Canine Design Pet Spa turns pooches into pumpkins and more

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It’s a tiger. It’s a panda. No, no it’s just a bichon frisé all decked out in the latest canine fashion statement.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: Bonzai, a standard poodle, is the picture of patience as her owner and professional groomer Charity Rael paints her nails in a Halloween-theme candy corn design. Rael does traditional grooming and bathing, and also offers a little extra pizzazz with color accents, accessories and manicures.

Looking to bring a little color and a lot of fun to the four-legged companions of Valencia County’s residents, Charity Rael opened her shop, Canine Design Pet Spa, in Peralta in late August.

A professional dog groomer for more than six-and-a-half years, Rael’s enthusiasm about her trade is obvious. She smiles and laughs while talking about everything from a soothing shampoo, complete with relaxing aromas, to turning a small fluffy pooch into a small fluffy pumpkin.

Bonzai, Rael’s standard poodle, showcases the talent she has used to make a name for herself in the grooming world — color accents.

Sporting orange on her ears and feet, Bonzai is ready to hit the streets for Halloween.

The pet-safe dyes are vegetable based and vegan approved, Rael says.

“They are absolutely safe and specifically made for pets. I take a lot of effort to make sure the animals I see aren’t around harmful products,” Rael said. “I don’t use chemicals to clean the floors, just a mixture of water and tea tree oil. My products are all natural and green.”

Rael can use an array of colors to do accents on a pet’s feet to create boots, tip the ears and tail, highlight a punk-rock mohawk or go full out with a full-body dye, turning your canine into an entirely different creature, such as a ladybug.

If a full-on dye job doesn’t make your tail wag, Rael offers a line of sparkley jewels she can glue on strategic locations and will soon have fun colored feathers that can be clipped into fur.

“I have things that are very temporary — the jewels, the clip-ons. I also can do airbrushed designs,” she said.

The dyes, depending on color, last three to six weeks, although Rael says the orange and black are extremely long lasting.

“I consider those almost permanent. They will stay until they are cut out,” she said.

If you have a dark-colored dog you’d like to add a little color to, Rael will be more than happy to perform a makeover, but cautions that the dye may not show as much as an owner might want.

“I absolutely will not bleach or lift color off a dog’s coat,” she emphasized. “Darker coats may do better with something airbrushed on or a clip.”

A new product on the market that has caught Rael’s eye is a spray product that lets the color sit on top of the hair.

Before a color treatment, Rael requires at least one grooming session with the prospective client, and recommends that shy, aggressive or young pets remain “au natural.”

While anyone can call themselves a groomer — “If you pick up a pair of clippers tomorrow, you can call yourself a groomer,” Rael says — she has taken great strides to be a cut above.

Rael is a member in good standing with the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists, and is pursuing the group’s master certification — a five- to six-year process.

“It’s not easy. They take grooming very seriously,” she said. “It’s not just a pretty hair cut. You have to know about the ideal skin and coat condition for different breeds, what kind of environment the dog lives in, its lifestyle. This is something I’m very passionate about.”

A cat person all her life, Rael says a career in dog grooming was not in her sights. Initially, she was applying for positions with nonprofit adoption centers. Then she went to PetSmart and talked to them about a position.

“I went for the whole thing. ‘A professional groomer can earn $65,000 a year, set your own schedule,’” she laughs.

The only problem — she was actually afraid of dogs.

“Even the little ones. I was horrible,” she said. “A dog would look at me funny and I’d say, ‘Oh, I can’t do this one.’ I’m surprised they kept me.

“I recently wrote a letter to my old manager thanking her for keeping me. It was because of her that I have this career.”

Rael’s fear of dogs is long gone, as evidenced by the easy interaction between her and Bonzai.

While the color treatments are fun, Rael offers a comprehensive grooming experience for dogs just looking for a good, clean, relaxing experience.

The “Be Fresh! Bath Experience” sounds luxurious enough to make a human jealous — an aromatherapy shampoo massage, deep conditioning treatment, warm towel wrap, gentle full-body fluff dry and a 15 minute, invigorating brush out are just a portion of the experience.

Rael also offers a silky indulgence package, designed to restore an animal’s skin and coat, and a kindergarten experience, to get young dogs accustomed to being groomed.

After three sessions, a certificate of completion is given to the proud pet parent.

To minimize stress for pets and owners, Rael schedules appointments much like a spa. She does each dog one at a time — start to finish.

“Some places tell all the clients to bring the dogs in at 9 a.m. and pick them up at 4 p.m.,” Rael said. “I am pretty much cage free here, so I just do one at a time.”

She does have a small enclosure in the grooming room, complete with carpeting and a cushy bed, lovingly referred to as the “relaxation area.”

Rael may be the newest groomer in the area, but she is far from the only one. Within a two-mile radius are five other groomers. Rael hopes to make connections with them and be able to work together.

“Groomers can be very competitive,” she said. “But I don’t see why we can’t work together. I don’t do big dogs, but Bad to the Bone does. If someone calls, asking about a St. Bernard, I refer them over there.

“The owner there has groomed a dog, then brought it over here for color. There’s no reason we can’t all help each other.”

Rael accepts dogs up to 35 pounds, and her rates start between $35 and $40 for an hour-and-a-half to a two-hour session.

Canine Design Pet Spa is located at 2 Zamora Court in Peralta, across from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. The spa is open at 9 a.m., Thursday through Monday.

To schedule an appointment or free consultation, call 916-1364. Visit www.caninedesignnm.com to see Rael’s dyed creations.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.