‘Pawsitively Pampered’

BHS grad turns animal devotion into pet-sitting business

Abbey Varner, owner and operator of “Pawsitively Pampered Pet Sitting,” holds her own two Maltese pups, Bettis and Bradshaw, who are never far from her thoughts, even as she works all over Knox County taking care of other people’s pets.
Abbey Varner has always loved animals — especially her own — but she has turned that devotion outward to operate “Pawsitively Pampered Pet Sitting.”

The Bearden High School graduate started in that field when she was just 8 years old, on the heels of finally finding a dog breed that didn’t trigger her father’s allergies. The family bought a Maltese they named Bettis, in honor of Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, a former Pittsburgh Steeler.

“We are from Pittsburgh and are Steelers fans,” Varner said, noting they added Bradshaw (named after Steelers Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw) three years later.

Even then, her care for pets extended to those owned by others.

“My parents were both allergic to cats so we couldn’t have one, but they might find me petting one in the middle of the street,” Varner said.

That natural bent led her to a self-realized dream job.

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‘One-stop shop’ element working out ‘great’ for K9 Center

Kristen Kelly puts Talia, a black Russian Terrier, through the agility course at K9 Center of East Tennessee, 11225 Threadstone Lane, during a practice session. The center, which has been in operation for a year, provides various types of training and classes in addition to its daycare, self-serve bath, grooming, acupressure and acupuncture services.
For a little more than a year, K9 Center of East Tennessee has provided a one-stop shop for dog owners and is doing “great,” said Trish Isbell, one of the center’s partners.

The 18,000-square-foot center at 11225 Threadstone Lane, near Episcopal School of Knoxville, provides daycare, training, grooming, dog wash and even acupuncture services for dogs — and it’s growing.

“We started slow with daycare, up to 10 dogs, and now we have up to 40,” said Isbell, who owns the business with Susie Stout, Ace Russell and George Beck. “Forty dogs is our capacity.”

Isbell said the business’s increase has been from a lot of word-of-mouth referrals.

“We’ve got some good staff that’s been with us pretty much through the year,” she said. “We have a full-time groomer who’s going to be here a couple times a week.

“It’s picked up steam here,” Isbell added. “We have a lot of classes and we have all kinds of agility equipment now, so we have a lot of agility training for beginners.”

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