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State

Pet washer brings tub to you

**ADVANCE FOR FRIDAY, FEB. 9** John Dick, of Dick's Mobile Pet Wash service in Casey, Ill., trims the nails of first time customer Bane, in the back of his Ford F150 truck where he operates his traveling pet wash service on Jan. 25, 2007. (AP Photo/ Herald & Review, Lisa Morrison)
**ADVANCE FOR FRIDAY, FEB. 9** John Dick, of Dick's Mobile Pet Wash service in Casey, Ill., trims the nails of first time customer Bane, in the back of his Ford F150 truck where he operates his traveling pet wash service on Jan. 25, 2007. (AP Photo/ Herald & Review, Lisa Morrison)

Wire Services CASEY (AP) - With his bath pulled up and idling by the side of the road, 14-year-old Kramer hobbled bravely forward to take a plunge into the unknown. "You're a very old boy but a good old boy, aren't you?" coos John Dick, peering into the golden retriever's blind right eye as he soaps him down with sweet-smelling shampoos that are medicated to help his dry skin. Kramer, a first-time customer with hip problems, doesn't struggle at all while a massaging shower head uses warm water to knead away at his thick, long hair. A thorough blow dry then reveals a seasoned coat that still has a lot of depth and luxuriant color. A squirt of something sweet and potent soon puts the bite on Kramer's dog breath and, with his mane brushed, trimmed and tidied and his nails cut back to a respectable length, this is one old dog that has learned a new trick: If you can't make it to the groomer's bath, the bath can come to you. That's been the business model for Dick's Mobile Pet Wash service, featuring a logo with the encouraging motto: "A Clean Pet is a Happy Pet!" Dick, who lives in Charleston, drives a gleaming white Ford F150 truck that pulls a custom-built, fully enclosed heated and air-conditioned trailer. Inside is a giant tub, a 55-gallon supply of onboard heated water and all the tools and equipment he needs. Dick pulls up to your house, beloved Fido goes into the trailer, which has windows, so nervous pooches can see they are still doggone close to home, and then the man with the soothing voice goes into action. "I really enjoy my job," says Dick, 51. "I love dogs, and I wind up just wanting to take a whole bunch of them home with me; that's the worst part." He used to work at the Trailmobile plant in Charleston, fitting truck tires on trailers, until the factory closed in 2001. He dreamed of being his own boss, and when he found out about the "Hydro-Groom" mobile pet wash franchise, which includes training, the lifelong dog lover knew he was on the scent of something interesting. It took him awhile to find a banker who believed he wasn't barking up the wrong tree, but by 2005 - and a $50,000 investment later - he was on the road. "I was apprehensive when I started, don't get me wrong," Dick said. "And it took me awhile to get going, but last year, my first full year, I washed 1,415 dogs." His charges range from $50 to $60, with a multiple dog discount, and customers such as Kramer's owner, Tom Monken, say it's the ultimate in labor-saving service. "Just a whole lot easier letting somebody else pull right up and take care of the dogs," said Monken, whose other retriever, 4-year-old Winnie, awaited her turn in the mobile ablutions. "Convenience is the key here." It's not always so convenient for the dog washer, however, who says his four-legged clients are just like people: Some of them are a real pain to work with. "I got one 13-year-old dog, it's a German Shepherd mix, and it will even bite its own owners," he said. "You always have to muzzle it, even though it doesn't have very many teeth left, but I get him done and, so far, I've never yet had a dog I couldn't clean." Not so with cats, though. Dick started out offering to purify them, too, until he had to face the reality that mixing felines and water was like trying to combine matter and antimatter. "It was just too stressful on them," he said. "I did about six of them, and then I gave it up. It had got to the point where I was afraid some cat was just going to have a stroke and die in my tub. Cats and water just don't work at all." Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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