Dog groomers in Northern Ireland have been inundated with bookings from owners eager to get their pets’ lockdown locks trimmed.
The service is one of those allowed to resume under the latest phase of coronavirus relaxations in the region.
Husband and wife Chris and Stacey Hughes, who own Ruff Cuts in east Belfast, now hardly have a booking slot free through to September.
The couple, who were forced to cancel 300 bookings when lockdown started in March, have introduced a series of social distancing measures to enable them to get back to the job they love.
“There have been people who have maybe missed appointments for the last two months so now we’ve had a rush, it’s choc-a-bloc until September, you’ll barely get a chance to get your dog groomed,” said Mr Hughes.
The shop would usually accommodate four groomers, but only Mr and Mrs Hughes have returned to work, with their two other staff remaining on furlough, to enable them to maintain social distancing inside.
They are now able to groom between 10 to 15 dogs a day, whereas pre-Covid-19 they could have accommodated more than 20.
“As soon as Boris Johnson made the speech on March 23 we cancelled dogs from the 24th and just rescheduled them once we knew we could open,” said Mr Hughes.
“We found it tough. We didn’t get a penny from the Government until close to seven weeks and we were paying out the furlough pay each week, which we still haven’t got back.
“So obviously we struggled and we’d just got a mortgage too, so it was tough.
“We’re one of the lucky ones – dogs always need to be groomed, so there’s no issue with us getting business again.”
Robert and Isobel Campton, from Ballyhanwood in east Belfast, were delighted to get their seven month old cockapoo Patch a much-needed trim on Monday.
It was the couple’s first trip outside since the lockdown came into force in March.
“Patch’s coat was so think and curly it was like a blanket, a thermal blanket,” said Mr Campton.
“It’s great to be out again but it’s a matter of being careful. So this is quick trip down with the dog and back home again.
“Our grandchild and our neighbour walk him for us because we really shouldn’t be going out great distances.”
Mrs Campton said she could hardly recognise Patch after his cut.
”He’s well-trimmed now,” she said. “We couldn’t even see his eyes before, whereas now he’s just gorgeous.
“It was awful not being able to get him cut because he just needed it.
“He’ll feel a lot cooler lying out the back now.”