How the Owner of a Doggie Day Spa Spends His Sundays
When Brian Taylor grooms his canine clients, sometimes he transforms their fur into all kinds of colors and shapes. “It’s just like hair,” he said. “Artists can turn hair into anything people want, and that’s what I do for dogs.”
As the owner of the Harlem Doggie Day Spa, which has served thousands of pets in its 11 years, Mr. Taylor likes to call himself the “Dogfather of Harlem,” and is developing a line of dog accessories with that branding in mind.
Two and a half years ago he started a mobile salon out of a van, which has become a popular service during the pandemic. “Usually I am booked several months in advance,” he said. It’s also what inspired his new mission: touring the country and offering free dog grooming to those in need.
Last summer he visited seven American cities, spending two days in each and providing haircuts for dogs whose owners were suffering financially. “I was able to hire 63 African-American female groomers across the country to help me,” he said. “We did 820 dogs.” He hopes to do it again this summer and has raised over $65,000 from donors to that aim, with a goal of $100,000. “We want to do 2,000 this time.”
Mr. Taylor lives in his store in Hamilton Heights, which also serves as a cage-free boarding facility. He is surrounded 24 hours a day by dogs, whom he calls his stepchildren.
MIND AND BODY I wake up every morning at 5:30 no matter what day it is. I drink tea, and I put this powder full of vitamins into it. Every morning I read a book, some sort of inspirational one — right now it’s “The Magic of Thinking Big” — and I try to write down some things in my journal that stick out to me.
Then I work out my body. I run two miles to the New York Sports Club — it takes me 17 minutes — and then I lift some weights. Or sometimes I’ll take a private boxing class at Hurricane Fitness, which is nearby. Last year I gained 55 pounds from the stress of losing business during the pandemic. The last five months I’ve been at the gym, and I’ve finally lost it all.
VISITORS On Sundays we don’t open to the public, but I do keep dogs as part of doggy day care, and I take them outside to the garden to do their business. They stay with me in my apartment; I have a small twin bed in my living room, and the rest of the space is filled with dogs. I don’t have my own dog, but I have so many regulars that I am the stepfather for; those are the ones who get to sleep in my bed.
SWIPING FOR HUMANS I do a lot of swiping right on Hinge. It’s been hard to be single during the pandemic when you can’t go anywhere or do anything. I have a lot of conversations with people online, but those conversations are just conversations. They don’t go anywhere. I did have a date early in the pandemic where I sent her food with Uber Eats, and we were on FaceTime eating together.
HAIR REMOVAL Around 11 or 12 we have a cleaning guy who comes and cleans up the salon. During the week we do our best to clean, but the weekend is when the real work gets done. We clean the grooming table, the walls, the tub. We get the laundry done, we wipe down everything, we make sure the bathroom is clean. I have to clean the backyard and sweep the stairs. There is hair everywhere.
CUSTOM SERVICES I now have a team that does most of the grooming, but sometimes on the weekend I’ll do grooming for a V.I.P. if I know it will be fun. Some people want the standard grooming, for their dog to look good, feel good and be comfortable. But other people want more of a personality. During Pride we did a Pride Pomeranian, where we turned the whole coat into colors of the rainbow. We did a devil dog, a black dog with red pompom ears and a red tail. I’ve even painted dog nails before.
MEAL PREP I’ve been doing intermittent fasting during the week, so I prepare food to eat in between. I’ll go to Whole Foods and grab the things I need during the week. I like to make salmon with couscous and vegetables. Or I will grill branzino and put peppers on it. I’ve just joined this new meal plan named Shef. It’s like a cheaper version of Blue Apron. Days can get really rough, and I don’t have time to cook, so I’m hoping this will help. Every once in a while I’ll go out for a meal; Ponty Bistro in the neighborhood is one of my regular spots.
CONTENT I am always making content for my social media channels. I post before and after pictures of dogs I groom, and I share tips about how to brush your dog’s hair or do sanitary stuff. Having a strong social media presence helps me secure grants to keep my business going and pay for my free grooming tours. Last year I got grants from the N.A.A.C.P., Columbia University and other places. I also work as a brand ambassador for brands like Andis and Hydra, both pet grooming supply lines, so I do content for them.
EARLY TO BED I am very consistent with my schedule. I have a routine that works for me, so I like to be in bed early so I can be ready for the next day. Sometimes I will talk to my mom or brother before I sleep, but I will make sure I am in bed by 10, 10:30 at the latest.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Brian Taylor on Instagram or Twitter @harlemdoggiedayspa.
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