Paws Control

“Usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature.”
– actor John Gielgud to Liza Minelli, from the movie Arthur

Do not think you’re going to insult Lynn Perry by calling her a ‘Yat.’ Perry spews out “dems” and “dose” with pride, and calling her “dawlin” or “babe” won’t land you in court in this nutty climate of often-feigned sensibilities where everybody sits on the edge of their chair waiting to be insulted.

Perry leans against the counter at her Puppy Love Grooming salon in Kenner while talking with the owner of a fawn colored Great Dane who’s the approximate size of Secretariat. Between words of advice to the owner about the behemoth’s diet, Perry chats it up with the dog in her own inimitable way. The dog’s ears perk up.

“He knows what this Yat is talkin’ about,” Perry says through a broad smile. She hands the dog a chew and in an instant, Man-O-War is pulling his owner almost through the door and into a waiting SUV equipped with heavy duty shocks.

“I honestly feel like I’m a dog whisperer,” Perry says. “I talk to the animals, and they talk back to me. All I have to do is look into their eyes and we strike up an understanding. As far as being bitten by a dog … I’ve never really been bitten bad enough to need stitches. I was bitten really bad only once by a dog. But I really have a great knack for talking down a dog that wants to bite me.”

The stream of canines and felines in and out of the door is constant on this day: a black and white cat, “who’s so mean they have to bring her in in two cages,” a mixed-breed pug and something else who has that “I wish I were home sleeping” look and a brown Chihuahua named Lola who’s in for a nail clipping and a few days boarding while her owners are on vacation. Lola will be going home with Perry tonight.

“I know immediately after I strike up a conversation and friendship with a dog that I’m going to take this one home with me. They love it. They sleep in the bed with me and my husband, David, and my own two dogs. David is wonderful and very understanding about all of this. He wasn’t an animal person when we first met, but after being together for 12 years he’s been transformed into one. As for myself, I’ve always loved animals. They’re just part of me. A big part of my life!”

Even during those sometimes-painful years “lost in the wilderness” as a bartender at a bowling alley on Williams Boulevard, Perry knew there was another calling out there for her. She knew it was just a matter of time.

“After a while you get your fill of enough drunken people at a bowling alley,” she says. “I knew there had to be more to life than that.”

When a job as a “bather” at a newly opened pet emporium near the bowling alley cropped up, Perry jumped at the chance. “I loved it so much, I couldn’t wait to get to work every day. And for five years, I kept both jobs – bather and barmaid.”

All the while she learned everything she could about the doggie business. The corporation she worked for at the pet supermarket was so impressed with her enthusiasm they sent her to “grooming school,” where she earned a certificate. In short order, she was made “grooming manager.” The bowling alley job was quickly fading into the past.

“Grooming manager was the best job I ever had,” she says. “I knew it immediately. I knew that this was my calling.

Sure, the extra money at the bowling alley was nice, but that wasn’t what I wanted. After a while, you just get tired of these guys hitting on you week after week. Animals are so much nicer than drunken men any day of the week.”

Hurricane Katrina sidetracked Perry’s calling – but not for long. In short order she was living with her mom in LaPlace while her waterlogged house in Kenner was made livable again. During that time she handed out flyers around the neighborhood and used her mom’s utility room sink to wash and groom every dog in St. John the Baptist Parish on which she could get her hands.

Back in Jefferson Parish, she landed a grooming job as an independent contractor with a large veterinary clinic. All through her pregnancy with her daughter Isabella, Lynn Perry continued to beautify the creatures that were put into her hands.

“On the day my water broke, I walked into the veterinarian’s office and asked, ‘What’s happening?’” Perry says. “The doctor said, ‘Either your water broke or you peed on yourself.’”

When the vet for whom she worked finally retired, Perry shopped around for another grooming job, but none of them seemed just right. But when the woman who owned the grooming salon that she now operates died, Perry jumped at the chance. “I talked to the owner of the building and he said, ‘I have others interested in it … but I want you to have it!’ I think he felt my passion.” She continues, “I was amazed that this was happening to me. Owning my own business, doing exactly what I was called to do.” In bowling, they would call that a strike.

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