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Top dog in her trade; Dog grooming expert Ann Marie Burns has been all over the country with her four-legged friends. She tells VICKY LEWIS why canine care will never become a dying trade.

IT'S fair to say it's been a dog's life for Ann Marie Burns. The 42-yearold, from County Durham, has dedicated more than 20 years to caring for man's best friend.

And now, she's reaping the rewards of her hard work and commitment after being awarded the highest accolade in the pooch pruning profession.

"I absolutely love dogs. I didn't set out to be a dog groomer - I just fell into it," says an enthusiastic Ann Marie, who worked as a manageress at MacDonalds before opening her own pet parlour.

"I grew up having dogs in the home because my mum loves them too, and now I've got eight dogs myself.

"I feel very fortunate because I enjoy my work. I look forward to coming in after the weekend and feel lucky because their are some people who hate their jobs," she adds.

In April next year, Ann Marie will travel to London to be formally awarded her Licentiateship (LCGI) at a City and Guilds ceremony. It is the highest qualification and accolade in her profession and gives her the status of master craftsman.

She says: "To get to the stage I'm at now is just fantastic. I do work really hard and I've invested a lot of time and money into my career. So for me, this is a great achievement after only two years."

Ann Marie prides herself on her parlour, Top Trimz, in Leadgate. She opened the business during the credit crunch in 2008 and says it has gone from strength to strength.

"Britain is a country of animal lovers and dogs have such a special place in people's lives. I think people will always value and prioritise pets.

"For some people, dogs take the place of children. So there are quite a lot of middleaged people who have dogs because their kids have grown up and left home.

"They like to look after a pet and care for it and dogs are good company too. They become very much a part of the family.

"So looking after them properly is very important and I think that's why the pet industry in general will always thrive."

From a simple cut and blow-dry to full nail treatments and spa facials, Ann Marie not only specialises in dog grooming, but has won several competitions for her skills.

She has won the top West Highland Terrier breeder for three consecutive years, and Best Puppy at internationally-renowned dog competition, Crufts. Ann Marie also has a remarkable total of seven UK West Highland White Terrier champions and has even become a championship judge herself.

Now, she is thought to be the only master craftsman in her trade in County Durham.

The qualification puts Ann Marie at the top of her game.

Ann Marie, who grew up in West Denton in Newcastle's West End, says: "It means I know all about the law and legislation, health and safety, diseases including the ones that must be reported, and chemical and environmental waste too.

"Serious grooming takes up 365 days of the year. It is important to keep the dog's fitness and hygiene up to scratch, which means working with them every single day - not just before shows.

"Brushing and grooming has many benefits for both the owner and the pet too. Dog grooming is part of being a responsible dog owner. By grooming your dog at home, you will spot any unusual lumps and bumps.

"You will also bond with your dog and dogs which are groomed tend to behave better and generally be more healthier."

Earlier this year, she stole the show on her debut at Premier Groom, a prestigious competition run by Groom Team England, in Warwickshire. She sailed through to scoop Best Debutante with a Bichon Frise. Her vast knowledge of the West Highland Terrier breed has also been noted by the West Highland White Terrier Club of England.

The club now distribute a handout Ann Marie penned for a seminar held at Northumberland College's Kirkley Hall Campus.

With eight of her own pet pooches to preen, Ann Marie is proud to bring her passion and experience to work with her each day.

Offering everything from manicures and makeovers, she has seen an influx of dog owners book in to treat their pets in the run up to Christmas too.

She adds: "In the two years since I opened Top Trimz, as well as the fantastic experience running my own shop, I have got to know the customers and their dogs, who I see on a regular basis. It's a privilege working with animals who you can tell are so wellloved and looked after. In the end, the hard work is worth it. Dogs have always been my passion and I am so happy to have been able to build a career working with them." * Top Trimz Grooming Parlour is in Watling Street, Leadgate, in Consett, County Durham. For more information, contact Ann Marie on 01207 505595.

CAPTION(S):

NO SHAGGY DOG STORY Left, Ann Marie Burns who owns Top Trimz dog grooming salon in Leadgate, and below, with Carla, a Bichon Frise
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 10, 2011
Words:851
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