Above the sound of dogs barking, Glenn Richman tried to explain how Just Fur Pets operates.
“This is just a mom-and-pop store,” said Richman, the owner of the pet grooming and supply store, located in the West Springfield Shopping Center on Rolling Road.
Surrounded by aisles of natural dog and cat food, vitamins, toys and scores of toys and pet-care accessories, Richman said he first thought about going into business to help animals after working with a friend who was a holistic veterinarian.
“I learned a lot about the health of animals, a proper diet for them and the importance of natural remedies,” he said.
Richman started a business selling “raw food” as an alternative to the dry food most pets eat. “I wanted to further spread the word of animal welfare,” he said. The raw food, kept in a large freezer inside the shop, is better for the animals than dry, processed kibble because it doesn’t contain the lower-grade meat or grains that can make animals sick or trigger allergic reactions, he said.
LAST JUNE, Richman and his wife, Guzal, purchased Just Fur Pets, which had been open for 15 years at the time. They have made some small changes to the place, incorporating day care services for dogs, large tubs for owners to wash their pets in and bringing in animal shelters to offer adoption services.
“This is a wonderful avenue to be able to keep helping animals,” he said of purchasing the store.
Sunday afternoon, Richman wasn’t just helping dogs: He opened his store to Pamela Deguia and four other members of a Team in Training group for a fund-raiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“Pamela came to me and mentioned their cause and I wanted to do something to help,” said Richman, who lost his father to cancer. “It was a way to help out the people who helped us.”
Deguia and her four teammates served as dog washers for four hours and received 100 percent of the proceeds for the day toward their fundraising goals.
“This is the largest endurance event training fund-raiser in the country,” said Deguia, who brought her dog, a Tibetan terrier, with her for the afternoon. “We’re all training for the St. Anthony’s triathlon on April 28,” she said.
The group had a similar fund-raiser a few weeks ago, said Sofia Hamrin, one of Deguia’s teammates.
“I think it’s great to have a fun event like this and raise money for a good cause,” she said. She and another teammate were handing out information about the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and raffle tickets near the door, while Deguia and the other two team members were washing dogs in the back, ankle deep in soapy water and that alluring wet dog smell.
AS PATRONS brought in their pooches, Richman or Deguia often asked if they had heard about the fund-raiser. Most said they had, that’s why they brought their dogs in Sunday.
“We wanted to help out,” said Nancy Soschin, who brought in her mutt, Harper. “He needs a bath anyway. It’s a nice way to contribute, it’s no sweat off my back and I get a clean dog.”
Carlos Vazquez brought in his two dogs, a beagle named Sarah and an American Bulldog named Jade.
“I’ve been looking around for a good dog park and found out about this place by their Web site,” Vazquez said, holding Sarah on a leash while Jade got her bath. “I usually wash them myself but I thought it’d be nice to support the Leukemia Society.”
He took a few moments to ask Richman about what kind of food would be best for Jade, as he’s trying to keep her very muscular and active.
Richman pointed him to a variety of natural dog foods, promising the lack of grains would help her digestion and keep her healthier.
While 75 percent of Richman’s customers are dog people, the queen of the store is a gray long-haired Himalayan cat. She sits perched on a thin fabric pad on top of a stack of bags of food, surveying the loud dogs barking playfully with each other just a few feet away.
“She came with the store,” Richman laughed. “They tried to take her with them when they sold the store, but she wouldn’t go.”
On Saturday, March 18, Richman will open his store to Oldies but Goodies, a local animal rescue adoption service. It is the second time Just Fur Pets has hosted adoption agencies, with Richman sees as a way of giving back to not just the community, but the pets themselves.
“I like knowing that I’m helping the animals,” he said.