Dotties Dog House adds Westerville location to Blacklick salon to pamper pets

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Luke, a Chinese crested powder puff belonging to the Schoenleb family, is groomed by Ashlie Smith on May 18 during the opening day of Dotties Pet Pawlor & Treatery, 640 W. Schrock Road in Westerville.

Dotties Dog House LLC, a pet-grooming business and treatery, is open to pamper pets in two central Ohio locations. 

Named after her late mother, Dottie McLeaster, Rebecca Huitger opened Dotties Dog House on May 5, 2020, in her Blacklick home in the room where Dottie spent her final years before her death in January 2020.

A second location, Dotties Pet Pawlor & Treatery, 640 W. Schrock Road, opened May 18 in Westerville and is managed by Huitger’s daughter, Ashlie Smith of Columbus. 

“It’s all about love,” Huitger said. “It’s about the love of my mom, the love of animals and bringing them to a place where they are special.” 

Clifford, a mini goldendoodle belonging to Lori Mather, poses as Ashlie Smith and her mother, Rebecca Huitger, take his photo following his grooming at Dotties Pet Pawlor & Treatery on May 18.

Canines are able to roam the front of the salon at 575 River Pebble Drive in Blacklick before getting pampered. 

An appointment must be made at 513-519-9154 to allow for one-on-one attention, with most grooms averaging 90 minutes, depending on the size and condition of the dog's coat. Estimated costs can be provided via the Dotties Facebook page.

“I let them run around and be nosy,” Huitger said. “They’re not just my 10 o’clock dog. What we care about the most is them falling in love with us. We want them to come back happy and excited and running into the house because they feel at home.” 

Amy Glenn of Blacklick said her dog, Tilley, a 2-year-old husky mix, is anxious. 

“She’s the most timid husky I’ve ever met,” Glenn said. “She seems to do well here. I like that it’s just one dog. She doesn’t seem stressed out when she comes here. And she has never come out that deshedded before.” 

Huitger said Dotties provides personal attention and relaxed environment and added one pet usually leaves the premises before another arrives, and they aren't kenneled.  

“Our focus is on loving dogs, really all animals,” she said. “We’ve done rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs’ nails. We’ve had animals skunked. We’ve de-skunked them. That has been all kinds of animals.”

Oddly enough, Huitger said, her late father, Robert McLeaster, didn't allow the family to have animals.

“And my mom was animal crazy,” she said. “So when my dad died, my mom started collecting them.” 

When McLeaster moved in with Huitger, Zombie, an Australian cattle dog, came with her, as well as a cat.

“All her other animals were adopted out,” Huitger said. 

She said her mother also enjoyed showering animals with attention when visiting her and Smith, whom both worked at another pet salon. 

Huitger said it was Smith who encouraged her to start her own business after she was furloughed in March last year from her job as a groomer at a pet salon.

“I probably wouldn’t have done my own thing if it wouldn’t have been for my daughter,” she said. “She was very much like, ‘We always talked about honoring grandma, and doing something to keep her alive with us.’ She said this is it.”

Playing vet

Smith said she knew she wanted to work with animals since she was a teenager. 

“Even in Barbie (doll) times, I was always the vet,” she said. 

She moved from Cincinnati to Columbus to attend Vet Tech Institute at Bradford School. 

“I went right to work,” Smith said. “I started trying to figure out what I wanted to do with it.” 

Smith ran a shop and needed someone to bathe the dogs.

“She fell in love with it," Smith said of her mother. "I taught her how to groom. We kind of talked about doing this. It’s something you never think is actually going to happen.” 

Smith said the two started the treatery when her grandmother became ill.

“We could put our cards out and a sample treat at the shop I worked at before,” she said. “It came full circle. Now it’s all Dotties.” 

“Everything is homemade and gluten-free,” Huitger said. “We also make ties and bows. I make the ties for the guys, and she makes the bows for the girls. Each of our dogs after a groom goes home with something fancied up. I make them in my living while watching TV at night. It’s something we enjoy doing.”

She said pet owners love the accessories.   

“We’ll have goodie bags for new clients,” Smith said. “We will try to have a little boutique. She’s crafty, and I’m creative. Together we can make awesome things.” 

Smith said her husband, Jon Smith, will join her as a groomer at the Westerville shop.

Huitger said they came upon the location by accident.

“I’m a firm believer in God, so I believe it was a blessing from Him,” she said.  “(Smith is) going to start something much bigger than I have.” 

Huitger said Dotties offers pet owners who adopt a dog from a rescue a 20% discount for the first grooming service.

“We offer rescues free grooms for dogs who have been severely traumatized or haven’t been bathed in a few months,” she said. “We hope rescues will start calling us so we can do more for them. That’s really a big part of our heart.”

Although a date hasn't been set, a grand opening for the Westerville location is expected in June. 

Smith said she also will groom cats.

She's working through an online course to receive a master's degree in cat grooming from the National Cat Groomers Institute

"They have a yearly conference," Smith said. "It’s online now due to COVID.

"Not too many (groomers) take on cats. A, they’re terrifying. Cat bites can lead to infection. They are a high-risk groom job."

Smith said she has a space designated as a cat room.

Appointments are required with business hours tentatively set for 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays.

The website dottiespetpawlor.com is under construction. The business also may be reached at 614-216-8109.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla