A Dog's Life: The Fylde grooming business going from canine pampering to pooch portraits

Having always loved dogs, Gill Douglas founded Dog’s Life One To One Grooming in 2009.

Wednesday, 6th May 2020, 7:00 am
Gill's current work set-up with Drax the Jack Russell

After running the business out of her own shop for four years, she set up a home work space when her and her husband Lee moved in order to reduce her overheads and working hours and hasn’t looked back since. From shampoo washes to breed-specific styling, coat maintenance advice to nail trimming, Gill loves the work.

But, with the novel coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak having brought the country and the world to a halt, she has has to shut the doors to the Fleetwood-based business, which specialises in a stress-free pooch-pampering experience which is perfect for dogs who would otherwise been suitably spooked by the prospect of a bath and haircut.

“The grooming business has been going quite a while, I’ve got a lot of regular customers, and it’s a job I really enjoy, so to have to close at a day’s notice was hard,” says Gill, 41. “I’ve got dogs of my own and I started off just doing dog walking but, because my kids were young at that point, I wanted something indoors instead of having to drag them outside with me all the time.

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Gill with Root her Estrela Mountain Dog

“Actually setting up the business was really challenging, but the advantage of setting up your own business is being able to choose your own hours and build it around your family,” adds Gill, who currently lives in Fleetwood.

“I really enjoy working with animals and doing something which is your passion definitely helps. And I really like working from home, but unfortunately because I work out of my home, I’m not to be entitled to any grants from the government.”

Finding herself at something of a loose end, Gill decided to turn to an old passion, establishing Paws4Gifts, an online retailer of personalised pet art, to keep her occupied and busy during the lockdown.

Having always been interested in art, she has been painting pieces for friends and family for years but is now enabling pet-lovers the chance to pay special tribute to their furry lockdown buddies with portraits on slate or on pendants made from pebbles.

Gill with her Malamute Keiko

“I found myself with nothing to do when I’m used to being really busy, so I had to find something to keep me occupied,” explains Gill. “I did art at college and since the children got older I’ve done it as a hobby; I’ve always done a bit of painting and so I decided to take that a little further.

“I started practising doing portraits of friends’ dogs and now the plan is to make a business of that as well,” she adds. “It’s definitely something I’ll look to keep going after lockdown is lifted as normally I’d just do a few around Christmas but I’ve had plenty of interest from people, which is really nice.”

A perfect lockdown pursuit given its ability to take people away and offer some mental respite from the barrage of coronavirus news, art has been a tonic for Gill in recent weeks.“I find it really enjoyable; it’s so relaxing,” she says. “Art’s one of those things which you just need to practice and keep at it.

“I find it therapeutic; normally I go on long walks to relax but obviously at the moment that’s out so the artwork has been really helpful,” Gill continues. “And I’ve had a great response - people are liking the work and it’s all a bit different so I’m going to stick with it.”

Admitting that she felt a little panicked about her clients and what she was going to do to stay occupied during lockdown, Gill is now very much in the ‘keep calm and crack on’ camp.

“Getting into the artwork was great; you can’t just sit around because it’s not good for your mental health,” she says. “Lockdown has been good for my art actually - I used to find myself getting bored after an hour whereas it’s taught me to slow down and have some patience.

“It’s not been easy,” she adds. “But everyone’s got their own struggles.”