News Item | PAWS Chicago

Spa Days for PAWS Chicago Dogs

by Alison Martin | Jul 27, 2016

Volunteer groomer gives homeless dogs the VIP treatment

Two-year-old Champagne, a Pekinese mix, is led down the hall of the Pippen Fasseas Adoption Center toward Janice Grams. Hair tied up and a black smock over her clothes, Grams greets Champagne and lifts him onto a grooming table. It’s bath time.

Grams is PAWS Chicago’s volunteer groomer, giving homeless dogs the VIP treatment one paw at a time. She calls her method “comfort grooming,” and she believes that–just like people–dogs present themselves best when they feel at their best. “It’s a makeover just like a person,” she says. “When you look better, you feel better.”

To Grams, comfort grooming means taking as much time as needed for a positive experience. When she first meets a dog, Grams allows space to let the dog warm up to her. Her tone is soft and comforting. Before long, the dog is ready. If dogs are anxious or agitated, Grams lets them return to their rooms to calm down. Some dogs take hours to groom, but the end result, Grams says, is worth it. “They’re always so happy and pretty,” she said. “They smile.”

During her day job, Grams takes care of humans as an outpatient nurse, but animals have always been her first love. In 2013, Grams graduated from the Academy of Dog Grooming Arts and the Bishop School of Grooming. Though she considered grooming show dogs and pets, the ones who needed her most, she says, were in shelters. Grams has worked with dogs whose fur was so long it hung in their eyes and nails so long they have grown into their paw pads. Grams says matted fur and long nails can turn a friendly dog into an aggressive one. When the mats get smaller and tighter, they pull the skin. “A lot of people don’t realize that when they’re matted, it can be painful,” Grams said. “It’s uncomfortable and they’re not going to present well. They may be shy or seem aggressive or antisocial,” she says.

As Champagne finishes his spa treatment, his fur looks fluffy and feels silky. When Grams sets him down on the floor, he prances around proudly.

Grams’ Dog Grooming Tips

  • Create a quiet atmosphere to help the dog keep calm.
  • Go to where the dog is most comfortable. If the dog has joint problems or wants to lay on the floor, groom on the floor.
  • Put a towel over the dog’s head and ears to block out sounds from hairdryers and sheers.
  • Take breaks to give the dog time to calm down.
  • If the dog is matted, do not wash first. It will make the mats tighter.
  • If the dog won’t let you clip or trim a certain area, do not force it. You could cut your dog.
  • Give the pup a break and try again. If the dog still won’t cooperate, ask a professional for help.