A chance encounter while searching for a location for a dog grooming facility lead two groomers to join forces in an effort to provide one-on-one attention for their clients.

Sandy Bonom recently purchased a space in the Little Red Schoolhouse at 21 Tokeneke Road where she could open her dog grooming facility. However, during her search for the ideal location, Bonom was introduced to fellow groomer Kelly Arango who was also looking at possible locations for a dog grooming facility.

"We were both looking to open grooming salons and we met the same real estate broker who suggested we meet," Bonom said. "We didn't know each other before but we were both from Stamford and we really liked the building so we joined our client lists."

From that union, The Hairy Barker was born with Bonom as the owner and Arango working as an independent contractor. Bonom has worn many hats over the years but her true passion was to be able to spend more time with her dogs.

"I had been many different incarnations over the years including a teacher, a housewife and I helped run my husband's dental practice," she said. "I really wanted to spend more time with my dogs and people said I should go to grooming school."

While searching for a location for the grooming salon, Bonom wanted to make sure she wasn't too far away from her existing clients.

"We wanted to be relatively local to our existing clients and we just fell in love with this building when we saw it," she said. --Darien is a good town with good people."

One of the added benefits of choosing to relocate to Darien is that residents from Stamford and Greenwich come into town and are able to shop locally while their dogs are being groomed.

The Hairy Barker offers some unique grooming services like only working with one dog at a time and not keeping the dogs in cages before and after their grooming session.

"I never liked the idea of putting the dogs in cages, so we have a gate system so we can separate the dogs but also let them be free," Bonom said.

Bonom also operates with the philosophy that "all dogs, no matter their age or difficulty level, are handled with a gentle approach. We all want to eliminate stress in our lives and nothing does that better than time spent loving a dog," she said. "Your dog is a part of your family and will be a part of ours as well. The time your pet spends at THB is not just about being groomed because dogs in our care are given lots of love and attention."

Bonom also opted to go with a more environmentally-friendly option for the shower system.

"The shower system mixes the shampoo and the water so you use less shampoo and less water," she said. "The shampoo is all-natural so it's safe for people and fish if it gets into the streams."

Besides being mindful of the environmental impact of her business, Bonom wanted to make sure she was meeting the needs of her clients.

"Kelly used to groom some show dogs, so we can do show quality breed cuts or just pet trims," Bonom said. "We cater to the dog's needs and the wishes of the owner. People can tell us what they want and we will even work around any disabilities the dog may have."

Despite a lagging economy, dog grooming is one business that hasn't suffered as personal budgets dwindle.

"The economy doesn't affect the cut. People still put the needs of their dogs ahead of everything," she said.

The Hairy Barker also offers anesthesia-free tooth cleaning as well as chemical-free flea and tick powders for sale. Pick-up and drop-off services are also available as well as boarding for certain pets. For more information about The Hairy Barker Inn & Spa go to www.thehairybarker.com.