Photos By Tayler Smith
The Pandemic Pup Relief Tour is indisputable evidence that good things can happen—even in the midst of the worst year many of us have ever experienced.
brian Taylor, owner/operator of Harlem Doggie Day Spa (HDDS), is the driving force behind the tour. Brian had a successful business with HDDS that not only offered grooming, but also doggie daycare, dog walking, cage–free boarding and retail sales.
“Out of nowhere, in February, COVID–19 brought my business to a screeching halt,” says Brian. “I had to let all my employees go. That really affected me. So as I was rebuilding my business, I felt the need to give back. I kept thinking about the restaurant industry and what they have done. Even though they were suffering themselves, they started offering meals to the people who were working and saving lives,” Brian continues.
“That’s when I started the Pandemic Pup Relief fund. The idea was, whatever money a pet parent would donate to the fund or give me in tips would go toward a free grooming for someone who couldn’t afford to have their pups done. My clients support me a lot. Some go above and beyond in that support and it really touched me. In one month, I raised over $2,000,” Brian exclaims.
That’s when the wheels started turning in Brian Taylor’s mind. In the beginning, he was going to do this relief grooming for just his local area—then it snowballed.
“The satisfaction of helping people and their pets made me want to do more,” shares Brian. “That’s where I got the idea of doing a Pandemic Pup Relief Tour. One of the things Americans love the most is their pets. If people don’t have the money to get their pet groomed, and if groomers can volunteer to groom them, it’s going to make a big impact on our country.”
Brian defines his three main reasons for organizing the tour as, 1) Giving back to the pet industry because it has done a lot for him personally and for all of us, 2) Uplifting and helping people who are in need because of COVID–19 or any other pandemic, and 3) To highlight black pet professionals and then inspire and to lead by example so we can get more groomers of all nationalities involved.
Brian, who is known as The Dogfather of Harlem, has a huge following on social media and is an active member in the Black Groomer Association Facebook group.
“I put my idea for the Pandemic Pup Relief Tour out over social media to see if there was any interest from my colleagues to go throughout the country and give free grooms to dogs in need,” Brian says. “Immediately, some of the BGA group members stepped up and offered their services. Soon, 55 black professional groomers had signed up to participate.”
The website, www.puprelieftour.com was set up and plans for the tour got underway.
“In 2018, I won a grant from New York called ‘Love Your Local,’ and I purchased a used grooming van,” shares Brian. “I’ve always wanted to use my van and travel the country to meet my online friends and BGA colleagues in person, and hang out with them for a day or two and learn from them.”
This turned out to be the perfect chance for Brian to do just that. As more and more black groomers volunteered for the project, decisions were made as to which six cities would host the events. Because of COVID–19, they had to make sure that the cities they chose would allow them to do the grooming and research what guidelines the groomers would have to follow.
It was decided that the first event would be in New York City, then on to Washington D.C.; Wilmington, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas, Texas, and the last stop would be Los Angeles, California.
One of Brian’s social media fans is a reporter for CNN. She featured the Pandemic Pup Relief Tour and it was picked up by a lot of others. A GoFundMe account was set up and over $27,000 was raised for this amazing project.
Brian and his team also reached out to companies to get support and sponsorships for the tour. Many companies such as Andis, AdVet Hygienics, Clover and more eagerly partnered with them, and soon, shampoos, clippers, table mats, tools, merchandise and monetary gifts started to come in.
Brian drove to each city and hosted a pop–up grooming event for two days at a local groomer’s salon. Many of the volunteers lived and worked within 50 miles of the locations where they signed up to help, but some came from much farther.
At the NYC stop, the Diva Dogg Grooming team of eight traveled from Rhode Island. Candice of Kandi Kutz House Calls, along with a team of four, traveled from Indiana to volunteer. Some groomers from Washington, D.C. offered to travel to Wilmington, North Carolina to lend a hand at that location as well. Also, Michael “Fluff Daddy” Joe, one of the founders of the Black Groomers Association, flew in from Dallas to help out in North Carolina. He then traveled to assist at the Atlanta location, and then back to Dallas for their event.
In Atlanta, in addition to grooming at the Chateau 4 Paws salon, four groomers brought their mobile grooming vans. That team of 18 groomers gave makeovers to more than 150 dogs in just two days. In all, more than 600 dogs received free grooming services on the Pandemic Pup Relief Tour.
“I think I made it fun for groomers to give back,” says Brian. “They got to connect with other groomers and learn different skill sets in an informal environment. Giving back to our industry, connecting with others in a meaningful way and helping pups—what could be better than that?’”
The first Pandemic Pup Relief Tour is now over, but, because of Brian Taylor, the willing volunteers and generous sponsors, it will have a lasting impact on every community they helped, and has laid the groundwork for future projects. ✂️