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Canine therapy: Being around dogs is perfect setting for Bemidji pet groomer

Having a day care for dogs may sound eccentric, but it’s a great opportunity for socialization and the well-being of the animal. “By nature, dogs are happy and we make sure they always have fun here,” said Paul Yule, Bark Avenue owner and groomer. “When the owners come to pick up their dogs they can tell that the dogs had a good time.” — Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 2
Paul Yule, owner of Bark Avenue, gives a summer cut to Tucker, a standard poodle while Kelly Cronemiller grooms another client’s dog. — Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer2 / 2

If you visit Bark Avenue, you will be greeted by small dogs, huge dogs, hunting dogs, lap dogs, skinny dogs and overweight dogs. They will all stop what they are doing and head to the counter with their tails wagging, looking for a pat on the head.

And for the betterment of your well-being, it’s always a good idea to oblige.

“By nature, dogs are happy and we make sure they always have fun here,” said Paul Yule, Bark Avenue owner and groomer. “When the owners come to pick up their dogs they can tell that the dogs had a good time.”

Yule will groom about 40 dogs, and an occasional cat, each week and there is nothing he would rather be doing.

“Dogs are happy all the time and it feels good to be around them,” he said. “If my morning didn’t go so well, things immediately improve when I get here. Being around dogs is good for my soul.”

Soothing his soul has been a byproduct of Yule’s workday since 2001, when he graduated from the Universal Academy of Animal Arts in the Twin Cities.

Before the career move, he worked at various convenience stores in the Bemidji area.

“I wanted to do something unique so I went to school and crammed a lot of knowledge about grooming into my three months of study,” he said. “I started grooming at Animal Care clinic and then moved to the back of Pets Plus. But when I started a pet day care, that location became too cramped so we bought the new place (on Anne Street).”

With so many dogs coming and going during the course of a week, there’s always an opportunity for an argument. But the dogs at Bark Avenue would rather play than quarrel.

“When a dog is home, it is protecting its territory or its master,” Yule, who has a background in hunting and training field dogs, said. “All of the dogs that come for grooming or for pet day care are in neutral territory, so they aren’t protecting anything.

“Dogs are pack animals and because I am the leader of the pack, they have respect for each other. They are all equal and in those situations they can spend their time playing together and having fun,” Yule added. “I’ve done research on the behavior of dogs, and I’ve learned that sometimes a young dog is king or queen at home and they try to be the king or queen here. But experience with dogs will let you recognize that type of behavior right away, and when you see it, you can change it.”

 Larger dogs usually take longer to groom just because there is more surface area but there is no timetable to finish a job. A complete groom begins with a quick first cut and the second step is a bath.

The final stage is the finishing cut, where Yule will shave the animal, trim its nails and check the anal glands.

Each breed presents different challenges, but in terms of handling, Yule believes most dogs can be dealt with in a similar fashion.

“There is not a breed that is the hardest or the easiest to groom,” he said. “As in humans, dogs have different personalities and energy levels. They also have a sixth sense and can tell the mood of the people around them.

“If you are in a hurry and have a high energy level, the dog can feel it. But if you bring your energy level down you can bring the dog’s energy level down. They key to being a groomer is to be patient.”

Yule also has discovered that music truly does calm the savage beast.

“If the dog is high strung on the grooming table, I can calm it by singing,” he said. “Jimmy Buffet is among my favorites because his songs are mellow. And the dogs don’t care if you are in the right key or even if you know the words.”

Being around dogs all day is the perfect setting for Yule, and he believes everyone could benefit from a daily dose of canine affection.

“When I go to the middle school during career day, I always tell the kids that they should take the time to pet their dog at least twice a day,” Yule said. “You owe that affection to your dog, and it also is great therapy for you.

“I’m glad that I made this (career) choice,” he continued. “I’ve been an animal person since I’ve been little, and becoming a groomer was the perfect move for me. To have a job where you don’t get depressed on Sunday because you have to go back to work on Monday is important. And I never mind when Monday morning comes around.”

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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