John Dorroh: Styling has gone to the dogs

July 16, 2009

John Dorroh - [email protected]


I read the results of a study that identified characteristics of dogs in animal shelters with a higher adoption rate by families or individuals. It wasn''t surprising to learn that the highest percentage of adoptions were of pure breeds, dogs that are well-groomed or both. 


This does not hold true for many of my friends and acquaintances, who have adopted homely pound pups, some of which where so ugly they were cute. But overall -- and perhaps sadly -- it is a fact of life. Many people prefer pretty pets. 


That being said, this week I discovered a new dog-grooming shop in East Columbus. 


Owner John Waits and his wife, Susan, opened Heavenly Creatures on Highway 182 in November 2008. 


"We''re a family-owned business," said Susan Waits, who was busy clipping a tiny gray poodle named Abby. 


"I used to have Sassy Pets on Highway 45, and I sold it to my oldest daughter who sold it to someone else. Sassy Pets is now in Reform, (Ala.)" 


Not all their clients are as willing as Abby. Chris Howard, a grooming technician, showed me two bent metal rods from a dog brace -- the result of a large dog who apparently had other plans one morning. 


Howard said, "Yes, there''s not a typical day here, but it seems the day goes according to what the first ''patient'' does. If the first dog we work with is pleasant and cooperative then it seems that''s the tone for the rest of the day." 


Howard comes from a family of dog groomers. 


"Yep, most of family has experience in this profession," he said. 


Howard has a background in construction and has been grooming canines professionally for about six or seven years. 


There are certain things Heavenly Creatures does not do. One is taking care of cats. It''s not that they don''t like cats. But cats have claws that can make for a bad day. 


At this time, Heavenly Creatures does not board pets. 


"Perhaps in the future," said Waits, "when we have more space." 


"And we never administer any kind of sedation or give shots," said Waits. "Just grooming. That''s all." 


Renee Parker, another technician, has been working at the shop since it opened. 


"My background is in retail," she said. "My two main jobs here is the groom and bathe." 


The costs of services vary with the size, breed and condition of the dog. Examples: Grooming a dog with severely matted hair will cost more than a dog with easy-to-comb hair; fees for Chihuahuas are less than for St. Bernards. 


A ballpark figure? Your average cocker spaniel with a coat that is fairly easy to comb runs $35. That includes combing, bathing, clipping and shaping. 


Shannon Thornton drives from Starkville to get her dogs groomed. 


"I can''t find a groomer in Starkville," she said, "and we''re happy here."  


Waits added that Heavenly Creatures is one of few places specializing in "poodle clips," and that gives each client a "personal touch." 


"We take time here to get to know each dog as well as we can," she said. "Taking the time to get to feel out and understand each dog helps us to do a better job." 


Heavenly Creatures is located at 804-B Alabama Street (Highway 182). Their hours are 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. until on Saturday. 


Call 327-8695 for an appointment or directions.

John Dorroh is a semi-retired high school science teacher, who writes a business column for The Dispatch.