Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Excitement Continues... GE 2012!

One day down... already? I swear, with a competition looming off in the distance, the days seem to fly by even faster. A Cocker Spaniel was the subject of my dreams last night. Black dogs seem to be an ongoing theme here... foreshadowing?

Anyway, the trip to Chocolate World was very enjoyable. Even though the Create Your Own Candy Bar attraction was closed for the day, the rest of Hershey's best didn't disappoint. You'd never know that they got flooded out horribly last year; it was the same chocolately experience from 2010! Plus I came back to my room with sweet treats in tow, and had the experience of dark chocolate BBQ chicken pizza - psychotically delicious!

Groom Expo officially kicked off with the Groom Fusion class. hosted by Chris Christensen. Everyone in attendance got a free mister. I can't wait to try mine out, especially with the new product techniques Carlos and Coleen shared with us!

After a quick dinner at Bear's Den (and meeting a new friend), there was a meeting for contestants hosted by judges Joey Villani, Dawn Omboy, Vivian Nash, and others. I still have absolutely no nervous feelings, but as I told Joey, I am now riding the high like never before! I've never been so amped for anything!  :D

Of course, what Thursday evening would be complete without Dawn Omboy's Internet Social? Turnout was fairly low this year, and they ran out of seats, but everyone had a good time, with Espree sample bags for all. I won a box of doggie Halloween bowties for Xavier. Tosha won a B3 gift pack - her first ever win at the Social! We sat by the "cool corner" and their luck rubbed off on us, haha!

One day down, three to go. Let's rock and roll!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Comin' Atcha from Hershey!

The time has finally come! Chilling out in my hotel room after another smooth travel through Pennsylvania, my anticipation levels are at an all-time high. Last night I dreamt that I was already competing with a black Pom. The little guy stood there with love and appreciation in his eyes as I carefully handscissored a lion trim onto him. The crowd began to cheer... then I realized it was my alarm clock, hehe  ;)

Xavier is secure on a vacation of his own with his friends at the kennel and I am sure to lose sleep tonight. The weekend is going to be jam-packed with seminars, parties, food, chocolate stouts, some possible misadventures... all of it beginning with a trip to Chocolate World tomorrow before everything kicks off. Until later, peace out from the sweetest place on Earth!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Post Overdue: My Weekend Fling at PetQuest 2012!

Wait, what's this? There was a show last month, I was there, and I DIDN'T do a little write-up for it? Really? Hey, gimmie a break, these last few months have been nutty!  ;)

I was toying with the idea of checking out Ohio's own PetQuest show over the last weekend of June, and I'm very glad I did. It's got an environment of its own--not electric like the larger shows, but rather laid back and comparatively mellow. About 50 vendors showcased their grooming goodies and competitors went head to head on stage. As with most shows, an ever-energetic Frankie Brown was there to greet us all!

Here come the Westies!
The weekend featured some fascinating breed demos, which included Koko Tamaka and Janice Fehn grooming two Westies side by side--a show trim and a pet trim at the same time! I hope that the speakers will continue to do this with other breeds; not only does this style seminar outline the similarities, but also clear-cuts (so to speak!) the differences between the two trims! It's not just "Here's the show style, now let's do the pet trim on the same dog." Watching the two in this fashion is extremely helpful for those of us that are highly reliant on visuals to really let the information soak in.

Panda Power!
Other seminars of note included an in-depth look at shampoo ingredients and an informative session on handling and caring for senior dogs.

Although a smaller show, PetQuest offered a fierce creative grooming competition. Amazing concepts came together from groomers ranging from novice to seasoned. In the end, Angela Kumpe took the win with her "Gone Fishin'" Poodle. Pictures did this design no justice; there were six shades of blue incorporated into the dyeing to create a gorgeous watery feel behind the vibrant fish. As for my personal favorite, I've got a soft spot for Poodle pandas, and Lori Craig rocked it out!

PetQuest, although not as crazy as the other shows I've attended so far, was the perfect little pick-me-up--a great opportunity to learn, watch, and meet some new friends and catch up with old ones. But it's time to strap in, next up is Hershey, baby! On top of "MY show" approaching fast, I'm also happy to announce that I will be competing in the Rescue Roundup, a new event there!

You bet I just can't wait!  XD
Peace out for now...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blowing Off the Dust for Intergroom 2012

It happened late last Thursday night. That realization was suddenly slapped into my face like a sack full of batteries. No, it wasn't the fact that I haven't written anything here since September; but rather the realization that in less than 24 hours, I'd be on the road for New Jersey! Yes, the show season was upon me again, and even though I registered in March, that familiar yet electric feeling never hit me until the last minute!

Unlike departure weather from last year's Groom Expo, Pennsylvania's clear blue sky spanned out over the mountains, the sun beating down on Puppy Waggin' II. The drive always goes fast under those perfect April conditions. Shortly after checking in and collecting my registration info on Thursday, I ran into two familiar faces: Joey and Jen (aka Dirty Hairy from PetGroomer)! After saying hi, we all retired for the night; travel seemed to get to the best of all of us and the big excitement wasn't until tomorrow!

Saturday, the doors of the trade show revealed a groomer's candy store. Nearly 150 vendors were present to sell us new toys, and among them were Chuck (who gave a powerful presentation using my chewed Groomer's Helper), Gilly (who changed the name of his company), Jorge, my friends from Aesculap... y'know, it just might be easier to say who wasn't there!  :)

Handstripped Brussels, Frodo
Classes were offered by ISCC groomers Pam Lauritzen and Vero DaSylva, Rev. Sonny D., Melissa Verplank, and others. The Reverend spent time talking about how important nonverbal communication is in the salon, and taught us a breathing exercise to help clear our minds - exactly what I need, but I haven't gotten very good at it yet! ISCC's handstrip class gave me further insight into one of my grooming obsessions; it really IS an art form when done correctly! Now if only I can find someone with a dog that they want kept in show rotation! Melissa Verplank's class on time management also contained useful business tips - a few extra gems hidden in an already dynamic presentation. And what better way to close out the day than joining Jen and Melissa (Mylady of PG) for a hibachi dinner?  ;D

In the competition ring, Novi was standing out among the Rising Stars. While I was in ISCC product and Spaniel classes on Sunday, he snagged Best in Show of the Rising Star division with a Kerry Blue terrier. Congrats again Novi, your dog was absolutely stunning!

Groomer Party!!
Sunday night meant it was time for Chuck's big party. Before entering the big bash, another groomer introduced me to the liquor concoction known as the Black Russian. I grabbed a few more and shot the breeze with several groomers from Rome, Italy, until Chuck shooed us all into the room: "Can I ask you a question? What the hell are you doing out here? Go in and dance!" Haha!

Lights, disco balls, and glow sticks that were handed out by Chuck himself transformed the second floor of the Holiday Inn into a dance club for pet professionals. The cover band Phenomenon kept the energy alive with everything from Disco Inferno to Footloose. Sasha Riess jumped into the middle of dancing groomers and really got things going - he sure can shake it! As for me, I left the party a little early; after being introduced to one too many Black Russians, I just knew when enough was enough! o.O

Monday came and went way too fast. That last day of the trade show are always lightning-quick. They kind of sneak up on you... much like a couple of Black Russians... :)
Christine DeFilippo's Poodle

Anyway, after attending another insightful class by Melissa Verplank (all about economics) and a quirky but fun Poodle class from Pam and Vero, I decided to play hooky on the last session... and finally got a while to talk to none other than Judge Joey! He took a look at my 2012 portfolio and said I do "nice clean work". Talk about feeling accomplished! Then, my years-old question was finally answered: yes, the seventeen coat types are worth knowing; and for the same reasons I like them: thoroughness, style, technique, tool knowledge, professionalism. That means I need to get busy on making a giant poster displaying all the breeds and their coats. Whee, another great project coming up!! :)

After picking up a few more odds and ends, it was time to make my rounds and say goodbye to all my friends, many of whom will be in Hershey. Oddly enough, my GPS once again tried to take me to the sweetest place on earth; it was reading my mind because I can't wait! One of my favorite sayings really holds true: "It's never really goodbye, because there will always be another dog show!"  ;)

See y'all in September!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday - a Good End to a Great Show!

I'm sitting here now in my hotel room, gazing at all the bags that litter the floor, thinking not only about the treasures that they hold, but also about how much fun I've had. Groom Expo doesn't disappoint, and this year was certainly no exception!

Tosha and I waited outside the trade show doors until Frankie let us in one minute early - thanks Frankie! :)
I picked up some last minute goodies, including moisture magnets, backup ear buds, flea spray, and some of Espree's Plum Perfect for my coat, hehe! At their booth, I saw Judge Joey walking by. Hoping I could set up something with him this afternoon, I asked him what he was doing. Turns out he too is involved with SuperZoo and was on his way out of town! I have a feeling that we'll be able to sit down and talk someday, but now he's really got some work out out for him - my portfolio is only going to get bigger from here! ;D

Somehow I managed to snag a front-row seat for the first class, Poodle to Portie. Michell Evans showed us all kinds of tricks to take an elegant little body and make it look blocky and powerful. Now if only I can find a Poodle to try this out on!

Sunday's luncheon was full of giggles. Mr. B hosted once again, this time bringing a green screen and several TVs with him. Volunteers put on green capes and their heads were projected onto a body of a professional dancer, all complete with animated backgrounds and music ranging from guilty-pleasure country tunes (Sparkly Barkleigh did Achy Breaky Heart with the hotel staff!) to Sir Mix-a-Lot! I was hoping there would be a bigger screen so I could get some pictures, but it provided a good laugh nonetheless. There's a certain element missing from the luncheons now that Judy Bremer Taxman is retired, but Mr. B definitely keeps the spirit alive!

While thoroughly enjoying a pecan-encrusted chicken with peach sauce (I'm starting to drool just thinking about it!), I spoke with columnist Kathy Hosler. She will be featuring several of our comments about the Expo in next month's Groomer to Groomer; look for my name when you open up that magazine!

A new friend was sitting at my table as well. We shared a table at the Cocker class on Friday night, and she said that she was inspired to come for the whole show next year, just by talking to me! I can't help but feel honored that I've helped someone to improve her confidence. It's one of the best feelings in the world! Speaking of helping others, I think I sent about five people to Gilly's booth; just like me at Intergroom, everyone has to have those awesome shear bracelets! Hope he has some cool new stuff for me in April! ;)

Off to the next class! I heard that Daryl Conner's 101 Practical Grooming Tips was a good one to take. All of the reviews were spot-on: the seminar itself moved at an aggressive pace, and although many of the tips were common sense, there were plenty of gems hidden in there. I've got some new techniques--including the "Vulcan death grip" and twisting drop ears to achieve an even scissor finish--to put into practice right away!

The Kenchii booth held a very special raffle today. Several months ago, Lisa's daughter was killed in a car accident, and the other family's medical expenses have been going through the roof. The Leady family decided to raise as much money for them as possible, and so Kenchii held a special drawing for a wine basket and two special brushes, each framed and containing colored dog hair - one from Lori Craig and one from Dawn Omboy. Guess who won Dawn's brush!

I'm glad to have something that needs to hang on my wall, but also very honored to help out Lisa's cause. She is one of the biggest sweethearts I know, and I'd always be ready to help her out however I could. Lisa, we love you! Don't start crying! ;)

I wanted to get Dawn to sign it, but she won the wine basket; we speculated that she ran off to her room to have a little private party, hehe! I'm coming for you with that awesome brush at Intergroom, Dawn!

The last class of the day - and the Expo - was already upon us. Tosha met up with me at Nancy Ward's class on being your own boss. Plenty of good business tips were shared, which is what I'll be needing someday. I can't say that I'm the most business savvy person out there, and since becoming that was one of the tips, this was perhaps the most useful seminar - the best for last!

Tosha is driving home as I continue to type. After saying our goodbyes, I felt a familiar lump in my throat: it was officially over. Through hell and high-water--literally--groomers from every corner of the country came to celebrate the profession, and were now heading back. Booths were being broken down, extra merchandise packed away, and Groom Expo 2011 is now nothing more than another blissful memory. Although I might sound like a broken record when I say this, there is so much truth behind these words: I am blessed to be in an industry where everyone can come together and have the time of our lives with people we've never met. One weekend makes all the difference in the world, and there's a new invigorated flame lit inside our hearts. Where else but Hershey can one get a feeling exactly like this one? I can only hope that other groomers share in the magic I feel, combined with the hope that the next year will be even better.

The end of Groom Expo is bittersweet. Although a great event has come to a close, it only means that I get to be reunited with Xavier tomorrow and take new knowledge (and toys!) home to the shop. A bright new year is just starting to poke over the horizon, and with the experiences I've shared here, I say, "Bring it on, baby!"

See y'all next year!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Friday Night Fun, Saturday Spending and Showcasing!

Ah yes, where were we? The Friday night preparations were made, which involved me putting on my 2011 costume...

Originally I wanted to do an off-duty lifeguard Portuguese Water Dog. It was brought to my attention that it wouldn't be a tourist. Darn! My mind went back to all things tropical and landed on the hula skirt. What happens when a Schnauzer isn't groomed right? Put on a Hawaiian shirt and a lei and you have...

Tropical Schnauzer!

So how surprised was I when three other dogs came walking in? Don't get me wrong - the costumes were cute, but dog suits are my style! Guess that makes me a trendsetter. That was the group that won first place. My hat goes off to them, but just remember one thing: you guys may have gone wild, but to paraphrase one of the first songs of the night, baby I was born that way! ;D

Anyway, the main attraction of the night was the green screen jet ski. Complete with air to blow your hair back, everyone was eager to hop on and take a ride!

And what's better than a Schnauzer riding a wave? ;)

Tropical themed groomers from all over hit the dance floor. There wasn't as much of an island music selection as I would've imagined, and it was mostly rap, but Mr. B kept the tunes spinning all night. Thrown into the mix were classic Groom Expo party songs like Michael Jackson, Cottoneyed Joe, Thank God I'm a Country Boy (complete with the bubble wrap stomp!), Cupid Shuffle, and others. All in all, it was a great night!

One thing I do have to say though: I felt so much better after taking that stuffy beard off! :)

Tosha and I woke up Saturday morning, groggy but ready to learn and shop! Our morning began with a seminar on setting yourself apart from other shops, but it wasn't really what either of us expected. A lot of the advice given was good old-fashioned common sense: keep your shop clean, hand dry all dogs with coat, and the like. However, the one thing that made the seminar worth it was the Christmas idea: a clear bulb with a lock of hair and tinsel inside, possibly painted with the dog's name on it. What a great memento! Maybe we can do that at the shop this year?

The trade show was in full swing with the feeling of energy and insanity vibrating down the rows of booths. After picking up some shampoo orders for Nancy, I ran around in typical J.C. trade show fashion: every and any direction, like a maniac! ;)
After buying some nail pens from Show Seasons, I went to the Groomer's Helper booth to see Chuck... and to paint one of Mark's nails blue! Gotta love my wacky trade show buddies; where else could I do something like this?

The second seminar in my day was hosted by Olga, who demonstrated a trim on - you guessed it - Bichons! The most impressive segment included her detailed explanation of those little puffball heads, a point that most anyone would love to brush up on... figuratively speaking! I feel like she was absolutely right when she said that the proper finish can only be achieved with shears; snap-on combs can come close, but there's nothing like carving out and then shaping that little fluffy ball.

Saturday's luncheon was not only delicious, but fun as well! After a buffet of delicious pan-seared chicken and potatoes, Mr. B. hosted a version of Minute to Win It. All of us contestants were given a different wacky activity to do, everything from putting a lampshade on our heads with a fishing line to shaking all the tennis balls out of a box strapped to our butts! Me? I got off the hook easy, yanking all the tissues out of a box! Everyone got a Barkleigh bag. You can never have too many of those!

This is what handstripping from hell must be like!

Still stuffed from lunch, I headed down to Diane Betelak's Wonderful Wheaten class. OK, so the Wheaten wasn't so wonderful, as he had peed all over himself. Ah, not only a Wheaten, but an un-neutered male! At least Diane was able to put him in an exquisite, modified show trim.


I can't quite remember in what fashion I bought things from the trade floor. Whether it be something I needed, something for the shelter, or just something that looked good, I was very bad with my credit card! While making the plastic melt, I saw my old classmate Novi in the competition arena with his toy Poodle, Ozzi. He ended up taking first place. Congrats again Poodle Guy!

The last class of the day was all about mixed breed makeovers. After viewing the slideshow of adorable mutts that Cheryl Purcell put together, I knew I had to get a DVD to keep them for reference. One of my favorites included a Maltese/Poodle mix groomed to look like a Westie; apparently, those little ears stand right up when you take the hair off! I also loved the Lhasa Apso turned Dandie Dinmont. Looks like I've got a new style to learn, because I fell in love with that little puffy head and tasseled ears!

With the night coming to a close, I decided to drop by the Aesculap booth to have my German Red Clipper blades sharpened. After talking to the reps about how I loved the Favorita II, especially for those pelted rescue dogs, they decided to give me the clipper that haunted my dreams: a Fav5! I'm still reeling from the fact that I now own the clipper with the power that I thought I was years away from owning! I cannot thank them enough, and neither will my little matted friends!

After showing off my new favorite toy (hehe!), it was already time for the Saturday night dinner. Best in Show awards allowed the competition winners to show off the best dogs the industry had to offer! Different this year was the exclusion of the Dancing with Dogs presentation. In its place was a lineup that was just as fun, if not more so. The night began with the retirement roast of Frank Rowe. Dirty jokes abounded about who slept with Frank and raucous laughter filled the dining hall. Frank even let fly with some jokes of his own, then offended everyone with his Elvis impersonation; he just stood in place with his arms crossed!

Next was something that I was involved in on Thursday night. Todd Shelley took the stage and waited for the emcee, Jay Scruggs, to appear on stage. When he didn't show up, Todd pulled out his cellphone and pretended to dial him. On screen, a video presented to look like live feed showed a very busy Jay selling DVDs in his booth. He took off, leaving a customer with one of them, and ended up in the room where the Internet Social was held. At that moment, all of us yelled in unison, "Oh my god, it's Jay Scruggs!!" He asked which way it was to the award show; we all pointed in a different direction, and off he went again!

Further editing of the video featured Jay stopping at the Bear's Den restaurant to play video games, running by a wide-eyed Ellen Ehrlich, cleaning up with hand sanitizer, and also included Pet Groomer's own Dirty Hairy pointing in every direction possible. Jay came running into the first Barkleigh Honors Awards - what a great show they put on, and that was only for the introduction!

Winners of awards included Daryl Conner for best blog, Frankie Brown for hospitality, Lisa Leady for congeniality (who also had us all crying - love ya, Lisa!!), Chuck for contribution to the industry, and Dawn Omboy for creative styling... and that's just to touch on the list! About midway they featured a spoof of Groomer Has It. The "up-and-coming" third season would feature the Barkleigh dog pooping in his trailer and a groomer using hedge clippers to style a model dog. While I was laughing, a small voice inside my head was silently cursing - this was an indication that there most definitely will not be a third season. Damn. At least the spoof was wonderfully entertaining!

The final award of the night - the Sally Liddick Lifetime Achievement Award - went to Sam Kohl for his many years of service and improvements to the industry over the many years. Ellen didn't win any awards, although she was nominated for a couple. Just remember Ellen, you are running with the big dogs now, and you should be proud!

A great night after a great day - how could I ask for anything else? Tomorrow is the last day, already! Why oh why does time have to fly when you're having this much fun? ;D

Friday, September 9, 2011

Busy Breeds on Friday!

Today marked the beginning of the trade show at Groom Expo 2011, and was also filled with five different breeds for me! Oster Theater, led by Chris Pawlosky, provided useful insight into trims for Bichon, Wheaten, Schnauzer, and Poodle - some of which can be used in the competition ring or on pets. I can't wait to try some of these tips out!

Oster's Fab 4!

Although I missed Frankie's spirited opening to the trade show, that didn't take away from the rising excitement flowing from booth to booth. People darting this way and that, carrying bags and boxes of goodies - ah yes, this is just the beginning!

After walking the entire floor, taking it all in, and planning my attack, I went to the Forever Stainless booth to play "Guess My Age" with Jorge. He originally guessed 21, then said I looked more like 15. Love ya, Jorge! :)

Tosha attended a creative seminar; the pictures she showed me of quick tips were wonderful. Dogs with leopard and zebra stripes that were applied in less than 5 minutes? Yes please!

After dinner, I spoke very briefly with none other than Judge Joey! I hope we'll be able to talk dogs this time around!

The last seminar of the night featured Irina Pinkusevich and her tips for the $32,500 groom on the American Cocker. I have a parti-colored client much like the one she worked on, and I would just die to try some of her carding techniques. If only I could get Mommy away from that terrible ten blade... I realize some of you shuddered when you read that. I'm the one who has to take her down! Oh, for a stripping knife! ;)

Gorgeous guy!

That's all for now, because tonight's the big party where I unveil my newest doggy costume... stay tuned!! Pictures coming too!