MONIQUE BATSON — Longtime dog trainer has left a 50-year legacy with animal lovers

Published 12:02 am Friday, May 5, 2023

I know very little about dogs. The two pets I’ve had in my life that belonged only to me were cats, and the only thing it takes to train a cat is a box on the floor with litter in it.

But my boyfriend has two dogs — a 9-year-old poodle that is very much his son, and a 1-year-old miniature schnauzer that belongs to his daughter.

And lately, it has been a struggle to keep the young puppy from playing a bit too rough with his uncle. Several times the poodle has required bandages on his legs because of bite marks.

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Our first thought was ordering a shock collar.

But Carol Sigona quickly let me know why that was a bad idea.

“You don’t want that dog to think God is upset with him,” she said. “You want that dog to know you are upset with him.”

For 20 minutes, she walked me through “distraction training,” and even provided me with a training collar to help.

There is no question why she is a treasure to so many local dog lovers.

“She’s an icon in the doggy industry,” said Groves resident Rita Davis. “Not only here, but all over.”

So understandably, news that she was retiring from K-9 Dog Obedience after 50 years has been heartbreaking to many.

My meeting with Sigona came Wednesday, when I sat down with her to write about her five decades in the training business and her upcoming retirement.

Within the first minute I knew she was definitely an expert. She opened a gate to let four large German Shepherds out, and not one came near me as they went to the back door for some time outside. When she called one in for a photo, the dog walked in calmly and sat next to its owner without being told to do so.

The Groves business that started in 1973 originally opened in the 50s as a dry goods store. Later it became a fabric store, where Sigona gained employment. After she married the owner’s son, the family went from fabric to fur-babies.

In the beginning they trained all types of K-9s for police and military work. Following the death of her husband, Sigona began focusing strictly on training. In addition, she has a registered AKC show site where people come from all over to show their dogs.

“I would always look forward to coming down and showing my basset hounds,” said Joy Parker, who became friends with Sigona through the dog shows.

Parker previously lived in Dallas and trained basset hounds. But her son lived in Southeast Texas.

“It always gave me an excuse to come down — visit my son and show my dogs,” she said.

Now, Parker lives in the area. And in appreciation of Sigona hosting so many dog shows, she now volunteers as a steward during current ones.

“Most people who show their dogs in obedience trails, you show them for two to three years, they get ribbons, and then they retire so we retire,” she said. “I adore Carol. It makes me feel good to know I showed my dogs all those years, and now I get to pay it back.”

Sigona will close up Dec. 31 and later begin on-site training. But first, she’s going to do something she’s known for — travel.

The long-time dog trainer already has a trip to Antarctica on the books.

“She loves to travel,” said Melody Martindale, who has known Sigona since she was a child. The two have even traveled to Norway together to see the Northern Lights.

“She invites anyone she knows to come along with her,” Martindale said. “She always has room for one more.”

Monique Batson is Port Arthur Newsmedia editor. She can be reached at