Paul Negrijn in his favourite element: grooming dogs. Photo: Adrian MacNair
Take a walk on the dike or head into one of our many parks and it's easy to see why Tsawwassen has a reputation for being one of the most dog-friendly suburbs in Metro Vancouver.
That dog-loving feeling here has given Studio One Dog Grooming owner Paul Negrijn a career in grooming, one he began 50 years ago right here in Tsawwassen when he was just fourteen.
"Years ago when I was a kid people would open their door and let the dog out and it would come home when it was ready," recalls Paul, taking a break from grooming a King Charles Spaniel. "Now, of course, nobody does that. Nobody would even dream of doing that now. But in the sixties that's how it was. The dogs all roamed loose in Tsawwassen."
Paul says he got into dog grooming completely by "accident". His first dog was a little black poodle named Lisa.
"I couldn't afford to have my first dog clipped so I learned how to do it myself," he says, adding his neighbours soon asked him to clip their dogs as well.
"And they had friends, and they had friends, and it just mushroomed. By the time I was out of high school I had probably over 100 clients just out of our house."
By his early twenties, Paul moved into his current location on 12 th Avenue by 56th Street, where he has remained a fixture in the community for the past 40 years.
A lot has changed in that time, but everybody who has had a dog groomed in Tsawwassen has probably run into Paul once or twice.
"After 40 years here there aren't any of the original dogs around anymore," he says. "I'm on some people's fourth and fifth dogs! They've gone with old age."
If Tsawwassen is a closeknit community, then the "sub community"of dog owners is another level deeper. For those who haven't met Paul through his business, you can somtimes catch him walking one or more of his eight dogs. Yes, eight.
As he smooths his grooming apron, decorated with drawings of dozens of different breeds of dogs, Paul says his primary concern is the care and comfort of the animals entrusted to his care.
"It's quite a responsibility but it's one that we're quite happy to do. I worry about the dogs that might go to somebody that's not as caring or is rough with them. There are a lot of rough groomers. We practice what we call humane grooming, and our definition is that we don't try to brush out a dog that's very badly matted. It's way too hard on them. For us it's not a question of money, it's the comfort for the dog."
At 65 years of age and a lifetime of dog hair behind him, Paul isn't ready to quit just yet. He's going to keep on for another couple of years and then plans to hand the business down to his two capable employees, Debbie and Shjannon.