“Four Seasons” of Dog Spas Open on H Street

Masterpiece Canine Spa Pampers Pets and Their Parents

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Masterpiece Canine Spa (1425 H St. NE) founding people and pets, Left to Right: Rachel Lawlor, Katelyn Mayo, Roxie, Smooch, Abby Spanu.

“Smooch is the founder of it all,” laughs Abby Spanu, owner of H Street’s brand-new Masterpiece Canine Spa (1425 H St. NE). Smooch is her dog—an exceedingly extraverted large black poodle who’s just gotten a blow-out. What she means is this: Smooch is at the center of the web of connections at Masterpiece.

Spanu has always loved poodles—she got into dog shows with her first poodle.  She worked with one of the top poodle handlers, and found community in the dog show world. Poodles are the roughest breed to show, she says, because the upkeep is so “absurd.” When she lost her standard poodle, the year her daughter was born, she got Smooch.

Fast forward a bit to a day when Katelyn Mayo, Masterpiece’s head groomer, was walking through the aisles of PETCO. She was in pursuit of nail clippers, and when she went to grab them the salon manager asked if she was a groomer. “I was like: I mean, I groom my own dog.” So, the manager asked if she wanted to learn. She said yes.

After working at PETCO for almost three years, Mayo decided she wanted to expand her education in dog grooming and joined a private salon. In the meantime, she posted in Facebook groups, asking if any standard poodle breeders were interested in mentoring her.

Smooch’s breeder responded.

“It seemed to work out that all of us wanted to do something different,” Mayo tells me, with Smooch, who she’s just finished tending to, beside her. We’re standing in the main room, where two tables for dogs sit parallel to one another, next to aqua blue furniture and behind a front desk graced with a basket of tennis balls.

“Something special, something with a lot of heart,” Rachel Lawlor, another owner and groomer at the store, adds.

Lawlor doesn’t have a background in grooming. Rather, her background is in customer service—she and Spanu and worked together at a restaurant before joining forces to found the store. It was a “perfect partnership,” Lawlor explains—Spanu, with the show experience, and she with a customer service background. Still, animals have always been a large part of Lawlor’s life. Her family regularly brought in rescues. They shared their home with rescued dogs, as well as birds, turtles, three raccoons that got stuck in the chimney, bunny rabbits, ferrets “I can keep going,” she said, pausing in her list.

A profile of a Smooch-like poodle in Silhouette graces the entry to Masterpiece Canine Spa.

The store was conceived last year, and Lawlor set out to find the right location. The spa opened the weekend before Independence Day this summer. The grand opening and ribbon cutting took place July 28.

Their philosophy: the spa should be fun.

Spanu says that many other grooming experiences are not much fun for pets. A dog owner will drop their pet off in the morning, and pick them up at night. The dog may spend the day in a crate, and will likely not do very much else.

At Masterpiece, the grooming experience is designed for the dog to enjoy. Masterpiece has partnered with nearby Atlas Dog House. Some dogs will spend the day playing there, and will be walked to and from the spa. Otherwise, dogs come with appointments already made so they don’t have to stay longer than they need to.

When dogs do wait, it is in “suites,” large areas behind picket fences. Roxie, Mayo’s German Shepherd is in the suite when I visit. When an 18-year-old blind and deaf dog came in, the pet waited to be groomed from the comfort of Spanu’s lap.

“My main concern is that dog leaves here very happy,” Spanu explains.

Masterpiece offers all sorts of designs for the dogs, including Mohawks, hair dye including tails, stenciling and hand scissoring. 

A standard haircut is only the beginning, however. Masterpiece aspires to make the experience a good one for owners. Owner Denise Calore bakes the best chocolate chip bookies, Spanu says, so they always have them ready in the fridge to warm up. They offer pet parents cappuccinos, red wine and Prosecco. They will even have monthly “Yappy House.”

“Our goal is to not have this be somewhere where you [just] drop your dog off,” Spanu says. “It’s a community.”

Masterpiece Pet Spa is located at 1425 H St. NE. They’re open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. most weekdays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. They are closed Tuesday.