“When times are tough I just want to shut myself off in a cabin in the woods”

UM Ink


Paulus Dassen (48) has been a concierge at the Student Services Centre since the start of the academic year. Fifteen years ago, he got a wolf’s head tattooed on his left shoulder blade.

“I’ve been through a lot in my life. In 1993 I lost my left index finger in an accident at work in a factory. It got trapped between the knives of the packing machine when I went to put a new roll of foil in. I went straight to the hospital. They tried to save the finger, but it didn’t work. I was supposed to be getting a permanent contract and had been told I could sign it that afternoon. But while I was at the hospital the director tore up the unsigned contract. That made the situation extra painful.

I also went through a difficult period after my grandfather passed away and after my divorce two years ago. It was my own decision, but it’s still rough. I went to live in a house near the forest. That environment gave me a lot of peace. I still remember the first night there. I heard a noise and, cautiously, went to look outside. It was a red fox – beautiful!           

When times are tough I just want to shut myself off in a cabin in the woods, go back to nature, back to basics. That brings me peace of mind. For me, a wolf symbolises nature. The day I got the tattoo, I had no idea that morning that I’d have it by evening. I went to keep someone company while she was getting her tattoo, and the artist had a bunch of sketches hanging up in the shop, including one of a wolf. As soon as I saw it, I knew. That’s it! I had it done that same afternoon. I’d wanted a tattoo of a wolf for a while, but until that moment I’d never found an image that suited me. So it was a quick decision, but I’ve never regretted it.

I got it on my back because there’s plenty of room there. On your arm it has to be a lot smaller, which I didn’t want. It barely hurt at all; I wouldn’t even really call it pain. Except for the bit on my spine, where the skin is very thin. The only downside was that I couldn’t give blood for six months after that; that’s important to me and I’ve been doing it for years. I normally give blood plasma every two or three weeks; in total I’ve donated more than a hundred times."


In this series, employees and students are interviewed about their tattoo.

“When times are tough I just want to shut myself off in a cabin in the woods”