Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I groom dogs for a living. And I hear people with poodles or poodle mixes say the following more often than I care to: "Don't make her look like a poodle!" What people mostly mean when they say this is, "Don't do that weird groom with the bubbles on the butt and the funky shaved spaces."
I do understand the feeling. The first time I saw a poodle in a show trim, I felt the same way. But as I learned to groom and strove to achieve the true artistry in my work, I began to appreciate the talent it took to put a poodle into a Continental or English Saddle clip. These are the two accepted styles for adult poodles to be shown in at American Kennel Club breed shows.
Once in a while I attempt to put my own poodle, Dazzle, into what is known as a "Historically Correct Continental." This is a shorter trim than the show dog style, and the coat on the top of the head is trimmed into a top knot rather than left very long and tied up. It is still a lot of work! The biggest challenge, to me, is those "bubbles on the butt." They are called "rosettes," and far trickier than you might imagine to trim and shape.
Standard poodles used to be hunting dogs. They were trained to retrieve ducks and geese in water. Their heavy coats protected them from cold, but also weighed them down when wet. So, their handlers began to cut hair short in spots to reduce weight, leaving hair to cover the joints (poms on the ankles) the heart and chest cavity, (all that hair on the neck/chest/sides) and even little puffs to cover the hip bones. From utilitarian beginnings the modern oh-so-fancy and a-little-bit- outlandish styles were created. (This ends your canine history lesson for the day.)
Usually by the time I get the hair grown in well enough that Dazzle's haircut looks somewhat correct, I am sick of maintaining all that hair and I give her a very short trim. What I mean by that is that I shave her down like a sheep!
I do enjoy attempting to set this groom correctly, and scissoring the coat to a smooth and practiced finish. And Dazzle seems to enjoy the attention she gets when people see her, here in the giggle weeds of rural Maine, running about the yard with the chickens. She reminds of a girl in an evening gown hanging out at a bowling alley.