“I love baths,” said no dog, ever.
A new Route 50 dog wash salon may not change that, but it will make the job easier for dog owners doing the shampooing.
Voula Paravalos opened Gator’s Barks N Bubbles Self-Service Dog Wash in June. It’s her first foray into business for herself, and — after years of people-oriented jobs — the first time her love of animals is also her livelihood.
The heart of the business is a touch screen-activated walk-in washing system made by iClean International in The Netherlands.
It’s what differentiates Gator’s from the other self-serve dog washes that dot the landscape at car washes, pet supply stores and elsewhere.
In the iClean, the dog stands on a raised, non-slip platform behind a splashwall; heated water is sent through the sprayer wand with optional premixed organic shampoo or conditioner or flea wash.
Tethers at both ends of the tub limit the dog’s ability to squirm away from the cleaning.
When Fido is clean and shiny, a separate hose provides a low- or high-volume blow dry.
Ten minutes runs $10, about the same as a basic car wash.
Paravalos said the attraction to customers seems to be convenience and back pain prevention: There’s no need to juggle shampoo bottle, water sprayer and squirmy wet dog while bending over on a slippery surface, nor any need to wash a scum of suds, dirt and hair out of the tub afterward.
Doggy bath day is a perennial sight gag in cartoons for good reason: Some dogs will tolerate it, a few might even like it, but many don’t like it, with often comical results. They will make a break for the door if they see a chance, leaving a trail of suds.
“Everyone that’s come in so far, their whole thing is, ‘Oh wow, this is so cool, I don’t have to bend over now, I don’t have to clean up everything.’ Mainly it’s the bending over and the mess in their bathtubs.”
Paravalos’ two older Pekinese are fine with baths. But her blue-nose pitbull, Gator, who’s shown smiling in a tub of suds in the store logo, does not like the fluff and buff, ironically enough.
“He loves the hose outside,” she said. “He just doesn’t want to jump in.”
Towels are stacked nearby for dogs that need more than the blower to get dry and smocks are available for dog owners.
The iCleanDogWash XL is designed to accommodate miniature and giant breeds alike, and everything from a Chihuahua to a Great Dane has so far stepped into the tub at Gator’s.
Paravalos grew up in Scotia and now lives in Clifton Park. She previously worked in daycare and substance abuse rehab but most recently was a waitress. Her job at the Recovery Room Sports Grill in Malta evaporated amid the pandemic, which led to her going into business for herself.
It’s a self-service business, but Paravelos is on site and has helped with a few shampoos. It’s a good fit for her: She’s spent her adult life building people skills and developing a love of dogs, and now she uses both.
“I just love working with animals,” Paravalos said. “This is a dream.”
When it’s established as a business, it may grow beyond self-serve dog washing, as not every pet owner wants to do it themselves.
“Eventually down the road I’m looking at maybe expanding it and adding grooming, or maybe a doggy day care,” she said.