Mid-interview, a greying poodle leaps onto the grooming table to nuzzle his new groomer.
As she's talking, Leila Kamil runs her fingers up and down the sheared side of the poodle’s back and a golden-eyed Turner and Hooch pooch lies at her feet.
Kamil and her sidekick Pumpkin (the French mastiff) started at the Bowen Island Dog Ranch in January after the last groomer, Ellen McWilliams, retired.
“We’re very lucky to have her,” said the ranch’s owner Karen Munro.
Kamil said she’s feels lucky to be here.
“Being able to find the Bowen Island Dog Ranch and just feel like one of the family like right away was pretty cool,” she said. “I’ve never really experienced such a warm welcome somewhere before that quickly.”
Kamil spent 12 years running Bark Pet Care and Dog Walking in the Sea to Sky Corridor. When she and her husband bought a house and moved their business to Victoria in 2014, she left Lions Bay with tears in her eyes.
“And every time I came back to Howe Sound, I was just like, I don’t want to go,” she said.
Kamil couldn’t shake Howe Sound from her mind. And then she visited Bowen.
“From the moment I got off the ferry, people were smiling, everybody’s friendly, just the sense of community and the sense of warmth here, I would have been here 20 years ago if I would have known,” she said. “But I’m here now.”
After visiting Bowen a few times (even making the special trip to Bowen to have her birthday party at Tuscany) Kamil contacted Munro to see if the ranch needed any help.
Turns out, with McWilliams retiring, Kamil had perfect timing.
Over its twelve years, the Bowen Island Dog Ranch, located mid-island off Adams Road, has grown to have an average of 36 dogs boarding at any given time. With 15 staff and open every day of the year, it also has dog daycare, training classes and grooming.
As the island’s only groomer, Kamil works on gaining the trust of every pooch that comes through her sliding hut doors.
“[The job] entails loving them up, making them feel comfortable first of all,” she said. “We do bath and brush, we do full grooms with cuts, nails, ears, anal glands, shave downs if needed.
“I’m not really into doing the show cuts or anything like that, I’m more into making them feel more comfortable and making them look better,” she said.
Though since the ranch’s regulars don’t know her, Kamil has to get the pooches to trust her. Even before owners make a grooming appointment, Kamil offers to meet dogs at the gate for a cookie and a cuddle, just so they can get to know her.
“It’s all about kind of building a relationship with the dogs,” she said. “I find Pumpkin helps a lot to keep everybody feeling kind of comfortable. He comes as my little sidekick.”
“At the bottom line it’s all about the animals and we [workers] are secondary,” said Kamil. “And I think that’s why we all get along so well here is because we all have that same compassion for animals.”