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It's New to Us by Jean Stratton

NO BAD HAIR DAYS: “We groom every kind of dog from champions and show dogs to mixed breeds. All the dogs that come here are treated the same and loved the same. If it’s canine, it’s welcome here.” Deborah Frame-Bealer, owner of Fantasia’s Grooming Salon, is shown with her 3-year-old bearded collie, Joanna.

Professional Grooming for Dogs Is Offered at Fantasia’s Salon

The care and well-being of dogs is Deborah Frame-Bealer’s mission. A breeder, trainer, animal behaviorist, animal nutritionist, and master groomer, she has also trained drug-sniffing dogs and dogs for the deaf. She and her husband, Randy Bealer opened Fantasia’s Grooming Salon in October. Located at 4595 Main Street, Route 27 in Kingston, this is the latest of several salons Ms. Graham-Bealer has owned or been involved with.

“I’ve been in this business all my life — from the age of seven, when I helped in a grooming salon in Somerset. I loved it right away, and at the age of 10, I had memorized the standard and origin of every recognized breed in the American Kennel Club.”

At 16, she won a national grooming contest, and worked with Dianne Johnson, owner of Somerset Waggin Tails Grooming. “Dianne was one of the top groomers, and she also introduced me to dog show people,” says Ms. Frame-Bealer, who from the ages of 16 to 19 worked at eight different grooming salons before opening her own grooming business in New Brunswick, followed by another in Somerset.

During this time, she also became involved in breeding and showing dogs. Her bearded collie, Fantasia, won best of breed at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden in 1984. “That is the most prestigious dog show in the country, and Fantasia was chosen best of breed over 60 dogs,” explains Ms. Frame-Bealer.

Bearded Collie

She adds that she looks forward to showing her current bearded collie, Joanna, who is a descendant of Fantasia, at Westminster in 2009.

Right now, however, she is focusing on her new grooming salon, pointing out that she has very high grooming standards. “First, everything is spotlessly clean. I disinfect everything — all scissors, blades; and all the equipment is sterilized and top-of-the-line. Second, I don’t overschedule. I do all the grooming myself. No one grooms the dogs but me. I am in control of the way the dogs are treated, and I hand-dry all dogs. There are no drying cages.

“The most important thing for me is the mental outlook of the dog,” she continues. “What is important is not only that they get a perfect hair cut, but that they have humane treatment.”

When a new canine client is referred to the salon, Ms. Frame-Bealer likes to meet the dog prior to the appointment so she can get to know and evaluate the animal. “I get down on the floor with the dog, and I relate to them without talking,” she explains. “Dogs know if you love them. I never muzzle a dog or use restraints.”

All sizes and types of dogs — from 10 pounds to 200 pounds — are groomed, as well as all ages, starting at three months. Puppies must have inoculations, she adds, and if a dog is elderly, she evaluates its condition. She occasionally makes house visits if the older animal is more comfortable there.

“Being humane to the dog is paramount,” notes Ms. Frame-Bealer. “I’ve had referrals from vets, especially for dogs that are elderly or have a heart condition, or even an amputated leg. I also have a lot of repeats from my clients. In some cases, I am working with their fifth dog! There’s always a lot of word-of-mouth.”

Cooler Water

Grooming at Fantasia is very personalized, she adds. “For example, I understand the temperaments and characteristics of each dog. Some dogs, such as Alaskan breeds, like Samoyeds and Malamutes, prefer cooler water.

“I use all-natural products, including a yucca rinse, and I make my own line of oil with sweet almond extract. And every dog gets Aquafina bottled water and a little Boar’s Head turkey breast treat.”

Dogs are given a protein bath, which is individualized. This is followed by a customized oil treatment, and a yucca extract rinse. Ms. Frame-Bealer then dries the dog using a high velocity hand-held dryer.

Before the bath, ears and anal glands are cleaned, and nails clipped. The hair cut is also personalized. “Every dog’s treatment depends on what it needs,” she says. “We do customized stylings for each dog, and I hand-scissor the cut. The finishing work — the last half-hour — is all done by hand, and before and after the cut, the dog is brushed.

“If there is a shedding situation, I de-shed the dog. I remove all the under-coat, which includes use of the high velocity dryer, and then comb the dog for one hour. Dogs, such as German shepherds, labradors, dalmatians, and golden retrievers, often need this.”

After the grooming, each dog receives a personalized bandana. Ms. Frame-Bealer also plans to have a boutique, featuring special clothing, collars, and jewelry for dogs.

Eight Weeks

Fantasia’s Salon grooms show dogs and pets alike, and the grooming needs vary. A show dog is often groomed once a week. For pets, every eight weeks is typical, and some dogs come twice a year.

“Your dog doesn’t have to be a champion to look like one — this is our slogan,” says Ms. Frame-Bealer, “I make sure that every dog looks like it’s going to Westminster.”

Prices vary, with a basic hour and a half grooming for a small dog, $50, and three hours for a large dog, $85.

Ms. Frame-Bealer is always alert to the dog’s condition. “Unfortunately, I’ve encountered cases where animals have been abused,” she reports. “One time, I noticed a burn mark on a poodle, and I informed the police. It turned out that the owner had not only been abusing the dog, but her child as well.”

Ms. Frame-Bealer also tries hard to create a welcoming atmosphere for dogs that have been abused or have had a bad grooming experience. “You have to earn the dog’s trust,” she explains. “I love the interaction with the dogs. When I’m working with a dog, I’m so relaxed. I love what I do. It’s a bond with the dog. Animals don’t judge us. They give unconditional love. They give so much, and you can learn so much from them. They’re so forgiving; they’re not prejudiced.

“I look forward to working with dogs for the rest of my life. This is happy work, and the dogs are happy here.”

Fantasia’s Grooming Salon is open seven days, 8:30 to 6. (609) 924-5155.

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