Some of the chic for which Georgetown is known is going to the dogs, largely because of one woman's business.
Over the past 15 years, Chichie's Canine Design, a pet-grooming service at 2818 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, has pampered hundreds of dogs with scented shampoos and classy haircuts.
Its proprietor, Lowaunz (Chichie) Koger, is the dean of local dog groomers, with the pets of many celebrities among her regular customers. She has trained several assistants who, with her blessing, have gone on to open their own dog-grooming parlors. Several shops still bear the name of the franchises that she sold from 1968 to 1970, including Chichie's Pet Boutiques in Hyattsville and in Towson, Md., and the "Great Day Pet Parlor," run by former Koger assistant Howard Gordon at 1231 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.
"I've loved animals for as long as I can remember," Koger said, adding that she has "a special communication with them."
"Dogs talk to me intrinsically and tell me things, like what's going on at home or if they're happy or sad," she said.
A small, perky woman, she describes her age as "around 40" and her financial status with "I'm doing okay." Her large dark eyes flash with laughter as she discusses the animals she has known and their quirks, including vanity.
"I groomed a pet once who went home and wouldn't let anyone touch her," Koger said " . . . . she didn't want anyone to muss her new haircut."
Reminiscing about the late Martha Mitchell's white toy poodle, Buttons, she said: "Mrs. Mitchell was a real sweet lady, but her dog was a terror."
She now tends Rusty and KusKus, two Yorkshire terriers owned by Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.) and Yo Yo, an English springer spaniel owned by George Stevens Jr., American Film Institute founder and motion picture producer.
Koger said she also has clipped Ipso Facto, a Lhaso apso owned by author and political humorist Art Buchwald. Another customer is Scarlett O'Hara, a black poodle, the pet of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.).
Then there is Ajax, ABC news correspondent David Brinkley's silver toy poodle, and Hubert, a miniature black poodle that belongs to columnist Rowland Evans Jr..
Singer Lainie Kazan takes her three Maltese's to Chichie's when she is in town on an engagement and actor Robert Vaughn brings in his two poodles.
"All the dogs love it here because they think they are coming to a party," said Koger. "We clean them, cuddle them, talk to them and have a good time here."
There is a festive atmosphere in the gray, painted-brick row house nestled inconspicuously between an ice cream parlor and an interior decorator's shop, in the shadow of the Four Seasons Hotel.
The freshly painted white waiting room, decorated with photographs of pets, is sparsely furnished with a white picnic table and a desk. A large floor-to-ceiling cage in the corner houses Chris, Koger's red, yellow and blue parrot, which shrieks a shrill "Hello" to anyone entering the shop and responds to conversation by turning upside down on his perch and giggling.
Koger's black poodle, Paris, extends his paw to be shaken and leads the way upstairs to the workrooms, where assistant groomer Michael Parker, 23, washes, conditions and dries customers' coats.
In another room, overlooking M Street where it merges with Pennsylvania Avenue at the gateway to Georgetown, Koger combs, brushes, clips and styles the dogs. Her pet African Gray bird, named Fabrise, sometimes perches on her shoulder as she works, commenting: "That's a pretty puppy dog."
After examining each dog to decide on a style, Koger snips and clips until the look is achieved. Her styling technique, she said, has been developed through years of working with various breeds of dogs and studying styles at dog shows.
"Every dog has its own natural beauty and I follow those natural lines and try to make the dog look the very best it can," she said. But she is not averse to unusual cuts, such as the "Mr. T" style she gave a black-and-white, mixed-breed dog named Oscar.
Koger works Tuesday through Friday by appointment. Her rates begin at $15 to $25 for small dogs and rise according to size, coat length and the cut desired. She said that she sometimes grooms as many as 20 dogs a day, but prefers to keep it down to 10 dogs and an occasional cat.
While she has been a professional pet groomer here for more than 18 years, Koger said that her first job was as half of a singing and dancing act. When she was 8, she said, she and her sister, Latholina Leonard, performed as "Poochie and Chichie," in Philadelphia, Atlantic City and other East Coast cities, earning up to $20 a night just after World War II.
When her mother, Viola Greene, decided that the girls needed stability, the family settled in Baltimore. There, Koger finished high school and married. Six years later, she and her husband, Earl, moved with their daughters Lowaunz and Aleta to Washington.
After working as an assistant to veterinarian Dr. Lanxter Webber in his Webber Animal Hospital in Northeast, Koger and her husband borrowed $1,000 from friends and relatives and started her first dog-grooming parlor.
She operated the original "Chichie's Pet Boutique" on the first floor of her Northeast home until an impressed customer encouraged and assisted her move to Georgetown in 1968.
"Chichie has an exceptional ability with animals," Webber said. "She handles them just right and uses the right tone of voice. There is a natural attraction between Chichie and the animals, and that's a special gift."