IT should come as no surprise that something called a ``dogramat'' originated in Venice, Calif. This quirky seaside town has been known to be the hatchery of more than one weird fad. Although a dogramat sounds as if it might be the title of a skit on ``Late Night With David Letterman,'' where Fido gets doused along with the fine washables, the concept is surprisingly sensible.
Since 1982, Reva Faver has run Jaxon's Dogramat, a dog grooming center with one interesting addition: a do-it-yourself dogwash.
``I saw a great need for a place where people could maintain their dogs at a minimal cost,'' says Ms. Faver, whose friendly manner makes her as popular with the dogs as she is with their owners.
Many people cannot or prefer not to bathe their dogs at home, and Faver has come up with a beautifully simple solution.
The doggie wash consists of two large custom-made, stainless steel tubs where the dogs sit on wooden pallets so they won't slip. The hose has a shower spray head and adjustable water temperature. After the owner finishes the wash and rinse cycle on the dog, there are blow dryers available to fluff Rover into a handsome hound. The cost runs from $8 to $12, depending on the dog's weight.
Walter, an older Irish setter, practically leaps into one of the metal tubs, not quite getting a hind foot over.
His owner, Lesley Ward, says that this way of washing Walter is easier for her and nicer for Walter, since he has the luxury of a warm bath, not just a cold garden hose. And both Lesley and Walter seem to be enjoying themselves.
Faver stresses the importance of the positive mutual experience.
``The people who come in here really love their dogs, and they both get something from the dog's bath. The owners show they care and the dogs sense that,'' she says animatedly.
Faver says she is the first person to come up with the idea of do-it-yourself dog bathing. Certainly, at 5 years, she has most likely been in continuous operation of a dogwash for the longest period of time.
Faver has a deep love for animals and started out as a washer for a veterinarian at 17. Through that experience she learned what not to do. She feels very strongly about veterinary clinics giving dogs baths.
``The whole situation is negative and traumatic for the dog. If the animal is always taken to the vet for checkups and then bathed, he will associate washing with pain,'' she says.
``Also, they usually have between 20 and 50 dogs penned up waiting for treatment or grooming. With that many dogs together, they get more nervous and unhappy and many times the groomers have to muzzle the dog or use force against the animal to submit to bathing.''
Not so at Jaxon's. These are happy dogs. Most of them bound in with a yap and a bark as a greeting, leading their masters to the bowser baths.
``My dogs used to be afraid to go to the vet, even to get groomed,'' says Chiz Nishimoto, a regular dogramat customer. ``Now they love it,'' she says, as she soaps up her beige poodle, Cindy, who almost looks as if she's smiling.
Faver is not a veterinarian, but she knows an awful lot about dogs. If one doesn't look or act well, she lets the owner know right away, usually when he first walks in the door. She directs him to the vet, and most seem to be grateful for her awareness and concern.
As proof of her confidence in her methods, the grooming area is open and owners can watch groomers Sue Bowman and her assistant, Deanna Sands, wash and clip each dog.
Jaxon's, named after Faver's own German shepherd, takes only one dog at a time for grooming, two at a time in the do-it-yourself tubs.
``I know we probably lose a lot of business this way by not booking 20 dogs in the morning and caging them all day,'' says Faver, ``but this way I feel good about what I'm doing, and the dogs are relaxed and happy.''
And as she helps Ms. Ward with the finer points of lathering up Walter, you can almost see this pooch sigh with contentment.
At Jaxon's, every dog really does have his day.