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New salon caters to canines


KLARE POTTER didn’t always like what she saw at the dog grooming salons and doggie day care centers where she worked in New York City.

At one place, the staff was told to shelve any toys and T–shirts owners had dropped off with their pets instead of letting the dogs have them.

“Most of the dogs hated it,” Potter said of the doggie day care center, “and the owners never knew.”

The 1997 Spotsylvania High School graduate doesn’t intend for anything like that to happen at Cuts for Mutts, her new business at 10456 Hilltop Plaza Way off Courthouse Road in Spotsylvania County.

“I wanted to create a place where I’d feel comfortable leaving my dog,” said Potter, who is a graduate of and guest instructor at the New York School of Dog Grooming. “It’s important for so many people. Dogs are their family.”

Cuts for Mutts currently schedules only one dog at a time so she can devote her entire attention to it. She also relies on her training in the Alexander technique to understand how each pet is feeling so she can best meet their needs.

“I use it every day,” Potter said. “It’s how I’m making contact with the dogs. It does make a difference.”

The Alexander technique was created to teach people how to stand, hold themselves and move more mindfully and efficiently in order to eliminate unnecessary tension in their bodies. It can help those suffering from such things as tension headaches, back pain and frozen shoulders.

Potter uses it to study how her customers’ dogs are moving and to figure out how best to handle them while trimming their coats and giving them shampoos and blow drying.

When a customer brought in an elderly, arthritic dog who didn’t feel like standing while he was groomed, for example, she didn’t force the issue. He sat down, and she just gently lifted his leg when it came time to clip his nails. The dog, who normally hated getting this done, rolled over on his back so she could finish the job.

“I went with it,” Potter said.

The Spotsylvania woman has always loved dogs, but originally enrolled in the Boston Conservatory to study ballet. Her dream of becoming a professional ballerina died during her junior year when she injured her ankle.

Potter decided to switch gears and study at the American Center for the Alexander Technique in New York City. She became a certified instructor, but soon discovered that wasn’t the right career for her because it took so long to see results.

“I wanted to do something that made me happy,” she said. “I’ve always loved dogs. Being able to do the Alexander technique on myself and translate that to [how she works with] dogs has been really cool.”

Potter enrolled in the New York School of Dog Grooming, and one of her teachers asked her to be an assistant in her dog grooming business.

“The school taught basic safety techniques; it was a good base,” she said. “The real learning came from experience. I love that about it. There’s always more to learn.”

From there, Potter worked at several dog grooming salons and doggie day care centers in New York for 4 years. She eventually tired of the city, and decided to move back to Spotsylvania and go into business for herself.

Potter started out by working with clients at her parents’ house in Spotsylvania while developing a business plan with the help of Susan E. Ball, a business counselor at the University of Mary Washington’s Small Business Development Center.

“It’s totally free, and she’s been super helpful,” Potter said. “I don’t know what I would have done without that.”

She opened her salon earlier this month. Done in soft blue and tan with white trim and checkerboard patterned tile flooring, it exudes the calm, soothing air she wanted to create. A full groom, which includes a bath using Chris Christiansen professional-grade products and a cut and styling, runs an average of $50 for small dogs and $70 for large ones.

Cuts for Mutts also offers a number of other individual services, including nail trims and ear cleaning, and carries a line of colorful Daisy’s Duds collars, leashes, and crate blankets and bone-shaped “drool pads” to go under dog dishes. They’re created by her mother, Linda Potter.

“I want it to be successful, but I don’t want it to be so busy that I’m rushing around,” Klare Potter said of her salon. “I want the dogs to feel safe and not rushed.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407