4 Paws opens for dogs

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
Laura Helton Gibbs has always had a love for animals.
Now she has the opportunity to show her love for her four-legged friends as owner of 4 Paws Pet Salon in Atmore.
Gibbs opened the business two weeks ago and though things got off to a shaky start things are howling now.
"It was slow the first week, but it's really improved this week," she said. "Everyday this week we've had at least four dogs."
Gibbs' love for animals came at an early age. Her father, Don, who was an avid bird hunter and trained English pointers and English setters, would strap on an infant backpack and take his daughter along daily as he washed down and sanitized his dog pens and houses. She would also mimic her father as he trained his puppies.
As she grew older, Gibbs' love for animals continued to grow. After high school, she attended the Florida Academy of Pet Grooming in Pace, Fla. in hopes of one day owning her own business.
"I went to school for it and I've always wanted to work with animals," she said. "It was the easiest thing to go to school for because it was short term. My mom helped me pay for half of my equipment to help me get started."
The pet salon, which is strictly for dogs, offers basic grooming including haircuts and flea dips. Dogs can also have their teeth brushed and toenails polished. Gibbs also has a shed less program available.
Gibbs said having a pet salon in Atmore again has pleased several of the local residents.
"They're really happy because the way the gas prices are with a place in Atmore they don't have to drive to Bay Minette," she said.
Gibbs added that it's a joy to pamper her customers' dogs.
"It's wonderful," she said. "You treat them like they're your own kids. I wanted to be a veterinarian."
Gibbs' mother, Linda Helton, helped her daughter open up the pet salon, located at 1909 South Main Street next to Jean Daniels Hair Salon. She said that her family's support in her business venture has helped keep her motivated following the loss of her husband, Scott Gibbs.
"It gives me a lot of confidence that I can do it," Gibbs said.
Scott, an engineer with Seacor Marine, died while on a supply boat off the coast of Louisiana in early July. He was assisting his wife in building her business by drawing up the plans and was going to build shelving and cabinets. After his death, the couple's friends helped Laura by building and staining the shop's cabinetry, setting up her computer system and putting her equipment together.
"They rallied her all along the way," Linda said.
Since opening, Gibbs has become focused on making a living for herself and her one-year-old son, Austin. In fact, her main goal is quite simple.
"Really I just want to be able to provide a life for Austin," she said. "I don't want him growing up without anything. This is pretty much the only way to do that. I'm just thinking of what's best for Austin."
Gibbs said she could accommodate eight to 12 dogs at her shop.
"Normally I don't want do more than eight dogs a day," Gibbs said. "It's better to make an appointment, but walk-ins are welcome from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m."
Gibbs added that she has had satisfied customers since opening.
"Everyone's been real happy," Gibbs said. "Everybody's been really supportive."
Denise Rutherford of McCullough assists Gibbs at her shop.

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