When I was a kid, one of the grossest chores I had was bathing our dog George. Now, George was a sweet little cockapoo, but he was about as smart as a leg-waxing strip. He also hated any water that wasn’t swampy and filled with dead fish, which made his semi-annual bath a truly hellish experience. Worse yet, he was still stinky afterward — something that apparently doesn’t happen when it’s done right, according to Deidre Howard, the owner of Tailspin Dog Spa.
“Regular grooming really does get rid of the smell,” Howard assures me. “And there are products you can spray on in between. Some dogs just smell more than others, and they need to be properly bathed regularly, to clean their skin and the stuff that gets stuck in their coats. You can’t just give them a bath once a year and think ‘That’s it.’”
Howard’s been grooming pooches for nearly 15 years, ever since she left a job in insurance that felt like it was going nowhere. “Nine-to-five just wasn’t for me,” she says. “This is more hours, but it feels different when it’s your own business.”
It’s turned out to be a smart move. Howard spent 12 years in Vancouver running a dog-grooming business and netted a slew of awards, including those voted on by readers of the Georgia Straight newspaper. She’s been back home in Toronto for two years now, and her urban doggie spa is going gangbusters.
I can see why. It’s a slick place, with great lighting and a modern décor that says “upscale hair salon” more than it does “dog bather.” There’s a central area for Howard’s new doggie daycare service, with two happy little furballs clearly enjoying their afternoon away from home. Behind that is the actual grooming area, featuring an array of hoses, dryers and clippers that bely the specialized work involved in caring for a variety of breeds.
Given that Howard’s clients have the potential to be as vicious as a Yorkville matron getting her hair coiffed, I can’t help but sneak a peek at the groomer’s hands for telltale bite scars. Nothing.
“No, that hasn’t really been a problem,” she laughs. “Most dogs are fine, and we’re trained to cope with ones that are less manageable.”
As Pride approaches, Tailspin sees an upsurge in clients eager to get Fluffy spruced up and cruise-ready for the big weekend. This year’s big trend seems to be a doggie Mohawk, with a longer strip left from head to tail, leaving even the most quivery of Chihuahuas looking butch and threatening.
Howard says the style looks particularly cool on spikier-haired breeds, like Yorkshire terriers. But whatever the breed, the groomer works closely with her clients on what’s best for their furry companions.
“For a lot of people, dogs are like their kids,” she says. “So there’s a lot of care and maintenance and love poured into them. That’s what’s so great about the job. Well, that and I just really love dogs.”