By Todd Shelly
The King's Heir
Charlie the Monarch Dog may end up being more influential than any human when it comes to changing the general public’s attitude toward creative grooming. Charles, who was creatively groomed to look like a lion, is the dog in Virginia that had concerned people calling the police because they were sure that they were seeing a baby lion that had escaped from a nearby zoo.
The inspiration for Charles came from Lori Craig, who did a lion dog that appeared in Extreme Poodles and was on the cover of Groomer to Groomer. Charles’ groomer contacted Lori early on for instructions. Of course, Lori was happy to help.
It seems that most groomers, even if creative is not for them, understand that it is not cruel to the pet. I would guess the public is split down the middle on their opinion. You can read the comments section of any media coverage of a creative dog. If the article is neutral, the comments tend to be fairly evenly divided. If the article slants one way or another (so cruel, weird, cute, funny), you will see the comments slanted the same way.
To me, that was most evident when TLC was promoting Extreme Poodles. At first, it was not easy reading all of the comments. At the time, I wasn’t in the habit of reading the comments section of a post. I was blown away over how combative people could get over a dog groomed like a panda or a football player. Weren’t there bigger things in their lives to get so worked up over? I soon learned that getting nasty in a story’s comment section is considered entertainment for some people. Read the comment section of any news article. It could be about a kitten saving the life of a child, and someone will find a way to turn it into a nasty political or social tirade.
Just as I managed to stop caring about the online comments, the emails started. Then the phone calls started. They were all basically the same. One in particular sticks out in my mind as a good example. A woman demanded to speak to somebody about the Extreme Poodles episode that had just aired. I was already not in the best of moods when I took the call, but I promised myself that I would remain calm. She immediately reprimanded me for having the audacity to put on shows that would abuse dogs in this way.
Over the next few minutes, I managed to stay calm as the conversation went back and forth, with her throwing out accusations and my attempting to answer them. I made the same points I’ve made many times before: the dogs were never harmed in any way, and the transformations are done in small doses over a period of several weeks. The groomer chooses a dog that enjoys the attention both while getting groomed and afterwards. I stressed that these are family pets, and no groomer would ever put their dog in harm’s way.
The woman finally admitted that perhaps she didn’t know all the facts before making accusations about the safety of the dog. However, she still insisted that it shouldn’t be done, because she didn’t like the premise of creative grooming. She was adamant about how much she was personally against it. She finished with the question, “Even if it’s safe, why would you allow them to do it? It’s so stupid.”
At that point, I had enough of being nice. I responded, “If they consider it a form of art, expression, or simply a hobby, who are you to determine otherwise? Just because you personally don’t like something doesn’t mean other people can’t enjoy it – unless I wasn’t informed that you are, in fact, the person who decides what is an acceptable form of expression. If that’s the case, do you get to decide which books are burned simply because you don’t like them?”
There was a pause. She stated, “Well, it’s not my type of thing, but I guess to each their own.” The conversation then turned cordial, and I ended up leaving trade show passes for her to check it out for herself.
I suspect that after seeing that, most critics of creative grooming will at least realize that it is fun and safe for all involved. However, the next time I receive a call or email from someone that has an uninformed attitude toward creative grooming, I will ask, “Did you see Charles the Monarch Dog? Do you think he looks ill cared for or mistreated in any way? He was groomed using the same techniques leaned from a competitive groomer.”
The news segments showed that he is obviously an extremely happy dog who loves the attention he gets. He may not understand why he gets all this extra attention, but he knows it happens after he visits his groomer. So whatever his groomer does, more people look at him, talk to him, and want to pet him. What dog wouldn’t like that?
- Todd Shelly