RACINE - Small tufts of black fur piled up around BuBu's paws as he shivered on the grooming stand Tuesday afternoon in Brenda Mendez's salon.
It was like any other visit to Mendez's shop, Pet Pals Grooming Salon, 2355 Meachem St., except this time the clumps of fur that fell from the 1-year-old black toy poodle weren't destined for the trash.
Mendez, 38, collected BuBu's fur and added it to a small, but growing pile accumulating in a blue trash bag hanging from a cart in her tiny salon.
Once she's collected enough fur, Mendez plans to ship it to a California-based non-profit environmental organization, Matter of Trust, which is collecting hair, both human and non-human, to help with clean-up efforts along the Gulf Coast following the massive oil spill.
That's right. Hair and fur are used to help clean up oil spills. Mendez doesn't claim to be an expert, but from her experience, she understands the science behind the concept.
The hair, I guess it just soaks up oil, which makes sense. When I get these dogs some of them are pretty greasy and oily," Mendez said. "Cat hair should be even better because it really collects oil and grease."
She has an abundance of hair. So she figured, why not do it? The majority of Mendez's clients are dogs. She trims fur from as many as 30 dogs each week. Mendez works on fewer cats, 3 to 4 each week.
Mendez learned about the effort from a dog grooming Web site, where another groomer had posted a link to Matter of Trust's Web site, http://www.matteroftrust.org.
The Web site includes a video clip that explains the process. Hair and fur are stuffed into recycled nylon stockings called booms, which are then laid in the water to absorb the oil.
Matter of Trust representatives could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Carolyn Allen doesn't work for Matter of Trust, but she has been getting calls about hair donations. Allen, publisher of California Green Solutions, a publishing company that specializes in green and sustainable solutions, has even received a few boxes of donated hair.
She thinks this is a grass roots movement that could create an outlet for people who are concerned about the environmental impact of the Gulf Coast oil spill.
I don't know how big a solution it would be, but it could keep some of the oil off of the beaches that have wetlands or where there is a lot of wildlife," Allen said.
People want to do something. They want to help, especially with common sense solutions. They might not be as big as BP (British Petroleum), but you get a million people donating hair, it could save a beach."
Mendez hopes other area salon owners will get involved. She's even willing to act as a local coordinator to collect and ship the stuff - hair and fur - to San Francisco.
News of the oil spill has hit home for Mendez, who recently traveled to New Orleans with one of her three daughters, to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
They're still just cleaning up from (Hurricane) Katrina. They need help and now this. So they need more help. So we're going to try to help," Mendez said.