Dogramat Is Cleaning Up on Dirty Dogs

Times Staff Writer

From time to time, according to Reva Faver, somebody will poke his head into the door and ask: "What's a dogramat?"

"Well, first we put your pet into a washing machine," she'll reply. "Then we generally use the permanent-press cycle for the dryer."

"And you know what?" she asked with a wink. "Some of them actually believe it."

Not surprisingly, perhaps, since not every block has such an establishment--nor do many towns.

From Tub to Towels

"It was my very own idea," Faver said. "And for nearly five years now it has worked: having a place where dog owners can rent a tub and water and towels and brushes, and not have to worry about any cleaning up afterward."

And, added customer Shiz Nishimoto of Venice, sponging her poodle with shampoo: "I don't get a backache any more from leaning over my bathtub at home."

Inside Jaxon's Dogramat in Mar Vista are shelves of pet accessories and two stalls. Each stall is equipped with an elevated custom-built stainless-steel tub (with wooden platform, so the pet won't slip), a rubber-matted bench from which the animal can jump into the tub, a push-button spray hose with temperature controls, even a blow dryer.

"Since this was new, it was trial and error," Faver said. "Originally we had a ramp running from the tub to the floor, but we soon found out that dogs don't want to walk up or down a ramp."

Some dogs, in fact, require that the owner get in the tub first.

"That's the only way Bosco will agree to it," said actor Bruce Abbott of Marina del Rey, who showed up with a 110-pound German shepherd-St. Bernard mix. The animal is owned by him and his wife, actress Linda Hamilton.

Following Commands

Ron Sandler of Venice was there with his Irish setter, Aheu, who did everything on command:

"Up and in!" the owner barked, and his pet dutifully leaped up, without barking. About half an hour later when it was all over, the owned commanded, "OK, shake!" And Aheu did just that.

Nishimoto had to place her small poodle, Cindy, into the metal tub, but once inside, the stray the woman had adopted sat peacefully as shampoo and then conditioner were worked in.

"It's the same conditioner I use myself," Nishimoto said. "Cindy loves it, and she loves this place. My husband and I have two other dogs, and it used to be that when we were driving to a regular grooming place, they would sense it and jump into the back seat when we got near. Now, when we are walking them and they pass by here, they tug at their leashes and want to stop in."

All of which doesn't surprise the Dogramat proprietor.

"A dog shouldn't be traumatized by a bath any more than you are," Faver said. "And when an owner does his or her own dog, a rapport develops."

But too often it is the owner who is traumatized if he has to do the job at home.

"As if the kneeling and the backaches weren't enough, afterward you have all that mess in the bathtub to clean up, and the hair goes down and clogs the drain," Nishimoto said.

And in a case such as Bosco, where a home tub isn't big enough, the only alternative used to be cold water in the yard from a hose.

"It always seemed so mean," Abbott said. "It was like turning a cold hose on yourself."

Dislikes Cold Water

Paul Linke of Mar Vista, one of the stars on the former "CHiPs" television series, is a regular at the dogramat with Moses, his Doberman.

"Moses hates cold water," Linke said. "He even runs when I fill his drinking bowl. And when I used to try and wash him with a hose, things really got negative. He didn't like it and gave me a hard time, and then I would get heavy on him.

"Things are different now. I'm not destroying my back, and he doesn't mind the water because it's warm."

Everything at Jaxon's (named after the owner's German shepherd) is first-come, first-use--no reservations. The tub rental fee is $8 for short-hair dogs less than 80 pounds, $10 for bigger ones, and $10 to $20 for longhairs, with no time limit in any case.

Cindy had completed her rinse cycle. "Good girl. Doesn't that feel good, so nice and clean?" Nishimoto cooed to her poodle while blow-drying and combing the hair to make it fluffy.

An average of 10 pet owners a day currently make use of the do-it-yourself facilities, more in the summertime. After each usage, the tub is sprayed with a disinfectant and rinsed with boiling water. For an extra charge, Faver or an assistant will do the grooming, or sell flea-control products, dry skin remedies, and so forth. Advice is free.

"When somebody walks in for the first time, his words will invariably be that his dog doesn't like baths," she said. "I tell him to make the experience as stress-free as possible for the animal.

Shaking Is an Instinct

"And I always point out that the dog should be allowed to shake at will. Shaking while wet is a natural instinct with animals."

Dogs, incidentally, are the only ones allowed in the rental tubs.

"When I first opened, in the Chinese year of the dog, I let a lady bring in her cat," Faver said. "It got loose, knocked down bottles, tried to climb the wall. I also let one guy bring in his raccoon. Same result."

So, with due respect to all creatures great and small, every year is the year of the dog at Jaxon's. As is every day except Wednesdays.

And no telling what is likely to happen in this uncommon setting. One man and woman, Faver said, found themselves chatting over the barrier while attending to their pets, got acquainted, and wound up getting married.

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