FAIR LAWN, N.J. — A Fair Lawn father with a passion for dogs is hoping to warm up the engine on his mobile grooming van after years of hardship in the family.
Doggy D'Tails has been on Eddy Guerrier's back burner since 2013, when he and his family moved from New York to Fair Lawn, leaving hundreds of clients behind.
The sacrifice was difficult financially and mentally, but necessary in getting his 7-year-old daughter, Selma, who has special needs, the services she requires to thrive in the Fair Lawn school system.
Guerrier has been his daughter's primary caretaker while his wife, Elyssa, is at work. But seeing her husband without his business is taking a toll on her, as well.
"It’s not just a business,” his wife said. “It’s his livelihood. He won’t come out and say how much it’s killing him, but I can see it on a daily basis."
The cries that the Guerriers let out during the car ride home from the hospital in 2008 should’ve been coming from their newborn baby.
Instead, Selma — who was born with a fever — remained intubated in a Westchester hospital. After suffering multiple seizures, she slipped into a week-long coma.
The tragedy struck during Doggy D’Tails ' best year, and Guerrier had no choice but to reschedule appointments from the NICU.
Selma eventually began breathing on her own and went home with her parents.
But she suffered a brain-bleed at four months, causing hydrocephalus — a condition that occurs when fluid builds up in the skull and causes the brain to swell.
Guerrier found solace in the meditative routine of brushing, bathing and blow-drying his Doggy D'Tails clients.
Then, in 2013, he left everything but the truck behind.
“He has no outlet,” Elyssa said, teary-eyed. “He takes care of Selma and he sees nothing but struggle."
When business was good, Guerrier would've been able to pay for renovations to their 1950s kitchen, install a tub in the bathroom for Selma and begin paying down the ever-accumulating medical bills.
Caring for Selma is a constant worry. Her shunt — which drains the fluid in her brain to her abdomen — has failed her three times. When the house is quiet, Guerrier fears he may have lost her for good.
“I want to have normal worries,” he said, sweat pooling on his face and neck from inside of the truck.
“I just search for a reason as to why she’s like that," he added. "I figure it's because I can handle it."