Take Fido for a bath Cleanliness: The area's first self-service dog-washing salon opened in Timonium last spring. Now, pet owners are bringing 80 to 100 dogs a week for a bath, and leaving the mess behind.

March 17, 1997|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,SUN STAFF

Baxter stood, patiently enduring his bath with just the merest curl of his upper lip, but his owner, Jeannine Stoll of Timonium, was loving every minute of it.

She was able to stand up to wash and dry the fluffy, 9-year-old Shetland sheep dog instead of bending painfully over a bathtub at home to do the job.

It was her first time in the area's first self-service dog-washing salon, she said. From now on, Baxter will be a regular visitor.

"I generally put him in the bathtub, but I have a bad back and carpal tunnel syndrome, and this made it very easy," she said.

Sonja Southern brought Bogey, her muscular, 55-pound basset hound, over from Reisterstown for his regular dip.

"I have to do it once every 10 days; he gets very dirty," she said. "I've paid $28 to have him groomed, but he doesn't need that and it's only $8 to bathe him. It saves me money and it's really convenient."

Self-service dog washes have been popular for some time in the West, but the Pet Depot in Timonium is the only one in the Baltimore area and possibly in Maryland, said Dan Lyons, the owner, and Nancy Apatow, vice president of the Brooklyn, N.Y., company that manufactures the equipment.

Lyons opened his "Soapy Dog Salon" last April and it quickly became a fast-growing part of his pet-supplies business. "We do from 80 to 100 dogs a week," he said. "We had 60 people in here bathing their dogs over the weekend, which is the busiest time. A lot of people bring their children to help and it becomes a family activity."

Lyons has three tubs now, two standard size for dogs up to 175 pounds and one jumbo for dogs to 240 pounds, including St. Bernards, great Danes and Irish wolfhounds.

"We haven't had a dog we couldn't handle," Lyons said.

In April he plans to add two more jumbo tubs and another standard size to accommodate the growing business.

Rubber aprons are provided for the owners, and each cubicle vTC has a ramp for the dog to walk up to the tub, saving the owner a lifting job.

Once the dog is in, a metal flap is raised to complete the fourth side of the tub. A restrainer strap hooked to the wall keeps the animal from jumping out.

Each cubicle has a six-shower nozzle that offers from a stream to a light mist, and the dogs stand on a raised screen, which keeps them from flopping into their own dirty water. The owners may bring their own shampoo or buy from among the 40 to 50 varieties on sale.

Once the washing and rinsing are done, there are thick white towels and a commercial-strength blow-dryer to complete the bath -- and then all the "good dogs" get biscuits as a treat.

People have brought their dogs from York, Pa., Bel Air and Annapolis, "so you know if they come that far that you're doing something right," Lyons said. "This way, the dog comes in, gets a bath and goes home. With a groomer they have to spend four or five hours in a cage waiting, and they probably have to go to the bathroom all that time. This is much better."

Most dogs don't need an expensive grooming or clipping, but they do need regular baths, he said.

Convenience is among the advantages of the service with no appointments necessary, Lyons said, recalling one case where a woman declared that she was canceling a dinner party unless her husband bathed that "stinking dog."

A trip to Pet Depot for a quick bath allowed the dinner to be given as planned.

Nancy Apatow said her family firm, Pet Lift Ltd., was founded in 1965 and is now the country's largest supplier of tubs and tables for the pet-grooming industry and veterinarians.

The self-service dog bath is simply a different application of the existing equipment, she said. Pet Lift supplied the tubs for the first one, when a Chicago woman set up a self-service bath eight to 10 years ago, Apatow said, and the idea spread.

Now, however, publicity about Lyons's "Soapy Dog Salon" has brought calls from across the nation.

"He's been attracting so much interest," she said. "It's really very simple; why use your own tub when you can leave the mess here?"

Pub Date: 3/17/97

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