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Doggie care -- to go

March 12, 2014

Culver’s Anne Johnston (with furry friend) in front of the mobile pet grooming clinic she’s taking ‘on the road’ to area pet owners as part of her new business, Sudsy Dogs.

CULVER'S JOHNSTON TURNS LOVE OF DOGS INTO AREA'S ONLY MOBILE GROOMING SERVICE

Anne Johnston of Culver describes herself as "addicted to dogs," and she's channeling that addiction into a new service she hopes will fill a need and make life easier for dog owners in the area...and, of course, help feed her addiction at the same time!

Johnston has launched Sudsy Dogs, a mobile dog grooming service (and as far as she knows, the only one serving this area) which not only offers a fully equipped grooming shop to residents in the Culver area, but is also available in the areas of Plymouth, Argos, Bourbon, Knox, North Judson, Winamac, Rochester and all points in between.

The "mobile" aspect of Sudsy Dogs, she explains, not only adds convenience for the human pet owner, but greatly reduces stress for one's canine friend as well (the service is limited to dogs, by the way -- sorry, cat owners).

"I do everything a grooming shop does except leave your dog in a cage all day to dry," notes Johnston, who adds that dogs utilizing Sudsy Dogs will receive "specialized, one-on-one attention from start to finish with no interruptions – something a grooming shop simply can’t offer."

A stay-at-home mom for the last few years (readers may remember husband Jack Johnston's children's book, "The Ice Cream Hotel," originally conceived for the couple's daughters and published in 2012), Anne Johnston says she hoped to find a career which "didn’t involve sitting at a desk and staring at a screen. I wanted something enjoyable that would keep me active, and the schedule needed to be flexible enough so I could continue to care for my kids and aging parents. One day my husband showed me a picture of a mobile grooming van, and after a little research I knew I’d found the right business opportunity.

"Ever since I can remember there’s been a dog in my life," she adds, noting that it’s not uncommon at family gatherings for four-legged attendees to outnumber two-legged.

However, Johnston had no formal grooming training, though many in Culver will likely recall the family's Alpacas of the Shire farm, started in 2003 and eventually growing into a herd of 40 alpacas which Johnston helped shear annually (the Johnstons made "the difficult decision" to sell the breeding herd in 2007, though they kept three favorite alpacas).

So Johnston began searching and landed at a dog grooming academy in Kokomo, taught by one of Indiana’s only Master Groomers, Christine McDonough, an experience which Johnston found she loved and which thus confirmed she was on the right track with her idea for a business venture.

She's clearly excited about her new "mean, green, mobile grooming machine" van, which includes a custom-built hydrotherapy tub which easily accommodates any breed size, and a fully adjustable table with a unique “bridging” feature which allows pooches to simply walk from the tub to the grooming table.

The van is heated and fully self-sufficient with power and heated water (so customers needn't worry about Johnston needing to hook anything up to their own utilities, and there's even a 50 gallon tank for the dirty bath water).

An on-board generator provides all the electricity, and the van is air-conditioned in the summer and warm in the winter.
"So as long as I can make it through all the snow I can be grooming," she points out, meaning winter is little obstacle to her being able to groom (though she shares most of the community's readiness for spring to arrive nonetheless!).

Customers do need to be home for the first groom, during which Johnston will get to know both dog and owner and any special needs or requests. After the first groom, though, as long as she can access the dog and payment is arranged, customers needn't be home.

Typically, she notes, prices are 15 to 20 percent higher for the convenience, though prices are determined individually, based on the type of dog and its fur, among other factors.

Mobile grooming, she says, is often the only alternative for older pets with health issues, or dogs whose temperament prevents them from visiting a grooming shop.

"Mobile grooming is very different from a vet’s office or shop where dogs are dropped off," explains Johnston. "A shop typically takes in multiple dogs on a given day and grooms one while the first one or two are drying. That allows the groomer to groom more dogs which in turn keeps the price down. I bring the salon to your driveway and groom your dog one-on-one from start to finish."

Sudsy Dogs may be contacted by phone at 800-285-5658 or via the business' website at www.sudsydogs.com.

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