Liz Hanley admits dogs rule her life
By Kristen Gaydos
Staff Writer Citizens Voice Published: Monday, February 16, 2009 12:08 PM EST
Twin sisters Liz Hanley and Mary Knight are in doggie heaven when they go to work as dog groomers every day. To them, being with their canine friends is not work but a pleasure.
Liz Hanley of Mountain Top is so passionate about dogs, she has taken her pets into account when shopping.
"I bought my first car and my first couch because it matched the pharaoh hound’s hair," she said.
If it involves dogs, Hanley has done it, from obedience training and dog grooming to handling and managing show dogs. With help from her twin sister, Mary Knight of Olyphant, Hanley has managed to make a career of canines.
"I haven’t ‘worked’ in years," she said. "I get to do what I love to do, and people pay me for it. It’s great," Hanley said.
Knight said her sister has been in love with dogs since she was born. Hanley received her degree in canine science in 1986 from Newbury College in Boston, Mass., and managed an American cocker spaniel show kennel until the owner moved. She then became a professional dog handler, showing from Canada to South America, as well as throughout the United States.
"I was all over the place," Hanley said, adding that from 1986-95, her pharaoh hounds were in the top ten in the dog show rankings.
Hanley learned many grooming techniques while on the dog show circuit, but had to quit after her knees gave out when she was 29. That left her with a choice, she said.
"Either give up dog shows or replace (my) knees in six months," she said.
Since then, Hanley’s been grooming around the Wyoming Valley for the past decade or so, and her extensive knowledge of breeds has served her well. Dog owners from as far away as Philadelphia and New York have come to her; one woman from California flew her dog in every six weeks because Hanley was the only groomer she trusted.
"I speak fluent terrier, I speak fluent cocker spaniel, I speak fluent poodle," Hanley said.
Knight has helped her sister for many years, mostly as a dog brusher and bather. Once Knight’s children had grown, she decided to join her sister in their own grooming business and pet spa, Aunt Liz’s Diamonds in the Ruff on North Mountain Boulevard in Mountain Top.
"I was ready to go to the dogs," Knight said, adding she has progressed from the basic knowledge of "this end of the terrier bites, and this end wags," to doing some grooming herself.
Hanley has also trained other people to groom and still enters grooming competitions. While working for PetsMart, she taught one woman who, three weeks later, entered a competition as a novice and landed a job with a professional handler.
"I love dog grooming because there’s so much that you can do," she said.
The passion for dogs has also passed onto the next generation of twins. Mary’s 17-year-old daughter, Victoria, is a junior handler and has competed since she was 12. Victoria’s sister, Katherine, is also learning the business, including how to bathe and brush dogs.
When it comes to grooming, Hanley and Knight know exactly who’s in charge with each pet they handle.
"The dog is the one calling the shots," Hanley said.
Knight added, "We don’t work for the parents, we work for the dogs."