Gunnar has a sensitive stomach. Darla just had a birthday and she's coming in to "have her nails done." Teddy Oso tends to fall asleep when he gets a blow dry. One of their Boxer friends likes to "share"—the term for flicking bath water all over the nearest passersby. Another young playmate is getting a bit insecure because her owner hasn't shown up yet.
And Kihya—the resident Rottweiler in the corner—well, she tends to sleep through it all, until someone opens the treat container.
"She always hears that, no matter where she is," jokes Carol Eifler, Kihya's owner.
It's a day after a has passed through Ramona and canines are collecting at in the shopping center, to get their teeth cleaned, get their somewhat matted hair trimmed or maybe take a bath with some soothing background music.
It's the local "Do It Yourself Dog Wash."
"I have people come from as far as Shelter Valley," says Eifler, who owns the business. "Even Arizona and other states because people come in from the RV park just outside Ramona."
She sees the dog wash, established in the past year or so, as a service to canine owners who need a quick break to pick up groceries or to just relax and let someone else deal with grooming their dog for a change. A lot of people like the idea of not getting water and hair all over their own bathroom floor, she says. Laund-Yer-Mutt offers a groomer, a teeth cleaning service, waist-high tubs, aprons, towels, oatmeal-chamomile shampoo and vanilla-blueberry facials.
"Over the summer, especially, people can't leave their dogs in their vehicles while they go in to get groceries or run errands," says Eifler, of Ramona. "Sometimes they're passing through the area on vacation and they need a place like this."
Eifler—it's pronounced like the Eiffel Tower in France—came up with the dog grooming service when the construction industry began its dive a few years ago.
"My friends all seemed to think something like this was needed," she says.
She has a bone-crushing handshake and a hug that bears testimony to a woman in shape.
"I was a contractor," she says. "I did mostly concrete masonry. But no one is doing major patios and expensive renovations right now."
Eifler has a ready smile and an easy way with people, which give Laund-Yer-Mutt a relaxed, happy atmosphere. That helps when it comes to calming down nervous canines.
Her assistants include Shanda Strametz, the groomer, who comes on Thursdays from 10 to 4 p.m. Appointments are suggested, but walk-ins are welcome, Eifler says. Aaron Goulding, the teeth cleaner, is at the dog wash all day on the first Thursday every month. Appointments are needed.
"A lot of people have their dogs anesthetized to have their teeth done," Eifler says. "It's not necessary. We just make it comfortable for them so we don't have to do that."
Goulding cleans teeth at several locations around San Diego county. He has been doing this for about five years. He says he learned his techniques from a person taught by Cindy Collins, "who pretty much pioneered cleaning of animals' teeth around this area."
"I don't recommend anesthesia unless there's already a problem, like a loose tooth," Goulding says.
Why do canines need professional cleaning?
Of course, owners can brush a dog's teeth, but dogs can benefit from regular professional cleaning, just like humans, Goulding says.
Which brings us back to Gunnar—a yellow lab built like a Marine straight out of boot camp. He's broad shouldered, all muscle and ready to go. You can almost see a smile pasted on his face as he eagerly walks to the door. Gunnar's owner, Jim Dial, sits in a chair outside, with Gunnar on a leash, while Kathy Dial walks in to assess the place.
"He's so excited to be here," Kathy says of Gunnar. "He just loves people. I threw the ball with him to get some of his energy out before we came, but already, just after a short drive here, he's like this," she says with a big smile.
Gunnar can't eat bones because of his sensitive stomach, she says, so he needs to get his teeth professionally cleaned now and then.
Her dog has now seen the other canines through the windows and he's itching to get inside. Jim brings him in, and Gunnar and two other dogs do the requisite sniffing and sizing each other up. Then Goulding takes Gunnar to the back of the room to do his teeth.
Like two nervous parents dropping off their first child at a new preschool, the Dials watch after Gunnar.
"You'd better go outside," Kathy advises her husband. "If he sees you ..."
Jim agrees and goes back outside to his chair, waiting to see how this is all going to go down.
Amazingly, within two minutes, Gunnar is wagging his tail and letting Goulding scrape tartar off his teeth with a tool.
"He has a great floor-side manner," Eifler quips about Goulding, who does his work sitting on the floor, leaning up against a wall and wrapping his legs around the big dog.
Meanwhile, Richard Sexton is meticulously blow drying his Australian Shepherd, Teddy Oso—"Like Teddy Bear. It's a play on words," he explains about the Spanish.
As Sexton works his way around Teddy's black, white and burnt umber coat, he trims the dog's shiny, clean hair with a set of scissors he takes out of a fabric pouch. He brings his own equipment each time. Dog owners can either use shampoo at the store or bring their own.
"My wife gave me Teddy," he says. "Australian Shepherds are so smart."
So, just how long does this beautiful shiny coat last, once Sexton leaves with Teddy?
"Oh, he messes it all up within about 25 minutes," Sexton says with a chuckle. "I have another dog and they get in the car and play together. Teddy has a pool, so as soon as we get home, he jumps in. But this helps me keep up with his hair a lot better."
As for Darla, the birthday girl Chihuahua, look for her in the video.