Growing up in Carrollton, Ohio – a small farming community much like McBain – Katya LaGrow wasn’t able to have any pets in the house.
But these days, from her home and office in McBain, Katya can have as many pets as she wants. So she takes them all.
At Katya’s Pet Grooming – just north of McBain on M-66 – Katya spends her days making local pets look and feel good. Dogs, kitties, and even the occasional bunny.
Growing up in Ohio, Katya didn’t even know pet grooming was a thing. After going to technical school and working in medical and dental offices, Katya found the career by chance, when the owner of a local boarding and grooming kennel noticed how well-groomed her own dogs were.
And she’s been sharing her talents now for nearly 20 years. She loves what she does, and she does what she loves. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Loving what you do, and doing what you love” is a motto that she’s shared with her husband, Matt, and her 5 daughters: Ashley, Asia, Aspen, Adilynn, and Anaya. The LaGrow family stays busy with basketball, volleyball, dance, and – of course – their own pets: 5 dogs, 4 cats, and a flock of chickens.
We caught up with Katya recently, where we learned a little bit more about her story. We learned that Katya LaGrow is more than just another face in the crowd.
Marion Press: How did you get into pet grooming?
Katya: When I would go on vacation, I would have to board [my dogs], so I would take them to a lady in Ohio and board them, and after a couple of times boarding them, she was like, “Where do you take your dogs to groom them? They always look so good; they’re so white!” And at the time, I didn’t even know that grooming was a career, I didn’t know anything about it. So I just looked at her, and I was like, “I just do it myself.”
She was surprised. She was like, “Would you be interested in doing this? I can teach you the basics.” So I was like, “Heck yeah.” And that’s how it started.
I did go to grooming school once she showed me the simple things: nail trims, and simple shave downs. I wanted to know more, so I went to a grooming school in Ohio to pick up on the finishing touches.
MP: So you grew up in Ohio, how did you make your way to Michigan?
Katya: After about 3 years of grooming, the lady I was grooming for wanted to retire, so I bought her business. She had grooming and a boarding kennel. I started doing it all myself, and the oil business picked up down there. Matthew, at the time, worked for an oil and gas company down there, and he had a dog, and he would bring in his dog.
MP: So Matt brought in his dog, and the rest is history!
Katya: Yeah, It’s crazy!
He was in Ohio for a year and a half, maybe two years, and in that kind of business, the work is always moving. So he came back up this way, and we got married in 2013. We actually lived our first year of marriage apart; I had to figure out what to do with the house, and the business, and clean up all those loose ends down there. And then I moved up here to McBain.
MP: What were your first impressions of the McBain/Marion area?
Katya: I had never even been to Michigan. It’s a lot like where I grew up; Carrollton was a small farm town. Strong community behind it. That part wasn’t really much of a change for me. The winter is longer here, but other than that, it’s not much different. And down there we didn’t get the sunshine that we get up here.
MP: Tell us about Katya’s Pet Grooming. What all do you do, and what do you enjoy the most about your job?
Katya: We’re a full-service grooming shop, we do everything: nails, ears, baths, full haircuts… We do dogs, and kitties too. My career is very rewarding. The biggest thing is that I love that I can be a voice for your pet. A lot of times I might notice things that you might not notice. Catch things before they turn into a bad thing – and that’s very rewarding. It’s an art, and I love the art of grooming; making your pet feel good and look good. One of the best things is when the owner comes and picks up their pet is that awesome smile on their face. A pet just brings a person pure happiness. It’s really cool to see.
MP: Have you ever groomed any kind of odd animal?
Katya: I’ve done a rabbit; trimmed its nails, and cleaned it up. That’s about the only other animal I think I’ve done…
MP: What is the toughest part of your job? I know my dogs are terrible, and I don’t know how someone could deal with them.
Katya: That’s funny, because it’s not tough for groomers. 99% of the dogs, even though they give you a hard time – that’s because you’re mom and dad. They are perfect for us, and I’m not just saying that! So many people say, “How do you do that? They won’t even let us touch them with a brush!” It’s because they know you’re mom and dad, and they’re like kids: if they cry enough they know they’ll get their way. With us, they just don’t even give us a hard time, they’re just like, “Ok, I’m gonna be good.”
So I wouldn’t say there’s really anything hard about it; the hardest thing is cutting them in a timely manner, and not making anybody wait too long!
MP: So it’s not even the pets, it’s the people!
Katya: That’s not it! Any groomer, we’re people pleasers. We just want to make people happy, and it weighs on us if we can’t make you happy or keep you happy. So that’s probably the hardest part of our job, is when people call, and they want in right now, and a lot of times we can’t do that for them.
MP: So we know you’re busy, how far out are you booked?
Katya: For a typical haircut, I’m 8 to 9 weeks booked out. If someone called me today, it would be November before I could get them in. I always say, if you want to keep your pet on a regular schedule, we need to book out 6 weeks or 8 weeks out – especially if you have a certain day that you want to bring your pet in.
MP: And you have some pets of your own…
Katya: We have 5 dogs, a little flock of chickens, and we have 4 cats. My husband would say that we have a little too many!
MP: Outside of work, what keeps you busy?
Katya: Our kids. We have 5 girls, and two of them are still home. We have Ashley, Asia, Aspen, Adilynn, and Anaya. Between sports and dance, we really don’t have much free time. We run, run, run all the time. Volleyball right now is going on, and Adi does travel basketball, so we have that going on at the same time. Our littlest one is doing dance a couple days a week too, so there’s never a dull moment here.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about living in this area?
Katya: I’m a huge outdoors person, and Michigan is definitely the state for outdoors, and being in nature. I think it’s absolutely beautiful up here, no matter the season. I love hiking and stuff like that. We get outside a lot, and it’s just beautiful here. And I love the community up here; the community is so strong, and that means a lot.
MP: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Katya: I would say – and this is my absolute favorite thing, and I try to instill this in my girls – “You need to love what you do, and do what you love.” It makes a big difference in your perspective on life. Love what you do and do what you love.
MP: Who have been your biggest role models?
Katya: The people who probably had the biggest impact on my life were my grandparents, Dave and Kate Falls. They were the American Dream. They were married 69 years, and they were the most loving people you could ever meet. Always had an ear to listen. They were really involved with the church; my grandpa was a lay minister, and I spent so many countless hours with them. Any time anybody was sick, we’d be at the hospital, and just let them know that hey, we’re here, and we’re praying for you. They had such a huge impact on my life. They were so hard-working, and just amazing people. Always there to listen; always had the best advice; always had time for us grandkids. They were just special.