Mobile dog groomers still finding strong demand in Sarpy County – Omaha World-Herald

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When the coronavirus hit, Heidi Lowther and Dennis Askren of Papillion lost not only their jobs, but also their home.

The married couple lived on site at their work, both employed at a local animal shelter. Suddenly, they were left needing a new place to stay and a brand new way to make their livelihood.

They decided to invest in a camper. The vehicle would provide both somewhere to live and a new source of income from mobile dog grooming.

Mobile grooming is a newer approach to traditional pet care. Instead of customers leaving home to take an animal to a grooming appointment, or attempting to provide that care at home, a vehicle travels to them to provide one-on-one services.

Lowther and Askren started Loyal Companion K9 Comfort Spa. For a year and a half, they rebuilt their lives using this RV. That was until April 15 — when tragedy struck again.

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The RV caught fire with the family inside.

On the way to a grooming appointment, Askren said the camper — which often broke down — became inflamed due to a carburetor issue.

Lowther was ejected from the vehicle. Their 5-year-old son, Derick Askren, was inside the RV. Both on fire, neither Askren or Lowther could help Derick escape. The entire experience was terrifying, they said.

“I had to stop, drop plus roll right in the middle of the road during rush hour, ” Lowther said.

Unable to move, Lowther couldn’t see Askren or Derick. Devastated, she assumed they didn’t survive.

With the fire started on the opposite end of the vehicle to the 5-year-old, it didn’t immediately reach him — giving him time to escape.

When Askren saw his son was OK, all he felt was relief, he said.

“From that point on, it’s been nothing but up-spirits for me, ” Askren said. “I could have been burned alive, and I still would have been smiling. ”

The family was airlifted to the St . Elizabeth Regional Burn and Wound Center in Lincoln.

Askren had less than 10% burns. He underwent an operation without receiving any infections.

Lowther had a total of 13 surgeries, receiving 8 infections. She felt defeated, Lowther said. Throughout it all, Askren said all Lowther could talk about were the dogs that were going ungroomed.

After spending more than 100 days in the burn unit, Lowther was discharged in late July. She’s doing a lot better now, she said, and has regained the ability to walk with a walker.

Now, the family is trying to rebuild their life, again. They’ve started a GoFundMe to afford a new vehicle . They hope to go back to how business was before — booming.

They said there was a massive desire for their services in Papillion and all throughout Sarpy County.

Other mobile groomers find strong interest

Pawtastic Cellular Grooming has found business to be strong in Papillion.

This new business is officially starting to service the community this month.

Before then, groomer Steavie Pettid of Springfield took care of a few former clients — whom the girl gained during her more than a decade of experience of traditional pet grooming — while the lady and owner Amber Cushman prepared to formally open.

During this in-between stage, Cushman said countless people saw their vehicle and wanted to utilize their services.

“Complete strangers (were) knocking on our door, asking for a card so they can schedule a grooming scheduled appointment, ” Cushman said. “It’s not even ready yet plus it’s generated interest. That’s what’s so crazy to me. ”

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Paul Passauer, owner of the Papillion  HydroDog Mobile Dog Grooming franchise, grooms a dog Aug. 3.  

Paul Passauer noticed this growing trend’s huge demand. Wanting a career change, he left his automotive service management position associated with 40 years. He started a HydroDog Mobile Dog Grooming franchise in Papillion with his wife Amy Passauer.

As he  predicted, business has been in extremely high demand since this HydroDog opened two years ago. Not only is it fully booked with clients from Papillion, La Vista and Bellevue, but it has a long waitlist. They are even considering opening a second automobile.

Beyond schooling, Passauer has always experienced dog tidying on four wheels during his time with the industry.

However , he said it’s similar to that of a traditional groomer. Inside his big, blue, dog-shaped vehicle, one can find the sink to bathe animals and all the tools Passauer could need. On top of a counter sits the dogs who he brushes and trims.

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This sink, inside  the Papillion  HydroDog Mobile Dog Grooming franchise, is used for mobile grooming.

This one-on-one experience is what Passauer considers to be much of mobile grooming’s appeal. Eliminating dogs’ wait time and being given individual attention — without hearing a crowd of other dogs barking — significantly reduces the animals’ anxiety, Passauer said.

Another perk, Cushman said, is convenience. People are busy, she stated, and trying to schedule their own entire day around a grooming appointment can prove challenging.

Now, they never have to leave home. This also helps some of her elderly clients with limited mobility.

Though this concept of mobile dog grooming took off during the height of the COVID pandemic, — allowing for a minimal contact experience — Cushman sees it continuing well after the world goes back to normal.

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