Episode 98 (Bonus!)- Competitive Dog Grooming with Rebecca Stern

So, it’s the middle of August. And unlike in the days of yore, a.k.a. pre-March, we now measure time not in months, but in how much our gray roots have grown out. We know this is true because a) Kelly Ripa’s roots are a national obsession. And b) we’re only speaking hyperbolically because we are youthful and have no need to dye our hair — except for entertainment purposes.

That being said, now is the perfect time to experiment with a new color or style, whether it’s to shock your co-workers out of a mid-day slump in your Zoom calls, or you’ve always wanted to give yourself a Edward Scissorhands-esque cut and color. The Palace of Versailles balanced on top of your head? Why not. A mullet sculpted to replicate the majestic Niagara Falls? Done deal. (The right side of your head will be Canada, the left side will be the U.S., and you can braid a little barrel into your tresses that is going over your mullet falls.)

Does it seem like we are a little too obsessively focused on creative hairstyles? That’s because we spoke with filmmaker Rebecca Stearn for this episode about her documentary on the world of competitive dog grooming. It’s called Well Groomed, it follows a year in the life of these groomers who next-level color and sculpt dog fur, and you won’t be able to get the fantastical image of an Alice in Wonderland tableau, complete with Johnny Depp on a pup, out of your head.

If you’ve ever seen a dog in a fancy outfit and wondered, “Is there a whole world of dog styling that I don’t know about?” you’re not alone. Rebecca explored that very idea in New York City and soon found herself down the rabbit hole of competitive dog grooming, traveling to L.A. to observe some very creative women do their thing.

We like to think of ourselves as erudite wordsmiths, but in the instance of these groomers/artists and their dogs/palettes, a picture is truly worth 1000 words. Rebecca spent years documenting the women involved in this creative endeavor and captured their technical skill, boundless imagination, and love for dogs.

And while certain competition shows try to feature women tearing each other down, the only roses fought for in these dog shows are the ones the groomers sculpt out of dog hair to attach to poodles — and their fellow competitors cheer them on for doing it. As to whether some people might find their methods or creative decisions controversial, we touch on that, too. How long do the dogs have to stand still? Is the color safe for all pups? Do the animals get nervous at these events?

Rebecca filled us in on how she was able to film the dogs without them freaking out and gain the trust of her human subjects, too. She even learned more about the basic tenets of dog grooming, which helped her appreciate her own dog even more. As to whether Rebecca felt bold enough to try some new grooming approaches on her pup, you’ll have to listen to the episode to find out!

In loving memory of Ringo, we’d like to point out that he would be 100% behind getting a fantastical haircut. Or is it fur cut? Either way, if he saw this documentary he would demand something attention-getting and fabulous. We’re picturing him as a bowling lane, with his head as the bowling ball and his tail as a pin or two. Trust us, he would have rocked the look.

To learn more about all of the joy, competition, and flying fur of these Technicolor dogs in Rebecca’s film, tune in to this week’s podcast. Well Groomed is streaming on HBO Max. Find out more about the film here and the filmmaker and her work here. Stay tuned for our next post, just in case Luke decides to make that Niagara Falls hair dream a reality.

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