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Piedmont has a relaxing spa ... for dogs

Sherri Bissell-Congleton's longcoat Akita, Bella, relaxes in her bandana after being groomed at the Riley Rue Pet Spaw. (Photo submitted)1 / 2
Erin Boo smiles with her dogs, Riley Rue and Quinn, in the lobby of her new grooming space. Riley Rue Pet Spaw recently opened in a new location in the Piedmont area. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 2

For the first time in seven years, Erin Boo might have a fur-free basement.

The Denfeld resident, owner and groomer of Riley Rue Pet Spaw, recently relocated her canine and feline grooming services from her house to her first professional space at 2709 Piedmont Ave. The name Riley Rue comes from her 12-year-old Rottweiler mix, Riley.

"I had people coming through my kitchen and I'd do all the grooming downstairs. I also did my laundry down there, so for years I had constantly furry clothes," Boo said.

Boo is a lifetime Duluthian and 1997 Proctor High School graduate. She became a single mother shortly after graduation, put herself through college and earned a degree in supervisory management. For several years, Boo worked in various management positions until 2009, when she decided to try grooming.

"Animals have always been my passion and I wanted to do something that would incorporate my degree in management," Boo said. "Then I kind of fell into grooming and it perfectly tied the two together."

Boo began a hands-on pet grooming internship with Shannon Reed of Hermantown for six months. At the same time, she began taking classes to earn her grooming diploma from Penn Foster University online. When she graduated, Boo started taking clients in her home.

"I started with a few dogs every week and it just grew gradually. Now, yesterday, we had 15 animals," Boo said.

What sets Boo apart from other groomers, according to her customers, is her dedication to creating a calming and relaxed environment. Sherri Bissell-Congleton says she likes that Boo takes dogs by appointments and only has, at most, two or three other dogs in the business at the same time. By providing a separate grooming space, booking pets by appointment, and minimizing the amount of animals on the premises, it allows for a quieter, calmer and overall safer grooming experience. She's been taking her 130-pound longcoat Akita, Bella, to Boo for almost four years now.

"Bella's happy to go there. I'm not pulling on her leash to get her in there," Bissell-Congleton said. "It sometimes takes Erin three hours to brush her all out and bathe her, so I'm happy to know that my baby is relaxed while she's there." The base price for grooming starts at $30. Prices vary by breed, size, coat condition and sometimes behavior. However, Boo has a reputation for working well with difficult dogs, according to Lisa Lepak, her grooming assistant. Lepak worked as a vet technician for several years before working for Boo.

"When I worked in the clinic, every dog that's ever been thrown out of a groomer, we've sent to Erin because they do so well here," Lepak said. "I think it's this environment, because it's so much more laid back. Even when there are dogs waiting to be picked up, it's still always quiet."

Lepak said the three staff members work well with different types of dogs. Lepak takes on the difficult dogs and cats, Boo comforts timid dogs and their third staff member, Stacy Johnson, works well with energetic puppies.

"Animals aren't cookie-cutter. What works for one might not work for another. We try to give each dog and cat the attention they need," Lepak said.

With the new space, Boo will now carry pet food, treats, supplements and safe pet toys and accessories.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176