Amy Perry has always been obsessed with dogs.
“Lost dogs just seem to find me,” said Perry, who currently owns two German Shepherds. “It’s happened six or seven times; they’ll just show up out of nowhere.”
Perry is a professional dog groomer in Proctorsville, Vermont, having recently moved her business, The Happy Hound, from Springfield. She learned grooming at Diamond Brook Kennel in Bomoseen, and although she thought leaving Springfield might be the end of her grooming career, her customers have followed.
“We were pretty well booked up when we opened,” said Perry. Her daughter, Ahna, helps in the shop, and is looking toward a future career as a veterinarian.
Perry has a calmness about her that must be reassuring for dogs. She moves steadily through the routines of bathing and grooming Sam without wasted motion or sudden motves. Her voice and hands stay firm and gentle.
Sam, an elderly Cocker spaniel, has seen it all before. Even though it’s a warm day, he’s shivering a little – either from anxiety or from his recent bath – when Perry lifts him onto the grooming table, but he stops shivering as she goes over him with the clippers. He seems to enjoy the attention.
“Ninety-nine percent” of the dogs Perry grooms are pets, with the occasional outlier. “Show dogs have to be clipped to AKC breed standards. I usually get very specific instructions to follow, which I like,” she said.
She accommodates odd requests: once, a guy wanted to get a lesson in grooming his cows. Perry grew up with horses, so she was able to teach him the succession of brushes used and basic currying. Another customer called to see if she’d groom a guinea pig. She could, and did.
Behind the grooming table is a wash stall large enough to accommodate any size dog. There’s even a ramp so they can walk into the shower on their own.
“A lot of groomers won’t take the really big dogs, but we do,” said Perry.
She’s done Bernese Mountain dogs, even a Saint Bernard. The business is in a building adjacent to her house, on a quiet dirt road. It’s not loud, bright or noisy. “They’re much less stressed here than in a big box store. A lot of dogs have come to me that people say can’t be groomed, because they’re very anxious.”
Amy and Ahna, however, put a lot of effort into making sure the dogs have a nice experience. Ahna will play with them before and after their grooming. The dogs can roam the shop a little bit and sniff things. Although Amy will work with owners who want to stay with their dogs, she’s found it works better if the owners don’t stick around.
“Generally, the dog wants to get to the owner, or the dog will be distressed and the owner will want to comfort it, which reinforces the behavior. Dogs tend to behave better if the owner’s not in the room.”
As with any salon, there’s a variety of services, from brushing to nail clipping to a full wash, cut, and dry with pawdicure and nail polish. To get dogs used to the grooming process, The Happy Hound offers a special $10 deal for puppies’ first time – basically, brushing, bathing, and getting feet handled – and half off the next visit.
“The most important thing is to make sure the dog has a positive experience,” said Perry.
-- GLYNIS HART