Start a conversation with 82-year-old pet groomer and business owner, Anne Leone, and you’ll completely lose track of time. Leone is so full of exuberance and animal wisdom that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But stop into the “newer” Hell’s Kitchen location (of twenty years!) of the famous pet shop, Canine Castle, and see a woman who has loved what she’s done for the past fifty years, earning a name for herself as one of the greatest groomers in New York.
“I’m the best at what I do,” declares Leone, “If you do something for over fifty years and you’re not good at it, well then, shame on you!”
Originally located in a space at least ten times the new shop’s current small size, Leone’s 1960’s version of Canine Castle gained significant recognition, attracting the cream-of-the-crop of Manhattan pet owners for its posh design, overwhelming amount of products and immaculate grooming. There, Leone says, she spent the best thirteen years of her life.
So how did the Queen of Canine Castle’s career begin? “I started grooming because I had my own dog,” says Leone, “And all the places I would go to just smelled, smelled awful! So I got a clipper and I learned how to do it myself.”
Her first loves were Poodles, which she cherished for their intelligence, and even began to breed them. Leone eventually had to give up breeding, however, because she became so attached to the dogs she sold – she was getting in trouble for calling up the new pet-owners every month to check in on her babies! In time, Leone ended up having over fifteen dogs and cats in her lifetime.
While her connection with animals is apparent, Leone prides herself in her ability to deal with problem pups, and has seen several in her time – ones who squirm, yap or bite when sat for coiffing.
“I’m very good with difficult dogs.” Leone laughs, “I talk for the whole two to three hours, and when the owners go to pay me, I say ‘you’re not paying for the grooming, you’re paying for the entertainment!’”
As someone who has worked “like a dog” for over half a century, Leone has this advice:
“You have to love what you’re doing. And if you spend eight hours a day doing something you hate doing, you’re nuts. If you don’t love it, get out!”