There are some things that just naturally go together: Love and marriage. Rogers and Astaire. Lox and cream cheese. Bibles and flea combs.
OK, so maybe not Bibles and flea combs. Unless of course you are standing inside Samson's combination Bible shop and dog grooming store on Wardlow Road in Long Beach.
Samson's dog grooming and Bible store is certainly one of the oddest pairs of businesses to take root under one roof (with the possible exception of the combination fireworks and cheese store that is said to thrive somewhere in Springfield, Mo.).
When you walk into Samson's, your eyes can't quite decide where to land. In the glass showcase there is a lacquered Bible on a stand for sale at $19.95, right alongside the Australian Luxury Shampoo for Dogs and the Fresh 'n' Clean Pet Cologne. A framed roster of the Books of the Holy Bible shares one wall with a three-dimensional portrait of two cocker spaniels.
It all makes perfect sense to owner Samson Akinrinwa, a native Nigerian who speaks English with the melodious accent of his African tribal language.
"God spelled backwards is dog," he said, taking the clippers to a blond, wire-haired terrier named Ha'Penny.
He grew up with aspirations of becoming a chaplain in the Nigerian army. His country's politics did not suit him, so he left in 1979, studied in a Massachusetts seminary, earned a business degree in Boston, met his wife at church and moved to her native Long Beach to open a Bible store. The Bible store happened to be adjacent to Rick's Dog Grooming shop. Samson spent a year learning the trade and bought Rick's last June.
"I have a natural acumen for clipper free-lancing," said Akinrinwa, his gray work shirt splotched with a blond clump of Ha'Penny's fur. "I just love to keep these dogs happy. They come in dirty and looking sad. Then when they leave they fluff up and look happy and jump for joy."
He never did take up preaching, but he has a faithful following nonetheless. They include Peanut the poodle, Bernie the Pekingese, Bucks the Shar-pei, Max the Rottweiler, Dolly the Pomeranian and Beau the Old English sheepdog, who plods into the shop and straight into his holding cage without assistance.
Akinrinwa seems to have a special affinity for each of them, insisting that they communicate. When Ha'Penny let out what sounded like a growl, Akinrinwa explained that she was "just talking." Indeed, a closer examination
revealed she was leaning into his chest, eyes drooping with pleasure as he combed her muzzle.
Some customers come in just for Bibles and religious artifacts, which range from gold cross necklaces and inspirational cassette tapes to a Jesus-Loves-You Frisbee and a Bible-shaped pencil eraser.
Others just come in with dogs. One client recently stopped in for a Bible and a bag of dry food.
Akinrinwa also has bathed and groomed several cats, one rabbit and a hamster, (although the hamster just came in for a trim).
"My dogs are happy to say, 'My groomer is a college graduate.' They prance and feel happy," Akinrinwa explained. "They know that dog reversed is God, and God loves them. It is written on their faces."
When standing at the fork of two career roads, Akinrinwa took them both. Maybe it was God's plan. After all, his first name is derived from a biblical character who found strength in hair. His last name, in the tribal language Yoruba, means "a hero has come." More than a few furry four-footers would seem to agree.