Shih-tzu. Arredondo lifts him onto the grooming table and puts a loose leash around his head to hold him in place. The table rises with a push of a pedal near the floor. The girls are not allowed to leave a dog unattended on a raised table. If they step more than an arm’s length away, they must contribute $5 toward the Christmas party fund.
Arredondo pulls small swabs of cotton from Max’s ears that Bader placed to soften the sound of the dryer. She sets to work pulling dead ear hairs, which Max does not appreciate. Next she sprays his thick hair with a dematting spray to help detangle it. Then she sets to work with the scissors, shaver, and blender/thinner trimmer to give Max his standard Shih-tzu cut.
When she’s finished, Arredondo steps back and pronounces Max’s look as “perfection.”
Before Max is taken to the calm room to wait for his owner, Arredondo rubs him down with essential oil, which nourishes the fur/hair and smells pleasant. She blows the excess hair off with a dryer and sweeps the big pile toward a corner of the room, where it will be swept up later and thrown into a large garbage bin.
Strand calls Arredondo over to help her remove a tick off the eyebrow of Stella, a Pekinese/Poodle mix. She then checks in a client and takes the dog to the back room to Bader for bathing. At 11:45 a.m., Atzmiller asks Arredondo to check over Happy’s haircut. Happy is a Poodle and looks sweet in her new, printed bandana. It’s apparent all the ladies work well together, as chit chat and jokes flit back and forth.
Arredondo’s attention is then diverted to a man coming in to take measurements to put doors on the cabinets along the back wall. She is disappointed to learn the cabinet framework might not be able to support the doors she had in mind.
At about 12:10 p.m., Arredondo sits down on her salon stool and munches on some veggies and hummus for lunch. Cooke prepares to dye her white dog Keno while her son takes a nap. Keno is a Maltese/Havanese mix.
“Keno has been getting colored since he was eight weeks old,” Cooke said of her 3-year-old dog.
Arredondo and her staff use all-vegan, all-natural hair coloring on the animals. Arredondo said the dye absolutely does not harm the dogs and that some dogs even seem to like it.
Cooke picks a color combination of Atomic turquoise, After Midnight purple and Electric Lizard green, which will fade into one another up Keno’s legs and down his tail.
Cooke gently dabs the dye on the dog’s hair with a toothbrush, blending the different colors’ edges together. The dog sits patiently, almost falling asleep before she is finished. Once the dye is in place, Cooke wraps the dyed areas in tinfoil and lets it soak in for 35 minutes. When she deems it has been long enough, she carries Keno in the back to rinse out the dye (no soap is used or the dye won’t set). When she dries him off, he prances excitedly around the salon, like he’s saying “Look at me!”
Strand finishes up her day and leaves at 2 p.m., after sweeping up all the dog hair and fur that has accumulated on the floors throughout a busy morning. Bader, when not bathing dogs, works on a task list of cleaning chores she must complete every day, including cleaning the litter box, scrubbing the walls, mopping floors and a host of other things.
The atmosphere is relaxed and it’s obvious everyone loves dogs. They talk “puppy talk” to their clients all day long. When there’s a lull in the action at 2:40 p.m., the girls decide to dress Sooki, Arredondo’s Australian Shepherd/Poodle mix in a pink tutu and pink hair bows, while Jackson dons a little black wig the girls call the Samuel L. Jackson wig. Laughter rings through the salon as the animals strut their stuff, like a canine fashion show.
Toward the end of her day, nearing 3 p.m., Arredondo applies green and yellow dye to her dog Moto’s head and mane, trying to get him to look like a dandelion. The final product isn’t what she had hoped for, but he looks cute anyway.
Groomer Crystal Rego, who started her shift at 11 a.m., will close down the salon between 5 and 7 p.m. Arredondo’s final minutes at the salon include answering phone calls, figuring out a phone number that was miss-logged in the system, and speaking with a representative from St. Croix Animal Friends who stops in for a donation for its “Raise the Woof” benefit.
If Arredondo could teach pet owners one thing, it would be to watch what they feed their animals.
“Anything with artificial dyes should be avoided,” she said. “The fewer ingredients in a pet food, the better. Nails rotting on an animal are a sign of a poor diet. I try to drill that through people’s heads.”
All Breed Dog Grooming is located at 1656 Dorset Lane, Suite 100, in New Richmond. Visit their website allbreedpetgroomingwi.com or call 715-246-6027 for information on services.