By Kristin Hackler
“When we take our dogs to the beach, they love to run around and when it’s time to leave, they just lay down on the sand; they don’t want to go,” smiled Heather Heath as she described why she and her husband, Neil, decided on the unique name for their new pet grooming and photography shop at Bohicket Marina. “They just lay on the beach like a beached whale.”
And that happy, contented feeling is exactly what Heather and Neil are hoping to encourage in island dogs with their new store.
“When we moved here [to Seabrook Island] two years ago, the first thing we noticed was that there were no pet services nearby,” said Heather, and with that in mind, Heather and Neil began taking steps toward opening their own shop on the islands.
While Heather and Neil didn’t initially know that they wanted to go into dog care, they quickly learned that it was a passion which both of them shared. Before moving to Seabrook Island, the Heaths lived in Columbia, South Carolina, where Heather was attending nursing school and Neil worked with airplanes at Eagle Aviation.
“We simultaneously hit a wall in our lives,” said Heather, “Neil had a good job, but he wasn’t passionate about it, and even though I greatly enjoyed helping people, nursing still didn’t feel like my true calling.”
The best part of their day, she said, was when they were able to come home and spend time with their dogs. Their hearts said working with animals was their purpose. After talking with a relative who lives in the Charleston area, the Heaths were encouraged to come down for a visit. Within a month, they were making plans to move to the islands.
For the first year, Neil worked in a veterinarian’s office while studying Animal Science. The following year, Neil worked for an award-winning grooming shop in Mount Pleasant and it was there he discovered his true niche for the dog grooming profession. Soon after, Heather began working on her degree in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship from the College of Charleston. Once Heather graduated in May 2010, the two began the serious work of opening their new business.
The Beached Dog will be holding their official grand opening celebration on April 2. With a focus on a stress-free grooming experience, Neil stated that all of their furry clients will be treated to a “start to finish” grooming treatment, which means that each dog will be taken care of from their first cut to their shampoo and final cut, as well as through ear cleaning and nail clipping.
“Some grooming places will run all of their dogs through at once, giving them all a bath and then making them wait until all of the dogs are done before moving on to the next step,” said Neil. “Our method allows dogs to be ready in less time, usually in an hour or two, and more importantly reduces the unnecessary stress of kenneling them all day.”
Besides full-service grooming, The Beached Dog also offers pet sitting services, walk and run services, and pet photography.
“I’ve been doing pet photography for about almost three years,” said Neil. “It started as a hobby, but I really enjoy it so with the new business, I’ve decided to jump in with both feet and offer photography services as well.”
Part of what makes Neil’s pet photography unique is that he doesn’t use traditional backdrops – instead, he takes the dogs to their favorite locations and photographs them in their element. A quick shutter speed allows him to capture beautiful and sometimes hilarious facial expressions that are often too quick for the normal eye, and the settings allow the pups to truly be themselves during the shoot. All of the dogs who have their photo taken will also be displayed on the wall at the front entrance to The Beached Dog; a wall which is sure to fill up quickly.
While the Heaths haven’t determined all of the items that they will make available in the retail section of their shop, Heather asserts that their primary focus is on eco-friendly and local products. In fact, they are currently in the process of talking to a local man who makes leashes out of unused boat line, and hope to offer products by CycleDog, a company which makes pet products from recycled bike tires. In the end, however, they’ll be relying on recommendations from their customer base to come up with the best products to provide for their clientele.
The Beached Dog is located in the Bohicket Marina and Market off of Seabrook Island Road just before the Seabrook gates. For more information on The Beached Dog, or for details about the grand opening on April 2, visit www.TheBeachedDog.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call the store at 768-4700, or just stop in to speak with the Heaths in person. And don’t forget to bring the furry ones along when you visit.