“You made ‘sit’ happen” — Longtime dog trainer prepares for retirement

Published 12:40 am Thursday, May 4, 2023

GROVES — Joy Parker and her friend Carol Sigona frequently attend concerts by the Symphony of Southeast Texas. And when there, dozens of people will stop to speak to Sigona.

“I’ll ask Carol who that was, and she’ll say ‘Springer Spaniel,’” Parker said. “She’s trained so many of their dogs. She’s very well known.”

Sigona has been the main force behind K-9 Obedience in Groves since 1973.

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The building on Lincoln Avenue was first purchased by her mother-in-law in 1950, using her husband’s war bonds. It first was a dry goods shop and later a fabric shop, which is when Sigona began working there in 1962.

“Then I married her son, and we went into the dog business,” she said. “Everyone thought we had been living under a bridge. Who could make a living training dogs?”

When they began in 1973, the family was licensed by the State of Texas and Drug Enforcement Administration to train police K-9s, personal protection dogs, narcotics K-9s and cadaver dogs.

But after her husband died in 2009, Sigona began focusing strictly on obedience training and boarding — until January.

“My daughter stepped into her place, and if it hadn’t been for her, I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep it running,” she said. “When I told her I was retiring, she decided to start her own business — not with dogs.”

When the last of the holiday boarding dogs leave on Dec. 31, Sigona will give up the building she’s been overseeing for 50 years. But that’s not the end of her dog training days.

After a few months of traveling, she’ll start on-site training next spring.

“I can limit myself, because I do want to travel and I want to have time off,” she said. “The building and the boarding limits you.”

Parker first met Sigona during dog shows, and over time the two became friends.

“She’s been doing those obedience training and dog shows on her property for almost 50 years, and she’s just beloved,” Parker said. “She’s so responsible, dependable, and you know what you’re going to get there. But she’s also just a wonderful person.”

All dogs, Parker said, become Sigona’s best friend.

“She’s a very good dog trainer,” Parker said. “There are some dogs she’s trained that people would say are not trainable. Next thing you know Carol has it kneeling and minding.”

That much is evident by a large display on the wall recently installed by the German Shepherd Dog Club of Beaumont, which reads, “You made ‘sit’ happen.”

Melody Martindale was 9 when she brought her German Shepherd into Sigona for training. That’s where she’s gone for dogs ever since.

“The dog I have now I purchased from her,” Martindale said. “She trained it to be a service dog for me, because I’m disabled now. That helped me immensely.”

Now Martindale volunteers at the business.

“She’s a wonderful person,” Martindale said. “She’s a wonderful friend and all-around dog trainer professionally, and personally she’s a very nice person. She’s great and very caring about her students and the dogs. She’s very good to her friends, cares about them and tries to make everyone happy.”