Growing up, many children dream of becoming astronauts, actresses or even the President. One woman, however, spent her childhood dreaming of becoming a dog. But when her father explained that puppies, not people, become dogs, she realized that her dream may not be possible, though she never gave up on pursuing a life with animals.
Christine Meyer, owner of Wags and Whiskers on Upper King Street, was driven by her passion for dogs to open the business more than 20 years ago. She started her career as a groomer at another shop in 1986, but was fired when the economy began to decline. On one rainy afternoon soon after being laid off, Meyer was driving through Chappaqua when she spotted a “For Rent” sign in the window of a King Street flower shop, sparking her epiphany that she was ready to start her own business. Shortly thereafter, on May 1, 1991, she opened the doors of Wags and Whiskers, and has been in that same King Street location ever since.
When she first opened the shop, Meyer accepted both dogs and cats, but according to her website “cats don’t like water and dogs don’t like cats, so that quickly changed to the current dogs only policy.” Her approach to dog grooming is to keep the entire process as low-stress as possible, benefitting both the dogs and the owners alike. Services include shampooing and bathing, trims and cuts, treatment for fleas and ticks, ear cleaning, dremel nail trimming and even de-skunking treatments. Meyer, although not a veterinarian, also deals with skin conditions and will even do minor dental cleanings in order to keep her furry clients in tiptop shape.
Ultimately, Meyer aims to make each dog look as adorable as possible because, as she explains, “everybody likes a cute dog!” Her trick? Understanding what each owner wants his or her dog to look like, although she is not afraid to make recommendations, especially after years of successfully grooming and showing her own dogs. Meyer’s experience includes competing in both dog shows and performance competitions for obedience, agility, scent work and sheep herding.
Although the cosmetic side of grooming is critical, she takes an overall approach to each individual dog in order to make it look as good as possible. This all starts with nutrition because “a healthy dog always looks better than a sickly dog,” Meyer explained. To supplement her grooming services, Meyer sells food products, most of which are produced locally in the U.S., along with one food line from Canada and one from New Zealand. Of the many parallels between humans and dogs, Meyer insists that dogs should eat fresh, locally sourced food products. Furthermore, most of the other products that she keeps in stock, including shampoos, conditioners, etc. are holistic, organic and “top of the line, only.”
As a longtime dog lover and owner, Meyer is a true believer in the value that a dog can bring to a family. A dog becomes a common goal for a family, something that everyone wants to take care of and spend time with, especially if it is a clean dog. This is why Meyer recommends that dogs get groomed on average monthly, contingent of course on what type of dog it is. Ultimately, Meyer believes that “having a dog become part of your family strengthens the entire bond,” thus adding unparalleled love and unity to a household.
With the holidays coming up, Meyer mentions a few pet-related things that families should keep in mind. First, book appointments early! The holidays are always a busy time for groomers as people scramble to get their dogs camera-ready for holiday card photo shoots. Also, when looking into gifts for your furry friends, consider interactive toys. Meyer explains that “people underestimate the value of a ball. A ball on a rope can be the absolute best thing a dog has ever seen,” and it can give you the perfect way to bond with your dog.
One misconception that Meyer warns about as the winter weather approaches is the idea that your dog will benefit from long hair in order to keep it warm. Long hair during the winter can be especially problematic for dogs that enjoy spending a lot of time outside playing in the snow. Although this seems counterintuitive, the issue comes when the dog re-enters the house and cannot be properly dried, which leaves the fur soggy and cold and can also leave a mess around the house.
Meyer, though not a Chappaqua resident herself, has been an important presence in Chappaqua ever since she opened Wags and Whiskers. After spending 26 years on King Street, she is now working with a second generation, as her client’s children are grown and bringing their own dogs in for her services. She has also made an immense impact on local rescue societies, working with Jenny’s Hope Rescue in Mount Kisco, A New Chance Animal Rescue in Bedford and running the East Coast Giant Schnauzer Rescue Network across the entire Northeast.