Meet the ‘furminator’

Rosemary, a young Australian shepherd, stared at her owner Tracy LaVere with a "What did I do to deserve this?" look as a ShopVac-turned-blow-dryer hummed while drying her coat. Had it not been for the constant, calming bribe of dog treats, her fur might never have dried.

Rosemary, a.k.a. "Rosie," didn't go to the spa - it came to her. She and LaVere were paid a visit by Aussie Pet Mobile, a mobile dog- and cat-grooming service based in Southwest.

During Aussie's visit, Rosie's winter coat came off by the handful. Dog fur whirled about the modified horse trailer and onto the street through the open windows. But steadfast, veteran pet-groomer Karla Edwards stood in the fur tornado, hard at work.

The two mobile pet grooming units are basically retrofitted horse trailers outfitted with water, propane gas and electrical systems, and all the tools of the trade found at a regular pet spa - bathtub, adjustable table and industrial-strength blow-dryer included.

There, groomers can wash, trim, clip and brush as part of the standard

groom ($55 and up depending on the animal's size).

One of the most popular services Aussie Pet Mobile offers is a unique shed-less procedure called the "Furminator." The Furminator consists of an all-natural shampoo, followed by a brushing with a special tool that removes loose hair from a pet's under-coat.

Aussie's co-owner Jill Pavlak stated that this treatment can reduce shedding up to 80 percent when done regularly, usually every six to eight weeks.

Every pet is given one free Furminator treatment, but normally it's a $20 add-on; i.e. the mobile won't visit to perform a Furminator alone, you have to order a grooming first.

However, rights to Furmination and other additional services, such as tooth brushing, are transferable. Pavlak said people who have both a dog and a cat often have their dog groomed and then have the cat Furminated.

Paws and claws

Yes, the Aussie Pet Mobile serves felines as well.

Pavlak said people have their cats, most of which are self-sufficient cleaners, groomed for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the cats are old or have too much long hair to maintain themselves. Sometimes the owner has allergies that grooming helps alleviate, or they want to help Kitty cough up fewer hairballs. And sometimes the cats just dig being vacuumed by the Furminator.

Most cat clients do have claws (as does Pavlak's own cat). Groomers make temporary paw-covers with tape that only binds with itself, and not fur. And, ever since their one groomer injury - a cat-bite - they put one of those satellite-dish-like plastic collars around kitty's neck.

When this doesn't seem to be working for less-compliant cats, the groomers don't force the matter. Not all felines were made for the Furminator. However, Pavlak said that for many cats it's less stressful than going to a regular pet spa, where dog-barks fill the room.

Can't get enough

Pet beautification extraordinaires on wheels, Aussie Pet Mobile aims to be a convenient alternative to traditional, stationary pet grooming services. Pavlak said the business has been extremely popular with busy pet owners who love the idea of a groomer coming to them.

Denise Morcomb, one of Aussie's original customers, said Hobie, her border collie, actually enjoys the grooming experience. "My dog loves it. He goes up the ramp willingly and comes out clean and fuzzy," she said.

Morcomb added that such convenience can't be beat. "They take care of it when I'm at work, and I get to come home to a clean dog," she said.

Pavlak said many customers entrust the company with the keys (or combinations) to their home. The owner only needs to be present for the first visit, when they must sign a pet release and verify that the animal has had its shots.

Pavlak said business is booming. At press time, prospective clients faced a one-month wait before one of their two groomers could pay their pet a visit. However, Pavlak said they will hire one additional full-time and one part-time groomer by late-March to significantly decrease the delay.

She said that since starting the business last April, she and business partner Julie Hays have watched their business grow much faster than expected. Pavlak said they started out grooming three dogs a day, but now have nearly 600 clients. She said they hope to one day expand to 1,800.

For more information about Aussie's call 861-2883 or visit www.aussiepetmobile.com.