“If I’m going to do something, I have to do the best job that I can possibly do,” says Kathryn Dixon, NCMG.
Although she always loved animals, Kathryn did not grow up surrounded by pets. Her family had only one dog, a Dalmatian that Kathryn would bathe occasionally. After graduating from high school in 2006, she went to Petsmart in search of a job as a cashier or perhaps a small animal sales person, thinking that having a job around pets was a good way to begin. The grooming manager, Barb McDade, was there when she came in. She interviewed Kathryn, and hired her on the spot to be a bather.
Kathryn didn’t know it, but meeting Barb McDade that day would change her life. Barb’s guidance and support spearheaded Kathryn’s journey into the world of grooming, supported her great need to help others and showed her ways to become the best at everything she attempted.
“Barb was not only my first boss, she was the first person who really gave me the space to grow from an obnoxious 18-year-old kid into a very driven adult. She mentored me in grooming, in business, and in life. She was my biggest supporter no matter what (besides my dad),” Kathryn shares proudly.
“Even though she lived in Philadelphia, she was on the other end of the phone the whole time I was starting my mobile business in Rhode Island at 28 years old,” Kathryn recalls. “She sent me surprise gifts randomly throughout the year and genuinely took pride in me, and was just happy that I was happy. She passed away in March of 2018 at age 52, but she is still one of the very first people I think of when I have good news, when I succeed, or when I have a new endeavor to plan.”
Mentored by Barb, Kathryn went from bathing to grooming. She remained at Petsmart for three years and then became a mobile groomer. Though she absolutely loved grooming, all throughout her young adult life, Kathryn felt that she needed to do more than stay in her hometown and groom dogs.
While she was trying to decide what to do, a friend kept talking up the Marines. He said, “You don’t do the Marine Corp unless you want to be the best.” And that struck a chord with Kathryn. So, she joined the marines and became a linguist.
The military has a college in Monterey, California, The Defense Language Institute, and it’s where all active duty translators go. She spent the next two years learning Pashto which is an Afghan language. From there she worked as a translator for the next four years.
Kathryn had many duty stations but eventually she was sent to Afghanistan attached to the 2nd Radio Battalion. While she was there, she really got to know the people and became a cultural expert, and a go-between person for them and our military. However, her love of grooming was still present and she often groomed dogs for her friends and fellow Marines.
After six years, Kathryn left the Marines. In 2015, she bought a mobile van and began a grooming business in Providence, Rhode Island. She became friends with the other mobile groomers in the area and they sent new clients her way. Within six months, Kathryn was completely booked. It didn’t take long for her to acquire five employees and a fleet of three trucks.
Kathryn decided that if she was going to have a career as a groomer, she had to become the best groomer that she could be. And what better way to become the best than to hone her skills and learn the finer points through competing? So, in 2016 she entered her first competition at Intergroom.
“I didn’t know anything about competing, but I decided to ‘go for it’ to help me become better. I didn’t place, but on the drive home, I said ‘I can do this. I just need people to teach me,’” Kathryn shares.
“I am not okay with mediocrity,” Kathryn continues. “I have a real fear that I will become stagnant. I don’t ever want that to happen. It drives me to seek knowledge. I want to groom every breed to perfection. I am eager to go to anyone I can find to give me a lesson.”
The first seminar she attended was an all-day training that was taught by Anne Francis. From that day on she attended seminars, took private lessons and attended dog shows, determined to learn as much as she could about every breed.
The next competition she entered was at the New England Grooming Show. She took first place in Sporting with a Field Spaniel. Kathryn was hooked! In 2018 she won the Sporting class at Intergroom. At the Best in Show Lineup for the Rising Star, Kathryn was asked what her future goal was. She replied enthusiastically, “I want to groom a dog that’s competing at Westminster.”
Like everything Kathryn puts her mind to, she did attain that goal. She later groomed a Bergamasco that was entered at Westminster and spent four amazing days at the show.
“It was so exciting to see the dog as she competed. I love flocked breeds,” exclaimed Kathryn. “I had the time of my life!”
In 2019, Kathryn moved to Maryland. She now does pet and show grooming at Lakeside Pet Resort in Codorus Park. She is also entering grooming competitions all over the country.
“I am one of those crazy competition groomers now. I have six dogs of my own, one for every competition,” shares Kathryn with wide grin. “One of my new goals is to perfect my skills to enable me to win multiple first place wins in different categories. That keeps me focused and improving in all areas.”
In 2021, as Kathryn was driving home from the All American Show, she learned that Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, had fallen.
“I was a wreck. When I was in Afghanistan, we had a team of locals that worked with and translated with us. They shared their history, family, and culture with us. Now, their entire life was changing. So when Afghanistan was in turmoil and the country was basically falling to the Taliban, those were the people I was thinking about,” Kathryn shares.
Without hesitation, she put her entire life on hold to help these Afghan refugees who had been displaced.
Kathryn is a member of Team Rubicon. Team Rubicon is an international disaster response nonprofit that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to provide relief during disasters and to communities in need. This allowed her to work at a FEMA Intake Facility as a linguist to translate for and assist the many Afghan refugees who had to flee their homes. Her knowledge of their language was invaluable in helping the Afghan families with their immediate needs and while they transitioned into their new homes.
“It was eye-opening and devastating to see these people who had to leave their homes forever and come to a place where they didn’t speak the language or know anyone,” says Kathryn. “It was also fulfilling to be able to help them, and at the same time exhausting.”
After about a month of assisting, Kathryn was able to return home. And now that she is back, she is busy doing pet and show grooming, breeding and showing Kerry Blue Terriers, entering grooming competitions across the country, giving private grooming lessons, speaking at seminars and more.
Throughout her entire life, Kathryn has lived with a purpose.
“I’ve always felt that if what you are doing is effecting a positive change for someone else, it’s worth doing,” Kathryn states. “No one gets through this life alone. If you are not helping and being a positive force in your community, why not?” ✂️