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It’s not just the dogs that enjoy grooming

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By Alexandria Maybrier, Rotary Guest writer

A bell chimes. A happy “Hello!“ rings out from behind the swinging counter. 

You’ve arrived, greeted by a pair of lovably friendly Dobermans and the pungent scent of dog shampoo. 

Welcomed by a variety of tropical tanks and colorful collars of all sorts, you know where you are.

Tucked away in a lot across from Bridge Street BP, near the railroad tracks, The Animal House is a charming little shop operated by owners Kevin and Susan Caskey, with faithful fellow groomers, Holly Laytart and Ashley Ring. 

Inside, the walls are lined with toys, treats, and tethers, and farther back on the left are animals from fish to iguanas and spiders. But the main attraction is the room beyond the service desk, where Susan and her team treat their canine and feline clients to a pampering that would make the most upstanding spa-goer a bit envious.

There are the expected treatments -- a good scrub-down or flea dip, before having the animal’s coat trimmed up. You might be surprised that that’s not all that awaits your pet. 

“We offer a variety of services, from simply having nails trimmed to hot-oil treatments and medicated baths for animals with skin troubles,” said Caskey, who chuckled lightly. “We’ve even had times when we’ve done sections of color on the fur. It’s a great way to support someone’s favorite sport team.” 

If you’re worried, rest assured that the dyes they use are composed of animal-friendly ingredients, like fruit. You can even have sparkles adorning a temporary paint job. Additionally, any pet is decked out with a bandanna around its neck or ribbons in its fur.

So, how does one get so thoroughly wrapped up in the grooming business? 

Caskey has never been a stranger to the field. 

“First, I got a job working with computers, and I didn’t like it. It just wasn’t me. I’d always wanted to be a veterinarian, so I ended up volunteering at a dog kennel, working with the dogs and experiencing what it had to offer.” 

She admitted that not every aspect of grooming is all fun and games. 

“You might think it’s all about playing with cute doggies and kitties, but people like to overlook the messier side -- cleaning up feces and urine, sometimes vomit.” However, that didn’t deter Caskey from pursing her career. 

She opened The Animal House in 1987, and it’s been standing strong ever since, never turning away even the most intimidating customer. 

“Sometimes you might get those high-maintenance animals with thick coats, or ones who aren’t so comfortable with being handled by a stranger.” 

When asked if she’d ever been hurt in the line of duty, she said “yes.” 

“We have those sometimes, especially the non-regular visitors. You just have to learn the animal and their personality, what they’re touchy about.” 

To make it easier on a dog or cat (as well as the groomers), Caskey suggested bringing them in young, to get them into the routine. The result will be a much more relaxed animal who looks forward to its scheduled appointments, be it weekly, bi-weekly, or every month or so.

For those who may be interested in grooming as a career, Caskey recommended researching the job online, watching dog shows and volunteering at a kennel or shelter to see what’s it like. 

There are often specific standards for haircuts that are breed specific. However, this is mostly upheld in shows. 

Caskey learned on her own. However, there are schools and training programs to help someone.

The Animal House is located on 105 Railroad Ave.  or they can be reached at (859) 234-4549. Hours at the shop are 8:30 a.m.- 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Visit  their web page at www.animalhouseky.com. 

In addition to grooming, The Animal House also offers pet food, aquarium and terrarium supplies, training, and boarding services.

Editor’s note: Alexandria Maybrier and Kelli Bishop, Harrison County High School seniors, were selected as Rotary career students who shadowed Becky Barnes, editor, last Thursday.