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!!