SPRING HILL –
She brings her own tub, table, tools, “cool dry” blow dryer, and clipper vac. Her “spa” is stocked with all-natural shampoos, conditioners and lotions. Customers get free facials and go home sporting a brightly colored neckerchief.
Patti Lefkowich has always loved animals. With her mobile pet grooming business, she works that affection into every aspect of the care she gives to her canine and feline customers.
“I tell my clients I might take a tiny bit longer, because I always stop for kiss breaks,” she joked, rubbing noses with “Buddy,” a 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier she just finished grooming.
Buddy’s owner, Deborah Vecchio of Spring Hill, said the feeling is mutual.
“Buddy hated the groomer we used when we lived up north,” she said. “He would be lethargic and not eat for a couple of days.
“When we were looking for a groomer down here, I figured at 10 years old he’s crochety, and nobody would make a difference in his behavior. I wanted a service that was easy and convenient.”
New Jersey native Lefkowich has a degree in equine science from SUNY Morrisville. She owned and loves horses and enjoyed her career training horses to accept riders, and people to ride horses. “I horsed around and got paid,” she joked.
After college, her love of animals led her to graduate from the American School of Dog Grooming. She worked from “a little shop in my parent’s house.” When her parents moved to Florida, she was forced to take her grooming on the road.
“There wasn’t room in my new place for a salon,” she lamented. “I developed lots of muscles putting everything in and out of my SUV.”
It was then her dream formed to become a genuinely mobile groomer.
“I knew it was what I was going to do,” Lefkowich said. “It was now or never.”
She decided to move to Florida to be closer to her parents. Her business name has a dual meaning:
her name is Patti, and her dad is a retired New Jersey law enforcement officer. “So I run the Patti Waggin,” she joked.
Once in Hernando County, the first step was choosing the right transportation. Lefkowich’s research led her to choose a “green machine,” a van that uses inverter-powered batteries so there are no fuels emitting fumes while she’s working.
“I also liked this van because the table is right next to the tub,” she added.
The table works on hydraulics. Large dogs simply walk onto it and are raised up to tub level. She’s had all sizes of canine clients.
“The biggest was a Great Dane,” Lefkowich said. “He fit in the tub fine; we just got things a little wet.”
The motto on the Patti Waggin van says it all: “Large & small, we groom ’em all!”
The tub is a “HydroSurge bathing unit.” A handheld sprayer dispenses shampoos, conditioners and dips while giving pets a massage-like treatment.
“Cats actually enjoy it once they’re in,” Lefkowich claimed. “When they feel the massage, they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s not so bad.’ It also really benefits older dogs with arthritis. It’s like a hot tub. My customers joke they are bringing their pets for a spa day.”
The Patti Waggin grooming experience includes a blueberry facial for dogs: A gentle shampoo for faces that doesn’t hurt if it gets into a dog’s eyes.
“All my products are natural,” she stated.
“When I first started as a pet bather, I’d read the cautions on the bottles. I had to wear rubber gloves and goggles. I thought, ‘What? I’m going to put this on a dog?’ My products don’t say anything like that.”
She said her “Kool Dry” blow dryer is a must-have for pet grooming. It delivers quiet, soft, cool air which Lefkowich said is very important.
“Warm or hot air can overheat a dog very quickly, dry out their skin or even burn them,” she said. “Dogs can die from overheating much more easily than humans.”
Patti Waggin offers bath or bath and cut services that range in price from $30 to $75 depending on the type and size of the pet, and length of hair. All clients get their nails clipped, ears cleaned, teeth scrubbed, and are hand-blown dry. Everybody goes home with a toothbrush and scarf.
Lefkowich said most dogs get groomed once every four to six weeks, and some more often: “I have some that get groomed once a month and get a bath every couple of weeks.”
She said the benefits of using a groomer that comes to you are many.
“It’s less trauma, especially for cats,” she said. “They hate car rides. Your pet also isn’t stuck in a cage all day, and isn’t exposed to diseases or pests or fleas. They also get my total, one-on-one, undivided attention. I love to spoil them. It also means less hair in your house, because after bathing and drying, I use the clipper vac to suck all the extra hair off them. This helps with people that have allergies.
“Many people don’t realize cats should be groomed at least as often as dogs. They don’t bathe, they lick themselves. They get greasy, and get hairballs. They really need to be combed and groomed often.
“My philosophy is to build a relationship with the pet. I tell my clients everything might not go perfectly the first time, but I will not frighten an animal. Puppies are especially impressionable, and have a short attention span. I don’t want to force them to do something and make them afraid of the groomer forever. You can tell pets that have had bad experiences. They never forget pain.”
If she keeps stopping for kissing breaks, most likely her clients will all go home happy.
Lefkowicz also does a lot of community service, clipping nails for free during Pine Island’s “Bark Island” days, and at the new “Yappy Hour” sponsored by Cuppy’s Coffee House in Brooksville.
Patti Waggin operates Monday through Saturday by appointment.
BIZ AT A GLANCE
Name: Patti Waggin, LLC
Location: Spring Hill
Telephone: (352) 345-5325
Jody Bowes writes regularly for Hernando Today. She lives in Spring Hill and can be reached at JBowesHernando@aol.com.