From 'pawdicures' to massage - would your dog love a trip to this local day spa?
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Our canine companions have brought us lots of joy during the pandemic, so they definitely deserve a big thank you. What about a morning of pampering at the spa, a dapper new designer outfit or some gourmet treats?
From a blueberry facial to a pawdicure, Centre Paws Pet Spa at Wymondham can offer your pooch the ultimate pampering experience. It is run by Samantha Johnson, who opened her first grooming salon in 2014 when she was just 19.
She started offering doggy spa treatments when the salon expanded and moved to Centre Paws Norfolk, a hub for all things canine which is also home to a dog trainer, an exercise field, dog swimming pool, cafe and holds activities such as wellness sessions.
“We decided that we wanted to start more unique services,” says Samantha. “So on top of the normal grooming you can get, we also offer spa treatments, such as mud baths, pawdicures and blueberry facials.”
The pawdicure includes a nail trim and file and paw clip out. The pampered paws are then soaked and dried before a relaxing paw massage using lavender paw balm – and the treatment can even be finished with an animal safe nail polish.
The dead sea mud bath treatment includes a full body massage, which helps with dry or itchy skin and the blueberry facial includes a blueberry facial wash, massage, face trimming, ear cleaning, teeth gel and lavender balm to soothe cracked noses.
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“We want dogs to feel relaxed and pampered, and what’s a better way than having the full spa treatment, as like people love feeling fresh and clean,” says Samantha, adding that regular grooming is an essential part of maintaining a dog’s health and happiness.
“Many owners don’t realise how often dogs need to come in for regular grooming, but the rule of thumb is, the longer you wish to keep the coat, the more often they need to come in to keep their coat clean and tangle-free.
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“Matting and tangling can cause a lot of pain to dogs – the same as if someone was pulling on your hair.
“Extreme matting can cause issues such as bruising or even cutting off blood supply. Regular grooming can also help short coated breeds, like Labradors, as it can help with de-shedding their dead coat and helps keep their skin in good condition.
"Plus, most dogs feel so much better when they’ve had a good bath!”
Dogs mean the world to Samantha and the Centre Paws Pet Spa team and they've recently started to offer some new services.
More and more couples who are getting married are making their beloved pets part of their big day.
And to make sure that their dog is ready for its starring role, they’ve created a wedding chaperone service.
“Dogs are part of the family and lots of people love to include them in their special day,” says Samantha.
“This way, you can have someone collect your dog, pamper them ready for the big day, then take them to the venue and offer them dog friendly cake and doggy champagne too!
“We will then keep your pet entertained at the venue until it is ready for them to be dropped off at home or their pet sitters.”
They’re also offering Dog Adventure Days, a mix between dog walking and day care ideal for keeping loneliness and boredom at bay as more of us return to the office as lockdown continues to ease.
“We take a small group of dogs out for a half-day adventure, whether that’s the beach or forest, or a trip around Norwich to sightsee, or even visiting dog friendly pubs and cafes,” Samantha explains.
“This is a much more exciting walk than around the block and they can go to new places they haven’t been.”
There are four human members of the Centre Paws Spa team, plus their pets.
Megan has been a member of the team for five years.
She has been trained up to become a full-time dog groomer and will be doing her level three in grooming soon.
“She has Lady, a Standard Dachshund, who you can meet most days at the salon, as she's the best salon dog, when she's not following her nose down a rabbit hole,” says Samantha.
Emily joined the team in 2019 and will also be doing her level three qualification soon.
“She has two beautiful dogs - Albie the tri colour cocker spaniel and Georgie the German Shepherd puppy. They tend to stay at home, but you may be able to see them on occasion,” says Samantha.
Ebony joined to cover Emily’s maternity leave straight from grooming school and working in a kennels and ended up staying.
And there’s Samantha and her own dog, a two-year-old border collie called Ivy.
“She is the definition of a dog-child and is the typical spoiled child, so much so, I can't bring her into work much as she gets so jealous if I am giving attention to other dogs,” laughs Samantha.
“Out of the salon, she is the perfect dog and always up for an adventure, whether that's hiking, playing with her dog friends, agility, trick training or even kayaking!
For Samantha, the best thing about running Centre Paws Pet Spa is meeting dogs and their owners.
“We get to know them as puppies and watch them grow up, and we do get attached and miss them if they move away, or we cry if the day comes where they cross the rainbow bridge, and go for coffee with the owners to talk about the life they had. It is like one very big family.”
Go to centrepawspetspa.com for more information.
Artisan tasty treats
Samantha Bennett began making gourmet treats when she got her cocker spaniel, Bella, as a puppy and, wanting to give her the best diet possible, started cooking her meals from scratch.
She calls her brand Hollibels, after Bella and her other cocker spaniel Holly, and she now sells them (plus grooming products, handmade dog bowls, luxury collars and leads and more) at farmers’ markets around Suffolk and online.
“As far as I was concerned, Bella was part of the family and as such I only wanted to feed her good, nutritious food and so I started cooking her meals from scratch,” says Samantha.
“The one area I hadn’t really thought about though were the treats that she was getting.
"I always bought what I thought were good quality treats, but then started reading the ingredients and found out they contained so many unnatural ingredients.”
Holly and Bella prompted a moved from London to Lavenham three years ago, and it was a chance conversation at the butcher’s that led Samantha to start experimenting with making dog treats.
“The time had come to give Holly and Bella some more space than they had in London, plus [there was] the desire to lead a slower pace of life – although this hasn’t yet happened! I went to school in Suffolk so already had a love of the fabulous countryside,” says Samantha.
“They both give me a reason to go out for a long walk every day, they raise my mood, no matter how I am feeling they are happy to see me, they calm me down – sometimes – anyone with spaniels will know they are not the calmest of dogs!
“They have helped me make friends with other dog owners – in fact, I cannot think of an area where they have not made my life better. It’s unconditional love on both sides.
“One day I was having a conversation with the butchers in Lavenham about their range of venison products and what they did with the offal.
"They offered to let me have the venison liver, heart and kidneys so that I could try hydrating these for treats for Holly and Bella.”
It turned out to be the start of a big learning curve.
“There were a number of attempts at dehydrating and finding out the correct hours needed to completely dry the offal.
"Once we had reached this stage we started to get requests from friends to dehydrate offal/meat for their dogs and the idea for Hollibels was then born.
“Once we had decided to do this on a business level, we sourced our products from like-minded producers using only the best British meats which means our customers can be confident that they are giving their dogs some of the best quality treats on sale in the UK,” says Samantha.
The range includes duck breast jerky, venison bites, pheasant strips and organic sweet potato chips.
“The benefits of only feeding your dog 100% natural treats are that you can be completely sure you know what you are feeding them,” says Samantha.
“Everyone knows the benefits to humans of a good nutritious diet and the same philosophy runs true for dogs.
“High quality treats help with better digestion, increased energy levels, can help with weight control and chewing on long-lasting treats helps with mental stimulation.
“Dehydrating them preserves the goodness and flavour of the meat or vegetable.”
Living with two livewire dogs who love nothing better than getting dirty led Samantha to also develop a range of grooming products including shampoos, nose, ear and paw balms. There’s a calming and relaxing spray too.
“A muddy puddle or something unpleasant is a dream roll for them,” laughs Samantha.
“As with the treats I didn’t want to use harsh chemical-based products, so looked to only use natural products.
“Small amounts of essential oils really help dogs’ coats, keeping them conditioned and shiny. As an example, lavender oil is a natural flea and tick repellent and the lavender spray we have can help to calm an anxious dog.
“And tea tree oil shampoo can help dogs with itchy coats or small cuts – the type they get when scrabbling around in the undergrowth.”
And future plans include expanding the ‘home’ lifestyle side of Hollibels.
“I am very fortunate to work with some lovely independent makers who are happy to work with us to create the fabulous handmade items that we stock,” says Samantha.
“There’s Libbi who makes our ceramic dog bowls for us and who will be making some beautiful treat jars for us in the coming months, Mairi makes the beautiful yarn and velvet leads that we stock and Sian is currently working on our range of candles that we hope to be releasing in August.
“Because I feel dogs are part of the family, I want people to be able to buy gorgeous items for the dog and home all in one place.
"Who doesn’t want their dog and home to look fabulous? And hopefully in time I can provide unique items for both.”
See hollibels.co.uk for information
Set in a Grade II listed Georgian building in glamorous Burnham Market in north Norfolk, Eric and Dolly’s boutique is a must-visit destination for stylish hounds.
Owned by Katja Schnell, it stocks all the designer accessories a dapper dog requires – coats, collars, leads and harnesses, plus toys and treats.
And Katja’s two dogs, the Eric and Dolly of the boutique’s name, are fully involved in running the store and test out all the products.
“If they are happy then I know our doggy visitors will be, too,” says Katja.
“Eric, my Boston terrier is my sensitive little soul. My little sidekick.
"Wherever I go he is not far behind me. And he’s chief model for our little doggie boutique as he loves nothing more than dressing up and posing for the camera.
“On the other hand Dolly, my little mini bull terrier, wouldn’t be seen in any item of clothing.
"She much prefers to be in charge of tasting all of our doggie treats.
"She is full of mischief and loves to make us all laugh with her naughty antics, but I wouldn’t have her any other way. She is definitely the boss of our household.”
Katja says that she is probably known as the crazy dog lady in Burnham Market – something that she revels in.
“I am just simply mad about dogs,” she says. “When I was a little girl I can always remember loving dogs. My nan had a lovely Labrador called Cindy and if I ever vanished for a few moments you would find me curled up alongside her in her dog basket.
“I cannot imagine life without them. The moment you walk back through the doors, even if you have only been gone for five minutes, they look over the moon to see you.
"That look just melts my heart every time.
“Oh and they are great at vacuuming up crumbs from the floor.”
Katja, Eric and Dolly moved to Norfolk three years ago, with the dream of opening a doggy boutique.
“Norfolk is incredibly dog friendly and Burnham Market is the perfect spot as we have so many visitors come to our beautiful village with their doggies.”
Eric and Dolly’s opened during the pandemic, which has had its challenges, but Katja is in her element meeting all the customers and their dogs.
“I love coming into work each day. It feels like a wonderful dream. Dogs, dogs and more dogs. Just superb.”
The boutique stocks British designer dog brands including Mutts and Hounds, which makes luxury dog beds, collars and leads, Dogsnug, which makes collars and harnesses, plus coats, bandanas and T-shirts, ethical accessories brand Hiro and Wolf (the bowties are seriously cute) and Dogs and Horses, known for their handmade leather collars.
They also stock international brands including Max Bone, Cloud7, Prunkhund and more.
“We want to make all of our customers and doggy visitors feel as special as possible,” says Katja.
“I didn’t want to open any dog shop. I wanted it to be a magical experience. Something different from your usual pet shop, but still affordable to everyone that pops in.
“We have a vast selection of products from all over the world, including coats, collars, toys leads and harnesses, plus perfumes, wrinkle balms, paw balms, dog friendly candles, doggy treats and more.
“My love of reggae and chilled music just adds to the relaxed shopping experience that we want our customers to feel, totally stress free.”
Go to eric-dollys.co.uk for more