Dog designs to dye for

Published 6:14pm Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Creative pet grooming can turn a dog into about anything: Elvis, Eeyore, matching zombie poodles, a tiger, buffalo, a horse. Beauty and the Beast or Pinocchio are not too far-fetched and neither is Thing One and Thing Two from Dr. Seuss.

This dog has been groomed to resemble a tiger.

What the staff of Kris Elston’s The Grooming Shop, 26286 U.S. 12, learned at the 40th All-American Grooming Show in Chicago last week is that sketching, patterning and transferring a concept to an animal’s body is akin to carving a block of ice. It’s just a warmer medium that’s a moving target.

“It’s a really creative competition that challenges your mind,” said Elston’s daughter, Amanda Fletcher, who prefers the people part of the business.

Designs are clipped into the canine coat like a human “fade” and dyed.

A poodle’s fishnet stockings are intricately cut. Even its black “boots” are hair.

In Edwardsburg, The Grooming Shop has produced a pink poodle, green mohawks and painted-on “tattoos,” such as those depicted in specialized magazines, such as Creative Groomer Quarterly.

“The whole dog turns into a piece of art,” Fletcher said. “It takes hours. Generally, you need a dog that’s comfortable with being on the grooming table for hours. It takes months to grow that coat back out, so they use their dogs, not customers.’ It’s been around 10 years or so and is gaining in popularity.”

A simpler approach to “bling up” a dog is nail caps, colorful glued-on soft rubber tips that guard against scratching.

“We can do them in bright pink or purple, or black and clear for guys, school colors. You name it. Soon, we will be offering feather extensions. A lot of dogs are accessorized. Their toes match their bows match their collar match their jacket,” said Fletcher, who has been managing the shop for half of its 15 years.

Customers come from Chicago, Niles, Granger, South Bend, Mishawaka, Elkhart, Dowagiac and Cassopolis.

“Doing these classes and learning new things helps us grow,” Fletcher said.

“There’s always new stuff to learn,” Elston said.

Groomer Ann Black, originally from Niles, agreed after learning pet massage therapy. The Elkhart resident has been with The Grooming Shop for three years.

“Jerry Schinberg, who started creative grooming, is retiring,” Elston said. “I’ve always worked with dogs. I worked at an animal emergency clinic in South Bend for three years. I did a four-year internship with a friend and worked at some places in Elkhart.”

Tools groomers use, such as blade-cooling clipper vacuums, are of recent invention.

The Grooming Shop does all dog breeds — no cats — though “we did a horse once for a grandpa giving a pony for Christmas,” Fletcher said. “You have to be able to ‘read’ dogs’ body signals or you’ll get hurt. It takes a lot of understanding.”


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