When Vlada Markov was 9, her next-door neighbor acquired a new puppy, but as a flight attendant, she needed a reliable pet sitter.
Markov stepped up and took the reins.
A 2017 Mountain Pointe alum, Markov took that first job as a pet sitter and expanded into pet grooming as a teen, working from her home where she is the youngest of four children, and only daughter.
That serendipitous sideline evolved into a passion that guided her through her four years at Arizona State University and now to the launch of a new Ahwatukee business.
Markov, 23, opened Paws With Claws Pet Spa in the Ahwatukee Palms Plaza on East Warner last October.
A yellow lab puppy named Bailey catapulted Markov’s passion as she focused on behavioral and physical health of the pets with which she was entrusted.
“Even though I was young, I wasn’t just pet sitting the puppy, I was training her. I did a lot of research, and I was able to pick up a lot on my own. I taught her obedience, and worked with her on socialization.”
She did well enough that at age 13, she convinced her parents that she could handle the care of a dog of her own. She jumped in with both feet, adopting a cattle dog from Scottsdale’s Fedwell Farm Rescue she named her Willow.
“She was 3 when I got her and she took some training, but she was smart and caught on quickly,” Markov said of the now 13-year-old dog.
Markov branched into pet grooming during high school and continued to do pet sitting and grooming after enrolling at ASU, where she joined the Canine Science Collaboratory under psychology professor and “Dog is Love” author, Clive D. L. Wynne, eventually serving as a research assistant.
“I worked hard with the Canine Science Collaboratory, running several behavioral and welfare studies for pet and shelter dogs,” she said, adding that studying dog welfare in animal shelters was a large part of the program.
“In the rescue project, I worked with owners and their pet dogs to teach them to open a big door to a box…The owners would be ‘trapped’ inside the box and the dog would rescue them or otherwise react to this. I co-authored a publication on this project titled ‘Yes, Your Dog Wants to Rescue You,’ that was published last month,” she said.
She also organized “field trips” for shelter dogs, working with Washington State, Detroit, and other shelters across the U.S. as volunteers took a canine “for the day or a few hours and removing them from the shelter environment and taking them to a hike, lake or restaurant.”
“The volunteer would then fill out a sheet about the dog to express their personality,” Markov said.
“Our trips were for data collection; we recorded adoption rates, analyzed urine to test stress levels before, during, and after the field trip, and overall made sure our programs were beneficial to the welfare of the shelter dogs.”
Markov also headed a project at the Arizona Animal Welfare League shelter that tracked the activity of dogs in the shelter 10 days before and after adoption.
“This was a unique study, with no others of its kind,” said Markov. I also won first place in the AZPURC (Arizona Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference) poster contest at ASU for this study. It had to be ended early due to Covid restrictions, but is intended to be a publishable study.”
Markov said though she originally considered veterinary studies at ASU, but chose a different path. She graduated from ASU last May with a dual major of biology (neuroscience physiology and behavior) and psychology with a business minor.
“I love working with animals, focusing on behavioral and physical health and excellence, and meeting dogs from across the valley for pet sitting and grooming services,” she said, adding that a current pet under her care is a retired lab rat that a friend worked with for behavioral research.
Her spa is bright and cheery and includes a private cat room for felines at her storefront in suite 21 at 4825 E. Warner Road so they aren’t stressed by her canine clients.
“I am proud to have opened my own storefront pet grooming location in the Ahwatukee Palms Plaza, and am so grateful for the tremendous support from the community,” Markov said.
“I had a good client base built up and that helped, and now word of mouth is helping the business grow even more.”
Paws With Claws is located next to Bashas’ at Warner Road and 48th Street, suite 21. Information: 480-791-4197 or visit Pawswclaws.com