By Jason A. Smith
A local business owner says she enjoys making sure area residents have well-kept pets to come home to.
Dogs N Suds, located at 4387 N. Henry Blvd., in Stockbridge has specialized in dog grooming in the area for nearly a decade.
According to groomer Heather Hayden, the facility allows local residents to care for their canines in a way that improves their appearance. Groomers do this by performing such tasks as cutting and shampooing the dogs' hair, cleaning their ears and trimming their nails.
Hayden, a groomer for the last 20 years, says her job allows her to pursue her passion. "I've always loved animals, and I've grown up with dogs," she explains. "They're very trainable. You learn their language, and they learn yours. And, they don't care when you've had a bad day. They love you anyway. A bad day at the groomer is so much better than a bad day at the office, any day."
Hayden believes proper maintenance is a necessity for any dog owner. For instance, she says having a pet's ears cleaned can reduce the risk of infection, and a trip to the groomer can assist in detecting skin problems.
"Grooming is an important part of any dog's health-care regimen," she says. "If we find something that we think needs medical attention, we refer those [animals] to the veterinarian. If you let a skin condition get out of control, it can affect the dog's whole body."
Hayden also encourages dog owners to support groomers' efforts, by providing adequate home care for their pets. "We brush teeth as part of a dog's regular grooming, but if the owners don't follow up with regular brushing at home, it doesn't do a whole lot of good," notes the groomer.
Hayden says proper care of a dog's teeth, includes brushing three times a week, with a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for the animals. In addition, she notes washing a dog's body is best done with "tearless" shampoo, which causes less irritation to the eyes than regular shampoo.
The groomer says dog owners should be forewarned, that a "quality" dog shampoo product is not cheap. Still, she says when it comes to making such a selection, "you get what you pay for."
"The less expensive it is, the less likely it is to do a good job," Hayden explains as she shampoos Patches, an 8-year-old Shih Tzu.
Patches' owner, Bill Burdette, of Stockbridge, began bringing his pet to Dogs N Suds when the dog was just a year old. Burdette says it's important for dog owners to take proper care of their four-legged friends, particularly during this time of year. "In the summertime, you have to keep them clean, and in the wintertime, you won't have to worry about it," says Burdette, 94.
The Stockbridge resident, who also has a 16-year-old Bichon Frise, named Teddy, says he appreciates the level of care the Dogs N Suds staff has given to his pets.
"They're about as good as any groomer I've seen anywhere," says Burdette.
Many of the animals who are brought to Dogs N Suds, include Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Saint Bernards and other long-haired breeds. However, dogs with short hair are also common visitors to the location.
Regardless of a dog's hair length or size, Hayden says they all have something in common - the more often they are groomed, they easier they are to deal with when they are brought to the Stockbridge location.
"[Regularly groomed dogs] know the sound of the clippers, and it's not a frightening experience for them at all," she says. "They know that it doesn't hurt."
In addition, Hayden says some dogs know the specific order of various elements of grooming, and get excited when they know they're nearing the end of their appointment.
Dogs N Suds owner Karla Cox has been working with animals for the last 30 years, and says many people do not understand the essential nature of proper grooming. Some dog owners, she explains, attempt to be frugal by eliminating the cost of grooming from their budgets. However, Cox believes that theory is not always effective in practice.
"[People] don't save any money by only getting a dog's hair cut once a year ..., because every groomer in the area charges extra for what we call a 'matted-mess' dog," the owner explains. "If he stays outside, we can always cut him longer in the winter than we do in the summertime."
This month will mark the end of Cox's time as a dog groomer in Henry. However, she is not leaving the field entirely.
At the end of June, Dogs N Suds will shift its focus to become a boarding facility for dogs. Amenities to be offered at the new location, at 1584 Ga. Highway 138 in Stockbridge, include several running areas, some of which will be climate-controlled.
Bathing will be limited to short-haired breeds, and all grooming will be discontinued.
Cox says although she will miss the grooming aspect of her business, she is "excited" about her upcoming transition. In addition, she notes the new facility will be "the only one of its kind" in the area.
I've been trying [to open a dog-boarding business] in Henry County for six years, and it finally came about," she says. "I've been a dog lover since I was five years old. Being able to spend more quality time with the dogs, is what I'm looking forward to."