Champion dog groomer loves a challenge

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Fluffy is a dog fraught with irony.

He’s a bichon frise, a breed often touted as safe for people allergic to dogs. But sadly, Fluffy himself is allergic to a long list of things — cats, cotton, hemp, horses and more, including many ingredients common in grooming products.

“It’s so strange that a dog that’s supposed to be hypoallergenic for the benefit of all of us has all these insane allergies,” said Carolyn Brimson, Fluffy’s owner.

That’s why she feels lucky to have discovered groomer Christie Henriksen.

“She’s a good part of the ongoing general good health of our dog,” said Brimson.

Henriksen is conscientious about avoiding the multitudes of things Fluffy can’t tolerate, and she keeps a close eye out for the hot spots that indicate a flare-up. And to top it off, says Brimson, she’s an excellent groomer.

She’s proved that by achieving the level of master groomer and winning a bundle of first-place awards in National Dog Groomers Association of America competitions. This week, she’s competing at an international challenge held in Las Vegas.

“It’s going to be my first big show,” she said before leaving. “I’m pretty freaked out right now.”

Henriksen has loved dogs all her life and got her first show dog, Kodiak, when she was 15. With guidance from other handlers, she practiced the finer points of grooming on him.

She moved from Michigan to Littleton in 2007, started working in a pet spa and joined the NDGAA. When she found a storefront at 5501 S. Broadway that was cheaper than her booth rent, she jumped. Her business, Uptown Pups, has been open since last October.

Her goal is to create a spa experience for the dogs that’s equal to what humans love, and she even hopes to add a doggie masseuse eventually. Her shop is clean and freshly remodeled, and there’s not a trace of wet-dog smell. Beyond the basic services, extras include tooth brushing, nail polish, fur dyeing and even tattoos.

“I want to be the best of the best,” she said. “That’s what I’m striving for. I’m a master groomer; now I want to be more than a master groomer. I always want to get better and better, and that’s why I’m doing these competitions.”

Judges tell her she has a great eye for symmetry and that her trims are clean and crisp.

“I see the other dogs, and they look so good, and I wonder why my dog stands out,” she said.

Contestants must bring their own dogs with them, so a few of her clients will travel with her.

“They get a free groom out of it, and a little fame,” she said.

She hopes to soon have her own dog to travel with. Kodiak walked over the rainbow bridge a couple of years ago, but his great-great-grandchildren were expected to be born this week.

“It’s exciting to get a little piece of him,” she said.

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