Options Unlimited For Pooches

ST. MARYS — Pam and Jim Schnarre take extra care when it comes to their dogs, Howie, Bailey and Sequoia.

While Sequoia was a wedding present puppy picked out during their honeymoon, Howie and Bailey are Maltese dogs rescued with handicaps, who are now receiving first class treatment.

“We take our dogs wherever we go on planes, on boats,” Pam Schnarre said. “We’re regular campers, and we take our cat camping with us, too.”

While locals may know Pam from her serving job at Beer Barrel, people would probably recognize her animals because of their distinctive grooming.

“We groom them regularly,” she said. “Last March we had them done for Mardi Gras.”

The dogs have had Michigan State green fur for football season. For Halloween, they’ve worn an array of costumes, from lobsters to pirates, Roughriders, pumpkins and motorcycle gangsters.

Then there’s the traditional Santa and Mrs. Claus outfits, sported by the dogs every Christmas.

Some might say the Schnarres treat their animals like people — and in Pam Schnarre’s mind that’s not a bad thing.

“You have to treat your pets the way you’d want to be treated,” she said.

Shelly Fledderjohann, with Dogs-R-Us, knows that Schnarre is far from alone in her feelings for her animals. Dogs-R-Us specializes in grooming that goes above and beyond the typical grooming services, with her shop on Clinton Street styled as a dog beauty parlor where pooches can get a cut, color, style and manicure, not to mention dog temporary tattoos and even a dog necktie, for the distinguished pooch.

“We do a lot of different things,” she said, detailing colors from hot pink to Michigan State green for doggie dye jobs. “Some people want just tails or ears. We can do also do little tramp stamps, that’s what we call the one that looks like a tattoo.”

The coloring goes from temporary to semi-permanent, but is all bleach free and animal safe, she said. For people who are in the grooming business, she said something they hear all the time is people saying that the dogs must be embarrassed by their bright colors.

“That gets a lot of groomers upset because they’re not embarrassed,” Fledderjohann said. “They love it, they get all the attention. What dog doesn’t want attention?”

Schnarre agrees.

“Howie was the killer dog when he first started getting groomed,” she said.

Now she said he loves the process.

“They like it, they did no sedation,” Schnarre said. “It was just her working with animal, and being kind and friendly to the animal.”

As for her pooch’s fashion sense, she said he doesn’t dislike the costumes.

“Howie doesn’t mind being dressed, he could care less,” Schnarre said.

Fledderjohann said there are some benefits to a more pampered approach to grooming.

“We have our hands all over that dog, and we see them every six to 12 weeks, whereas vets see the dog maybe once a year,” Fledderjohann said. “We’ve caught quite a few things. We’ve found tumors or hematomas on dogs. With little things like that, we make notes, and next time we’ll see if it’s grown. We sometimes tell people we think they need to see the vet.”

Besides color, Fledderjohann does nail art for dogs and earrings, but she quickly adds that the earrings are mock-earrings. They aren’t pushed through the cartilage of the ear. She also attaches booty bling, which is a decoration for the rump or shoulder, and designs special collars and bows to match the bling.

She’s put feathers in a dog’s fur, flat-ironed it and done braids and beading.

“There isn’t much we can’t do,” she said.

While the Schnarre family likes to do the extra grooming sometimes, the day to day interaction with the pets is more about lifestyle than what people can see on the outside. The dogs sleep in the bed and when the Schnarres are away overnight, even for one night, there’s always a pet sitter.

“They are our best friends,” she said. “Whatever you give your animal they give back to you ... Their life can’t be disrupted because we want to do something.”

People have started to notice their attention to animals, giving them other dogs and cats to rescue. Schnarre said she’s often found homes for litters of kittens, which is probably why people keep dropping them in her neighborhood.

“We can’t take (our animals) everywhere, some places don’t allow it,” she said. “The most interesting thing, though, was probably when we moved to Seattle had a cat on a leash and we walked it through airport security.”