Billy Sue Heckethorn knew she wanted to work with animals since she was a little girl, growing up on a ranch in Ely. Now her schedule is almost always full and she sees an average of 15 dogs a day at Wild West Grooming. Heckethorn, who had seven years of experience as a veterinarian technician prior, said grooming all those dogs is her passion.
“I love these dogs,” Heckthorn said.
The store’s owner talks as an older dog sits patiently on her grooming table, barely flinching during its scheduled trim. Heckethorn said she has been grooming the dog for over a decade and that the dog has grown to trust her. She describes it like being around children who can’t talk all day.
“Every dog is different. Some are easy. Some are scared. You just have to go slowly, just like you would with a kid, to gain their trust,” Heckethorn said.
Her experience and comfort level with the animals has led to many repeat customers. Since Wild West Grooming also offers doggy daycare services, Heckethorn said many of the animals get used to the store, thinking of it as a second home.
“When a dog from one of my regular customers gets away, they usually end up at my store, because that’s where they know to go,” the owner said.
Though her dream was to eventually be a veterinarian, Heckethorn said she decided to get out of the medical side of it to spend more time with her young children in 2001. Opening Wild West Grooming allowed her to continue to work with animals, while also allowing for a schedule that accommodated her family.
“If I couldn’t work with animals, I don’t know what I would do,” she said.
Her busy schedule indicates she won’t have to find out. Wild West Grooming had to turn away potential business due to being over booked last year. Though Heckethorn said things tend to calm down at the beginning of winter, she recommends making an appointment “several weeks in advance.”
“People get mad at me when I tell them we are full. They think we can’t possibly be that busy. There will be days when I see 16 dogs straight,” she said.
While business is almost exclusively limited to man’s best friend, Heckethorn’s store will still accommodate for other pets.
“I do some cats. I’ve even done rabbits, ferrets and trimmed a bird’s nails,” she said.
But above all else, Heckethorn said she enjoys helping people and their animals. She’ll try and give clients any medical advice for an animal if she noticed something during a makeover. She also stays away from sedation.
“I never sedate any of the animals when we groom them. I don’t like it. The animals can’t remember what happened, so you don’t earn their trust,” Heckethorn said.
To make an appointment at Wild West Grooming, call 775-289-9003.