Meet Samer, Abu Dhabi's Dog Whisperer

Make sure you have a look at the new photo essay that goes BTS, highlighting Samer's caring and expert work with dogs. Follow canine sisters Dilly and Louella on their spaw day at Pooch Parlour.

It’s a Tuesday morning, and I’m driving from Abu Dhabi city, off the island to Mussafah district. My Yorkipoo, Lucy, stands on the passenger seat with her nose pressed against the window. Once we exit near Dalma Mall, she starts panting and whining excitedly — she knows exactly where we’re going.

I pull up to Pooch Parlour, and Samer Al Ogidi — or Uncle Sammy, as his loyal clients call him affectionately — peers out the front window and waves at us. He has a big smile on his face, and his eyes are bright behind the large round frames that only Uncle Sammy could pull off. Lucy tugs on her leash and eagerly heads for Pooch Parlour like a kid towards grandma’s kitchen.

“Hi, Samer! How are you?”

“Fine and you? How about Ms. Lucy?” Lucy takes her place on the sofa. “Oh, you’re a diva today, are you?”

Pooch Parlour is a dog grooming salon, but not just another common one in the listings — Samer is the only UK-certified groomer in Abu Dhabi, and Pooch Parlour is the only cage-free salon. Samer only books one dog at a time (although he will book multiple dogs if they’re from the same family) in order to create a comfortable, nonthreatening environment for his furry customers. Each dog is free to roam around the cozy salon, lounge on the sofa, or play with toys.

As a young child, Samer, whose mother is Syrian and father’s Iraqi, lived with his grandmother in Syria while his parents worked in the UAE. “Back then,” he says, “there were no roads [in Abu Dhabi]. My parents lived in, you know those corrugated metal things? And there was no AC. Can you imagine? There were only a few buildings that were two or three stories high. But then it became more developed and more kid-friendly, and they brought me here to live with them.”

Given the state of both Iraq and Syria in recent years, Samer’s never gone back. He grew up firmly in Abu Dhabi and, as a teen, had dreams of joining the entertainment industry, acting or directing. But after high school, “Life evolved,” he says, “and I went to Budapest to study interior design. Then I came back and worked in the furniture decorating business. That evolved into working in real estate, but after that I decided to do my own thing.”

Around the same time, Samer grew increasingly displeased with the experience his dog, his baby, was having at various grooming salons throughout the city. “She’d be in a cage all day and cage-dried too. There were loads of other dogs yelping and barking; it was stressful and scary for her. So I started to research other options and decided to go to the UK to get certified as a groomer and open my own salon.”

Why the UK? Samer says, “I see a certain… humanity to dog grooming. I wanted to be current. At that time, all the new styles and trends were coming from the UK, and breed-specific styling was taught there. I didn’t want to just shave the hair down; I wanted to style the dogs.”

On the wall of the salon, Samer framed the first dirhams he made after he opened his doors on 28 September 2011. Since then, he’s developed a loyal client base that appreciates his passion for his work, his caring attitude, sense of humor, and professional skills. “I’m thankful for the customers who will drive to Mussafah to visit me here,” Samer says. “And the best part of my job is that, because of the way I manage it, only taking one dog at a time, I really get to know the dogs’ characters, their personalities.”

My dog, Lucy, with the Poodle in her, is generally anxious and picky. But she loves her Uncle Sammy and trusts him completely. How do I know? Because she falls asleep on the grooming table! Clearly, Samer’s dreams of creating a relaxed, “spaw-like” experience for his clients have become a reality.

View the photo essay that inspired me to re-blog this story.
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