The 'Dogfather of Harlem' is offering free grooming services to pet owners impacted by the pandemic
(CNN) -- Brian Taylor is working hard to keep New York City dogs clean and healthy -- by offering free services to "pet parents" financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Every month I've been giving two or three clients free grooming services," Taylor told CNN.
The groomer owns Harlem Doggie Day Spa, which also offers daycare, cage-free boarding and dog walking -- but those services stopped when the New York State government ordered "non-essential" businesses closed more than two months ago.
"I lost 80 percent of my businesses. I went from seeing 400 to 500 dogs a month now down to about less than half of that," Taylor explained.
So he's been relying on grooming services to keep his doors open.
"Most of my clients aren't traveling and are working from home."
But his clients are loyal --and showed they were still thinking about him. After Taylor posted on social media about a pup relief fund, they've been buying gift cards to help keep the business open ---and help those in need take care of their fur babies.
"They'll say, 'I know other people who can't afford it -- here's $50.'"
With the help of his regulars, Taylor raised $2,000 and has helped about 12 pet owners so far.
The cost is $75 for regular grooming. But because most of the dogs' coats are severely matted after two months without grooming--- it could cost up to $200 for a proper cleaning.
"Owners want their dog to smell good," he says. "Dogs are such a big part of our life. Especially when you can't find happiness from people."
And Taylor is keeping it safe, working within the social distancing guidelines.
"Everyone must wear masks and gloves when they come in. I take the dog right into the tub and use a shampoo that kills anything on contact."
Plus, he only grooms one dog at a time.
"Financial transactions are all online to keep down contact. I will also pick up the dogs and bring them home."
The Dogfather of Harlem
Taylor is affectionately known in his neighborhood as The Dogfather of Harlem.
"The name is self-proclaimed," Taylor admitted with a laugh. "Anything related to dogs in Harlem and New York, I've always been involved, or my business has supported it."
Although he's always loved animals, Taylor's career path started in finance.
"I was a banker-turned-dog-groomer."
He decided to get certified as a groomer in 2010 after noticing there weren't a lot of grooming facilities in Harlem. A decade later, he's groomed more than 6,000 dogs.
Taylor usually employs interns during the summer months, but that's also been cut because of the health crisis.
"This year has been challenging for me because I usually have extra help," he admits.
He's taking his talents cross-country
Taylor is now planning an eight-day road tour in July to help pet owners across the country. He'll be starting in the Big Apple and ending in the City of Angels.
"I am going to close the shop for three weeks. This is something I've been trying to do for years and now I understand what I need to do."
He can groom about eight dogs at a time inside his van.
"Hopefully, in every city we can give away free products and teach people to reduce matting," he says.
And while on his journey, he hopes to connect with no-kill rescue shelters and black-owned grooming shops.
"There are not a lot of black people who own grooming businesses. Support comes when you give support."
Offers of help along the way
After Taylor announced his plan on Facebook, groomers across the country offered to help out.
"They're saying, 'If you come to my city, I will help you groom dogs.'"
Plus, two shampoo manufacturers are supplying him with shampoo. So far, Taylor is planning to make stops in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas.
"We are going to stop and groom dogs at no cost," he says, noting that people love animals like family. "You have to show people how passionate you are. It just feels good."
If you would like to support Brian's Pandemic Pup Relief Fund, you can donate to his GoFundMe campaign here.
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