By Kathy Hosler
We groomers have a real soft spot for an underdog. Just walk into any of our country’s animal shelters and you will see that they are overflowing with the unwanted, unloved, and neglected—shelters full of underdogs. That’s why countless groomers already donate their time and grooming services to help them.
To showcase the plight of these surrendered and abandoned dogs, many grooming shows have instituted rescue rodeo and rescue round-up competitions. The show organizers arrange to bring dogs from local animal shelters and rescue organizations to their shows. The groomers that have entered the competitions work their magic to transform those sad and neglected throwaway dogs into sweet-smelling cuties ready for a new home. It’s a real win/win for everyone: the dogs become adoptable, the shelters get publicity, and the groomers get a deep satisfaction.
2014 may certainly become the Year of the Rescue Dog for these waiting orphans. The National Rescue Round-Up Invitational is about to put a huge spotlight on this important subject. It’s a rescue grooming event unlike any other—and you have to earn your way into the competition.
Todd Shelly, president of Barkleigh Productions, explains this unique Rescue Invitational. “The National Rescue Round-up Invitational, sponsored by Lambert Kay, will be held on Sunday at the 2014 Groom Expo in Hershey, Pennsylvania,” says Mr. Shelly. “The way that you get invited to participate in this competition is to enter a Rescue Round-Up tournament at any of the Barkleigh Shows or rescue competitions held at other shows like the Atlanta Pet Fair and SuperZoo. The winner of each of these competitions will advance to the National Rescue Round-Up Invitational at Groom Expo.
“There will be a limit of 16 entrants in the National Rescue Round-Up Invitational,” Todd continues. “In addition to all the competitions that will be held throughout the year, there will be a final Rescue Round-Up competition on Saturday at Groom Expo. Its purpose will be to fill any remaining spots for the Sunday competition with at least two spots guaranteed to be available.
“Saturday’s competition for the final spots will be a ‘down and dirty’ competition. It will take place in the dog holding area of the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center,” says Todd. He adds, “It will be just like the rescue work many groomers do every day—it’s not glamorous, it’s reality—and it’s done with love.”
Sunday’s National Rescue Round-Up Invitational will feature the winners of each of the 2014 participating rescue competitions. The contestants will not be grooming show ring champions or breed perfect specimens. They will be working on the same kinds of dogs that walk into your grooming salons every day, except that some of these dogs may have never seen the inside of a grooming salon in their life. As the audience watches the transformations taking place on the stage, it becomes very apparent that they are truly watching a rescue operation. The grooming these dogs are receiving might actually be their last chance at getting adopted.
Knowing that they are helping these dogs in the best way they can is very rewarding for the groomers on stage, but these compassionate groomers may reap other awards as well. “Our ultimate goal is to raise public awareness of the vast numbers of dogs in shelters and the great need for these dogs to be adopted into forever homes,” shares Todd Shelly. “All of the 2014 rescue competitions will reward and bring recognition to the groomers who have done this kind of grooming for so long on their own. It’s a way to show everybody that this is something that our industry does and something that we take very seriously.”
The shelters and rescues that participate will be provided with financial contributions and will receive product donations, and the raised public awareness will help more dogs get adopted. All of the competitions before the National Rescue Round-Up Invitational at Groom Expo in Hershey will offer cash awards and prizes for the winners. At these competitions, there will be sponsors that will provide awards to the competitors or the shelters—or both! The first place winner of the 2014 National Rescue Round-Up Invitational will be awarded a spectacular Barkleigh Cruise and will also appear on the cover of Groomer to Groomer Magazine!
Cheryl Purcell, coordinator of the Rescue Round-Up, encourages groomers to enter this competition. “It’s a great chance for a groomer to jump in and get their feet wet in the competition ring,” stresses Ms. Purcell. “Just do what you do everyday… Make the dogs feel good for themselves and make them look and smell good for the owners.”
Before each competition, Cheryl evaluates the dogs that are brought in for the contest. She checks their temperament and observes them to see how they react to all the noises and activity. She assigns each dog a number. The groomers come down a half hour before the contest, draw numbers, and then are matched up with the corresponding dog. They get 30 minutes to interact with their dog before sign-in.
The judging of a rescue grooming competition takes into consideration what you started with, what you did with what you had, and what the finished groom looks like. For the past two years, every dog from the Rescue Round-Ups held at Groom Expo in Hershey has found a forever home. In 2013, a viewer watching the competition live on GroomerTV saw one of the dogs and immediately contacted Barkleigh asking how they could adopt the dog.
Cheryl strongly suggests that anyone who wants to compete should sign up early, as the space for each competition is limited. Groomers, here’s your chance to really make a difference. Come out and show us what you’ve got. Just do what you do in your shops everyday, and you will change the life of a dog, educate the public, and maybe even set sail on a fabulous cruise!