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CARMEL, Ind. — Founded 115 years ago, IndyHumane (formerly known as the Humane Society of Indianapolis) is a leading voice in the city for the welfare of animals.

If you visit on any given day, however, you’ll see their kennels and cages are constantly full of animals in need of a forever home.

Fortunately, back in 2006, a friend asked Platinum Paws owners, Kathie and BC Henschen, if they would be interested in grooming a shelter dog to help increase their chances of getting adopted.

They leapt at the chance and have volunteered their time and talent to giving free makeovers to shelter dogs on an almost weekly basis ever since.

“This is something we do from our hearts and all of my employees are involved,” said Kathie. “We all take turns grooming the shelter dog…. We share the responsibility and every single one of us feels much better about ourselves when we do something like that.”

Photo Credit: Platinum Paws Facebook page

On this trip “In Your Neighborhood”, we are headed to west Carmel to witness a very special transformation— one that means just as much to the human as it does for the pup.

“This is little Tinkerbell. She is currently a resident at the Humane Society of Indianapolis and was found as a stray,” explained owner Kathie Henschen. “So, what I’m going to be doing today is taking care of her outsides. Her insides are already beautiful…She has a beautiful soul. I’ve had time to spend with her a little bit and get to know her”

Owner Kathie Henschen with Tinkerbell

When it comes to grooming dogs like Tinkerbell, Henschen and her staff know how important it is to take process slowly.

First, they’ll get acquainted by taking a walk around outside and then some quiet time together before the main grooming process begins.

“I’ll just hold them for a while and pet them and then I’ll put them on my table and see how they are going to stand and get them used to the equipment,” she said.

Owner Kathie Henschen with a rescue pup from Indy Humane (Photo Credit: Platinum Paws)

For many shelter dogs, their experience at Platinum Paws may be their first-ever grooming process, so they’ll start by turning on some of the equipment to get them used to the sounds and smells of their surroundings.

“Depending on how they react to all that will depend on how fast we move with them and how much we can do with them because sometimes you can’t do everything with them,” she said. “Sometimes, you can just only do so much.”

After a bit of prep work, they’re off to the bathing room– where once again—it’s all about making the pup as comfortable as possible.

Photo Credit: Platinum Paws Facebook page

“[We] start with the water way low, let them get to know what we’re doing… After the bath, we’ll start with the blow drying” Henschen explained. “We’ll take it on a lower level because a lot of dogs who come here on a regular basis, it’s high speed drying and they’re in and out. But a little dog like this, we need to take the time and make it slow and easy.”

As important as these makeovers are for making a dog more adoptable, it’s equally important when it comes to medical needs like finding any suspicious lumps, bumps or skin issues.

“We had a dog recently that came in and she’s a Shih Tzu that was an owner surrender and she had an eye issue and the owners didn’t even know….because her hair was covering so much and she was so unkempt and matted,” said Anna Knabe, Veterinary Technician and Medial Team Lead at Indy Humane. “So the fact that Platinum Paws provides this service to us and our animals is just huge.”

Beyond the aesthetics and medical aspect of the grooming session, it’s also a moment where the dog gets to experience human compassion—sometimes for the first time in their life. It’s considered a positive, healing experience… and not just for the animal.

 “You know, they are rescue dogs, but they save my heart every time I get to groom them and I really think it’s my purpose in life and it’s my why,” said Henschen.

“I just feel like there is so much in this world that people focus on that’s negative and when I can focus on something like this, it’s positive and it’s healing and it’s an experience that gives me a bond with a dog that I wouldn’t experience anywhere else… kind of a connection that’s really indescribable actually and I’m very grateful to have it,” she added.

Photo Credit: Platinum Paws Facebook page

Henschen admits she gets emotional each time she shares a dog’s story and before and after photos on the Platinum Paws Facebook page. But it’s some of their worst cases that have impacted her the most.

“There was a dog a couple of years ago that was just a solid mat. So when that happens, you have to shave them down and a lot of times you’ll see skin issues and bruising because the mats are so heavy, the ears get to be really matted together and they might even start to bleed… It’s just terrible,” she said. “And it’s not a pleasant process for them to go through to get groomed because it can be painful unfortunately, there’s no way around that.”

Photo Credit: Platinum Paws Facebook page

“But this dog was so patient with me and had so much love in his heart and I could just see his soul through his eyes… it was hard for me to send him back,” said Henschen with tears in her eyes.

Photo Credit: Platinum Paws Facebook page

Although the grooming process can be tough, the result after the final haircut is always worth it when they see a dog’s whole demeanor change.

“I had a little black and white Shih Tzu who came in, who just looked so old and ragged and had had a rough life I could tell,” she recalled. “By the end of the day, he looked like a puppy and he knew it and he felt like it… We let him run around the shop and he had this little skip in his step and he thought he was hot stuff and he was!”

Maybe that extra skip in their step is because they know they look good or maybe it’s because they, too, realize they’re one step closer to a forever home.

Tinkerbell after her makeover

 “They are going back to a shelter that takes care of them and they are rescued, they are saved, and we know that the end of the story is going to end well for them and we have faith in that,” said Henschen.

 Four Things You Need to Know About Platinum Paws:

  • Platinum Paws is located at 9860 N. Michigan Road (just north of 96th Street) and has been in business for about 15 years. It’s a multifaceted shop that specializes in grooming and dog nutrition. This locally-owned shop offers several varieties of high-end food and also supports the fresh-diet approach. Their hours are Monday-Friday 8am-5:30pm, Saturday 9am-3pm and closed on Sundays.
  • Inside the shop, you’ll see a number of awards and trophies from grooming competitions around the country! Their grooming services are so popular, they are already fully booked for 2020! They are also the only grooming salon in the city who volunteer their services to give free makeovers to shelter dogs from Indy Humane (which they have been doing since 2006).
  • According to Anna Knabe from Indy Humane, these makeovers are a huge benefit for the dogs for more than just aesthetic reasons. “An unkempt animal, someone might overlook them. So when they just look well-taken care of and their coat is maintained it is just such a huge benefit in order to get them adopted,” she said. “In addition to [medical needs like] helping find any suspicious lumps, bumps, any skin issues that you may not be able to find if an animal is just unkempt.”
  • You can follow Platinum Paws’ social media to see the before and after photos and backstories about the shelter dogs who visit the shop for their makeovers. Plus, you might also see some fun posts from behind the scenes, as well as some pictures/videos of owner Kathie Henschen’s other talents as a ninja warrior. In fact, she’s earned the nickname “The Ninja Groomer.”

For more information about Platinum Paws, check out their website by clicking here. To see more photos and reviews by local Yelpers, check out their Yelp profile. You can also connect with them on social media via Facebook and Twitter.

You can also go to the Indy Humane website for more information about adopting one of the dogs or cats on their constantly-updated online database. Aside from adoption, you can also learn about other ways to show your support through donations, medical sponsorships, volunteering and more!

While in west Carmel, check out these other popular local businesses located less than one mile from Platinum Paws:

 Jacquie’s Café
Tangerine Gifts
Hoosier Heights
The Little Village Playroom