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The Central Valley’s ‘Big Brave Dog’
Big Brave Dog
Christina Banuelos is taking her grooming service, Big Brave Dog, on the road with her new van that is decorated with teal-wrap and photos of dogs throughout the exterior (Photo contributed).

Name of business: Big Brave Dog Mobile Pet Salon

Type of business: Pet groomer

Location: Mobile between Turlock and Atwater

Contact: (209) 259-0753

Specialty: Dog grooming


History of business:

Fans of 1990s cartoons may recognize the saying, ‘I’m a big brave dog,’ made popular by the Nickelodeon show “Rugrats,” as character Chuckie repeated the words as he conquered his fear of going down the playground slide in a 1991 episode. In 2023, Christina Banuelos is using the saying to conquer a new fear with the help of and her recently launched mobile pet grooming service.

Banuelos, a native of Atwater, explained that getting groomed is not always the most pleasant experience for man’s best friend, as dogs sometimes have trouble remaining calm surrounded by other pets or in the bustling environments of large retail locations.

“As a groomer, I work with a lot of dogs, and they usually do better in quiet environments. Being one-on-one with them is much better than being in a shop,” she explained. “That (Rugrats) episode always stuck with me as a kid. Whenever I was scared about going to school or the dentist, my mother would always say to me, ‘Remember, big brave dog.’ So even into adulthood, I say it still, and I just thought it was perfect because the dogs are always scared to get groomed, so it’s encouraging them, and it’s also sentimental to me.”

Taking leaps of faith is what has brought Banuelos to where she is today. She began pet grooming in college, for what was just supposed to be a summer job. After graduating, she experienced the all-too-familiar story of realizing that her degree didn’t resonate with her passions or goals, leading her to enroll in a grooming academy.

“I tried getting jobs in the field in what I got my degree in, but I tried a couple different jobs, and there just wasn’t anything I liked more than grooming. I really liked it, so I ended up going to a grooming academy,” she said.

But it wasn’t just any pet grooming that Banuelos wanted to conquer, further elaborating on the benefits of a mobile salon rather than a shop.

“This is more of a relaxed experience where you can be one-on-one with the dog and it usually takes only an hour, so it’s less stress for the dog and for the owners rushing to pick up their dogs an hour later. Here, I’m right outside your house, and it makes people feel a lot safer if they know what’s going on,” she explained.

Operating her own business as a mobile pet groomer became a reality for Banuelos in September, as she and her husband, Brian, came across a deal on Facebook marketplace they couldn’t pass up: a Dodge Ram van in a unique teal wrap.

“It’s been a dream forever to have my own mobile salon,” said Banuelos. “When we saw it for sale on Facebook, we needed to have it. My husband and I drove up to Sonora to get the van, and it almost didn’t make it because it wanted to die, but we ended up getting it back to our place where we spent hours and hours cleaning it and doing repairs. It was a deal, but it came with a lot of work.”

Banuelos said the van required hours of work to clean, repair and decorate, something she says she couldn’t have done without her spouse.

“If it weren’t for him, I really wouldn’t have been able to get the van, flip the van and get it running and ready for work,” she said. “I’m so thankful that he believes in me and supports me and worked hard after he got home from his own job and on the weekends, just to help me. It always crosses my mind when I’m grooming.”

The welcoming and fun vibe that Banuelos and her business aims to provide is felt almost immediately upon setting eyes upon the renovated vehicle, as the teal van is plastered with photos of dogs throughout the exterior. Inside, Banuelos offers services such as bathing, brushing, nail trimming, de-shedding, ear cleaning and more. Prices vary depending on dog size, coat condition (overgrown, undercoating, matting) and temperament.

“So far, it’s been amazing,” Banuelos said. “Like I said, it’s been my dream. I love what I’m doing and the experience has been really good so far.”

More information on Big Brave Dog can be found on Instagram at @BigBraveDogMobile and on Facebook at Big Brave Dog Mobile Pet Salon.