Working: Liz Czak

By Patrisha McLean | Apr 24, 2009

Rockport — Muffin, Wally, Sasha and the rest trot out from their appointments, shiny, fluffy and smelling great, keeping to themselves what it took to get them like that.

“Many products used for humans are brought into the dog world, and vice versa,” said the owner of Yankee Clipper, Liz Czak. Conditioner and mousse usually do it for dogs with long coats, but for curly haired breeds, hair straighteners, hair sprays and mousses are deployed. In these cases, “We don’t follow the lines of dogs’ frames," she said. "We literally sculpt the dog,” accentuating the dog’s best features and camouflaging his or her flaws, such as too-short legs.

She said her salon follows trends seen in the show ring, a familiar venue for Liz: In 1990, her atika, Tancho Signature, was “the number one bitch in Region One [New England].”

Liz has groomed animals for almost half a century. She said Mainers are “more practical” than dog owners in New York City, where she attended grooming school, or in Beverly Hills, where “we mostly saw the housekeepers” and clients included Neil Diamond’s lhaso apso Cherry. But there are still plenty of pooches in Rockport who have standing weekly appointments, and such services as paw salve and nail polish, aromatherapy, rhinestone ear studs and even the occasional vegetable-based hair dye.

“I don’t think a salon in Beverly Hills has much on us," Liz said. "A lot of people come here from other areas and I shudder when I see those dogs. We have a great customer from West Palm Beach. They spend a lot of money on this dog and the haircut is bad.”

The clients at Yankee Clipper are bathed by Lindsay and Brenda and prepared for grooming by Cathy. Liz is one of four certified master groomers in the salon, cutting dog hair with Avanti scissors made by Gibe that cost $350.

The salon manager is Daryl, who specializes in scissoring and hand stripping and has regular bylines in such trade magazines as Groomer to Groomer and Down East Dog News. Liz said that when Daryl was contemplating the move to Maine from Memphis, “she asked me, ‘do you have anything up there except for golden retrievers and Labs?’ She was really surprised at the variety of breeds we see.”

The variety extends to jobs they take on. In the spring and fall, there is de-skunking and in the summer, de-burring (“we can get them out pretty easily”). The salon performs free makeovers for rescued dogs, which because of bug infestations can be “nasty work,” according to Liz. A guinea pig was once a regular client and they get “quite a few” cats.

Liz studied to be a book illustrator in college, dropping out when she got married. “The deal was I was supposed to put him through college, then he was going to put me through college, but the marriage was over before that happened,” she said. Going back to dog grooming, her job through high school, worked out fine, Liz said. Animals have always been her passion and “dog grooming is my artistic outlet," she said. "Knowing about line and form definitely helps in this job.”

Asked about changes in her field, Liz said, “In the 1960s, we never saw shitzus. Now they’re one of the more popular brands that we do.” Also, “hairstyles have changed, just like women’s. They’re much more manicured now.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is the sad farewells at the front of the shop. With many owners, “you can’t wrench the dogs out of their arms," she said. "They act like they’re dropping them off to the first day of kindergarten. For 90 percent of the people who come in here, their pets are their children and you have to treat the people and their pets with that in mind.”
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