It’s possible that the only things Denise Kramer loves more than “The Lord of the Rings” are her miniature schnauzers.
Kramer’s son named the oldest of the four dogs Jasmine, after a Disney character. The other three names are taken from Tolkien’s pages – Luthien Tinuviel (Lulu for short), Elbereth Gilthoniel (Gilly) and My Precious.
Under normal, coronavirus-free circumstances, Kramer Schnauzers are impeccably cared for by two local stores, Best in Show Pet Grooming and Classic Tails. Lately, however, dogs and cats are finding it as difficult as humans to get a decent haircut. That may seem like a frivolous need at a time when thousands of Sonoma County residents are being laid off and people are struggling to find toilet paper and sanitizer. But pet owners insist that good grooming, especially for some long-haired dogs, is anything but cosmetic.
“Schnauzers have a two-layered coat,” Kramer explained. “The underlay is soft and cottony. The upper layer is filiform. If the underlay is not cared for, it can cause matting, chafing, irritation. My sister’s dog is part schnauzer and he chafed under his arm. She contracted an infection and it cost her $450 at the vet. These mats should be removed regularly. A good groomer does that.
But good groomers are hard to find these days. They do not fall into the category of businesses that Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase cleared to reopen following his initial stay-at-home order. This worries some families.
For one thing, the mat problem is real. As the fur twists more and more, it can pull an animal’s skin and even tear it. And it’s not just knotted hair.
Shaggy canines like doodle mixes can pick up fleas, ticks, and foxtails, all of which are potential health issues, and can be prone to overheating as the weather warms. If dogs don’t have their ears cleaned and waxed, they can get ear infections. If the anal glands are not expressed, they can rupture. Uncut nails can split or possibly bend enough to puncture an animal’s foot pads. Some dogs and cats are treated with prescription shampoos due to skin allergies.
The obvious solution is for pet owners to handle these grooming tasks themselves. But not everyone has the space or the right equipment, and some older or frail guardians may not feel up to it. Also, have you ever extracted a dog’s anal glands?
Many pet owners have become hobby stylists in recent weeks, but that may lead to photos like the one Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins posted to her Facebook account on Tuesday. Hopkins, a seasoned sheep herder, took a clipper to her standard poodle, but the engine died halfway through the hum and the dog ended up looking like a college mascot victimized by rival pranksters. Hopkins has become an advocate for pet groomers receiving some form of relief from current restrictions.
“People are concerned about the welfare of their pets, in light of rising temperatures and the prevalence of pests and insects, as well as weeds and foxtails and things that can dig in deep into the coat and cause problems,” she said.
Mase noted Wednesday that if a cleanliness issue becomes a health concern for a local pet, a veterinarian can refer the animal to a licensed groomer. But it’s another level of expense for pet owners at a time when many have little or no disposable income.
With stores officially closed, groomers are among the small business owners losing revenue. Amy Cadogan, co-owner of Hair of the Dog Pet Grooming on Stony Point Road, said she had to lay off her eight staff as soon as the stay-at-home order landed in mid-March. She has since received both a Paycheck Protection Program loan and an emergency Economic Disaster Loan advance, and is preparing to rehire all workers.
“So we’re good,” she said. “But when we come back, if it’s mid-June, that money will be gone. It’s gonna be weird.
Some store owners have resorted to a small number of customers. Mercury Muse, who along with his mother runs Chez Jeanne Dog and Cat Grooming in Santa Rosa, admits he is one of them.
“I understand that we’re on the fringes, pet services, in terms of being essential,” Muse said. “If someone came and said no, we would stop. I’ve been preparing for it since we started. It is for dogs in medical need.
The demand is booming. Cadogan said she had about 150 phone calls to return. Muse said Chez Jeanne could be “absolutely slammed” if they were allowed to open fully.
And all believe they could safely groom pets, with the same kind of distancing requirements the county imposes on other retail establishments. In fact, an anonymous groomer, who requested anonymity because she still sees customers and fears being flagged by competitors who don’t, says her store already does.
“Customers don’t come inside,” she explained. “They are at one end of a 6ft leash. The dogs run towards us and we grab the leash by the collar. It’s a split-second exchange. Everyone wears masks. If we handle leashes, we spray them. We take care of all payment. I contact my employees every day, I ask them: “Do you feel comfortable? » »
Mase is not convinced that these precautions are sufficient or that pet grooming is essential. In addition to owner-client interaction, both would affect animals. At least two house cats in New York and a dog in North Carolina have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
“So it’s the same kind of physical distancing requirements for animals as it is for human beings, which is why dog parks have been a bit of a problem,” Mase said. “What the CDC says is that your pet should not come into contact with a stranger, someone they are not normally in the household with.”
Mase said more research needs to be done on transmission of the virus to and from pets. One point she was clear on: while she continues to review the eligibility of pet groomers, she is not about to remove them from the shortlist.
“Right now, we’re probably looking at this after looking at retail businesses opening for curbside pickup, after looking at some of the outdoor activities,” Mase said. “But it’s along that continuum. Somewhere after that we’ll look at things like pet grooming.
You can reach editor Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter? @Skinny_Post.