Saturday, December 26, 2009

Back Home/Merry Christmas to All!

It's hard to believe that my time at the Nash Academy has come to a close, already! Graduation was short, but sweet. It was kind of funny at the end when I said I had something to say, and everyone thought I was going to burn some bridges, when all I really wanted to say was that there would always be another dog show, haha! Guess I can be a little tactless sometimes...

It kind of sucks that Sunny and I had to leave now, when we were all getting so close. People are so funny. We form bonds with others, even despite the fact that we have different mindsets, knowing that said bonds must be at least temporarily broken at some point. This will make for an even more rockin' awesome Groom Expo 2010 though, as Debra said they try to have a mini-reunion. I'm already looking forward to it... yes, even more than before!

Hopefully everyone had a nice little Christmas like mine, or better! This year I bought presents for all the family's dogs. Two of them--Nylabones--are already long gone. Apple biscuits will be next, unless my aunt's Pitty mix decides to chew her new Kong extreme into pieces!

Xavier got a little karate dog plush (which he adores, go figure, hehe!), chicken-flavor cookies, Snooks, venison dinner, a Milk Bone chew buddy, and liver snaps. So far I've noticed that when a dog opens up a present, I feel like they share the same joy that a little kid does. Who doesn't like to receive at this time of year?

I wonder, if you have a really awesome dream, does that mean you've treated yourself with a little Christmas gift? Hehe. I looked in a dream book earlier and put all of the elements together. If all the things in my dream play out--compassion (presence of a hero), good fortune (inside a church), and contentment (memorial service)--then 2010 is going to be amazing!

Now that I'm done with school, it's time to go for that reach. I have my Excel worksheet to track my finances ready to go. Will I reach Intergroom or Animal Behavior Associates first? Only time will tell. Now all I need is some income. Job search is starting as soon as the car is back in working order--go figure it dies after I get home! Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winding Down to the End...

...and what a week it's been.

Dogs are coming in nonstop, and I've learned more lessons, both about dogs and people. Never again will I finish a groom for a sick dog just because mommy didn't want to come back later. When you expect the unexpected, you'll be better prepared when a bombshell (or bombshells, for that matter) gets dropped. Once an image is sullied, it's darn near impossible to restore it exactly the way it was. And above all? People who come from different schools of thought can indeed become excellent friends, and friends need to stick together.

Everything is too much detail for me to go back into, plus I'd rather put most of this week (and apparently other days) behind me. The perspective has done an almost 180 degrees, but my eyes are still on the prize. Not to mention that I now have a greater obligation to carry on a legacy, as we lost John Nash on Thrusday of last week. There are those of us who will join me in taking up this task, and there are those who won't. The choices are already made; I'm not here to dispute them, but make my stand. Here's to my fellow classmates who will carry the luminous torch of the grooming industry - kudos to you! /cheers

Their strength is one thing that has kept me going for this homestretch, but I was reminded last night that I still have muses of the four-legged and two-legged variety who add to it exponentially. Sometimes it's so easy to get wrapped up in tense moments and frustration, but I've gathered up that strength and inspiration, and I'm taking them with me. Maybe I'll keep it all in my pocket? Hehe!

It's crunch time now. I'm here for the dogs!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm Glad I Stayed

So far this extra week has been nuts, and it's only going to get wilder from here on out! With thirty dogs coming in tomorrow, looks like it's going to be an early morning as well!

It's amazing how much I've already learned in the past few days. Here's a list of things that I would've missed out on, had I said I wasn't sticking around:

-I rock Bichon heads, haha!
-White Scotties and nail polish just go together!
-Hold the paw low and out of the way if the dog is being a noodge for nails.
-Sometimes it's best to just get through the mats with a #10 blade, but don't forget that the owners might be in a bind themselves!
-Even if you think you have people figured out, things still aren't always as they seem. Let them in, you may end up surprised.
-Hesitating to schedule a Schnoodle for a groom (try three months) will result in ears that closely resemble an enchanted forest - what I thought ear plucking was REALLY like!
-Sometimes a dog will unload everything they have at you. Never say that they're empty!
-Cockers can be jumpy as anything - ALWAYS one hand on the dog!!
-White Schnauzers still rock.
-A thinning shear swap (from 5-star to T-series) is a wonderful thing.

To elaborate a little more on those last two--as the others are fairly self-explanatory--my classmate Dianne got a surprise over the weekend when her husband called and said that she had a new puppy! Hannah, as she is currently named, is a baby white Schnauzer who is coming to live with them and their Great Dane very soon. Dianne is trying to come up with a nice German name; so far I like Hilde.

Dianne also ordered a pair of 5-star thinners from Kenchii; they were back ordered, so she received the T-series thinners (an upgrade) instead. She offered them to me in exchange for my 5-star thinners. Like I said, upgrading is a wonderful thing!

I'd love to close this entry in saying that all is smooth and wonderful down here. However, these next few coming days will be very hard for the school, and I'm not talking about all the dogs. Everyone, please keep us and the Nashes in your thoughts.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

We're Taking This Into OVERTIME!

Right now I should be saying that I'm getting excited to reach my graduation, pack up, and start some "real world" grooming. That, however, is not the case! Tim asked both me and Sunny to stay on, right up until Christmas, to help with the last busy week. How could I say no? Extra training at no additional fees whatsoever? Count me in, baby!

I can't think of anything more beneficial. I'll get a good taste of the busiest holiday season, possibly with 30+ dogs coming in and out of the school in one day! It's going to be intense, to say the very least.

So what else happened this week? One of my favorite little dogs came in for another groom. I gave Daisy, a little Pom with an alopecia coat, the appearance of a plush doll. Also, yesterday I got to groom my first Bichon that wasn't a shavedown! It took quite a few hours, but Wiggles (aptly named, too) came out very cute. I even got that tricky angulation in the knee, after Tim showed me how! Now I'm dying to groom another one!

So far I've learned that Schnauzer faces are my current demise. I've done a few different styles, and I think that's what's throwing me off. I'm determined to get that perfect Schnauzer expression!

I've been starting to think about what else is in store for me when I get back home and once the holidays are over. Intergroom is coming in April, and I really hope to go this year! In addition, I want to take some courses from the Animal Behavior Associates; I need to learn how to put the theories about how dogs really think into practice.

It's getting time to rock it out and reach for the cosmos!

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Worst, the Best, and Everyone In Between!

First, apologies are once again in order - twenty plus dogs in the school per day can get crazy insane!

Anyway, between this week and last week, I've seen the full spectrum of temperaments. There were jumping dogs, sitting dogs, prefect dogs, and yes, even biting dogs! A tiny little Shih Tzu named Star gave me my first hard bite when I tried to do her nails, yet her temperament listing said there were no surprises! It really hurt--I still have the bruise--but more than anything, it scared the crap out of me.

Go figure that next day, Tim gave me a dog named Cooney (who I nicknamed "The Coon Bird" after my highschool vice-principal) a little dog with a nasty temperament. Every time you tried to pick him up, his teeth came out in full force. No Groomer's Helpers. No set of clippers. Just me, the Coon Bird, a pair of thinners, and his sharp little teeth. He only got me once, and he didn't even break the skin, unlike Star. We had a system going for a while: I held his beard gently in order to control his head (and his teeth), and gently lifted and supported his butt. Occasionally I'd get a warning growl, to which I slowly and deliberately held more of his beard, stood him up, and rocked him when the growling ceased. Of course, someone suggested that holding the beard would set him off more and proceeded to tap and shush him repeatedly. Now that set him off worse! Forget the beard holding after that, it was game over.

There's one of the few things I really dislike so far - I come from a different school of thought. I don't shush dogs, I don't torment dogs who are already moody about being pulled from their normal surroundings to get their hair wet, butt squeezed, paws prodded, and hair shaped differently from what they're used to. It's rather disturbing to see how deeply this "pop culture" handling runs in the grooming community.

Just like in any relationship, both sides must compromise for each other; that is what defines the relationship as a healthy one. Without a working compromise, the scales tip in favor of one side. In the case of human to dog, the scale rarely tips to the dog. I'm not saying that it should, but it should never tip to the human either. As a whole, we've somehow got it in our heads that we must always push ourselves onto the dog whenever things aren't going our way. In a playground setting we call this bullying.

We are already in control of our dogs. We provide them with shelter by paying our bills, go out to the store to buy their food, take them to the vet for medicines... and the list goes on. When they misbehave, they can be removed from the situation easily with a leash. On the table, they can be handled slowly until they relax, and gradually built up to have a tolerance for things that they, for what ever reason, find scary. Why do we feel the need to get so physical with our dogs? I guarantee that if I saw you standing around and I didn't like it, and I went up to you and started shoving you around, you'd probably get aggravated and push back at some point!

The dog is already removed from his environment. My job is to make him feel at ease as much as possible with these weird new surroundings, not to shush and shove him until he shuts down and grows to hate being on the table. Grooming must be enjoyable for both parties involved. This is where I love the bathing systems and completely adjustable force dryers and tables at the school. We can compensate for the dog, all while doing the job humanely.

Speaking of being humane, I learned how to handle both deaf and blind dogs. Deaf dogs are a little easier, because they can still see the edge of the table as well as where you are standing. I just wish I could tell them how good they look! Blind dogs are very special. I talked almost nonstop to my little blind Poodle, Butler. He actually followed the noise of my clippers at one point - noisier clippers really aren't so bad after all, haha! There's a deeper bond to be formed with a blind dog, as they are completely reliant on you in order to be safe on the table. I had a hard time giving the little guy back to his owners; I could tell that they loved their dog deeply, but I knew that was probably going to be the only time I ever got to work with him. Wherever I end up, I want to work with a blind little Poodle!

New this week was Schnauzer faces and body work. One day I had three dogs, the last of which was an actual Schnauzer. The first two were Yorkie mixes, and the cut really suited them well! I need to convince my aunt to let me give her Yorkie, Wheezer, a Schnauzer face!

As for the best? I'm home for the holidays, with my best friend in the world! Xavier was very excited to see me, but didn't throw all 57 pounds of himself at me - Mom doped him with turkey, haha! His winter coat is forcing his old summer coat out of the follicles, so he looks similar to when I first brought him home! He's getting groomed tomorrow, as well as a shelter dog, and my uncle's Golden will probably be getting groomed today... don't tell anyone, but I might be a workaholic, haha!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Horsin' Around After a Crazy Week

I totally needed this!

...not to say that week number six was a train wreck, because it definitely had its ups and downs. Let's start with the good stuff!

Tim showed us some scissor exercises--although a far cry from SCISSORCISES--early in the morning, and told us to lead with the cutting blade for smooth finishes. It's already helped with my shear control. Pun definitely not intended; just think how much better it would be if we finally scissorcised! If this week's not too bad, I'm gonna get on his case about it, haha!

Let's see... I learned I have a natural knack for Poodle topknots. Tim seemed impressed when I told him I did a topknot completely unassisted, and the only thing wrong was that it was a little flat in the back. Snow blindness is a pain, but the final product looked good!

So that brings us to the not-so-great. The same Poodle I did the rockstar topknot on acted like a brat for her face. I got frustrated and caught myself, seconds before Tim did. Apparently, when I hit that point, I start to shout. I didn't mean to get so flustered with Gigi. Good thing Tim's so incredibly level-headed; I hope to someday be like him, in that regard.

Also, Shih Tzu faces were my recurring demise. I just wasn't able to get into the corner close enough to remove those pesky little hairs--all out of fear of cutting the dog--and ended up with clean, bulldog-ish faces. At least I watched a grooming video today that showed me how to do it. And even though I was told (don't remember who the heck said it) to trim the outside corners of the eyes first, you're supposed to go from the inside corners, to the visor, and do the outside dead last! I hate getting thrown off...

One more thing that's been bothering me is how many kennel trims I've been doing. I'm tired of putting dogs up on sticks, as it's commonly referred to. You can definitely leave a little bit of hair on the legs to give a minuscule amount of style to a short trim. Kennel trims are for matted dogs!

At least I wasn't in the position of one of my classmates, who cut a dog's ear. Both Tim and the owner were extremely forgiving; it's not like she meant to do it, after all. Kind of makes me wish my first mistake would be here, in a place where no one is going to leap down your back about it. Still, it was a reminder to all of us how careful we must be with our "moving targets"!

The sixth week was more pressure-filled than any other week so far. I'm very appreciative to Michelle and her husband for inviting us down to their little ranch in the country and letting us ride their two horses. Novi definitely had the most fun, you could tell when he said he wanted a faster horse! Being out in a place like that, where the roads were winding and all of the stars were out when dusk fell, made me feel like there is still a bit of surreal magic hidden within the world's corners.

Speaking of stars, I could've sworn I saw a shooting one as we drove home. Sure hope my wish comes true!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Busy Week and Weekend

There's no doubt about it, week five was the busiest so far. It started with a topknot and ended with a tight tidy on a Pomeranian and a Schnauzer's brick-shaped face! Tim even started timing my work; there's an area that's downright shabby. I admit, I nitpick. I'm a perfectionist, right down to the last detail! Tim definitely confirmed it when he took care of four paw pads AND nails in the time it takes me to do one! I know there's no comparison, as he's been doing this for fifteen years, but I still wish I was faster; it'll come in time. Rather coincidental, no? Haha!

Two fellow classmates graduated on Saturday: Vanessa and our roommate, Emily. I have a feeling that both of them will be great groomers. Vanessa has calmed down a bit with her handling this week (patience is a virtue, after all), and Emily is just so darned creative... kudos to both of them!

That also means that Merlin has left the building. Already, it's unnerving to not have a four-legged furbaby running around the house; I've caught myself several times looking for him when I know darn well that he went home! Perhaps I can see about bringing Xavier down here for the last two weeks...

Some of Sunny's relatives came for a visit, so we went on the town. Lexington is beautiful! We both ate so well; I know I went into "hibernation mode" on Saturday night. Guess I need a sign that says "Don't feed the groomer," haha!

Today we were supposed to go horseback riding with Novi, but the weather is gray and miserable. I took this opportunity to hole myself up and study. Not only am I getting through Diane's book on canine body language, but I've also read some fantastic articles in Neptune. Armed with Jean Donaldson's new advice, I feel inspired... I'm gonna need that doggy center that I dream about, haha!

We're supposed to scissorcise this week too! I hope number six pans out to be the best yet!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Things are getting interesting this week! So far we have three new people with us... well, four, but one quit. Anyway, there's a new air of excitement in the classroom. I hope that part of it came from me introducing myself to everyone beforehand as well as saying that they could come to any of us for help whenever they needed it. I think I would've liked to hear that more from my fellow students my first day.

Tim is no longer the only guy in the school as he now has Novi (from Serbia) and David to back him up - and he's already let fly with a few lines he's been saving, haha!

Right now the big concern is tables - not everyone will have their own this week! Talk about a full house!

As for me? I had a project and a half today: a severely matted Cock-A-Poo named Bella. I find it inexcusable and appalling that the first dog I ever groomed, a puppy mill rescue Poodle, had less mats than she did! If Mommie and Daddie want her to have a long coat someday, might I recommend that they make an effort to brush her once in a while?

...whew. OK, I feel a little better now. Bella did too, once I got her "straight jacket" off. At least we were able to save her ears, beard, and topknot; I was pretty impressed at how cute I made her face look, despite the large divots in her coat from de-matting!

Whaddaya think?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New Month, Different Outlook

The past week was certainly full of its ups and downs, both weighing in heavily. Let's start out with the good. On Wednesday, we were blessed with two very special visitors: two of the three Bedlingtons in the entire state of Kentucky came in for a groom! Even thinking about them now, I can't get over how cool they were! Both brothers were very used to being groomed; it was fun to watch, and even more fun to play with them afterwards. What sweet dogs! You'd never guess they were originally bred to square off in a battle royal with each other.

Now, not everyone was interested in seeing them, one of several things that prompted our instructors to blow everything out of the water, rather out-of-the-blue, the next morning. While it changed the atmosphere into a friendlier one, everyone felt the tensions the episode caused, including myself. Eventually a part of me just collapsed inside; I had to step out and recollect myself. I really hate that feeling. At least Tim came outside to give me a pep talk and help me build my spirits back up.

I feel incredibly blessed to have Tim as one of my instructors. He feels less like a teacher, and more of a buddy, which I find rather beneficial considering some of my past "schooling experiences". I have a lot to learn, now I just need to figure out how to pick his brain to get that information out!

Back to the good, Sunny and I decided to go to BW-3's last night with one of our other classmates, Dianne. We talked about a lot, and I feel like it was a huge relief to get things off our minds. Food was great, the restaurant was buzzing with football excitement, and there was lots of good beer! Plus, they both took some playful shots at me when I told them about the salsa-dancing dream at Groom Expo... that's all I'm saying, hehe!

We've come to the conclusion that there is indeed some trouble in paradise, but we're going to steer clear of the storms as best we can, or at least ride them out. As I said yesterday, we've got to keep our eyes on the prize. Knowledge, technique, expertise - it's all going to our future salons! We're here to learn, and nothing is going to get in our way!

Once again, I'm already looking forward to the end of the weekend. In the meantime, I've set up a goal to read one article a day from Jean Donaldson's Dogs are from Neptune. If I'm going to be a pet pro, I'd better know all the best!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On Being Humbled by a Puppy

There's no doubt in my mind that I will, time and time again, repeat the statement that dogs make fools of us all. Hopefully we as humans can learn from these experiences, just like I did today.

Enter little Benson, a seven-month-old Shih Tzu. Really, he was very good for his groom. Only screamed for his first two nails, tolerated the stand dryer with just a few howls, and had little problem with getting a rescue smoothie. However, when it came time to trim his mustache and beard, he wasn't having any of it.

A lot of his protesting fell to me, as I'm not used to grooming dogs that require face trimming. Instead of working Benson through the process, I went right for his precious hairs. Luckily, Tim showed me how to gain his trust by holding his head, then petting him with the shears, then taking a few snips, and finally finishing the round expression.

The real kicker of it all was that I already knew how to do that, but wasn't applying it to his face! I introduced him to the clipper on his feet that way, as I learned to do at Groom Expo. Plus, I've trained dogs to accept the nail trimmers (including my own Xavier) the same way. Perhaps I'm too much like a dog, in that I don't generalize! It never occurred to me that I could apply similar techniques to the rest of the groom!

I can be a noodge sometimes. It's a very humbling feeling to realize you've got nothing in the ways of handling, even after a couple of years of theoretical study. However, an important lesson was confirmed today: steady introduction goes one heck of a long way!

Dogs make fools of us, and it's up to us in turn to shut up, listen, and learn from what they are trying to say.
...there's another one of my favorite sayings, hehe!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two Down

Hard to believe that it's already been two weeks since I first arrived here and began at Nash. I definitely noticed improvements in my techniques, and I'm excited to say that this week I get to use my clippers more. Wait, why am I not down there banging on the doors to be let in and groom? Haha!

There were some definite toughies this week. It's like I say: dogs can and will make fools of us all! I was defeated by a Pug with a deep-seated hatred of nail clipping. Perhaps that's where the term "pugnacious" comes from? I agree with Tim on this one: it should state that resentment for nail care in the breed standard!

At least Rocky the Pug wasn't like Princess, an elderly Maltese with an automatic bite response to anything that came near her feet. I got nailed twice! The Groomer's Helper (thanks again Chuck!) saved my hands from demise. In the tub, she was a real sweetheart, even for her feet! Was it a matter of an environment change, or just the fact that she was all wet? Haha!

I didn't know that a correct Golden Retriever coat is synonymous with "dense"! None of the Goldens back home can ever compare to miss Maggie's extreme coat, hiding mats and preventing a comb from being dropped through it! At least I got her head symmetry in perfect balance. I'm well on my way if I can do that successfully!

Again on the topic of dogs making fools of us, I've learned that I have some breed stereotypes. Labs back home are, nicely put, hillbillies! So whenever I see a Lab come in, I can't help but prepare myself for wigglies, drool, noise, and--of course--extreme smells. Of the Labs I've worked on so far, I've seen none of these. They are almost reserved and regal in temperament, a nice change from the rowdies I'm used to. They've made me feel humbled in a sense. As humans, our ability and need to categorize everything down to a T is undoubtedly one our greatest attributes, and simultaneously one of our biggest downfalls. See what I mean? Dogs DO make fools of us! At least this was a learning experience, as well as a pleasant surprise; I'm viewing Labs in a new light.

Picture time!
Check back next week for clipper work! Yeah!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Nice Surprise

In my previous entries, I've failed to mention that my other housemate, Emily, brought her kitten along for the ride. Sunny (who also lives with us and is my former online classmate) and I can't get enough of his wild kitty antics - from nice to naughty in a split second! Merlin the Kitten is not just a ball of energy, but also has a cuddly side.

Em went to visit family over the weekend and took Merlin along. They came back later this evening and we realized how empty the place felt without our four-legged friend. In addition, it was the first time I realized how long I'd been away from Xavier. Going through pictures on my phone, I began to miss him terribly. Next thing I know, Merlin is crawling on my lap and gently nuzzling my head. He went upstairs, and I stayed down to watch some TV, thinking all the while about my four-legged boy back home. When I got up to my room, I heard a strange sound. Turning to the bed, I was greeted by a pair of green eyes and a joyful purr.

Merlin has taken a definite liking to all of us, and in such a short time. This gesture of friendliness from a hyperactive kitty when I felt troubled confirms my belief: our animals do indeed watch over us. I still miss Xavier, but Merlin's surprise greeting let me know that I am in good paws right now! I can't help but feel that as a soon-to-be groomer, I am returning the favor to all animal kind. If only more humans could be so supportive. And people ask me why I chose to work with animals so closely, haha!

It's late, and tomorrow starts a new week. I hope I get a hairy Nordic dog to groom soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

First Week Out... Already??

I'm still trying to figure out how an entire week is already over - it's amazing! I've got thirteen dogs under my belt, granted that they're all either prep grooms, natural styles or silhouette tidies. Still, I've learned so much in the short time here. Holding my shears is becoming a breeze; the secret is to pull with your fingers and push with your thumb to secure and steady - clean cuts! Not to mention a few random breed factoids, such as the Chihuahua's soft spot on the top of the head or how the Bedlington's speed body build should never be pulled out of a foxhole like you would a Westie... unless you WANT to get bit by a very angry dog!

So far I'm a fan of bulk thinning, especially for those pesky featherings on Golden Retrievers. My beveled feet could use a little more work, but they're coming along. I even got to work on some first-time clients, the most noteworthy being Toto, the gas station Schnauzer mix. He actually made me get sappy and emotional; not only was he an angel for his groom, but we're really not all that different. We've just both been set on the path to begin a great life journey, and for me, it was an honor that our paths crossed.

I always wonder what Xavier is up to at home. So far no problems - we're both keeping busy, I suppose. As much as I want to enjoy my time here, part of me is anticipating the day I bust through the front door and give my best buddy a giant cuddle!

Oh! As promised, here's some doggy pictures!
Be sure to check it often for even more dogs!

Now what the HECK am I going to do all weekend? Haha!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Awesome first day!

OK, so I might be too exhausted some days to bring minute-to-minute coverage of my time at Nash, but that's a good thing - it's incredible here! We all introduced ourselves and then got out own tables... with cabinets! No more lugging around my big heavy blue suitcase, at least until I leave. I spent the majority of the morning marking my equipment with a distinguishing blue paw print; you never realize how much you actually pack until you spend so much time tagging it all!

Afternoon was great. My first day, and I got to team up with Sunny to bathe and dry... a black standard Poodle! The funny thing was that he looked like a gigantic Armani, the first dog I ever groomed - on this day last year to be exact! I think the Universe is trying to tell me that I'm in the right place, haha!

My hand has a small cramp in it from playing with my shears and the dryer, but it's a good feeling. It means I'm learning something new, and I'm going to need to acclimate to it. Speaking of which, I've learned that I adapt to changing environments a lot easier than I thought I would, similar to a dog! So far I'm feeling very at home here. The fact that I'm surrounded by other pet care pros helps - even with my grooming buddies, I don't get to talk this much "dog" at home!

Plus, I got to say hi to Xavier tonight - Mom said his eyes went wide when he heard my voice over the phone. I kind of wished he would've "Woo-woo"ed back, but I'm glad he still knows his mama's voice!

I'm going to be uploading pictures to Photobucket once I have the opportunity. Stay tuned for puppy pictures!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Howdy Y'all!

Hehe. I'm all set and moved in! After one night at the Ramada and another night in a smaller room, I've just put all my stuff away in a bigger room. Class starts tomorrow, and the anticipation is killing me! There are a few mixed thoughts right now, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see what's coming down the pike!

Mom called earlier and said Xavier was waiting at the door for me. He's my own little Hachiko, only his human is coming back someday!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The End of an Act

I don't remember when I first heard the line, "If life's a stage, it's time for the next act." All I know is that it's a really good way of looking at change. This act in my life has come to a close. Two years ago, I was unsure of my destination, but filled with determination. Now, I've got a new goal, that same drive, and a whole lot of something I didn't have much of before: confidence.

Most of the loose ends are tied up now. I sent a special thank you to the kennel for keeping an eye on Xavier for me while I was at Groom Expo. There were many fond farewells at the shelter on Thursday. I even printed out some pictures I had of Zeus and Trevor the Donut for my director to put on the urns--didn't have any of Raven, and I'd never seen Gypsie. Mere hours ago, I came out of a massive "food coma" induced by eating too much hibachi with some of my best friends from work--I'm gonna miss you guys like crazy!!

Seems like all that's left to do is finish packing, say a fond farewell to Xavier (sadly, he can't come), and hit the road. There's one thing I noticed though: it doesn't feel like tomorrow will be any different. Lately I've noticed a calm in the atmosphere, a sort of zen if you will; everything feels as it should. It's almost like I've just been a spectator in this town, watching and knowing that everything is going to be just fine. I'll admit I've had my worries, but they're all a thing of the past now.

If life's a stage, it's time for my next act. And for everyone I've met in this one and knew from previous ones, just remember another of my absolute favorite lines: "It's never really goodbye, because there will always be another dog show!"

School starts on Tuesday. Exit stage left, intermission, curtain up!

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Harsh Reminder for All Animal Families

There are a number of good reasons to work to have a well-trained, well socialized dog. The everyday rewards include a dog who is easy and enjoyable to live with, gets along well with other dogs and people, and adjusts to strange situations--such as being groomed. However, when left to their own devices, doga can't figure out this human world on their own and go down the only path they know--one that often leads to tragedy.

Let me introduce you to four shelter dogs, three of which I groomed. First there is Zeus, a powerful Siberian Husky mix who adores people, but was returned because he got loose and killed a cat, something the owners simply couldn't (or didn't?) want to deal with. Second is Raven, a gigantic Lab mix who most likely didn't have the best lot in life; she was a nervous wreck unless given positive handling and lavished with encouragement. She was returned time and time again because the families weren't ready for her neediness. Third is Trevor, one of the bravest Pomeranians I've ever encountered. He was stuffed into a crate with his brother Ben-o for eight years, and when the owner got sick of them, she sold them at a garage sale. Luckily, they were brought to us and adopted; Ben-o went home immediately, but Trevor had to wait with us until his home was ready. I gave this boy a lion trim with a rounded teddy bear head and gave him newly found confidence. Finally, there is Gypsie, a Chihuahua; that's all I can really say because I never had the pleasure of meeting her.

While I was gone at Groom Expo last week, tragedy struck the shelter. Zeus and Raven somehow escaped from their kennels and worked their way into the one shared by Gypsie and Trevor. The little dogs didn't stand a chance; the attack was instantaneous and resulted in their horrible demise. Zeus and Raven were now at the top of the most wanted list for severe aggression. Since the shelter can't adopt out dogs with known issues this intense and deep-seated, there was simply no choice in the matter--both attacking dogs were destroyed.

The news was devastating. Upon hearing it, I felt myself go numb. I don't ever remember something like this happening in our shelter's past, but dogs can and will make fools of us all eventually. Of all the dogs lost, I felt hit hardest by Trevor's loss. He was just removed from a terrible situation, only to have his promising life cut short. The family came in later that night to take him home, only to find out that he was gone. They joined the entire shelter staff in mourning the loss of the four dogs, something that I could feel lingering in the air after I saw everyone. The fact that I'd worked on three of the dogs, however, made matters worse: I felt like part of me died along with them. This is my first real loss as a groomer, something that I know I will get more when my four-legged clients get older. At least then, we will be able to get together for one more hurrah--I never got the chance to say goodbye to these ones. I could only look at the urns in the office for so long; the little collars with tags wrapped around each one hit me hard.

Wouldn't it be nice if people invested more time into their dogs? What if Zeus and Raven were well-socialized and got to meet a lot of different dogs growing up? Would they still have killed Trevor and Gypsie on the spot? Sadly, this question is one that we will never know the answer to as we add these names to the list of statistics.

I don't care if you are a pet owner, groomer, handler, veterinarian, trainer, or any of the other specialists that work with these amazing animals on a day-to-day basis. I don't recommend training because I want your dogs to be human, I want them to be well-adjusted to this twisted, humans' world. They simply don't have the capacity to figure it out for themselves. It is up to us to lead them to what we deem as acceptable, and to do so in a humane and nonviolent fashion. Think about it--if training and socializing your dog prevents a catastrophe like this, isn't it all worth it?
A candle lit for the precious lives lost: Gypsie, Zeus, Raven, and Trevor, my little "Donut Boy". For the last three, it was an honor to have groomed you!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Home Safe

I know I'm writing this one late, as I've been home since three and picked Xavier up at four. However, I've been schmoozing, unpacking, and trying out some of my new toys - it is all fantastic so far! The journey home was very smooth, but I've already caught myself pining for the atmosphere of pet care professionals. Ah well, only two weeks until Kentucky! See y'all soon!

The Sunday Finale

It's so hard to believe that itwas the last day of Groom Expo, already! That's got to be the one thing I can't stand about it: it ends waaay to soon! Nonetheless, it was certainly fun-filled, if not a little painful on my wallet!

I sat outside the VIP lounge waiting for it to open, reading my program book, when Lisa walked by.
Me: Hey Lisa!
Lisa: Hey! Whaddya have planned for today?
Me: Well I'm coming to see you later, a few more seminars, then I gotta go get me some new shears! What kind do you recommend?
Lisa: Kenchii!
Me: Hmm...
Lisa: Stop by the booth later, we'll help you find some in your price range!
Me: Sounds great, see ya later!

I could afford some KENCHIIS? Awesome!!

Inside the VIP lounge, I grabbed several cups of coffee to help sustain me--I was tired! It did the trick, and off I went, once again bumping into Jorge! This guy is everywhere!

The trade show was just minutes away from opening up for the last time. Frankie was poised outside the doors, asking us to thank the lodge staff with applause. Definitely not as energetic as Friday, but he didn't need to be. We all just walked right in.

Jorge was waiting at the Forever Stainless Steel booth.
Me: Heeeey, Jorge!
Jorge: Hey sweeite!
Me: Are you ready for a picture?
Jorge: Oh yeah! (Turning to the girl at he booth) Hey, can you take our picture? (Pointing to me) Right here, she iss like my number one!
Me: Wow, really? Me?
Jorge: Well hyou are at least in top three, right?
Me: Pretty darn close, I'd say!
Girl: Everybody say "Jorge!"
Then he gave me some "Jorgelicious" water. He said you have to have an Argentinian accent when you drink it. H'okay, so I guess I give it a ten minutes try! Haha!

Going down the row, I saw Judge Joey just finishing a conversation--now was the time to move in!
Me: (putting my arm on his shoulder and grinning slyly) So, Judge Joey... can I be a complete pain in the butt and ask for a picture?
Joey: Absolutely.
(A lady standing nearby took our picture and I reviewed it with him)
Me: Hey, looks pretty good, don't you think?
Joey: Yeah, YOU look good!
Me: Hehe, aw thanks! (I always knew he was a sly one, hehe!) So Joey, I gotta ask, what are your thoughts on the Red Clipper?
Joey: Hm... well the first time I tried them I didn't like them, but once I got used to them they were pretty good.
Me: Ah, OK. Because I won a pair at the social Thursday night, so I wanted to get some feedback from you on them.
Joey: Yeah, just play around with them for a bit, and I know you'll come to like them.
Me: OK. So I hear that Animal Planet dropped Groomer Has It...
Joey: Well that's not 100% yet.
Joey: Yeah, we got a real positive response from everyone, so we didn't want to make it official.
Me: Lisa told me to write to 3-ball, so--
Joey: Animal Planet. Write to them first.
Me: OK, as soon as I get back home, I'm sending in a letter for you guys. They can't quit GHI. I love you guys--all of you!
Joey: (grinning) OK sweeite, thanks, and take it easy.
Me: I will. Oh, and be sure to say hi to Xavier for me!
Joey: Oh trust me, I will!

AWESOME! There IS still a good chance for a third GHI!! And I do trust Joey, the message will go through to Xavier. Hehe!

Right. So I was walking around for a bit and saw Sherri, from GHI 2, at the Shark Fin Shears booth. We talked for a while, and then she invited me back later to get my hand fitted for a pair of shark fins. Now I had two shear companies to choose from!

That coupon from the Eric Salas seminar was burning a hole in my tote, so I redeemed it for a T-brush. I continued on to the Groomer's Helper booth where Chuck sold me my Pro Kit. Thanks again Chuck, now you're MY hero! My friends at the Red Clipper booth also said hi as I passed. They invited me to try out the clipper again, but it was time for the first seminar of the day, with Lisa!

I don't know a whole lot about handstripping, so this was one of the first ones I wanted to take. Lisa did some work on a Wire Fox Terrier. I don't know who was having more fun, Lisa or the dog! You could see the look of pure bliss on the dog's face as Lisa pulled out her dead guard hairs. Not only was this one informative, but it was too darn cute!

Already, it was time for the second luncheon, this one featuring a groomer smock fashion show and the groomer makeovers. Once again, we had that delicious chicken. I didn't dare get any dessert--I needed to be mobile today! The event was hosted be Judy Bremer-Taxman and Mr. B, who was playing the music from last year's Poodle competition. There were some really cute designs that the three competing groomers made themselves. And then, of course, Judy walked on stage in camo and "trained" Mr. B! She let fly with a few dirty jokes, even though Sally was right nearby!

As for the groomer makeovers, the people from Mary Kay did a great job with the three girls. We saw before pictures, and they looked like completely different people! They'll be going home with a great souvenir.

Speaking of souvenirs, there was a drawing for some sterling silver jewelery. Guess who was called up first! Since I got first pick of everything, I went right for the adorable dog and cat pin. Everyone said that it was definitely "me"! While on the topic of compliments, I still had people coming up to me and asking if I was the dog at the Friday night party. They'll be talking about that for a while!

My second seminar of the day was all about Bach flower essences and natural remedies for "oochie poochies". I found a lot of it to be interesting, but some things I just had to wonder about. For example, if you make an essence yourself and use VODKA as a preservative, is it really the essence that is making the dog feel better? Haha!

Right, time for the massive buying spree to continue! Before I went to grab some new shears, I stopped by the FSS booth to say goodbye to Jorge.He was talking to Marco, so I snuck up behind him and gave him a big hug! He turned to Marco and said, "Di-shyou know that she was my dog at the party? My Cocker Spaniel, from Groomer Has It! Tha'ss a fan in my book!" Marco thought that was pretty cool! When I told Jorge I wanted to come to Intergroom this year, he said he was giving seminars there on customer relations. I hope I can go so I can see him again! In the meantime, we'll be in touch over the Internet. He said goodbye, wished me a safe ride home, and I did the same. Jorge is such a sweetie!

I decided to go with the Kenchii shears, by advice of Toomie. When I got to the booth, I saw the scorpion series and thought they might be good. The man there recommended the next expensive pair up, the 5-stars, saying that they were Lisa's favorite--she used them on GHI! Normally, the whole set--thinner, shear, curved--was $500, but the special show price was $300. How could I walk away from that?? What a great deal I found--I'm going to Nash with KENCHIIS!!

I picked up an undercoat rake for my buddy who couldn't make it (although it looks like a lot of vendors are only selling coat kings anymore), earplugs for myself, and then I ran into Huber at the PetSmart booth. I asked for one more picture, and if he would be at any other trade shows. He said, "As much as I like them, I really need to get my mobile business off the ground."

To which I replied, "Yeah. Fun's over! Haha! Nah, just kidding, enjoy it, and take care of yourself!" Huber is a sweetheart too!

On the way to my last class, I picked up some DVD's at the souvenir booth. I got Groomer Has It vs. the Clipper Vac, Flashy Stencils with Dawn Omboy, Grooming the Portuguese Water Dog, the Nash Poodle Expressions, and then decided "Why not?" and got Sasha's European grooming session as well!

The last class was a lot of fun. Debbie, from the Debbie and the Newbies tour, brought an Australian Terrier and Afghan puppy and taught us how to condition them to being on the table using horsemanship techniques. It was hilarious, because she let the puppies run rampant with the mother Aussie when they weren't getting groomed. The Afghan kept leaping from table to table, chair to chair, and peeling out with her big puppy paws! As for the terrier, she harassed her mom while finding new places to hide: under the stage, under our tables, and with the camera operators. When both puppies were on the floor, a wild game of chase ensued. What a great way to close a great show!

As I said earlier, it's the one thing about Groom Expo I don't like: it ends way too soon! However, I wasn't upset that it was over, but instead felt blessed to have a share in such a wonderful venue. The camaraderie of the groomers here is greater than most, the wait staff is incredibly friendly and helpful, Frankie Brown kept our spirits high, and of course it was a real treat to connect with old friends and make some new ones too! I'm going to miss being here, but I'm going home with memories that will never be forgotten, and to borrow one of my favorite lines: "There will always be another dog show!" There is no doubt in my mind: each year, you will see me in Hershey Lodge getting my groom on!

Now it's time to pack up all of my new found treasures, go home, and get the four-legged boy out of the kennel. Now how in the HECK am I going to manage to fit all my stuff in the "Puppy Waggin'"??

To borrow another phrase from another one of my esteemed buddies, for Groom Expo 2009... THAT'S IT BABY!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saturday Seminars and Singing Sasha!

Saturday morning I woke up with a massive headache - I didn't even do any drinking the night before! There just weren't enough hours for me to get some good sleep. I knew I had to get down to the show; today was more seminars, plus a whole bunch of other wonderful treats!

First up, I went to see Dawn Omboy again - this time she was speaking about getting creative. She had two of her Poodles with her, both of them colored, of course! The seminar was aptly named All That Glitters; we used glitter in several of the activities. Other things included how to make collar scrunches, getting creative with fake flowers, and putting rhinestones on dog toenails.

Moving into the trade show, I went straight for the Red Clipper booth; I knew my model as well as what blades I wanted. I decided to go with a #30 to use under snap-on combs and a #7F for shavedowns. They showed me how to attach the blades (they're a bolt-on style) and maintain my clipper, which involves cleaning the filter... to borrow a line, "That's it, baby!" Haha! I even got to try it out on a demo dog. The clippers do all of the work--I just guide them! They even went through a thick, tangled mat with no effort on my part. Good God, I can't wait to use mine!!

Although I got there ten minutes early, Lisa began her seminar--Short but Sweet Poodles--early. I sat down in the VIP section. The only thing I really missed was her introduction. Lisa is amazing with a pair of shears and snap-on combs! That reminds me, I realized by watching her that I need a set of the Wahl stainless steel attachments--they are incredible! Lisa no longer uses any other blades!

After cruising around the trade show for a bit and picking up some free samples, it was off to the first luncheon, which featured a groomer's talent show. We were served some kind of grilled seasoned chicken over rice, and it was delicious. Dessert was Reese's pie--absolutely decadent! I met up with some of the PG members and met a few new friends as well, one of them from a town near home! I was getting the same question from them and passers-by the whole time: "Is the car that's painted up outside yours? Seems like something you would do!" Hmm, deja vu from last year when everyone was saying, "You look like a groomer, I'll bet you are!" Haha!

Anyway, the talent show was incredible. First, we had a girl who just signed up to try and win a prize. She just did a little dance. Then, one of Judy Bremer-Taxman's friends did a great comedy set, most of it featuring dog jokes: different breed answers to how many dogs it takes to screw in a lightbulb, new desginer breeds, and then she threw in some tongue twisters and said them perfectly! The next act, however, had most of the audience (including myself!) floored! Sasha Reiss came up on stage and said that since most people have trouble with his accent, he would sing. There is only one picture of him at the beginning for a reason: when he began to sing his operetta, it was quite possibly one of the most beautiful sounds I've ever heard. I was stunned. I will see if there is a video out there somewhere of him singing--he could easily bring the burliest men to their knees!

There were several singing acts after him, including a girl who did a parody of a Rascal Flats song... all about grooming cats. The funniest thing was that she could sing about anals in her hair and cat pee in her shoe, yet keep a straight face! She ended up winning, with Sasha in a close second. After he gave us an encore, Judy tried to take him home with her!

The luncheon ran a little longer than expected; luckily, my next seminar was right next door. Kathy Rose was hosting a series called Designer Doos. When I got there, she was stating that the dog she was supposed to be working on hadn't been de-matted, so they needed a substitute. In came a little Pomeranian mix, so she decided on--big surprise--a lion cut! I learned a few tricks to make my lion cuts look even better. Then, she added blue hair extensions to his head and tail... too cute!

Once again, I hit the trade show. Walking by the Espree booth, I decided to pick up a sample starter kit--it was only $15! Can't beat it! When I parked all my stuff near the Wahl booth, I paused to watch a demo given by none other than Lisa Leady; she was grooming a cute little Poodle to look like a Portuguese Water Dog. The little girl reminded me of Armani, so I smiled to myself. I had more reason to smile when Jorge walked by and made a snarky comment!

To which Lisa responded: "Yeah yeah, I know! You're Jorge!! It's OK, I can say that because I married you at last year's Groom Expo! No wait, then I married Jasper! I married everyone last year... except for Artist. Even before I was GHI, I saw Jorge and told him I was marrying him, then I saw Jasper and told Jorge to move over!"

That's when Lisa's sister said, "Hey guys, have you all seen that movie Lady and the Tramp? Well Lisa's not the lady!"

And so Lisa threatened to restrain her with a Groomer's Helper!

I almost didn't want to go to my last seminar, just so I could watch the fur fly out here... in more ways than one! However, my last seminar of the day was just as funny, if not funnier. Judy Bremer-Taxman made a whole bunch of dirty jokes before and after the camera started rolling for her Spa Illusions seminar; her face was priceless when she realized that they were filming! She claimed that Sally Liddick was going to kill her! We had a lot of fun with this one! She gave us all vegan oil and asked us to massage the hands of the person next to us. It was a little weird at first, but after a while it started feeling absolutely wonderful, especially since I've been carrying stuff around all weekend! Then she showed us how to create a spa-type atmosphere in salon lobbies, but not without letting a few more dirty jokes slide! I can see why Jon was being as nasty as he was at the party, haha!

One more visit to the trade show; I picked up Happy Hoodies, then went to find Jorge. He gave me another huge hug, and told me what happened. "So las' night, I said lemme take a two minutes nap, I woke up and it was 2 AM! I was'so mad! But someone posted a vid'yo of the party, and jeesh, you wher dancin' like crazy, flappin' those ears around!" I told him about how Jon said that the GHI season one people were too old to party. "He said that? I'm gonna kick his butt... even though, he's probably right!" We had a good laugh. I need to get a picture with Jorge, Malka suit or not!

After that, I went to watch the Poodle competition. Big surprise, Jonathan won the Expert class--his Poodle looked great! I was hoping to schmooze with Judge Joey afterward, but I had to get back to the room to get my formal attire on--it was time for the Dancing with Dog Stars Dinner!

This food was just as good as, if not better than, the luncheon: pasta salad and mesquite-grilled chicken with fruit salsa! And for dessert: a huge piece of chocolate cake with alternating layers, and a little cup of mousse with an edible chocolate dish. Talk about rib-sticking goodness!

I met another new friend from Colorado at my table. We talked about the classes at Nash and how I work with the shelter dogs. Everyone always tells me that it's the best way to get started--guess I took the natural path!

Before the show began, they brought out all the winners from the grooming competitions for the best in show awards. Judge Joey had to help one of the contestants get her giant Old English Sheepdog onto the table! Jonathan didn't win, but was beaten by a small rescue Poodle: a real "zero to hero" story there!

The opening ceremony was Sasha singing again! This performance was the one that brought me close to tears--it was THAT intense, sublime, and awe-inspiring. The representative from the K9 Freestyle Organization announced that we were moving away from the sublime and into the ridiculous--indeed, her statement was highly accurate! They brought out all the human dancers, who began with a Japanese dance, which went into the chicken dance, the macarena, and the can-can!

There were eight contestants all together. Dogs included a Border Collie, Papillon, and a Golden. Other dogs of note included two Greyhounds at the same time, a "sassy senior" Lab, a Siberian Husky, and last but not least a Norwegian Elkhound. When I saw that last dog, I combined her look with the Husky's coat and couldn't help but wonder how my boy was doing... the one of the four-legged variety, hehe!

Sally and Judy brought out the GHI stars to judge the competition, decided by audience applause. Mostly, they fought over who had more! After several "hand recounts" (get it? Applause? Never mind...) the winners were finally decided.The two sassy seniors took honorable mention, Border Collie took third, the Greyhounds got second, and the Golden got first.

Closing featured, for the fourth time, Sasha singing. Judy announced that Sasha didn't think anyone would want to hear him, and I couldn't believe it! I could listen to him sing all day! His last performance wasn't as intense as the others, but it didn't need to be; it was just as spellbinding and gorgeous, and left us all smiling. I wanted to get a picture, but he took off. Judge Joey disappeared earlier as well. That's OK, I was wiped out as it was. This morning, I thanked my watch for waking me up, as I fell asleep with the lights on. Of course, my new noisy neighbors could've done the job just as well, ugh!

So, here we are--the last big day. I think I'm going to get emotional this year at the show close--why can't it be like this more often? Before that though, I've got four more seminars, the trade show (big purchases today), pictures with Jorge, and hopefully Judge Joey to talk to... so much to do in so little time!

More photos on the way as well!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday Night Lights, Baby!

OK, so I figured I'd split the past two days into two separate posts to avoid one huge one altogether. My oh my, where to begin. Wait, what am I talking about? Friday morning it is!

While sitting outside the Bear's Den, waiting for the VIP lounge to open, Chuck comes walking by. He asks, "J.C., will you band me?" He hadn't tied his ponytail because his arm was hurting him, so he put me up to the all-important task. "First grooming demo of the day - ponytails 101!" he called out to passers-by!

One shouted back, "A 7F will take care of that!"

To which I replied: "It's OK, he's not matted yet!" Haha!

Chuck gave me about ten bands to use in his ponytail. One of the groomers who stopped to watch made the comment: "Now how in the heck did you do that? You placed them out evenly, and used them all up!"

Chuck turned to me and said, "Now you're MY hero!" Guess I'm not just J.C. DogHero anymore, haha!

The VIP lounge opened, so I went in to see what it had to offer. It was a nice quiet place to come and sit, have some coffee, and eat chocolate. I really like having and knowing that it's there!

About fifteen minutes before the trade show opened, I went right to the front doors where a bunch of other groomers were waiting. Frankie Brown and Jon Bannon were getting us riled up! Frankie walked around shouting things like: "These manufacturers have the AUDACITY to keep us locked out and away from all those great products! Well we're taking the room at 10:00! And if they won't let us in, we're kicking down the door! Do you know what my shoe size is? This is a 14, and it's gonna kick down that door!" Hehe.

While all of this was going on, Lisa Leady walked by, and I completely missed her. Crap. Right afterwards I bumped into Jorge again, who reminded me to come to the Forever Stainless Steel booth to see him. Walking down the hallway, I ran right into Judge Joey! He gave me a giant bear hug! When he asked me how I was doing, I told him about my time at Nash, which he congratulated. He said he needed to get to the judges' booth right away, and that he'd see me later. Dang, I didn't get to ask him the all-important question. But he answered that later. More to come...

The last few minutes of waiting for the trade show to open were agonizing. When the doors flew open, we all rushed in. I ran by the FSS booth and shouted, "Jorge! Where do I start? I don't know!!"

I skimmed over the whole show. It was a lot bigger than I remembered! When I got to the Wahl booth in the back, I finally ran smack into... Lisa Leady! I was wearing my L.L. Fan Club shirt, which she thanked me for. Then we started talking about how GHI was nothing like she was expecting, but how much she enjoyed working on it. Then she delivered the heartbreaking news: Animal Planet made another bad move and dropped it. I wanted to start crying, but I asked if another network picked it up. That's when she told me to write to 3-ball (the production company) about it, and that's exactly what I'm doing as soon as I get the chance!! They CAN'T quit GHI!!

So I continued to cruise around the trade show and ended up at the Wag'n Tails setup. I can't really say "booth", because it consisted of a mobile bus. A magic bus! I stepped inside and was stunned by the comfort and spaciousness of the inside. I want one!

I didn't get my blades for my new Red Clipper, partially because I couldn't remember which blades went with it, and partially because I didn't know what sizes I wanted! They said it would be OK for me to come back the next day, so off I went. After poking around at a bunch of different booths--mostly playing with shears--I grabbed a quick lunch at Bear's Den and headed over to the First Aid course. There, I met my classmate, Sunny, and got a first aid kit. Mostly, it was a refresher of things I'd already learned at Nash, however it had hands-on work with dummy dogs and cats. Now THAT was cool! And in all honesty, I think it could've been more effective to have a Q&A session at the end rather than having everyone scream out random questions, especially if it was one that was covered a minute ago! Well, to borrow a phrase here, "Shut up, listen, and learn!" Hehe!

Afterwards, I went to poke around the trade show some more and discovered that they were already doing GHI souvenir photos. I ended up with two: Huber and Lisa! The people there were more into it this year and helped me strike some poses. While I waited for them to develop, I caught the end of the grooming competition. Judge Joey announced to everyone that there'd be retro candy at the party later. Awesome!

On the way out, I stopped to see Jorge and asked if he was coming to the party. He said he wasn't sure, looking absolutely tired. When I told him I brought my "Rainbow Brite Cocker Spaniel" suit (hehe!), he said he HAD to come and get a picture with me!

Now it was time for the GHI stars vs. the Clipper Vac session! It was a fun two hours! I've never used the Clipper Vac before, but that didn't stop me from learning new tricks! Not only that, but it was hilarious - everything from Lisa's "I picked this dog (a Sheltie) because it has no topknot!" to the pissed-off cat they tried to give Cassandra, I need to get the DVD!

I left the convention center to go back to the Best Western... to put on my Malka suit! Yeah, it was time for the 80s party!! I found a bunch of people from PG already at a table, and they loved my Malka suit. I also ran into Lisa again, and here's what happened:

Me: Hey Lisa!
Lisa: Heeey! Love the costume!
Me: Do you know who I am?
Lisa: Yeah, I remember you from earlier! You had my face plastered on you shirt!
Me: Yeah, but do you know who I'm dressed as?
Lisa: (thinking for a moment) You're the Barkleigh dog!
Me: Well, not quite. I'm Jorge's Rainbow Brite Cocker Spaniel from last season!
Lisa: AH-HAHAHAHAHA! Oh, but Jorge's not even coming!
Me: I saw him earlier and told him about it, he said he HAD to come now!
Lisa: HAHA!

Jorge didn't show up. Grr.

Judge Joey wasn't lying about the retro candy: Barkleigh delivered with candy cigarettes (my favorite!), Pixie Sticks, buttons, wax lips, even giant jawbreakers! I downed a couple of Pixie Sticks as more groomers filtered in. The DJ, Mr. B, began to play Atomic Dog, and something inside of me just kicked on: I had to go bust a move! Fitting song since I was in a Cocker suit, haha!

I got a ton of laughs and cheers from the others, both on and off the floor. They threw glow sticks in our direction, so I grabbed one and made a collar out of it! Next up was the bubble wrap stomp! It's exactly what it sounds like: they rolled out a huge piece of bubble wrap on the floor and we all stomped on it to the tune of Country Boy - stress release, they called it! Back on the dance floor, we were joined by Jon Bannon, in full Duran Duran costume. Boy, can he bust some moves!

Judy Bremer-Taxman took over after a while and invited the GHI stars up to have a "dish session" - a few told us about behind the scenes secrets. Examples: Lisa has nightmares that she gets chased by ghosts, Marco screams in Portuguese and steals props in the back for souvenirs, and Huber snores! After that, they all got up on the floor as Mr. B played Apache. I jumped up and started dancing with Bill (who was dressed in a gray suit wearing a mullet wig) and Huber (dressed as Little Richard). Bill and I had a good rhythm going for a while; we even shouted "A-hoo-gah-cha-ca!" at the same time! That dude can dance!

After a few songs, I sat down with the PG members and we laughed about how I was just shredding it up out there! Jonathan David and crew joined us. For as evil as they made him look on GHI, he's actually really cool! He was playing around with the plastic lips and candy cigarettes, and generally getting laughs from everyone, as well as a few weird looks!

That's when we ran into Judge Joey again! And here's where the all-important question was answered, even before I could ask...

Me: Judge Joey!
Joey: Heeeeey!
Me: (pointing to costume) So whaddya think?
Joey: Heh heh yeah! Hey, where's your boy Xavier? He's not here! (I should mention something: he's talking about the Xavier of the two-legged variety, hehe!)
Me: Aw man! Is he coming to the show at all?
Joey: Nah...
Me: Awww! Well, will you be seeing him again soon?
Joey: Yeh.
Me: (demonstrating) Well, when you see him, go up to him, give him a big bone-crushing hug, and tell him that's from me!
Joey: (smiling) OK, I will!

Bummer. But I hope my "present" gets to him!! Hehe! Oh, and someone snapped a picture as I was demonstrating; that's the only picture I have of me with Judge Joey right now!

Judy Bremer-Taxman called everyone to gather around the dance floor for the 80s competition. About ten other costumed people got picked to do their best dance, including an Olivia-Newton John, a mohawk girl, a blue-haired girl, and nasty nasty Jon! The mohawk girl ended up winning; the prize was a fully-paid VIP package for next year!

Back to open floor! I tore it up some more to Superfreak, Push It and Baby Got Back. After I sat down, Jon came up to me and said, "Wow, you were dancing your ass off! Can you feel it in your crack? I can in mine!" Nasty, nasty boy!

After some slower songs, the night drew to a close. Mr. B played Journey, to which we all belted, off-key of course! Balloons were tossed around, bundled, and popped. Towards the end, Sasha Reiss, Poodle expert from Serbia, gathered up a cluster and took a picture in it. He invited my PG friend and me ("Come here puppy!") to join him in a picture. What a wild night to remember! They didn't even drink as much this time around, yet this party was wilder than last year's! And as for me? I never made it to the bar, I just had to dance, baby!

I thought I'd be OK for a while at the room. Nope, walked in, sat on the bed, and out I went. Woke back up at three, saying a silent thank you to myself for setting the alarm ahead of time - can't be late for Saturday, after all!
NOTE: Since I've taken well over 200 pictures (yes, you read that right) with more on the way, I'm going to pick the best of the best instead of doing a massive photo dump. Can't drain the Photobucket, after all!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday at Hershey!

Today has exceeded my expectations! I returned to my room with so much stuff... and I've only spent $10!

Let's start from the beginning. I kept waking up at three-hour intervals last night because I was too excited to sleep. Hey, you would be too! Anyway, I arrived at the Convention Center at 9 AM and headed down to the VIP area to sign in. The lady at the desk handed me my badge, a Groomer to Groomer bag, a coupon for the Groomer's Club, and a tin of chocolates. Good deal!

I decided to cruise around and watch everyone set up their booths for tomorrow's trade show. There's even more vendors here this year!

I waited outside of the Bear's Den restaurant so I could get some lunch before my first seminar. I got to talk with a few other pet care pros, then I headed inside. And none other than Chuck Simons, inventor of the Groomer's Helper, was already at a table with some friends. They invited me to sit with them. We talked, ate, and then Chuck bought my lunch!

So, on to the seminar, Grooming Secrets of the Pros. This was Eric Salas's last seminar with Chris Systems. Too bad, he's informative and hilarious! That being said, I was surprised that he recommended the use of a choke chain to help train a dog. The rest of the handling bits were pretty good though. Overall, it was a good presentation. There was quite a bit of Chris Christensen product promos thrown in, but hey, he sponsored the seminar, right? We all got a gift card for $25 off any product as well as a sample of some Chris products - can't wait to try them out!

Outside, I ran into Jorge! I gave him a hug and he gave me a kiss! We started talking about how I got my feet in the water working with shelter dogs and starting at Nash. He invited me to see him at the Forever Stainless Steel booth tomorrow - I need to go say hi!

At dinner, I went back to Bear's Den where I met a lady named Margaret who is a home groomer, as well as big into positive reinforcement and gentle handling. We talked about how much we prefer positive handling to whacking away at a poor dog, and who we'd like to see speak here next year. I tell you, I can get used to this environment fast!

Right, time for the really big event of the evening: the Internet Social! I met my friend and classmate, Dawn Omboy, the Queen of Color. She's great! I also met her bather, RC, Toomie, Wet Noze, and several others from the PG message boards. Everyone received a generous sample from one of our sponsors, Espree, celebrating 20 years to be exact! I got a bag with Simple Shed in it - just perfect for Xavier! There was food, beer, and lots of Kahluas with cream!

A large group all wearing fuzzy hats walked in. One of them wore one shaped like an elephant in addition to a "Bride to Be" sign... OK then! Certainly entertaining!

After a while of schmoozing and showing off my portfolio, they began selling raffle tickets. I had no idea what would be up for grabs, but decided "Why not?" and bought $10 worth. Best decision ever! Not only did I win a scissoring DVD featuring Sue Zecco and Jay Scruggs (an area I need to work on for sure), I won a GERMAN RED CLIPPER, retailing over $400!! AND, if I stop at their booth tomorrow, I get 2 FREE blades for it! EPIC WIN BABY!!

After the Social ended, I got to meet Bill from GHI 2. Nice fella, gave me a hug and said he saw me in the Bear's Den earlier. Can't wait to talk to him some more - I want to ask him about his experiences at Nash!

There were some extra bags left over, so they let me take another Simple Shed as well as a Medicated shampoo to take to the shelter. Awesome, they'll appreciate it. I helped Dawn and co. carry the leftover cake to the VIP lounge. Even though Judge Joey was standing outside, all I could do was give a passing smile. I had to follow Dawn back to her room where she had something for me. Turns out it was Grooming in a Box, from Stephen from PG! It's official, I've got a real leg-up in the industry!

I also got to meet Dawn's dogs at their camper: several Standards, a Miniature, and a cute little fluffy white mix. I can't wait to see how they will fare in the competitions! Did I mention on the way there we ran into Lisa Leady? I didn't get to introduce myself, but that's OK, seieng as how I was a little star-struck, haha!

All this going on and there's NO WAY I'll be able to sleep easy tonight - I'm waaaay too excited for tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Greetings from HERSHEY, BABY!!

Hey y'all! Just got my room set up at the Best Western. It's the perfect size for one person traveling - too bad there's just me, because it could easily fit another. I would've brought Xavier if I wasn't going to be at the Expo all day. Ah well, such is life. He's having a blast at the kennel - he has all his toys with him!

Anyway, this is just the beginning of something EPIC. Be sure to check out my Photobucket @
for pictures. Check back here for stories - I'll try to keep you all updated on the awesomeness that is GROOM EXPO!! Don't worry, I'll post the link to Photobucket after each entry, that way there's no unnecessary scrolling. Good deal? Peace out for now!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Just for fun...

While I was driving around over the weekend I heard a song on the radio and thought, "Y'know, this could easily be the quintessential 'Readers' Digest' advice for new dog owners!"

Plus, you have to admit, it's an entertaining video with an awesome dance in the middle, haha! So rock out for now, and join me in a week for updates and news from GROOM EXPO 2009!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Mooooooom! Bring me back something nice!!"

The final countdown is ON - less than 20 days left until GROOM EXPO 2009, baby!!! This year, I'm going for the VIP package as well as taking the Pet First Aid course (a birthday present). That's a whole weekend and then some... I can't wait!!
Unfortunately, Xavier can't come, so he'll just have to settle for a present instead. They won't have treats, but maybe a new shampoo especially for Nordic coats will make him happy!
The hotel I'm staying at has free Wi-fi access, so I might post some updates here. That is, unless I'm too exhausted after each exciting day of shopping, learning, and whatever else this year has in store. Whichever way it goes, it's gonna be AWESOME!! Stay tuned for more info!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Winner Take All?

It never ceases to amaze me how many people are still so willing to subscribe, adhere, and even practice the old "Dog vs. Human" theories when working with the animals. Some days, like today, it seems as though it emerges more and more. It's scary, really, the way man treats his "best friends".

I've seen first hand what techniques such as hitting, jabbing, kicking, poking, rolling, choking, etc., actually do to a dog. For all intents and purposes, let's call this dog... Sprinkles. An average little mix-breed dog, really. Owners brought him home because he was just so cute, and they'd been wanting a dog for a while. Trouble is, they didn't do their research on how to raise a well-adjusted dog. Sprinkles was left on his own to figure out the world, and it ended up with bad results. He barked like the world was coming to an end when someone knocked at the door. No one could approach his food bowl (which was always full, no matter what) without risking being bitten. On top of that, he developed severe separation anxiety.

How did the owners try to control him? Whenever he leaped from the couch to howl at the "intruder" knocking at the door, he was forced down on his side, and if he tried to wiggle free, he was struck repeatedly. To the eyes of a human, he "calmed down" after a while, when in reality, he was giving up his life. By flipping him on his side, the human communicated to Sprinkles that he was about to die. Sprinkles certainly had a will to live the way he flashed his teeth, but gave up once he realized his fate was sealed. Or was it? When the human let him back up, he always looked around like he'd dodged a bullet. In his canine mind, he did.

Because of his small stature, anything bigger than him by his food was a threat, especially since his humans would take the food away. He didn't know that they were just trying to put more food in the bowl, even while he was eating. That's a matter in and of itself warranting a whole new post; still, the humans were really scary, taking away his nourishment! Sadly, the above scenario was repeated: howl and bite in protest, receive an empty--yet painful--threat.

As for the separation anxiety, his owners left him home alone his first night in the house and put his bed in an isolated location every night thereafter. He never learned object permanence, and so he carried on, never wanting to be alone. Even when the humans came to scream "Shut up!" in his face, it was attention, was it not?

According to the trainers who use these "methods", Sprinkles should've improved and been the world's best behaved dog, as the humans "taught him his place". The little fellow only got worse as time went on. He began fear peeing in the presence of all humans, even his own. His snarls and growls lessened, but were replaced by biting without warning. These trainers will argue that Sprinkles was trying to "run the household," when in reality, he was a scared little dog that was chased into a corner, left with nowhere else to go but the route of aggression.

I wish the story of Sprinkles was a sob story, but it isn't. Sprinkles was about four when I first met him, and not knowing anything about behavior until relatively recently, I watched this unbreakable cycle for several years, with him steadily getting worse. I haven't seen him in almost three years, and I don't even know whether or not he is still in the same house. Dogs like Sprinkles are labeled unfairly by humans as "stupid" or "dominant" (and not the proper use of the term, either, but the "pop culture" one) and subjected to mishandling. I wish I knew then what I know now about how dogs really think, then maybe I might have been able to help this little guy - not being able to do so will always be my one regret in my career with animals.

One thing is for certain though: I steer away from manhandling and intimidating dogs even more so because of him. Every time I see or hear of a "trainer" jabbing, rolling, or otherwise causing a terrible situation for the dog, I see Sprinkles: his wide fear-filled eyes, his increasing snarl, his stiffened little body. The only thing these methods are good for is creating another Sprinkles.

All these dogs need is some patience and understanding from us. We're supposed to be dog's best friend. Let's act like it for a change.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Every New Beginning...

I've been wanting to do this for a while now: start up a new dog blog that encompasses my random musings as well as daily events and antics. Right now is an odd place to start, I'll admit, as I got a good dose of reality about twelve hours ago.

In a few months time, I will be moving to Kentucky (yes, it'll be the KY location now) to attend the Nash Academy. So far all I've been thinking about is how much fun I'm going to have up there while I learn to groom the dogs, but I realized how hard it's going to be to leave this life I've made here behind.

While working at the cafe this morning, one of my usual customers came in: an older lady, very friendly and always happy to have a conversation. Today was a little different: she informed me that she suddenly had to leave town, and wouldn't be back for several months. It dawned on me that this was most likely the last time I'd serve her a drink, as I'll be taking off by the time she gets back. Talk about a bombshell. Still, we talked about how other coffee houses can manage to mess up the drinks... I had a particularly nasty latte on Tuesday because the espresso sat for a full minute. Ah, but this is a different topic for a different day.

As she left, she asked me to come around the counter, and gave me a huge hug. She loved the short time she'd spent here, and told me that I was going to go far in my endeavors with the animals... I truly believe this. To hear it coming from someone that I only knew for a short while, to know that I've touched a life... it's an incredible feeling.

It's hard to lose customers like her. Earlier this year I gave a fond farewell to one of my former literature professors; she's going to be on sabbatical this semester, so I won't get to see her at our cafe's other location before I leave for groom school. But saying goodbye to today's customer made me realize just how hard it's going to be when I gather up my luggage and hit the road. There's so much I'm leaving behind to pursue my dream of grooming: my friends, family, jobs, the animal shelter... everything.

Yes, my departure is going to be emotionally charged, but it will come to pass. Life's a stage, after all, and I'm in transition, from the end of one act to the beginning of the next. And goodbye is never really goodbye, because, to borrow a line, "There will always be another dog show!" Perhaps I'll round everyone up to come visit me in my future salon... who knows? There's only one way to find out!

Onward to glory, to greatness, to... giant balls of fur!!