John Thompson met his wife, Rose, through Dixie Reeves, a dog groomer in Denton.
“She was the matchmaker who brought us together,” Thompson, 87, said.
Thompson lost his wife of 60 years in 2004. Since Reeves was more than a pet groomer — also a friend — he often told her how difficult it was to be without his longtime partner.
“I know someone around your age you might want to have dinner with,” Reeves said one day. “She would be a good person to talk to.”
Soon after that conversation, Thompson met Rose, now 85, at a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. That was seven years ago. Thompson, his wife, Rose, and their dog, Patience, are now quite happy, he said.
And he has Reeves to thank for making it possible.
“Dixie is one of our dearest friends,” Thompson said.
Reeves, 69, said soon after the Thompson matchmaking, other customers would call upon her to use her matchmaking skills. She declined the offers, but always looked forward to seeing and taking care of their pets, her profession of 35 years.
Reeves spent three decades as a dog groomer. She retired May 1 from her shop and turned over her business to Amber Sanders, 30. The business is now called Ultimutt Pet Grooming, with the same address and same phone number.
“My customers are shocked. They asked me what I was going to do,” Reeves said.
Reeves started Dixie’s Pet Grooming in Lake Dallas before finding a 700-square-foot Denton location at 1209 East University Drive, where she was the sole groomer for the past 21 years.
“I have always worked alone. I am sure everything will be OK once the shock wears off,” Reeves said. “I’ll just keep on coming to reassure them that everything will be OK.”
Since her retirement, Reeves continues to visit her previous business from 9 a.m. to noon during the week. It is a drastic change from her normal schedule.
Reeves would get up at 4:30 a.m. and drive an hour from Forestburg to Denton. She would stay at work until 5:30 p.m. and then take the 40-mile ride back home.
“I have worked 50 hours a week for 28 years. I didn’t even take a vacation,” Reeves said.
During her semi-retirement phase, as Reeves called it, she worked 40 hours per week.
Dogs have personalities
Through her years as a dog groomer, Reeves said, she has seen and learned a lot of things about pets. Especially that they know and sense everything.
“If there is something going on at home, if they are going on vacation, or if they are moving, or if there are family problems, the dog reacts,” Reeves said.
“And when they come in, because you take care of them all the time and you know them since they are puppies, you get to learn their personalities. So when they come in, you know something is going on.”
One of Reeves’ customers took her pet to get groomed, and Reeves found the dog uneasy.
“Did you go on a vacation or something?” Reeves asked her customer. “They would look at me with a look on their face, like ‘how did you know?’”
“Your dog told me,” Reeves replied. “Dogs don’t like change.”
Learning how to read the dog is crucial since they can also have bad days just like people, Reeves said. Since they only have their bark to communicate, they will react by chewing or wetting around the house.
They will do what they need to do to get their owner’s attention, even if it is negative attention.
“A full moon is the world’s worst time for a dog; even your good dogs act goofy,” she said.
Reeves celebrated the fact that in her three decades as a dog groomer, she only had two incidents. The most notable: A dog hit her nose and almost knocked her unconscious.
But she continued grooming the pet anyway, she said.
The store manager
Poco is Reeves’ little girl. She is a 14-year-old black and white Chihuahua. She was also the store’s manager.
One of Reeves’ customers bought Poco for her, in order to help her with the passing of her husband and her Chihuahua. Reeves said they both suffered heart attacks.
“Poco has ruled this shop ever since,” Reeves said. “She was the matriarch. When the dogs came in, she would bark and bark until they went in the cage. Once they were put in the cage, she would turn around, walk back out and greet the customers. And allow the customer to pet her.”
Cecile Carson, Reeves’ friend of 28 years, said Poco is a fashionista.
“Have you seen her dresses?” Carson said. “She has more clothes than Dixie and I have.”
Reeves said Poco has been her support in three of the most difficult times of her life — the passing of her husband, her daughter and her son. Her dog, as well as her customers, kept her going through those difficult times in the late 1990s and early 2000s, she said.
“The family ties with the customers, they were there,” Reeves said. “I guess it was the work ethic of having to come in here that kept my sanity.”
Carson met Reeves when she began to groom her parents’ pet.
“She’s got grit,” Carson said. “She has gotten where she is by a lot of determination and work.”
Carson said Reeves was very careful in choosing her successor. She thought about it a lot.
The day Reeves met Sanders, she walked in the business with a calla lily plant — Reeves’ daughter’s favorite flower and one her daughter carried on her wedding day.
“Of all the flowers, Amber appears with that flower. How ironic the way things work out. You know God had his hand in everything that has happened. … I knew when I talked to her she was the right one.”
Reeves said Sanders — a pet groomer since 2004 — has her same work ethic. Sanders keeps a to-do list near the business’s telephone to ensure everything gets completed.
“She’s getting there,” Reeves said.
“She is trying to get me in line,” Sanders replied, as both broke into laughter.
For now, Reeves will continue to visit the business in the morning for about three hours for the next two months.
And when she is away, she will spend time at her home. She will be riding her horse, tending to her garden, enjoying the scenery — all of the things she did not do as much while running her business. She will also spend time with her boyfriend, Ed Lahtinen, whom she met at her shop. She has known Lahtinen for about 12 years.
Reeves’ biggest challenge now will be helping Poco understand that she has a new companion at her house — Ed’s pet, Charlie, a 12-year-old Shih Tzu.
KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ultimutt Pet Grooming — as of May 1
Formerly Dixie’s Pet Grooming
1209 E. University Drive