To many people, pets are part of the family. And we don’t cage family members.
At least that’s what Barbara Szefc, owner of Happy, Handsome Hounds, believes.
Her portable pet-grooming service strives to keep the experience quick, convenient and professional while bringing it all to your front door. Szefc’s grooming van is formatted to have everything a pet could need: heated bath, air conditioning, ventilation fans and organized, sterilized cutting equipment. Think more of a spa on wheels, and less of the carpeted love shack for vagabonds, perfect for clients who need special care.
“The entire time my hands are on the dog,” Szefc says. “That’s why it’s great for handicapped or older dogs. It’s convenient.”
According to Szefc, convenience is one of the main selling points of her business. Gone are the troubles of trying to load a dog in the car to take to the groomer. Now, the groomer comes to you, operates next to your home and could cut the time spent in half.
“We saw an ad in the paper about her service,” customer David Springer says. “And we’d been so frustrated with groomers in the past. It was a major problem to take the dogs, drop them off and have them caged all day so they could get groomed.”
Szefc uses all-natural products on animals and fluff-dries them herself immediately after grooming.
“She [Szefc] comes to our home, and she’s gotten to be a friend of the family,” Springer says. “The dogs love her. She takes them out to her van and in an hour and a half brings them back. The dogs used to yip and howl when I brushed them, but now we have a very pleasant time of it.”
Szefc offers a report card for the pet owner with helpful tips to make grooming easier on the animal, and gives every newly cleaned creature a bandana and a cookie at the end. According to Szefc, she wants the dogs to have a good experience and good hygiene. To Szefc, happiness is all about safety.
“You have to be careful not go get water in the nose,” Szefc says. “Even a tablespoon can get into the lungs of smaller dogs like Yorkies. For them, I might even recommend a towelette.”
Szefc is familiar with many breed specific needs. A graduate of the Connecticut School of Dog Grooming, Szefc studied under Jenny Aurora, the previous director of the distinguished New York School of Dog Grooming, and has been operating her business for the last five years.
“I can’t believe I ever did anything else,” Szefc says. “I really feel like I’m doing the dogs a favor. I’m doing a service for the animal, which is my number one concern.”
A variety of other services, such as nail painting, teeth brushing, and flea treatments can be included in the grooming. Fees range from $10 to $15 higher than traditional shops, she says, but according to Springer, the quick and personalized service is worth it.
“She (Scefz) charges a little bit more,” Springer says. “But if you figure the cost of driving the dogs, waiting and going to pick them up, it works about the same. It’s just so convenient, and when she comes the dogs are glad to see her.”