Pet salon launches effort to help struggling pet owners

Kris Hyatt felt a destitute pet owner’s pain when a local resident recently came to Muddy Paws Pet Salon embarrassed but looking for a way to get his small dog help for a toenail that had grown into its paw pad.

Though he had no money.

Hyatt, who has been homeless, understands struggle. She felt like she and owner Sarah Ross needed to offer more than help in just this one instance — and for a simple reason.

“I just thought later, ‘He can’t possibly be the only one,’” Hyatt said. “And just because someone has lost a job or is struggling certainly doesn’t mean they love their dog or cat any less.”

So Hyatt and Ross recently established a grooming tree in the business at 300 Hope Ave. in Columbus. Customers are invited to take from the tree a paper tag representing various services at the salon, from a bath to a trim. And then customers donate toward that work for the sake of pet owners who currently cannot afford it.

Baths and trims can cost anywhere from $30 to $80, depending upon the size of the animal. Ross mentioned, that, thinking back to that recent customer with no money, “we also should have offered to give his little dog a bath for free.”

The pair originally conceived of the tree as exclusively holiday help. But then they quickly decided to extend the idea year round, since pet owners’ needs continue far beyond the holidays. And yes, Hyatt realizes that some people may wonder why a poor family struggling with its own needs wouldn’t maybe give up a pet to someone else because it can’t afford the animal’s expenses.

“I tell people all the time that dogs are the best for serious anxiety and depression,” Hyatt said.

Hyatt and Ross originally thought of partnering with a local nonprofit and launching a community fund that would provide money to cover the pet expenses at all participating pet salons. Owners at two other local pet groomers mentioned that they have been absorbing about two free shampoos or trims per month for customers unable to pay.

Mutt Tubs N Styling owner Sharlena Bowman said it’s just part of offering kindness to those down on their luck.

“We currently have one customer who is homeless, and we have groomed his dog,” she said. “And we once would wash a German shepherd mix that belonged to a homeless man.”

Her business recently shampooed for free the dog of a man who said he was getting kicked out of his apartment.

“I don’t at all mind doing that a time or two for somebody,” Bowman said. “The only bad thing that I can think of about this is that if a pet owner can’t afford a cleaning, then they probably haven’t been able to get all their dog’s shots (against illness), either.”