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Leslie Waldrep with Secret. “I loved the Disney movie when I was younger, and my children love it now too … I picked out my favorite elements of the movie, and sketched them out onto paper. I then began to shape the hair into these characters,” Waldrep explains. “I only work on Secret in short sessions—about the time of a standard poodle groom.” Poodles abounded at Groom Expo West, often recast as surreal, living sculptures. (Unlike many breeds, poodles do require a level of regular grooming—they have hair, not fur, which matts and obscures their eyes and privates, causing discomfort.) They were impossibly fluffy and very polite, trotting around like four-legged Fauvist paintings. Poodles wore sheer ribbons, glitter collars and jeweled hair clips. They posed obediently for new admirers, disguised as characters from Sailor Moon or Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. One sported a patchwork coat of interlacing color, another plodded around with Yves Klein Blue feet. Twin hot pink poodles were chaperoned around in a stroller like precious newborns. Rows of bichon frises were combed into puffy white clouds.“Our dogs’ personality and shape do influence the groom it gets,” says Matthew Starke, who owns four standard poodles—Karma, Taboo, Chaos, and Pandora—as well as a toy poodle, Zen, with his girlfriend Lori Craig, a creative groomer of two decades. “Chaos is currently a giraffe—he’s very leggy and has a long face, so it only seemed fitting. Taboo is a little on the shorter, thicker side, so Lori once turned him into a bear. Karma [named after the phrase, ‘Karma’s a Bitch’], loves being the center of attention everywhere she goes.”
Starke runs a grooming business full-time, like many creative groomers who gathered in Pasadena, though serious hobbyists were welcomed too. Programming on site catered to their professional development, and upskilled them for future competitions—which bring with them the promise of clout, cash prizes and sponsorships. Attendees took classes in canine massage, brushed up on the anatomy of shears, and learned how to ensure a Springer Spaniel’s coat gleams. On the penultimate evening, they rubbed shoulders with royalty: the human cast of ABC’s Pooch Perfect, a Rebel Wilson-hosted pup-pageantry show that PETA claims makes dogs props for “human amusement.”The photographs you see here, captured by Skyler Dahan, are odes to pleasure, camp, and unabashed kitsch—and to attentive, careful preening, which is its own kind of love. They’re also fraught with ethical questions inherent to their subject matter, largely concerning the (im)balance of power between domestic pets and those who purchase and home them—particularly relevant now, amid a reported dog ownership boom. Do dogs, even breeds for whom regular maintenance is a great comfort, genuinely like being groomed to this level? Is their affability and patience merely a performance of their “duty,” an attempt to please their masters, even at their own discomfort? It’s hard to know what’s authentic versus learned—and dogs can’t exactly tell us, which is part of the problem. The creative groomers we spoke to love their pets, and are certain they enjoy the process, a chance for extensive bonding. They plump up pillows on grooming beds, offer little massages, and ensure there’s time for pee breaks. They perceive their dogs as active collaborators.
One blistering July weekend, Leslie Waldrep, a pet spa owner from Tuscumbia, Alabama, stood behind a trestle table inside the Pasadena Convention Center. It was a Cinderella moment: She’d driven 29 hours to reach California, only to work against the clock onstage for two and a half more, transforming her once-white family poodle, Secret, into a pageant-ready rendering of Walt Disney’s 1950 animation. As Secret posed stoically beside the winning trophy for a swathe of self-appointed paparazzos—fuschia tail erect as a feather duster, a jaunty hat fashioned from her own hair atop her occiput—she looked less like a domestic pet and more a dazzling, cartoon canvas. Secret’s hair had been growing for a month before the competition. Just prior, sections were vegan-dyed into at least 13 saturated hues (“all products used are pet safe,” Waldrep insists). On stage, every inch of Secret’s body was primped and preened into narrative cues of the happy-valley kind. A buck-tooth mouse appeared on her side, grinning cutely. A gigantic pumpkin sprouted vines across her rear. On both sides of Secret, Waldrep had etched before-and-after renderings of Cinderella herself: alone in powdery, homely blue, and dressed in a ballgown, batting eyelids at Prince Charming. “A few years ago, I did my other favorite Disney movie, Lady and The Tramp,” Waldrep says. “So this felt like the next step. I was very nervous about the design because it was my first time doing people’s faces.”The creative grooming event—the climax of Groom Expo West—wasn’t Waldrep’s first rodeo, though it was her debut on the west coast circuit. She’s been competing for six years now, and sees grooming as “a unique, God-given talent.” (She also decorates cakes.) Her fascination began with the pilot of Clipped, a short-lived Animal Planet show featuring dog stylist Angela Kumpe (the two are now friends, and travelled to the expo together). “I recorded the episode and watched it over and over and over. I fell in love with the way she treated the animals—how they looked, how happy their owners were. I went to work the next day and thought, ‘You know what? I can do this.’ I got my first standard poodle the next week.”
Product detail for this product:
Suitable for Women/Men/Girl/Boy, Fashion 3D digital print drawstring hoodies, long sleeve with big pocket front. It’s a good gift for birthday/Christmas and so on, The real color of the item may be slightly different from the pictures shown on website caused by many factors such as brightness of your monitor and light brightness, The print on the item might be slightly different from pictures for different batch productions, There may be 1-2 cm deviation in different sizes, locations, and stretch of fabrics. Size chart is for reference only, there may be a little difference with what you get.
- Material Type: 35% Cotton – 65% Polyester
- Soft material feels great on your skin and very light
- Features pronounced sleeve cuffs, prominent waistband hem and kangaroo pocket fringes
- Taped neck and shoulders for comfort and style
- Print: Dye-sublimation printing, colors won’t fade or peel
- Wash Care: Recommendation Wash it by hand in below 30-degree water, hang to dry in shade, prohibit bleaching, Low Iron if Necessary
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