Pampered pooches: Marco Pet Salon helps dogs look their best

Lance Shearer

Every dog, said Nadine Peterson, has a different, unique personality – and she gets to see all of them.

“Dogs are just like kids. Some are more difficult than others, but we get them all done,” said the owner of Marco Pet Salon on Chalmers Drive. She probably has seen all the behaviors a dog can exhibit while getting groomed, clipped and bathed – she has had the business over 20 years.

Madi Forester holds Lacy - or is it Molly Sue? while Nadine Peterson clips. Marco Pet Salon on Chalmers Drive offers grooming and cosmetic services  for dogs.

“How long have I been here?” she asked longtime assistant Teresa Carp, passing along a reporter’s question. “I don’t know.” They settled on 1995 as the year, and since have helped countless thousands of Marco Island’s canine companions look, and presumably feel, their best.

Each dog brought in for grooming, said Peterson, gets two baths, the first one a flea bath, and the second depending on the dog’s individual needs. Many of the canines are variations on the small, “yap dog” type most often associated with doggie pedicures and elaborate clips, but some are considerably larger.

On a recent Wednesday, Carp was working on shampooing Lucy, a large gray dog who, even with fur slicked down, appeared to be the approximate size of a Shetland pony.

“Lucy likes to lay here in the tub and get massaged,” said Carp. Many pet owners have asked if they can receive the same treatment, she said, but the answer is always the same: “No humans. You have to have fur.”

Carp’s own pet, Priscilla or ’Cilla, is a Jack Russell terrier-griffon-Shih Tzu mix, a “designer dog,” in Carp’s phrase, or something close to what used to be called a “Heinz 57.” Cilla is the shop dog, who spends her days at Marco Pet Salon, and gets to interact with a series of pooches, before and after their beautification.

Another assistant groomer, Madi Forester, was combing and blow-drying Honey, a little white Havanese, “hand fluffing” her in the trade parlance, before assisting Peterson with holding one of a pair of identical Yorkies, either Molly Sue or Lacy, while Peterson carefully trimmed her hair. Forester has worked at the salon almost a half year, and volunteered with dogs before that. Jenny Raber, who sings professionally under the name Jenny Woodman, rounds out the staff, but arrived later that morning.

Peterson does most of the clipping, and puts to use her decades of experience, both at the salon and many years before that breeding Bedlington terriers.

“You have to have good hand scissor skills,” she said. “Look at those legs,” encouraging a visitor to admire the front paws of a Schnauzer on which she was working. “Look at those legs – scissor skills!” She also called attention to how the dog’s beard was growing out, although the fine details were lost on a layman.

In general, dog owners leave their pets at the salon for about two or three hours while they are groomed, and pay from $60 up, depending on the size of the dog and the procedures being performed. Bigger dogs incur bigger charges.

Eventually, Bob Zammito returned for his Schnauzer, and spoke up cheerfully when asked how he rated the service at Marco Pet Salon.

“They’re awful,” he said – and then threw in a $100 bill as a tip, and said to the staff, “you girls have lunch on me today.”

While many of the pooches pampered at the salon are pedigrees or designer dogs, there are also rescue dogs who lucked out. Licorice, an out and out mutt, was “found along the highway,” said owner Judy Dyer. “She had had six puppies, and they said no one would adopt her.”

Even during the offseason, Marco Pet Salon has a steady stream of tail-wagging customers, said Peterson.

“We stay busy year-round, but it is a little more relaxing during the season. During the winter season, it’s just crazy.” Grooming services are also available on the island at Critter Café, and the Marco Veterinary Hospital.

Marco Pet Salon, said Peterson, is open “from 8 a.m. until the last dog is done.” You can find them at 960 Chalmer Drive, or at 239-642-2221.