Monday, June 14, 2010

Poodle Bitch Enjoyed "Extreme Poodles"

Poodle Bitch has heard of the phenomenon of dog beauty pageants, but she is not so interested in showing off for others as to actually want to participate. Then again, Poodle Bitch was not raised by humans who chose to show their affection for her by fussing overmuch on her grooming. They show their affection in other ways, that are very well suited to Poodle Bitch’s temperament.

Yet Poodle Bitch does not begrudge the fact that some humans show their affection to their poodle companions in ways that might seem unduly superficial, if not perhaps a bit disturbing. After all, there is a series entitled “Toddlers & Tiaras” in which parents are shown giving attention to their human offspring by participating in human beauty pageants.

Do you know why the children like those pageants? It is because, Poodle Bitch speculates (she is no expert on human relations nor does she care to become one), the children in question are getting attention from their human parents.

Poodle Bitch probably does not need to explain to the reader, who is probably human, that a little attention is all anyone wants. She is happy for those children who are getting some attention, whatever it might be.

The same is true of dogs. They want attention from their human companions. Some of us, like Poodle Bitch, require only an occasional rub of the belly followed (hopefully) by a tomato slice or two. Others require more, shall we say, active attention. These dogs love the feel of human hands upon them. What those hands are doing is largely immaterial – as long as they don’t belong to a veterinarian the dogs are happy.

Which brings Poodle Bitch to last night’s TLC special, “Extreme Poodles.” This program featured a look at the world of competitive poodle grooming. Despite the fact that Poodle Bitch is hardly “extreme,” and does not generally submit herself to excessively fussy grooming, she was much interested in finding out all about what others of her breed were up to.

The program featured contestants in something called the Barkleigh Poodle Pageant, which sounds a bit dear to Poodle Bitch’s ear (do you get it? because dog’s bark), where groomers present poodles groomed with “color, glamour, glitz, and style.” This according to Kathy Rose, the pageant’s director. Poodle Bitch cannot fault her enthusiasm for the breed; Poodle Bitch shares that enthusiasm. What she can fault is the paltry prize offered to the winning groomer. A mere $5,000 and a cover for a magazine called “Groomer to Groomer”? Poodle Bitch would have expected more for the person deemed to have created the best poodle style.

Then again, after having seen some of the cuts given the poodles in the special, Poodle Bitch wonders if the prizes might have been too great? For while Poodle Bitch appreciates that the groomers and human companions to the dogs are showing them affection by giving them such elaborate hair cuts, that does not mean she cannot find aesthetically displeasing some of the styles.

Or, if she prefers, all of the styles.

Take for instance Nina, whose poodle Jecht is to be dressed as a roller derby girl. When we’re introduced to this endearing couple, Jecht drinks from the toilet while Nina explains that she got rid of her human husband because he didn’t like dogs. Poodle Bitch thinks there might have been something more to the story than that, but she has no proof so she won’t bring it up. Nina then shows off what she calls her “chastity belt trick,” which involves Jecht putting his head between her legs and mimicking a fearsome growl.

If Nina’s ex-husband bothered to watch this program, did he count his blessings?

Jecht loves being a roller derby girl, Nina tells us. She dresses him in a skirt and stockings and declares that “he’s metrosexual.” Poodle Bitch can assure Nina that her dog is not metrosexual – he is just happy to get attention from you. And if dressing your dog up as a human girl and telling him, “I always wanted a girl dog” is how you choose to display that affection, well, he will take it.

But Poodle Bitch feels compelled to offer the following: If you always wanted a girl dog, why not get a girl dog?

Then there is Angela and Josh. Angela has won more creative grooming titles than anyone else, she tells us, and was first in last year’s Barkleigh competition. She has her own grooming business and says that “People actually have to tell me not to put color on their dogs,” as if she is proud.

Poodle Bitch would think that it just makes good business sense to ask people if they want their dogs’ hair colored. To assume such a thing seems a bit ludicrous.

But no less ludicrous than her grooming theme which is either “Buffalo” or “Cherokee Heritage,” depending on who you ask. Her companion Josh is groomed as a buffalo at the head, and with the face and headdress at one of the rear legs. Apparently, Angela is part Cherokee, so she is celebrating her own heritage which Poodle Bitch supposes makes the whole idea less offensive.

Poodle Bitch offers no comment on that. Humans are alternately too sensitive about such matters, and then too easily offended. She cannot keep track.

In addition to the actual groom of the dog, there is a presentation period, in which the groomers display the dog in a tableau meant to illustrate the theme of the groom. For Angela’s part, she has conscripted her father and nephew into wearing Cherokee headdresses and bird costumes to stand and prance around the dog, while Angela herself beats a drum (Poodle Bitch is unsure if the proper term for such a drum is “tomtom”).

Next the viewer is introduced to Sandy and Odin. Sandy is a decorated poodle groomer (who created the rather famous “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” cut) who has a farm with horses, chickens, and, disturbingly, snakes.

But what she really wants is a camel. This despite the fact that she has poodles, and those poodles she describes as “her children.” Because she wants a camel, she will turn her beloved Odin into a camel. During the competition we see just how Sandy creates the “hump,” and this might have been the most disturbing part of the entire program:

She gathers up the scissored hair from the floor and puts it on Odin’s back, using Elmer’s glue and hair spray. Poodle Bitch had to suppress her gag reflex upon seeing that.

The gluing of the old hair was even more disturbing than the use of small human children in her presentation, which included belly dancing around the “camel.” Sandy, who has been belly dancing for about three years, had wanted to use her snakes in her dance, but she decided against that as many humans are made uneasy by snakes. Poodle Bitch can tell you that the same can be said of many dogs, as well. She appreciates Sandy’s discretion.

The next groomer the program followed was Lori, and her poodle Falcor. Lori has a grooming shop called “Doggie Styles,” which Poodle Bitch has to admit she finds an amusing name for a grooomer. What she did not find particularly amusing was the fact that Lori employed the services of a reikei practitioner upon Falcor.

Again, Poodle Bitch admits that Falcor probably appreciated the attention, but her skeptical hackles rose when she saw the groomer spending money on such pseudoscience.

Anyway, her theme is African safari; Falcor’s head is to be done with a lion’s mane, his left hind leg with a giraffe head, and the right hind leg a zebra head. Lori forces her assistant to do the bulk of the dancing that was part of the presentation, while she, Lori, put on her bottom a set of baboon-style rubber buttocks she turned toward the audience and shook.

Lori’s husband, when asked for three words to describe the grooming competition, says, “Ridiculous, lunacy, and ridiculous.”

Compounding the lunacy was the fact that it was Lori and Falcor that actually won the competition. Poodle Bitch is no expert on the taste of humans, and the special was carefully cut so as to prevent the viewer getting a full look at the other dogs in the competition, but she believed that the second place finisher, despite its hippie theme, was quite good. Poodle Bitch also appreciated the alien invasion/SF themed presentation.

Extreme Poodles did not present poodles or their human companions in the best possible light, but Poodle Bitch appreciated that the program appeared at all. The worst one can say about the humans depicted is that they truly feel affection toward their poodle companions. That is very good indeed, especially given the way humans are depicted on other reality television programs.