It’s springtime, and the back room of Christal K-9 dog grooming shop is a flurry of fur.
Dakota the huskie is getting his thick, shedding undercoat blasted away with a high-powered blow dryer before his bath. Dog hair is, literally, flying through the air.
“We call it a ‘hair-i-caine,’” laughs Cedric Devin, co-owner of the business, 3115 W. Sixth St., with his wife, Liz.
On the stand next to Dakota, Phoebe, a chocolate standard poodle, is having her paws trimmed with an electric razor. Her frizzy coat will be rough-cut before her shampoo and conditioning treatment.
“If you bathe her and her skin softens up from standing in the tub for an hour-and-a-half, then you go back and try to shave that, it will be really irritating to their skin,” explains Liz Devin, Cedric’s wife and business partner.
“So, we try to do face and feet and the real short stuff ahead of time. Pre-cutting also cuts down on what the bathers have to bathe and dry. Then, if they have any knots, it’s always a good idea to get those out before a bath, too.”
Warm weather months are to pet groomers like the holiday season is to retailers.
“There’s a lot of seasonality to this business,” Cedric says. “The spring is huge, and that extends into the summer, too. Double-coated dogs like Dakota will release their undercoat in the spring to get ready for the summer. But, what some people don’t realize is they actually put coat on over the summer and release again in the fall before they put their winter coat on. So, we get busy again in the fall, too.”
There seems to be a science to the shedding phenomenon — one that makes the busiest grooming months fairly predictable.
“There’s a lot of argument as to what causes a dog to release its undercoat,” Cedric notes. “The latest articles I’ve read suggest it’s the amount of daylight, not necessarily heat. Now, the two go hand in hand, but it seems that as we get to more daylight, that triggers the dog’s coat to tell them to release that undercoat.”
So, an outdoor dog versus an indoor dog would logically shed more and earlier in the season?
“We have affected that process with air-conditioning and heating, but even in an air-conditioned environment (the dog) is still going to go through the process,” Cedric says. “You may delay the event a little bit but it’s still the same.”
“And the later you see that hair coming out — like, if you’re seeing dogs still blowing coats in November — we’re in for a wicked winter,” Liz adds.
Phoebe’s owners, Paul and Katie Studebaker of rural Lawrence, take no chances with their high-maintenance pride and joy.
“We’ve been bringing her in every four weeks since she was 2 months old, and she’s 5 (years),” Katie says. “I call her my little brown lamb right before she comes to get groomed, because she no longer is a very pretty poodle. She just grows massive amounts of hair. Plus, she’s in and out a lot, and she picks up a lot of trash, so I don’t want her to have all that poof. Too much poof is bad.”
“She likes to come here. When we pull up, she knows where she’s at,” Paul says.
Cedric says, just like humans, dogs walk a little taller at the end of their day of beauty.
“There is definitely a demeanor change,” he says. “No doubt about it. And some dogs are prouder than others. They’re proud, they’re happy, they’re excited. And if the owner gets excited about it, too, it just helps the whole process.”