Grooming isn’t just about having a good-looking pet; it’s important for their overall health. Experts say that grooming helps to find any signs of trouble in your pet that may not be apparent on the surface. Unruly and matted hair can cause infections and serious wounds, and affect a pet’s overall well-being.
With executive orders in some states deeming grooming a non-essential business, many pet owners were left with nowhere to go. Lockdowns resulting from the coronavirus pandemic have also left many pet owners cash-strapped.
Heeding the call of these pet owners, New York-based pet groomer Brian Taylor is going on a 12-day tour around six cities to help pet owners who have been financially impacted by the pandemic.
Taylor owns Harlem Doggie Day Spa, which offered daycare, boarding, and dog walking services to its clients prior to the pandemic. However, the declaration of non-essential services meant that Taylor had to keep his grooming services running in order to keep the business alive.
“I lost 80 percent of my businesses. I went from seeing 400 to 500 dogs a month now down to about less than half of that,” Taylor mentioned in an interview with CNN. From a team of 12, Taylor had to make the painful decision to let go of some people to stay afloat, and was eventually left with four: a groomer, two bathers, and a nail clipper.
Taylor is meticulous about safety and social distancing guidelines, requiring everyone in the operation to wear masks and gloves, grooming one dog at a time, using online payment platforms, and picking up the dogs straight from their homes.
Regular grooming at the Harlem Doggie Day Spa costs $75, but grooming pets with severe matting issues may cost up to $200.
During the lockdown, Taylor’s clients told him they didn’t have the money to have their dogs groomed. He decided to render a few of his sessions for free, covering every five or 10 grooming requests sessions that came in. “[These people] have been supporting me for so long. I wanted to make sure I give back a percentage of my company and help them in hard times,” Taylor shared.
When Taylor posted an invitation to donate to a pup relief fund on social media, Harlem Doggie Day Spa’s regulars bought gift cards to help keep the business running, and also give aid to those who couldn’t afford to provide the care their dogs or cats needed.
Taylor is fondly called by his clients and neighbors as the Dogfather of Harlem. He’s loved dogs all his life, but prior to getting into pet care, he was a banker for JP Morgan Chase. Noticing that there weren’t enough groomers servicing Harlem, he set money aside for his business and eventually got certified as a groomer in 2010. He initially worked until 2012 as a dog walker, until he opened Harlem Doggie Day Spa in 2013. Since then, Taylor has served more than 6,000 dogs.
For his Pandemic Pup Relief Tour, Taylor will be visiting Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington DC from July 27 to August 11. He will be closing his shop in Harlem for a total of three weeks.
He aims to groom a total of 500 dogs, meet dog owners and operators of other black-owned grooming shops, and help no-kill rescue shelters getting shelter dogs adopted. Taylor’s van can accommodate up to eight dogs at a time.
Ever since Taylor posted about his planned tour online, help has begun to pour in. He was able to get sponsors for dog treats, and free supplies from two shampoo brands. Donors have also been contributing to his Pandemic Pup Relief Tour campaign on GoFundMe, which will be used to fund all travel and grooming expenses during his tour.
Taylor is committed to grooming these dogs at no cost to the owner. “Dogs are such a big part of our life. Especially when you can’t find happiness from people,” he told CNN.
Interested in supporting Taylor’s Pandemic Pup Relief Tour? You can make a donation to his GoFundMe campaign here.