Kym Digmon's love for animals, including Koa, led her to open Aloha Pet Care. Photo by Ian Gillespie
Former model fashions new career
By Simplicio Paragas
Don’t tell Kym Digmon you can’t teach a dog new tricks. And contrary to popular belief, cats don’t have nine lives — they have only one … at least in our lifetime. For the past six years, the former model and 1991 Miss Hawaii USA has been working with pet owners to be more responsible ‘parents.’ Established in the Chelsea/Kensington district of London, Aloha Pet Care initially started as a pet-sitting, dog-walking service that now has expanded to include classes that cover first aid, CPR and ‘PetSaver Certification.’
“I stopped modeling eight years ago because it didn’t fulfill me as much as it used to,” says Digmon, who now divides her time between England and Hawaii since she established a local Aloha Pet Care here last year. “I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do until I came to visit my family.”
Kym Digmon poses with Koa, who inspired the former model to open Aloha Pet Care.
Photo by Ian Gillespie
During that trip, Digmon came to realize how much she missed having pets and their unconditional love after playing with Koa, a family friend’s hulking American pit bull. Upon her return to England, she tried to convince her Dutch husband, Tjalling Halbertsma, to get a family pet.
According to statistics compiled by American Pet Products Association (APPA), pet services experienced the largest growth last year, rising 7.9 percent over 2010. As pet owners continue to pamper pets their spending in services alone amounted to $3.79 billion. This includes grooming, boarding, pet hotels, pet sitting, day care and other services. Of all categories it’s anticipated that pet services will see the largest solid growth in 2012 at 8.4 percent, an estimated $4.11 billion in spending.
“As the total pet population continues to grow, despite a slower pace, we still see the overall industry expanding year after year,” says Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Association (APPA), in a released statement. “As pet owners continue to treat (their pets) like members of the family, we see positive growth and a response to consumer demand for more products and services, which we expect to see through 2012.”
Demand for Digmon’s services grew from word of mouth, starting with a few neighborhood friends in Chelsea, who have since dubbed her as the female “Dog Whisperer,” a reference to National Geographic’s popular television show with host Cesar Millan.
“I tested the waters during last year’s Hawaii Pet Expo and saw a demand for what I do,” Digmon says. “I always wanted to bridge London and Hawaii, and I saw Aloha Pet Care as my way to do this.”
Digmon’s bi-monthly classes, which are presently conducted in a private home in Kaimuki, include an intensive eight-hour “Pet Saver” curriculum, which covers CPR, First Aid, and senior ‘pet-izen’ and dental care ($150); and a thee-hour “Pet First Aid” program ($80) that touches on restraining your pet, cold and hot injuries, choking management and wellness/injury assessment. Both courses incorporate lectures, demonstrations and hands-on practical experience, and are open to a maximum of 12 students. Training is conducted on stuffed animals since owners’ pets are not allowed to attend the classes.
“I want pet owners to know what’s normal, as well as what isn’t normal, and to be conscientious and caring,” says Digmon, a certified instructor with Pet Tech, which is the first international training center dedicated to CPR, First Aid and care for dogs and cats. “I had a friend whose pit bull had bloat (a serious health risk and the second leading killer among canines) and he thought it would just go away; the next day he died.”
In a Petside.com poll, most pet owners said they would leap into action for an injured pet, even if it meant risking dog breath by going mouth-to-snout. Fifty-eight percent of pet owners — 63 percent of dog owners and 53 percent of cat owners — would be at least somewhat likely to perform CPR on their pet in the event of a medical emergency.
“It could be a matter of life and death,” Digmon says. “It’s a matter of acquiring the necessary skills to save your pet’s life in a time of emergency, whether it’s an injury or some form of natural disaster.”
For class schedule and more information, visit alohapet.net, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 808.218.5961.