Sit. Stay. Bathe. Have a Latte.

Hanging out in the cafe at Muddy Paws: Brenda Anderson with Chessie, Mike Fitzgerald with Bubba.
Hanging out in the cafe at Muddy Paws: Brenda Anderson with Chessie, Mike Fitzgerald with Bubba. (By Dayna Smith For The Washington Post)
By Jura Koncius
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 3, 2007

Bubba is having his hair fluffed after an apple-oatmeal shampoo. His owner, Mike Fitzgerald, sits at a table at the cafe in the next room, drinking cappuccino and checking his e-mail. Sure beats trying to wash an 80-pound golden retriever in the family bathtub.

At Muddy Paw Wash and Coffee Bar in Annapolis, customers can walk in and soap up their terrier or poodle themselves at one of five stations. Or they can chill out with an iced latte while a staffer does the job for $7.50 extra. Some forgo the bath and stop by just for the caffeine and to hang out with other owners and their dogs.

The two-year-old business embraces two strong market forces in today's culture: WiFi-equipped coffee bars and pampered pets.

"I just wanted to be able to take my dogs to work and drink lattes all day," says co-owner Joe Mutlu, who opened Muddy Paw with his brother, John.

The brothers, both refugees of the tech world, located their business in a former pharmacy outside the entrance to Quiet Waters Park, one of the area's most popular -- and muddiest -- dog parks. Now on a busy Saturday or Sunday, about 100 dogs stop in to clean up. The brothers are franchising the concept, planning six more locations in the Washington area by the end of next year.

The Muddy Paw social scene is fast-paced. A glimpse of one morning last week: Several human customers are having coffee and reading the paper, some with a freshly washed dog napping at their side. In back, Sacha the Weimaraner is getting a shampoo while Bachi, a chocolate Lab, is having a nail clipping. Stella, a comely Cavalier King Charles spaniel, steps in. Instantly the dozing dogs wake up and walk over to check her out.While nobody is looking, shop-dog Yogi sniffs out a bone-shaped peanut butter dog biscuit on somebody's table. Meanwhile, Sadie, a clumber spaniel who comes in every two weeks, prances out of the washroom for a couple of laps around the cafe.

After a lot of sniffing and circling, the dogs trot back to their owners, and the daily routine of washing and coffee brewing goes on.

The DIY dog-washing business -- usually more affordable than traditional grooming services or mobile wash vans -- started taking hold in the 1990s on the West Coast. South Bark and Dog Beach Dog Wash in San Diego and Rub-a-Dub Dog and Soggy Doggy in the Seattle area (clever names abound) joined bakeries, day-care centers and hotels (a.k.a. kennels) in the burgeoning pet service industry. Even superstores such as the Petco pet supply chain have added DIY washing facilities.

In the Washington area, smaller operations such as Old Town Doggie Wash in Alexandria, Chateau-Animaux on Capitol Hill and Lucky Dog Laundromutt and Lounge in Adams Morgan have brought locals a place to suds up their pets. In October, Bark 'N Bubbles opened in Ashburn, and it recently added a lounge with wireless Internet for owners. A Bark 'N Bubbles location in Herndon opening in June will have a full-time barista.

At Muddy Paw, wash stations are equipped with walk-up tubs with ramps, dozens of shampoos and conditioners, brushes, towels, eye and ear wipes, and dryers. Self-serve prices range from $12 for a small dog such as a Jack Russell terrier to $18 for a Labrador. (See details at http://www.muddypawwash.com.) Just like at the carwash, the seventh dog wash is on the house. And after 10 coffee drinks, you get one free.

Brenda Anderson of Annapolis brings in Chessie, a 1-year-old Lagotto Romagnolo (an Italian water dog) who does not like water. "I have to bring her in when she starts smelling like a dog," Anderson says. She orders an iced coffee and runs out to pick up some wine across the street while Chessie gets sudsed.

Fitzgerald, of Annapolis, brings 13-year-old Bubba once a month for a full-serve $25.50 wash, dry and brush-out. "He loves it. He jumps right in the tub," Fitzgerald says. "Most other groomers want $65 to get him clean, because he has so much fur and it's matted down. It's hard on my back for me to do it myself. And other places you need to set an appointment. I don't do that for my own hair."


© 2007 The Washington Post Company