You’ll find it hard not to fall in love with generous animal lover Mark Imhof, who for the past two years has worked tirelessly to give NYC shelter dogs a new lease on life. In a story that reads like a doggy version of Beauty and the Beast, these courageous canines are being transformed from broken and unwanted to fresh-faced furkids who are being snapped up in minutes.
“My wife and I adopted a Pitbull,” Imhof begins as he explains how he got to become one of the most well-known volunteer dog groomers in the state. “She was filthy and I gave her a bath and I said, you know, wouldn’t it be great if someone could go to the shelter and clean up the shelter dogs.”
Smiling as she recalls how it all began, Katy Hansen, the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Animal Care Centers (ACC) of NYC, is amazed at how much Imhof has achieved.
“About two years ago he started coming in and grooming a few dogs and then next thing you know he’s groomed 500 dogs! He’s basically a fixture at the care centers.”
She says Imhof works closely with the medical department and together they go over the animals that have come in and which ones he needs to bathe, shave, and groom. It’s no small task either, with the centers receiving an average of 10,000 to 12,000 dogs every year.
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It’s clear from the emotion that comes over Imhof’s face when he speaks, that his role isn’t always an easy one. “A lot of the dogs that come into the shelter are in really bad shape because they’ve been neglected by their owners,” he says sadly.
While he can’t imagine a better way to spend his time, Imhof is quick to point out that grooming dogs he doesn’t know has its challenges. “I don’t have a history, I don’t have an owner coming up to tell me this is what this dog is like. I try and speak in a soothing voice to gain the dog’s trust because I’m going to be getting pretty intimate with the dog in order to give them a haircut so I need to calm them down so that I can do my job as a groomer.”
But for Imhoff, every minute of the work he does is worth it when he sees the end result. “When I finish a dog and I see its demeanor change, they give me this look of just love, of hey buddy, thank you so much for giving me that haircut and bath,” he says beaming.
Imhoff feels that the most rewarding part of his job is the notes he receives from the ACC letting him know that a dog he groomed just a few hours ago has already been adopted. It’s those notes that prompt him to deliver this heartfelt message:
“Adopt don’t shop. Because the shelters are already full of dogs, there’s no reason to go to a store for a dog, there’s a great lovable dog at your shelter. You will find a new best friend here.”
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