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Last summer, Brian Taylor, a.k.a. the “Dogfather of Harlem,” owner of Harlem Doggie Day Spa, and Wildest Expert Collective member went from Uptown fixture to road-dog crusader when he led the nationwide Pup Relief Tour, offering free grooming services to dogs in need. It was a huge success, so he hit the road again this month.
The idea came to Taylor in mid-March of last year, after he’d lost 90% of his business when the city closed up shop for the pandemic. “I realized I had two options: cry about it or find a way to give back.” And so he dusted off a van he’d bought the year before, assembled a crew of fellow groomers, and together they organized pop-up salons throughout the city — providing grooming to dogs with quarantine hair. As news coverage, support, and funding soon followed, he and nearly 50 other Black grooming professionals expanded to DC, Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles — helping under-groomed, heat-besieged dogs in every region. And after hurricanes ravaged New Orleans, Taylor organized a holiday tour to Lafayette, where they groomed another 200 dogs.
This year’s crew came together more organically. A diverse yet tight-knit group of groomers drove or flew to tour stops across the country (adhering to strict Covid safety protocols). Stylish Pooch’s Rahanna Gray (made famous by the Fab Five in “Queer Eye” Season 5) hosted the first stop on the tour in Philadelphia. In Alabama, Octavian Walls, groomer and owner of Beautiful Barks, has been a voice for the local LGBTQ community for over a decade. Candace Lewis of Fort Wayne, IN, runs the state’s first female- and Black-owned grooming salon, Kandi Kutz. That the tour took place during August — Black Business Month — is no coincidence. Only 4.2% of groomers in the U.S. are Black, 15.8 Hispanic or Latino.
The final stop on the tour was hosted by semi-retired groomer Brandy Glasgow, who dedicates most of her time to her nonprofit organization Street Dogz of Las Vegas, which serves pet owners who are experiencing homelessness by providing them with pet food, supplies, and grooming services at monthly events by the Nevada Homeless Alliance, but she showed up to the Pup Relief Tour with a team a dozen groomers strong. “Last year, in Los Angeles, groomers Candi and Juanita went to Skid Row with their clippers and started grooming dogs right there on the sidewalk,” remembers Taylor. “I was always inspired by that, so when Brandy reached out and said she does the same thing, it was a perfect fit.”
Pup Relief Tours combined, a total of 1,461 dogs whose pet parents were either struggling financially or homeless have gotten not only new summer cuts, but color too!
Keep your dog well-groomed but trust trims to the pros.
Chris Norris is a writer, reporter, author, and longtime companion to West Highland terrier Gus, recently departed but intensely loved. Chris Norris is has written for The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, GQ, Details, and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He lives in New York City with his wife and 10-year-old son.