billy, meli and jasmine the poodles
Meet dog groomer de jour with a three week waiting list, and his two faithful friends
Words and pictures: Simon Glazin
'I just love animals so much! Working with them is much better than working with humans!'
Who can blame Billy (real name Vasileios)? They don't answer back, they don't moan, they can't swear at you and they are often so much cuter. We all had childhood dreams of being a vet or working in a zoo - I gave up on my dream of being a vet when I realised how squeamish I actually am - but I reckon Billy has the right idea. A dog groomer. And a bloody good one at that.
You only have to look at his two beloved poodles, Meli and Jasmine, to see how good he actually is. Precision-cut paws, perfectly coifed ears, even Theodore - his partners' gorgeous cat - has the tail of dreams. All cut by him. And if you're still not convinced, just take a look at his own hair. An ombre high ponytail of the shiniest, healthiest-looking hair, that is shaved from the crown down.
'I qualified really quickly, about two years, because I just really really wanted to start properly. I love it so much, I love everyday at work.' Says Billy, in his thick Greek accent. His passion for his job makes me smile. It's rare you speak to someone who loves their job so much. And it's heartwarming. He tells me how busy he is, sometimes a three week waiting list, and this is both testament to his amazing work (let's call him the real life Edward Scissorhands) and the fact people are taking much more pride in how their pooches look now.
Billy smiles throughout the whole shoot, even when he has both dogs and the cat in his arms for a picture in the middle of a heatwave. His super sunny personality is infectious. You can't help but want to keep talking to him.
Billy works at Purplebone in Notting Hill, London.
Scroll down to see more from Billy and his hairy brood.
On life with the dogs and cat: I have grown up with lots of animals, life without them isn't life for me. That's why I decided with my partner to get two dogs. My partner already had one Persian cat, his name is Theodore. He's a cat lover, and now a dog person too. They are family for us, like children. We get home from work and they are always waiting for us. It's an amazing feeling to find someone waiting for you at home after a long day of work to give you love and lots of kisses. They are so excited when they see us.
We got them because we felt there was something missing. Everyday we were watching dog videos on YouTube. When we saw people with their dogs in public we always fell in love with them and always wanted to say hi. That's when I decided to get the first puppy (Meli, the apricot one) as a surprise present for my partner and after two weeks we went to get her sister too (Jasmine, the black one). It's never enough with animals, when you get the first one you want all of them. It's like you get addicted, because you see how amazing they are and they give you so much love without having. This is real love.
On work: I am head groomer at Purplebone in Notting Hill. The branch has been open for eight years and our grooming is so popular we have a three week waiting list. We are rated 5 stars on review sites consistently because we train most of our groomers ourselves.
My job is very responsible and you have to be extra careful, very gentle and have attention to detail. I work in a team of three, each dog is allocated to one of us. My assistant prepares the dog for me (wash, blow dry, brush), and then I take over and start the groom for the dog. You need to understand animal behaviour to be a good groomer. I have lots of dogs that can have aggressive behaviour but because I'm very gentle and I am patient I can groom them. I speak 'doggie' which is why I have good relationship with them.
I love my job because it isn't a job for me. It's a hobby, a passion even. The most important thing if you want to be happy is to do your hobby as a job and then you have 100% success.
The highs of this job for me is to have all of these different dogs every day! It gives me so much happiness. I can stroke them, hold them, kiss them and the same time they give me so much love. This is happiness. I am the happiest and luckiest person in the world. The lows of the job is be prepared for the amount of hair! Hair on clothes, hair everywhere. Sometimes dogs can arrive in bad condition and we have to shave them. This can be damaging if not done correctly and we do advise our clients as much as possible on how to avoid this in the future by showing them how to brush properly.
On a career plan B: As a child I wanted to become a vet. I wanted to help all the animals and make them happy and healthy. That's why we had so many animals in Greece when I was living there as a kid. I was lucky because I had lots of land to keep them safe. From a child I was taking all the stray dogs and cats from the street, once I even took a donkey from the street and kept him as a pet. I was taking them to the vet, feeding them and after was finding good homes for them. I was spending all the money that my parents were giving me for school on them and it made me feel so happy. I was volunteering at one dog rescue centre too.
"if one day I win the lottery I would love to build one huge animal rescue centre for all the stray animals."
On his daily routine: I wake up everyday at 7:00 am, and the first thing I do is give one kiss to my partner and then to our babies. Then I take the girls to the garden to let them pee and I feed them, brush their teeth, play with them and get ready for work. I leave home at 8:30am. When I get in I change into my grooming uniform (waterproof top, black jeans, comfy trainers), prepare my tools (scissors, brushes, combs etc) and get ready for work, always with a big smile. In the middle of the day I have 20 minutes break for my lunch and back to work. If there is someone at home to look after the babies then I can go after work for dinner/drinks with my partner or to meet some good friends. Every two weeks I take the girls with me to work to give them a groom and make them pretty. When I have a day off and the weather is good I will take the girls with my bike in the basket to the park to enjoy the day. I always find time for them, they are my first thought.
On career advice: If you want to get into the industry the most important thing is to love dogs, to be ready for all kinds of dogs (aggressive, heavy, loving etc) and to expect hair everywhere. You have to be a responsible person and very gentle too.
On his favourite things about the dogs: Our babies are very funny. They want attention from us all the time. When my partner gives attention to one of them, the other one comes straight away to me to give her attention too. Also when we sleep they want to sleep between of us like a babies.
Things people should know about him: I adore animals and I hate abusers. If one day I win the lottery I would love to build one huge rescue animal centre for all the stray animals and educate people on animal welfare.