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It’s a dog’s life

A brief stare-down between two dogs

A North Bergen couple recently celebrated a ribbon-cutting for Pawtanicals, a do-it-yourself pet wash for dogs of all breeds.

The Broadway pet wash is designed to make caring for your dog as simple as possible. Dog owners can stop by and treat their dogs to something akin to a spa day, including a bath, facial scrub, and balm treatments for their paws.

The do-it-yourself aspect, according to the couple, is intended to bring owners closer to their dogs, and create a better firsthand experience overall. “It allows for pet owners to create a stronger bonding experience, simultaneously making their pets feel safe and secure having their owners personally wash them,” co-owner Daniela Salazar said.

Founding owners Salazar and Eric Fernandez, who live down the block from the pet wash, were desperate for a self-service dog washing spot for Tank, their English bulldog.

Tank, Lola, and Winston

“Tank was extremely overweight when we rescued him,” Salazar said. “He was about 90 pounds, and suffered from systemic infections and skin issues. He needed baths at least twice a week. We sought a place to wash him ourselves in North Bergen, but we found none. We needed to get him back into good health, and we needed a service that we could walk him to so that he could get some exercise along the way.”

Due to Tank’s health conditions, Salazar used her background in biochemistry to make specialized homemade soap with a formula that helped resolve Tank’s skin problems. Over the course of several years, she also began selling her homemade line of products at several farmers markets in New Jersey. Pawtanicals was the brick-and-mortar manifestation of Salazar’s longtime effort to take a unique approach to pet care.

Lola, another of Salazar and Fernandez’s dogs, was also a motivating factor in the creation of Pawtanicals’ opening. Lola saved them from a fire. “Lola would never bark for any reason,” Salazar said. “I knew something was wrong right away, and soon enough I saw smoke billowing up from the doorway. She saved our lives.”

Their third dog, Winston, joined the family in 2018. Salazar had been boarding and walking dogs as a side gig–she previously worked in New York City. Winston’s owner had arranged to board him with Salazar and Fernandez for two months. Winston was eventually left in their care indefinitely and became a member of the family last year.

“This has so much to do with our relationship with locals.” — Eric Fernandez

Local reception

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 25, township officials, local dog owners, and family members gave Pawtanicals an official welcome to North Bergen’s neighborhood. Since the business first went into operation, they’ve reported good reception from local dog owners.

Fernandez said, “What we rely on is pet owners becoming attached to our service. We’re also here to educate people. We make special appointments with dogs that have aggression issues, because they exist, and have needs just like any other dog.”

While Pawtanicals doesn’t yet provide a full grooming service, Fernandez said that they are certainly open to the idea as time goes on. For now, they have a vet tech who works on Sundays to take care of nail clipping, nail grinding, and anal-gland expression, all of which are necessary routines for a dog’s wellbeing.

The facility has three raised tubs designed to keep dogs relatively calm. Each tub is equipped with a high-powered dryer, and one tub has an accessibility ramp for dogs that are either injured or old.

Perks include a 10 percent discount for all service dogs, recently-adopted dogs get their first wash free if paperwork is provided, and every 10th wash is free with the loyalty program.

Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.

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