A mini 'carwash' for dogs
Julia Bodura/Post-Gazette Ernie and Barb Vattimo wash their dog, Rusty, at Woody's Dog Bath in South Park on Sunday. The new facility contains waist-high, walk-in tubs that make it easier for owners to bathe their dogs, and provides aprons, a variety of soaps and shampoos, doggy dryers and other supplies.
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Minnie marched into Woody's Dog Wash and Boutique with her tail wagging. The 6-month-old American bulldog showed no signs of apprehension about her upcoming bath. But Minnie's owner, Anita Little, of Peters, had some jitters. "This is my first time solo," Ms. Little said. "My husband usually comes with me."
Minnie comes to Woody's about every other week, she said. "I hate the wet dog smell in the house," Ms. Little said. Plus, Minnie's 55-pound body is too big and heavy for the Littles' laundry tub.
On this day, Minnie needs just a gentle push to step into the large bathing tub at the rear of Woody's.
Woody's Dog Wash and Boutique, on Brownsville Road in South Park, opened in November, offering pet owners the opportunity to bathe their own dogs. The fee includes a variety of shampoos, temperature-controlled water, dryers, brushes and towels.
Owner Ann Cipriani believes her shop is a low-stress alternative for dogs and a convenience for owners. The store also includes a wide range of pet products.
Opening Woody's offered Ms. Cipriani, of Jefferson Hills, a chance to combine her retail experience and passion for animals.
Ms. Little leans over the waist-high, 5-by-3-foot tub, soothing her pet with gentle words as she selects one of five shampoos.
"It's OK, Minnie," Ms. Little said.
Then, warm water and suds begin pouring over Minnie's white fur and brindle spots.
Woody's uses a "bath master animal washing system," allowing customers to select shampoos by number. It combines with 98-degree water, flowing through a hose onto the animal.
"It's kind of like a little doggie carwash," Chrissy Paskevicius, of Munhall, said. Ms. Paskevicius has worked at Woody's since it opened on Nov. 2.
"Basically everything happens in the tub," Ms. Paskevicius said, pointing out dryers next to each station. "So you don't really have to transfer them from one place to another."
The bathing stations at Woody's are in the rear of the store. There are four tubs in all, two on each side of a dividing wall. Gates separate the bathing areas from the front of the store, where numerous boutique items are displayed.
Ms. Cipriani learned about do-it-yourself dog washing from friends living in California. After doing research, she developed a vision for Woody's by "picking and choosing" features that appealed to her from various stores she found online.
Ms. Cipriani sought counsel regarding a location for Woody's from a dog wash owner in San Diego.
"Her advice was to stick close to the dog parks," she said.
Ms. Cipriani soon found 1,100 square feet in the Opal Building along Brownsville Road, not far from South Park's dog park.
"It fit with the design I had in my head," she said.
She soon discovered that building owner, Jim Makrinos, was a plumber, and he installed the tubs and modified the space to Ms. Cipriani's needs.
Ms. Cipriani grew up behind the counter of her parents' grocery story in Bloomfield. She also co-owned Basket Designs for 12 years. The retail store was in the lobby of the former Sheraton Hotel, located near South Hills Village in Bethel Park. So Woody's seemed like a natural fit.
"I wanted to do retail again and I wanted to be with the dogs. It's a happy business. The store is bright and fun,"
Woody's offers a low-stress alternative to dog washing, Ms. Cipriani said.
"A lot of dogs don't like to be left anywhere. To be able to stay with their owner is a comfort to them," she said.
She also believes there is convenience for owners.
"We get these really big dogs. They're not easy to bathe,'' Ms. Cipriani said. At Woody's, there are no time or product limits on the baths.
Ms. Little cites convenience as the thing she loves about Woody's. She said, "You don't have to bring anything but your dog,"
Woody's bath prices are based on dog weight and range from $10 to $20.
Ms. Cipriani supports pet adoptions. "If you have adoptive papers within six months, you get a free bath," she said.
She also holds occasional "meet and greet" events that are connected with a South Hills dog-walking group she recently formed online.
The group meets in South Park to walk their dogs and is invited to Woody's for refreshments afterward. Paw washing is offered for $5 on those dates.
When not working in the store, Ms. Cipriani spends time looking for unique products to stock.
Woody's shelves are lined with a wide variety of all-natural dog foods and treats, along with dog collars and leashes.
After her bath, Minnie roams the boutique sniffing out her favorites from the stock. She selects a rope pull toy and sits politely while Ms. Little purchases it.
It's hard work when things get busy at Woody's. Every bath station is disinfected after each use. During those busy times, Ms. Cipriani said it seems there is no end to the water and fur.
Still, "I get a kick out of the dogs. They make you laugh. It's a happy business.''
First Published February 7, 2008 6:04 am