As Fatima Beaulieu works, she speaks in a soothing, soft hush to her nervous ward.
“It’s okay…this won’t hurt, we just have to get some of this hair out of your ears,” Beaulieu whispered to Molly, a black schnauzer and first-time client to Beaulieu’s Happy Tails Spa.
Molly went missing after a thunderstorm and, fortunately, was found and returned to her parents. But those homeless days had taken a toll on the dog, whose signature Schnauzer mustache had become so matted it had to be shaved.
Beaulieu slowly and patiently works her magic, caressing and comforting the dog while shaving, trimming, brushing and plucking.
“I’ve always been an animal lover,” said Beaulieu, who grew up in Brazil.
As a girl, she was always bringing home stray animals.
After moving to the U.S., Beaulieu worked at a Humane Society and went to school to learn to be a dog groomer and then started working in the field.
“I worked at a number of places,” Beaulieu said.
Some were better than others. At some she learned and honed her skills. At others, she discovered what she didn’t like.
In one shop, she didn’t last a day. The owner was rough with the animals and yelled at them. It wasn’t the atmosphere Beaulieu wanted to work in and it wasn’t the way she wanted to treat the animals.
“You have to have a relationship with the animals and you have to give them some love when they are on the table,” she said.
When Beaulieu’s daughter moved to San Francisco to go to school, Beaulieu and her husband, Marcello Da Silva, decided to leave Miami.
“I had a friend who had a dog grooming business in Spokane, so I came out here,” said Beaulieu.
Initially, Beaulieu managed a grooming salon in Sunnyside, but a year ago she and her husband opened Happy Tails Spa on Young Street in Kennewick, next to Phuket Thai in the strip center in front of Craft Warehouse.
“My dream was always to have my own place,” she said.
Beaulieu and Da Silva transformed the space into her dream grooming shop.
“Marcel did all the construction,” she said.
The entire shop was created with the comfort of the animal in mind, she said.
The bright reception, painted in a calming sky blue, area has small eye-level windows that allow clients to watch their dogs being groomed without them being apparent to the dogs. That helps keep the dogs from getting excited and reassures clients about what is happening to their animals.
The room adjacent to the grooming area has stacked kennels for cats and small dogs and a large enclosed area on the floor where dogs can be contained while they are waiting to be groomed or picked up.
There’s also a stack of special kennels that Da Silva, Beaulieu’s right-hand man in the business, has created for drying animals. The floor of the kennels are elevated and air can be circulated around the dogs, so their underside dries completely.
A small office and a washer and dryer sit in the rear of the area, next to a door that leads outside, where the dogs can be taken to go to the bathroom.
In a third room, Da Silva has built elevated tile washing tubs, large enough to handle the largest of clients, from Great Pyrenees to Saint Bernards. There are large drying tables, with the hoses of the driers coming out of the walls.
The driers themselves are kept behind the wall, which acts as a sound barrier and provides a quieter, more calming experience for the dogs, Beaulieu said.
And the shop’s cleanliness, from the floors to the scent, is immediately apparent.
“We clean and disinfect everyday,” said Beaulieu.
And the grooming tables are cleaned with disinfectant after every animal, she added.
Beaulieu does much of the grooming herself, with Da Silva helping wash dogs and hold dogs as she does the nails.
But as more customers came through the shop, Beaulieu quickly had more dogs than a lone groomer could handle. But finding groomers that worked to her standards proved difficult.
So Beaulieu started teaching the skill out of the shop and hiring her best students, like Josh Arana, to work for her.
“He does beautiful scissor work and learns really quickly,” she said.
She prides herself on offering full-service grooming, with everything, including wash, cut, nail trims, expiration of anal glands, included in the price.
“I even brush their teeth,” she said.
She also does cats and has special facilities that make it easy for her to groom very large dogs.
Happy Tails Spa is at 1407 N. Young St., Suite C, Kennewick. The phone number is 736-6616 and the website is www.happytails-spa.com.