Tails, tributes and tattoos

Gailz Tattooz makes your pet last forever

By Katie Fender

Photo: Gail Carter of Gailz Tattooz says the average pet tattoo takes 1-3 hours; photo: Gail Carter

Everyone has heard the saying “dog is a man’s best friend.” That saying is most likely heard so often because it is so relatable. It is not unusual for a pet to quickly become part of the family. Perhaps that’s why Gailz Tattooz in Yellow Springs receives so many people who want to pay tribute to their pet with a tattoo.

Nearly two decades ago, Gail Carter opened Gailz Tattooz in Yellow Springs. A family-run shop, Carter maintains her position as the shop’s only tattoo artist while her husband, Linden, does the piercings.

“We are going on 18 years now,” Carter says. “I learned to tattoo, I opened the shop, and I’ve been there ever since. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”

Gailz Tattooz has earned its notoriety in Dayton, often receiving return customers and clients on referral; Carter’s shop is usually booked.

“I have a lot of repeat customers because I’ve been around for so long,” she says. “I’m usually booked a little ways past my calendar for appointments.” As a tattoo artist, Carter will design whatever the client desires; however, her specialty, and her favorite, is pet tattoos.

Since Carter opened the shop, she has noticed a pattern of clients who like to pay tribute to their pet by tattooing them on their body.

“One of the first ones I did was a little German Shepard I drew on a ladies foot,” Carter remembers. While Carter enjoys drawing animals, it’s not always an easy task for her, emotionally. Often, these pet tattoos are memorials, and she does several each month.

“The hard part is to keep dry eyes when you’re hearing about their loss,” she says. “But my husband and I are big animal lovers and so is my family, so we understand. It’s good for people to get something that they’ll always have with them.”

Many of the clients that come to Gailz Tattooz for pet tattoos are naturally drawn to the shop to get this memorial for their animal.

“Sometimes people come to me straight from a funeral and say they didn’t know where to go so they came here,” she says. “It’s very therapeutic. They feel much better after they get it. It can really help them deal with it. It’s sort of a closure whether you’re missing a pet or a child, or anyone.”

When it comes to the design of the pet tattoo, Carter will draw whatever the client wants; paw prints, tracks, the pet’s head and sometimes the whole body are popular options. Carter mentions people also like to bring in the actual paw print of the animal for her to draw.

“I’ve done the whole dog, the whole cat, I’ve even done a monkey,” Carter says. “If I do a bird I’ll usually do the whole bird, horse – maybe just the head, cats and dogs – usually the head, sometimes the whole body. It depends where on their body they want it, or the portrait they want me to do.”

Quotes about animals or how much they are going to miss the loved one are also popular, as are birth or death dates. The average pet tattoo takes about 1-3 hours. Although Gail has done tattoos the size of a penny she likes to capture all the detail.

“People always say it turns out better than expected,” Carter says. “I’ve also been told that woman tattoo artists are better at detail. In general, we pay more attention to detail and we have a gentler touch. People say I have a light touch and I’m a nut about detail. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to detail. It’s the best job I’ve ever had because people appreciate me wanting to get it perfect.”

And they aren’t all memorials. “I get some that are still alive; they don’t want to wait until the memorial, and they want to get it right away,” she says. “I do whatever the client wants. It’s one of my favorites to do, I do a lot of animals, and sometimes it’s not even a pet. I’ve done rhinos, elephants, egrets, lots of things.”

After 18 years of being a tattoo artist, Carter still goes to work every day finding meaning in her job. “It’s very rewarding and people are very thankful,” she says. “I feel such a responsibility to do it perfect for them as they trust me. It’s an important job they are giving me, a lot of trust. I better do it right.”

Gailz Tattooz is located at 115 Glen St. in Yellow Springs. For more information, please call 937.767.7144 or visit gailztattooz.com.


Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Fender at KatieFender@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Fender at KatieFender@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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