FARGO—Leopold drools a bit and is lousy at paying his share of the bills, but there's no denying his key role in a new pet grooming business here.
Kayla Wheeler and her boyfriend, Elliot Okland, got the 160-pound dog with a thick black coat about three years ago. She had always wanted a Newfoundland, she said, and his calm, friendly personality quickly won over Okland.
But Leopold's large size posed a problem: Giving him a bath at home was too messy. Wheeler looked into the options around Minneapolis where they lived and found a self-serve dog wash that was clean, convenient and perfect for their busy lifestyle.
Okland, a native of Montana who moved to Fargo when he was 12, joked that he was more familiar with a less sophisticated dog cleaning method.
"Just hose them off with a hose," he said with a chuckle.
As they traveled more, Wheeler said she realized that nice place she found in Minneapolis was rare. Much more common, she said, were businesses that were dirty or booked up several months in advance.
They did their homework, researching the pros and cons of many grooming businesses they visited along the way. With some furry inspiration from Leopold and their decision to move to Fargo to be close to Wheeler's hometown of Moorhead, things clicked for the couple to open Muddy Paws, 3985 56th St. S., in late June.
Muddy Paws is a grooming business for all pets, including at least a few cats, though most of its clientele is of the canine persuasion.
That's why Wheeler said they made the modern, open spa in the new Veterans Square development a calm place for the whole family.
"We designed this place specifically for the dog, but with the owners in mind, too, " she said. "We made it a little less stressful environment."
That includes private grooming rooms with only one table per room, meaning dogs have a more solitary experience and aren't in a grooming room with multiple other pooches.
Cleanliness is also a big deal, according to Wheeler. Rather than putting fur dryers next to self-wash tubs, for example, they opted to make a separate room in back with dryers—a simple trick that contains loose fur that would otherwise clutter up the place.
Muddy Paws now has two groomers available by appointment, much like other grooming businesses in town. Okland said they're looking to hire more because without advertising, these groomers are booked out for the next two weeks.
But Wheeler said it's the spa's five self-serve grooming tubs that people might be especially interested in because it's a rarity in this rapidly growing part of town near the Veterans Square development.
Patrons who opt to wash their own pet can use the spa's shampoo, conditioner, towels, brushes and other products right there. Once they're done, they can just head home.
"They leave the mess here and not at their house," she said.
Wheeler and Okland have both talked for years about owning a business, though Wheeler said Muddy Paws is more of a "hobby" than anything at the moment. She's still working as a fill-in nurse in a local emergency room, while Okland spends two weeks out of each month working in the oil and gas industry in Texas.
It's a lot of work, but Wheeler said it's been fun to get to know customers like Pam, a middle-aged golden retriever, as well as the humans who bring in these furry family members.
"We love animals and love doing this type of thing," she said.
What: Muddy Paws
Where: 3985 56th St. S., Fargo
Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday (earlier grooming appointments available)
Phone: (701) 404-4878