Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Sunday Wrap-up

It's never going to get any easier as the years go by to bring such a great show to a close. I'm still amazed when people say they won't go; with so many wonderful products, events, and people, how can you not love Groom Expo? However, as I look at the pile that Vanessa referred to as "grooming supplies throw-up" covering the entire corner of the room, I should be so lucky that the show isn't longer, haha!

First thing I did this morning was book it to the trade show. Frankie Brown stood at the doors, and--in a similar fashion of last year's opening day--was getting us completely riled up. He went right for the throat this year; instead of saying how he was going to put his size fourteens through the doors, he had us count down from ten and then he threw them open! Gotta love Frankie!

With a few extra minutes, I stopped to talk to Jorge before the Forever Stainless Steel booth got mobbed. He even said it himself: "D'y'know, every time I see you walk by I am running my mouth!" Yep, same old Jorge! When I told him about how far I've come since Intergroom, he was impressed with how much I'm constantly growing. Yep, I will never stop!

After swinging by the Romani's to pick up some water peelers, as well as to chat briefly with Marlene Romani (very funny lady), I decided to go and show support for Ellen. Her seminar on mobile grooming was excellent; although primarily geared towards mobile groomers, she included a lot of ideas and strategies that can be incorporated into any salon. I hope to use some of these great tips to better improve my customer relations.

It was already time for the Sunday luncheon, which included a happy retirement party for Judy Bremer-Taxman. Emotions ran high as Mr. B played a video entitled "The Best of Judy". The fifteen minute collection included some of Judy's best--or, not so best--moments of her seminars on carding and client relations. Everyone in the room was laughing hard, especially when she was singing Harvest Moon, with modified groomer's lyrics, to an Old English Sheepdog doll, and then dancing with it! Other clips included her poking an audience member with a skip-tooth blade, pretending to do battle with an angry stuffed animal kitty, and declaring that she just plain had enough! When Judy took center stage and thanked all the people who had an impact on her career with Barkleigh, tears flowed steadily from everyone; some of her friends were lost, and others saw her through her darkest moments. In closing, she thanked all of us for coming and showing the love through all the expos each year. Mr. B loaded up his air gun with confetti and shot it onto the stage. Judy teased him to shoot her in the butt--even though she is retiring, she will always be the same hilarious Judy. While she will be missed in the programs, she still plans on coming as a spectator. Good thing, it just wouldn't be the same without her dirty sense of humor!

"Hey Mr. B! Hit my butt!" ~Judy Bremer-Taxman

Rock on Judy!

I also had the honor of meeting some of her friends, originally from Russia. They presented her with a photo frame containing two paw prints shaped from dog hair and an embroidery of a Hershey kiss that said "20 Great Years". If I can say one thing about this year, it's been my most emotional by far!

I met up with Tosha, Vanessa, and Sunny at the Poodle demonstration. Although our speaker covered a lot of things I already know, I picked up some useful tips for scissoring topknots and tails. Tails especially tend to turn out funky for me. Turns out there's a better angle I can hold my shears to. Can't wait to try it out!

Ooh la la... Poodleful!

After bolting around the trade show for a bit longer and picking up some Furminators for the shop, Vanessa and I went to our last seminar: the Oster clipper clinic. I can't say that it was the most exciting thing ever, but now I'm looking forward to going home and opening my clippers up. I need to check things like the carbon brushes, the blade drive, and the wiring. I want those babies to last; now I have the knowledge I need to extend their life. The seminar let out early, but I got to catch up with Novi, Dianne, and Debra. Then I got to meet Vivian Nash! With as crazy insane as the show was, I'm glad I got to reconnect and make some new acquaintances. These are the friendships that will be able to be instantly rekindled at the trade shows I go to. The only person I was looking for and didn't get to see was Judge Joey. Bummer, I was looking forward to talking to him for a bit. But wait, there's still some other things left to do!

Vanessa and I went to watch the creative competition. There were some truly amazing entries this year, one of them being Jean's Toybox theme. Others included a Bambi Poodle that looked less like a dog and more like a real deer, the Queen of Hearts, a Jurassic bark, and a breathtaking 9/11 tribute with a feathery-looking eagle sculpted out of the Poodle's hair. We didn't get to see who won; I needed Groomer's Helpers, Tosha needed a Les Pooch brush, and the trade show was minutes from closing! We got to our respective booths in the nick of time, as several other vendors started breaking down early. And so concluded another wonderful year of dog hair, products, tools, and me being mischievous with my credit cards, haha!

Both Tosha and Vanessa left just over an hour ago. We thought it was funny how we're all going in separate directions to get back home. It will never cease to amaze me how these shows can bring us all together with one common goal: to become better groomers. Well, that, and to have a fun time! As I stated at the beginning, it's never going to be easy to bring such a wonderful thing to an end. But I know that I can't be sad, because I always remember one of my most favorite quotations of all time: "It's never really goodbye, because there will always be another dog show."

Peace out, and see y'all next year in Hershey, baby!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Wild Wild Westie, and Saturday Shockers and Sweets

Last night's western party was wild, wild, and in more ways than one! Guess who won a free pass to next year's show? Me, as the Wild Wild Westie!

Since I decided that I was obligated to outdo myself every year, I racked my brain trying to come up with a creative costume. However, the western theme is extremely limited. While talking out loud about possible ideas, my mom walked by and said "How about a Westie?"

I paused for a moment before nodding and saying "The Wild Wild Westie." And so the legend was born.

There were some really great costumes there: saloon girls, Indians wielding tomahawks, a sheriff, and your standard cowboys and cowgirls, just to name a few. No one got as many reactions as I did, so I felt that I was going to be a frontrunner for this year's contest. One event I tried right away was the mechanical bull. I stayed on for at least ten seconds before being thrown off. I landed funny on my not-so-great foot, so I decided that was enough for one night. Other events that were just as much, if not more, fun included instructional line dancing. The teacher and Mr. B played us through songs like Cottoneyed Joe, Cupid Shuffle, and Macarena, all while Mr. B littered the dance floor with fuzzy cowboy hats, balloons, and glow sticks. We even did a conga line in honor of our Puerto Rican guests. There were plenty of Kahlua and creams to go around, as I found a $20 crumpled up in my pocket--don't you love that? However, my motto is that yes, I can drink, but I will always go to my classes sober!

After a while of wild dancing to country and pop songs, Mr. B announced the costume contest was beginning and that all contestants needed to be on the floor. I ran out and did the Westie wiggle; I was picked out almost instantly! The already crazy atmosphere was escalating! Nine other people got called up, including the Indians, the sheriff, and the cowgirls. We were all asked to tell a little story about our costumes. Mine was simply: "My name is J.C. I am a mild mannered groomer by day, but at night, I turn into the Wild Wild Westie! Woooo!" Then I turned around to display my name on my back, and to shake my tail! The crowd cheered; I was a finalist, up against the sheriff. Ultimately, she won when she handcuffed a man. She got the VIP package, but I was more than thrilled to receive a Do-It-All pass. If it means I'm getting into the show next year, I won't complain at all!

Afterward, the handcuffed man came up to me and told me I should've won; the sheriff had both her friends and his friends cheering for her, a definite advantage. I told him that either way, I had a free ticket to next year, and that was just fine with me. Turns out he was one of Chuck's friends that I had dinner with from last year! We danced for a little bit before he left.

I also met up with Novi, who rode the bull twice. It was winding down to the end, and everyone was getting tired. Mr. B fired random songs at us to keep our spirits high, including but not limited to Apache, Baby Got Back, Don't Stop Till You Get Enough, and several others from last year's 80s party. We closed out doing a kickline to Low Places. Someone fell out of sync and caused a massive domino effect. There was lots of laughter and smiles all around; it was a moment of clarity and zen for me. I belong here, and at last I've arrived. I may not be in the competitions or be a crazy super-groomer, but the best is yet to come. I look forward to it every day, and things like this just fan that fire within.

And after all that excitement I couldn't sleep!

Saturday was a proverbial rollercoaster. Tosha, Vanessa, and I went to Melissa Verplank's time-saver seminar and picked up some excellent tips. After buying some of my very own Les Pooch brushes (no more need to sneak Nancy's anymore), we bumped into Ellen Ehrlich, who invited us to a practice run of her mobile seminar at the end of the day. Things were really looking up, right?

This is where things got hairy, in a bad way. I really hate to say this, but as a result of the two seminars of his I attended, I have lost a tremendous amount of respect for Gary Wilkes. It pains me to think that a brilliant Groomer to Groomer columnist whose articles are based in science and fact feels that hitting and shocking a dog in any fashion is appropriate. His views on positive reinforcement are horribly skewed, as he shares the all-too-common vision of, as I call it, "the Stepford trainer." No, not all those who use +R view punishment as a barbaric thing. I am a believer in negative punishment (-P), that is, removing something in order to decrease the frequency of a behavior. If Xavier is barking outside, I take him back in. He is removed from something he wants: to be outside. How is this not punishment? I think I'll write another blog on this topic, because I feel a soapbox moment coming on. Let me just keep it at this: we're no longer living in the stone age. We know dogs aren't stupid, and have capacity to learn. Real learning doesn't happen overnight. Any person can hit and shock another being into submission, but how many can actually teach them what it is that they want from them?

Anyway, in between these "events" was a much more enjoyable luncheon that involved the game show: "Are You Smarter Than Judy?" Three randomly selected contestants were pitted against none other than Judy Bremer-Taxman in a trivia style game show hosted by Mr. B. Questions ranged from trivia about groomers, famous TV dogs, even a "Name That Tune" segment featuring the barking dog songs. All the contestants received Sally Liddick's new book, as well as a mouth full of Tropiclean fresh breath foam from Judy. And yes, she let the dirty jokes fly; use your imagination, kids!

"Who wants some foam in their mouth?" ~Judy Bremer-Taxman

Judy draws a blank...

My other purchases of the day included a gallon of Why Bitch shampoo, a bottle of that aforementioned Tropiclean stuff, and my big purchase: a Chris Christensen Kool Pup dryer! Only problem is that they sold out, so mine will be shipped to me within the week. Rock on guys, and especially BBird! I can't wait to try my "mojo comb", haha!

The last seminar of the day was Melissa Verplank's bow-making made simple. I still can't make bows to save my life! I need to practice making them of chopsticks like I did back in school. Tosha and I met up and headed off to see Ellen's mock seminar. Aside from some computer issues, I feel like she is ready to deliver tomorrow. She's nervous, but there's no need for her to be; she's a wonderful public speaker, personable, and humorous to boot! Looking forward to attending the real thing tomorrow!

Right, I've been booking it all day. On my way back up to the room, I finally ran into Judge Joey! We still didn't get to talk all that much, but I did tell him about winning the pass to next year. I need to catch him tomorrow...

Back to booking it! I changed into my "fancy" clothes and made a run for the Best in Show dinner. By the time I got there, the show had just begun. Novi walked up on stage with his beautiful Poodle; several people in the audience as well as myself were all rooting for him. The Best in Show went to the freestyle groomer, but Novi seemed proud that he had made it so far, and rightly so. Groom on, Novi! Maybe I'll be up there with you someday!

Dinner was served, and while I was eating, I had the pleasure of talking to Joanne Russell, better known as Sparkly Barkleigh. I still find it amazing that even the biggest names in the industry had humble beginnings similar to my own. So much for that notion about being born into the business I had for so long; I will be laughing at that for the rest of my days! I love Joanne's attitude, as it mirrors my own: always learn, always improve, share with other groomers, and don't forget to have fun with it all!

After judging Level 2, they waited for Level 3 in order to do a tribute to John Nash. Bridget McAllister and her Aussie performed freestyle while Sasha Reiss sang Con Te Partiro; there wasn't a dry eye in the entire room, and if there was, they were holding back hard. I myself was crying; that's one of my all-time favorite songs, Sasha can sing it better than Andrea Bocelli, and considering it was all done in John Nash's memory, of course it got the water works going. Shirlee Kalstone's story of his life made it all the harder to not shed a tear; even though I never had the opportunity to actually meet John, I feel connected to him through the school and his closest friends. Level 3 is now to be awarded with the John Nash memorial trophy every year.

Out came the Dancing with Dogs competitors! There wasn't a crowd favorite choice this year, which I felt made the event a little more light and carefree. There was an Aussie grooving to Black and White; a drum-playing, drink-serving, partying Border Collie; a Chihuahua weaving to her own theme song; and a sparkly Golden backing it up to Black-eyed Peas, just to name a few. Even though I didn't get any pictures of the dogs this year, I did get 5 of 6 Sasha performances on video. When you hear him sing, you understand why I am a fan!

Sasha rocks!!
(I had several videos, but they were removed at Sasha's request. He's promising a performance that's bigger and better than before. Needless to say, I'm already looking forward to it!)

Now, after that day-long rollercoaster ride, I am exhausted. Groom Expo 2010 is sadly coming to a close. However, there is but one more day of fun and fur left to go--let's close this show with a bang!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday... Sparkly and Soothing!

...but not at the same time, haha!

Today began with the day long seminar on creative grooming. Angela and Lori touched on topics ranging from Blo-pens, dyes, glitter glue, and braids. It inspired me to pick up a tube of Davis Glitter Glue. Wait until I get back home and get Xavier on the table!

Our friend from the Internet Social, Sharon, joined me in exploring how much fun you can have with dog hair. We ate at Bear's Den for lunch and both spent some money at the trade show! At first, the floor sounded and felt very quiet; as the day went on, things started to get nutty. Gotta love that trade show excitement!

I stopped by the Wahl booth and talked with Lisa Leady for a bit. She says cat grooming is easy money, but you still can't pay me enough to do it. More power to the cat groomers, I say! Somehow we got on the topic of my dog being a couch potato. When I told her that we stay more fit in the winter from running through the snow, all she could say was "You really ARE backwards!" Yep, I revel in it, haha!


Getting back to the creative seminar, we got to watch as a Chinese Crested was decked out in glitter for the h
olidays, a Schnauzer got rhinestones and a ghost pattern put on her back. The main attraction, however, was the "Poodlington" - a gorgeous standard rocking the Bedlington style. Sophie was the model for a flower and fish on one side, and a pumpkin--with her tail as the stem--on the other.

Flower, fish, and pumpkin-butt!

Dyeing seems like a lot of work, but it's well worth it, especially if the color holds the way you want it to. Hair swatches for each client really is a great idea! The final product was amazing; each shape was carved and penned to real artistic beauty. They even put sparkles on the fish! Ahh, those final touches really make a dog stand out, no? As a treat, someone brought in a longhaired Shih Tzu. Braiding patterns is something I'd definitely like to try. Hopefully the clients will remember to remove them before they get tangled and matted!

After the seminar was over, they were announcing the results of the Poodle competition. After a brief "Hi!" to Judge Joey, I met up with Sunny, Terri, and Debra, who were rooting for Novi. His Poodle looked gorgeous: crisp, curvy... groomed to a T, really. When the judge announced, "I hope I'm not butchering this..." we knew that Novi won the Level 1 Poodle class. Congrats are in order Novi, truly a job well done!

Novi wins!

Before going to my next seminar, I decided to stop at the Cocoa Beanery and get a bagel; Bear's Den was packed. As I reached for it, I heard a familiar voice...
Lisa: That is NOT a good dinner!
Me: Well, hey... I've survived on worse, I went to college! I've survived on Doritos and pop, and look at me! I'm as skinny as stairway railing!
Lisa: Yeah, someone really ought to throw you a sandwich.
Me: Or two.
Lisa: Or three.
Me: Now THAT is crossing the line!
Sorry I almost made you spit your latte all over the place, Lisa :)

On my way back up to the room to drop off some purchases, I ran into Jay Scruggs in the elevator. He's very personable, as we began talking like we've known each other for a while. Sue Zecco is overseas, so sadly they have no booth this year. He was glad that I was enjoying the expo, and chuckled when I told him about the Davis Glitter Glue... somebody is going to get sparkly paw prints when I get home!

The canine massage class was very informative. Lead by former Groomer Has It contestant and fellow Ohioan Sherri Shinsky, we covered the basics of dog anatomy, the do's and don'ts of massage, and introductory touches. I might try these on Xavier before I cover him in bling.

The last class let out early, so I am writing this now; by the time I am done jumping around in costume at the Wild Wild West party, I won't want to write! Stay tuned tomorrow for more details...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Off to a Good Start!

Groom Expo 2010 kicked off today to an excellent beginning! Sadly, Debi wasn't able to make the trip. Tosha and I have been doing it big in her honor.

This morning, I got to say to Lisa Leady as well as Novi. I wish him all the best in his competition... GO NOVI!!

We met up with a girl named Vanessa; she and Tosha ended up going to the same shampoo and breed classes. I went in the direction of ethologist Susan Bulanda. I feel like I got a complete mental workout. All of the information we covered involved science-based reasoning as to how dogs interact with the world and why they do it, as well as a few reasons why we interact with our dogs in the ways we do! It was a real breath of fresh air for me; lately I've felt as though I'm beginning to disconnect with my ethological roots. Sometimes a good reminder like this is exactly what you need to put everything back into perspective. Many thanks to Susan Bulanda, the seminar was phenomenal in so many ways.

Afterward, I met Tosha and Vanessa at the Hershey Grill. Chocolate butter bread and turkey tenderloin - delicious! Once we were finished with our dinners, it was off to the Internet Social. I was happy to see Dawn Omboy and Ellen Ehrlich again, plus some new friends. This year's raffle was not the lucky star it was for me last year, but I did come out with some prizes: a breathe-easy mask and a pillow that Ellen made. So comfy and cute!

Dawn Omboy hosts and hands out prizes at the Internet Social!

Today was a great introduction of things that are still yet to come. Walking by the vendors setting up gets you a sense of electric excitement that can only come from the world's largest grooming trade show. Off to bed soon, tomorrow's gonna be huge!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's That Time Again...

...Groom Expo is just one day away!

I'm already in Hershey. Doing it big this year, as today is also my birthday - there was no way I was driving instead of celebrating! Today I'm hitting up the Chocolate World, then meeting Tosha and Debi for dinner at Bear's Den. After we get settled into our room and try to sleep--the excitement's gonna make it hard--it's showtime!

Stay tuned for direct reports from Groom Expo 2010! For now, see y'all in Chocolate World!