Dawn Pettit has always been an animal lover.
Pettit, a 1990 Brainerd High School graduate, was the child who took home all the stray animals, not only the dogs and cats, but the mice and rabbits, too.
Pettit said she connects with animals much better than she does with people. So it's no surprise that Pettit made a career out of working with animals.
Dawn Pettit groomed a springer spaniel Tuesday at Pine Shadows, west of Brainerd. The field dog, Steele, is owned by Pine Shadows.
Brainerd Dispatch/Jennifer Stockinger
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Pettit, 37, has been a professional dog groomer at Pine Shadows in Brainerd for 13 years. Pettit began with Pine Shadows - a dog-breeding and dog training business that specializes in English Springer Spaniels that was started by Mark and Sophie Haglin in 1976 - when she was a junior in high school. Pettit walked the dogs and also helped clean kennels. Later on, she helped the groomer give the dogs bath and as the business grew, her assistance was more needed.
"The groomer before me was a very good teacher," said Pettit. "I learned on the job ... She taught me well and when she left I became the groomer.
"I love my job. If I won the Powerball, I'd still work here. I was never without a dog growing up. Dogs were always my best friend."
As a member of the Minnesota Professional Pet Groomer Association Pettit takes continuing education courses and learns new grooming techniques.
Pettit, who is the only groomer at Pine Shadows, grooms about nine dogs a day and averages a 10-hour day, five or six days a week. Pettit said the first thing she does in the grooming process is she bathes the animal. She then dries the animal, either by hand or has it in a cage with a blower on.
"How the animal is dried depends on the trim and the type of coat they have," said Pettit. "I hand dry them if I need their hair to be real fluffy for a scissors cut or if their hair is matted."
Family: Husband, Dan; springer spaniel, Pistol, the house dog at Pine Shadows, but owned by Pettit; and horse Copones Razma Taz.
Favorite dog breed: Great Dane.
Favorite pet name: Ketchum, as in Ketchum, Idaho.
Funny pet story: One time I brought home a garter snake. My mom found it in the washer one day alive. Boy, did I get in trouble. The snake got out of its cage and it must have gone into my laundry basket and when my mom did the laundry it must have gone into the washing machine.
Something people don't know about you: I love to spend my quiet time reading.
Your favorite author as a child: Walter Farley, author of the Black Stallion books.
Something you'd like to do before age 50: I'd like to take a trip to Australia. My husband and I have never been out of Minnesota before together. I haven't done a lot of traveling.
Hobbies: I play a lot of softball in the summer and I barrel race with my horse.
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Then Pettit clips the animal's nails, cleans their ears and then begins clipping the fur. Pettit said the easiest part of grooming is working with the animal. She said the biggest challenge is when a dog comes in that wasn't maintained and the owner has high expectations.
"You have to be careful when dealing with matted hair," said Pettit. "When you clip the hair you don't want to damage the pet's skin. You always want the owner to be satisfied with the final product, but you also want to make sure the pets are OK."
Pettit said Springer Spaniels are the easiest for her to groom, since she grooms many of them at Pine Shadows. She said she enjoys grooming larger dogs, like German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers because "of the disaster it makes out of the room." She also enjoys the smaller dogs like Poodles because they're fun to work with.
Pettit has groomed a few cats, which make up 10 percent of the grooming business.
"The most unusual request I've received from pet owners are when they have a Schnauzer and they ask me to cut it so it doesn't look like a Schnauzer," Pettit said.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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