Dogs As Artistic Canvas

Do an image search on extreme dog grooming and you won’t believe the gaudy, shave ice-colored monsters and fantasy creatures people have their dogs transformed into by ultra-creative stylists. You won’t find anything quite as outrageous in Hawaii, but you will find places like Cocojor Dog Emporium & Spaw, where experts give your canine pets a delicate mini-makeover.


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Hana gets a makeover at Cocojor Dog Emporium & Spaw. Photo from Monica Shigenaga

“Most of the time, people seek creative grooming during holidays, like Easter or for birthdays,” says Cocojor founder Monica Shigenaga. “We’ve turned dogs into pumpkins. If it matches their personality, we give them a mohawk. I turned a Chihuahua-Terrier-Papillon into a cheetah because he becomes like that,” says Shigenaga, demonstrating with her teeth barred and hissing like a territorial cat. “I have an American Staffordshire Terrier Pit Bull who I put hearts on because she’s very loving and heart-ful. They’re the most misunderstood breed. I put things like hearts to have them be more approachable to people. When I color a dog or just put a bow, people see the dog as something loving and caring.

“Some might criticize this kind of grooming, but it isn’t abusive to the animal. We’re not here to hurt an animal; we’re here to have fun and bring happiness. Creative grooming on a dog is like having a tattoo – art is part of your soul, a reflection of the part of yourself you want to show off. It gives the person and the dog attention, and dogs love attention, so it’s a win-win situation.”

Owners are welcome to stay with their dogs during the grooming session. Cocojor does cookie-cutter shapes, where the fur is cut perhaps like a flower, “then we groom around it to give it that 3-D poof,” says Shigenaga. To color the fur, she uses vegetable dye gels from Japan. Some socially conscious owners ask to have their aging dogs’ graying areas color treated. Others, like MMA fighter Enson Inoue, had Cocojor put his company symbol on his pooch. For Inoue, it was more than a marketing tool. It brought awareness to a program he established to support pets affected by the Japan earthquake. Shigenaga sees creative grooming as a conversation piece.

Walk inside Cocojor’s “orange house of dogs,” as Shigenaga calls it, and you’ll see shampoos and perfumes with an island-inspired scent, gourmet doggie biscuits that look appetizing to humans, an assortment of Hawaiian shirt and muumuu-style doggie clothes, and all-natural dog food made in Hawaii to support local farmers.

Cocojor was born through Shigenaga’s doggie apparel line, which was inspired by a trip to Japan, where everywhere she looked people’s dogs were dressed up. The fragrances and natural, organic shampoos are her creation as well.

“My life is about everything dog,” notes a giddy Shigenaga. “I have 20-plus years of experience with dogs. I’m just a mentor between God and dog. Call me the dog-a-momma,” she laughs. “At the end of a session, people are always like, wow, how did you know my dog does this and this? I say, because your dog told me.”

Shigenaga says there’s even artistic, doggie-inspired meaning behind Cocojor’s bright orange building (975 Kapiolani Blvd., 592-3647). “The orange house of dogs is a place for happiness,” she points out. “My two dogs bring out my happiness and passion, and the color of passion is red and orange. It’s orange because we’re in the heart of Honolulu, and it’s the color of sunrise and sunset – we’re the happiness in between when you wake up and when the day ends, because that’s what dogs bring, nothing but happiness from morning to night.”