Caring for the Canines
By Traneka Southwell
It has been said that “every woman deserves to feel beautiful.”
Pet groomers could contend that adage also applies to dogs.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, approximately 77.5 million households own dogs and close to half of those dogs are professionally groomed.
A portion of those dogs are groomed or board in the Nacogdoches area at Waggin’ Tails Boarding Kennels, Critter Cuts or Fur Masters, all owned and operated by people who share a strong love for dogs, and all members of the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce.
Diane Cuff, a Philadelphia native and owner of Waggin’ Tails Boarding Kennels, opened for business in November 1998.
The facility is located north of Nacogdoches at 2789 County Road 816.
Cuff says she has loved dogs since childhood.
“When I was a young girl my mom got my older sister a dog,” Cuff said.
“We would fight over whose dog it was. From that moment I knew that dogs would be a huge part of my life.”
Cuff said the secret to her success is that she always tries to improve, never missing an opportunity to learn something from her dogs.
Her goal with is to understand each dog.
She says that communication and a positive approach are the key elements.
“I want to get better for the sake of the dogs,” she said. “I offer positive reinforcement for the dogs. I don’t use dominance to get a dog to do what I want them to do; that’s just unacceptable. I want to make the dog feel happy every time it steps foot in here.”
Acres of land allow the dogs to scamper freely about the fenced property. Cuff says she has plans to allow even more freedom for the dogs. She plans in the next few years to build an earth dog box where dogs are able to tunnel and dig.
Lera Thomas, who owned Post Oak Kennels, inspired Cuff.
Cuff describes Post Oak as the first placed she worked that let dogs have the freedom to run and play.
She admits that she had had a negative perception of dog boarding before Thomas showed her a new way of enabling dogs to have fun. She credits Thomas for helping her change her perception of dog boarding.
“When I saw that she let her dogs run in the yard,” Cuff said, “It opened up a whole new world for me. From that moment on I saw that I could make a dog’s experience a positive one. I knew I want to incorporate that into my plan.”
Cuff says she communicates with her dogs and adjusts her teaching style according to the animal.
“I can teach one thing a million different ways and the dog will tell me what works for them,” Cuff said. “I encourage my dogs to exhibit their own ‘dogness.’ I want them to be free and be the dogs they are. I don’t discourage them from being who they are.”
Cuff says Waggin’ Tails’ mission is to make the dog happy, build trust and create an atmosphere where - above all - a dog is able to be a dog.
Critter Cuts is located at 8103 North St. and has been opened since July 2004. Owner James Randall has always had an interest in dogs. He admits he never thought he would get into dog grooming.
“I went into the business a little blindly, but I was ambitious and prepared to do anything possible to succeed.”
Critter Cuts started with just one employee, forcing Randall to work almost around the clock. Although he didn’t mind the work, he said it was so physically demanding he added two more employees.
In the future he wants to sell retail products such as collars, leashes and full-line flea prevention. The plan will be down the line, because one of his biggest challenges is finding time.
“The busiest times are the holidays and on Fridays,” Randall said. “People want to board their dogs and sometimes about 20 of those dogs have to groomed for Saturday. So it gets really busy.”
Randall says initially he didn’t plan to board dogs.
He researched the boarding option, put it in place and notes that it has grown quickly.
He credits Nacogdoches and the surrounding towns for his success.
“I also have a good location. I’m located on a feeder road,” Randall said. A lot of times people drive by and see our sign and either call or come in and say they were driving past and saw me.”
Dallas native Kellie Barone started Fur Masters in May 2006.
Before her dog grooming days, Barone worked for a distributing company, a job she described as “never ending.”
When she gave up her old job, she knew she was finally ready to tackle the art of dog grooming. She signed up for grooming school and the rest was history.
Barone says that pet grooming is the most rewarding job that she has had. She feels the safety and well-being of the dogs is the most important part of her job.
“We have a no-cage grooming facility,” she said. “Pets will not be caged while they wait.” Barone is also proud that “our pet guests are hand fluff-dried.”
A typical day for Barone includes washing, drying, cutting nails and more.
“I always knew that I would have a dog grooming place. I was more or less waiting on the right time. I’ve always loved dogs and I’m satisfied how it’s turned out. I’m very happy.”
Fur Masters operates in a medium-size quarters, near Lowe’s and just behind Unlimited Designs at 1901 N. Stallings Dr., Ste. G.
Barone said that she is satisfied and content with her business and has no plans yet for more locations. She credits Nacogdoches as a great place for her business because the town is connected and word travels fast.
Waggin’ Tails, Critter Cuts and Fur Masters - although different in approach - share the belief that their dogs should be well taken care of and respected.
That’s beautiful, too.