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Finally, Something You and Your Pet Can Really Share

By KYLE RODERICK

AUG. 14, 1997

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The dog days of summer are here--and with them the bad hair days. Pampered canines with the frizzies--and their owners--may both want to suds up with tea tree and lavender oil shampoo from Fauna, a line of “essential pet products for people, too.”

Tea tree and lavender oil for your pet’s tresses? Absolutely, says Renee Garacochea, whose Santa Monica-based company is marketing an all-natural pet-and-people product line free of the toxic chemicals found in many pet care products.

“I don’t put poisons on my own hair,” Garacochea reasons, “so why would I want to use them on my best friend (in her case, a chocolate brown cocker named Avo)? I figured other pet owners felt the same way.”

When both her aunt’s puppy and her infant niece developed skin problems last winter, inspiration struck. “I woke up in the middle of the night and started making notes,” she recalls.

Fauna’s multispecies line to “beautify pets and their owners” consists of the shampoo with 11 “essential extracts” to moisturize dry, lifeless hair and coats; a detangling sheen and an insect and flea repellent with SPF 15 to protect both pet and owner.

Do animals really need fancy shampoos and sunscreens?

Well, says West L.A. veterinarian Robert Schwarzmann, “I’ve never run across a fox or a wolf or a coyote that has bad skin, and I’ve seen a hell of a lot of them” in the wild. “People have a tendency to try to improve on nature.”

Dog owners have been conditioned to believe that their pets must be shampooed regularly to smell good, he adds, but all that washing actually strips the oil from their fur and causes dry, itchy skin. He advocates regular combings in place of “nonsensical bathing.”

 

But Garacochea--whose company is only a few months old--is already receiving fan mail. “There’s a lady who uses the shampoo on herself and Thelma, her really big white pig,” she says, laughing. “And the owner of Lucy, an albino bulldog in Sparks, Nev., wrote that Lucy’s multiple allergies have lessened since she began using the shampoo.”

The Dallas, Texas, masters of Simba, an African serval (a 30-pound wildcat), sent photos and a letter extolling the virtues of the insect and flea repellent, proclaiming it “purr-fect.” And then there’s the Moorpark show horse breeder whose animals sell for more than $500,000.

With the help of a chemist, Garacochea, 27, a former vice president with the Philip B. hair products company, formulated the Fauna products to combat people problems such as dandruff, pet problems such as fleas and ticks and problems common to both, such as itching and dry skin.

Tea tree oil, she says, is an effective dandruff fighter with antibacterial and antiseptic properties, while lavender oil soothes the skin. What’s more, the Fauna fragrances--wildflowers, citrus, lavender--are positively aromatic compared to the bitter chemical smells of many pet grooming aids.

While some may scoff at paying $14.50 for 4 ounces of SPF 15 citronella and eucalyptus insect and flea repellent to share with Fido or Thelma, Garacochea thinks it makes good horse sense. With the thinning of the ozone layer, she explains, both humans and animals are at greater risk for skin cancer and “Dogs aren’t wearing baseball caps with visors.”

Schwarzmann isn’t convinced. Dogs and cats that have lost hair, as well as hairless or nearly hairless breeds, can burn, he says, but other animals are protected by their fur. For sun-sensitive pets he suggests, “Let them wear a tee shirt.”

Lorri Bass, manager of Fred Segal in Santa Monica, says Fauna shampoo and conditioner, in the store since July, “is a medium-to-strong seller.” She suggests it as a great gift for animal lovers, but says most people have been buying it for themselves, not their pets.

Fauna products are at all Neiman Marcus stores; Fred Segal in West Hollywood and Santa Monica; Planet Blue in Malibu and Number One Beauty Supply in Brentwood.

IHEART RADIO - RENEE GARACOCHEA
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