Emmy Lou need not travel far for her beauty appointments.
Every two weeks, the bichon frise dog scampers to the edge of her front yard and climbs into a mobile pet beauty parlor. There, she finds pet hairdresser Trent Hudspeth, 25.
He learned the art of grooming through seven years of working for veterinarians, five of which he spent doing grooming. He also was a technician for the veterinarians. About a year ago, Hudspeth went into business for himself. He grooms cats and dogs in Abilene, Texas, and has built his business through word of mouth.
Hudspeth has always had a liking for animals.
"We always had them, and it just kind of fell into place that I got on at a veterinary clinic for my first job out of high school," he said.
His dad suggested the idea of a pet groomer on wheels, which Hudspeth said has caught on in larger cities.
"The hardest part about it is being on time," he said, "because you never know exactly how long one grooming is going to take from another one."
With an animal such as Emmy Lou, Hudspeth starts by trimming the hair around her face, rear and paws. He then bathes her in warm water and sudses her up with shampoo. An hour later, he is done blow-drying her fur and is ready to trim her nails.
"I don't do nail polish and bows and stuff like that because I really don't think the dog likes it," he said. "... The first thing they're going to do is take it off."
That's not to say image doesn't matter, he said, finishing his work by spraying a fine mist of cologne on the dog.
Some animals protest all the fussing.
"The bigger dogs like to stay outside and have their own odor all the time, so they don't like to be cleaned that much," Hudspeth said.
"With cats, you really have to have a different demeanor on," he added, noting their claws often come out. "And you really have to watch out for yourself the whole time."
Other pets seem to relish the pampering.
"Most of them like it," Hudspeth said. "The first thing they do is show it off, then roll in the grass. But visually, they look a lot better, and they feel a lot better."
Fees start at $25 but can go up to $100, depending on the type and size of animal and the degree of beautifying requested. Emmy Lou's appointment cost $25, which her owner said was no more than she would pay elsewhere to get her dog groomed.
Hudspeth grooms about 250 animals per month, most of which are geriatric animals whose aches and pains make it hard for them to travel to a groomer. Their owners tend to be members of Abilene's "upscale" community -- business owners and the like, who also benefit from service delivery, he said.
"They're real busy, and it takes them less time to let me come to them than them to go to the groomer," he said.