I’m sure you are all wondering where on earth I was last week that I didn’t post, well… I competed for the first time last Sunday! Although it’s a little off topic I thought I’d share my first competition experience with all of you.
The Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS) of Waukesha put on a rescue rodeo competition with all proceeds going to help homeless pets. When I first heard about this I thought, “What a great way to get my feet wet and get the jitters out before All American!” So I signed up and was happy as lark. Shortly after, I started talking to people who compete and heard the same story time and time again; if it can go wrong it will at your first competition. Blissfully ignorant of the validity of that statement, I smiled and nodded pleasantly thinking that I couldn’t happen to me. Boy was I wrong.
Morning of the competition, I am up and on the road by 8am for my 3 hour drive down to Waukesha. The competition didn’t start until noon, but I thought the extra time to set up, get a free lunch and chat with other WAPPS members was well worth getting up at 7am on my only day off that week. Before I continue, have you all ever heard the joke about Wisconsin seasons? We only have 3: winter, still winter, and road construction. April is just past still winter, making it the WORST month for road construction in the entire year (if counties decide to start then). Since my county hadn’t started any major road works yet, I foolishly assumed that there wouldn’t be too many issues on my drive down…
A little over an hour into my drive, I am cruising happily down Hwy 45 when suddenly a single sign notifies me that the highway will be ending in 5 miles, and to take the next exit. I do as the sign says, expecting detour signs to get me back in the direction I need to go but there were none to be found! I do not have a GSP, my cell doesn’t have internet and I have no idea where I am. Calmly I decide that I have a good cushion of time and can try to figure this out. Choosing to go West towards what I hoped was a town, I miraculously picked an alternate route after several turns with no signage. About 20 minutes later and I am back on track.
At this point I thought to myself, “Alright! Crisis averted and I am still making great time! Maybe I should call Mel and talk though some of my pre competition jitters.” So I call my friend Mel (a fellow groomer and rock star friend) and we chat as I continue toward my destination. After an hour of venting and giggles, Mel lets me go to check in a client and I realize, while I was gabbing away I had missed my exit! I am now only about 20 minutes away from the competition but lost in Milwaukee (and a rather rough part at that!) Knowing that I can only luck out navigate once in a great while, I stopped at the nearest gas station for directions. I had printed off my original directions from Google maps, including the address of HAWS and several contact numbers just in case. As I get out of the car to ask the gas station attendant directions behind his bullet proof glass, the wind that had been crazy that day decided that my printed directions were a necessary sacrifice and swept them out into four lanes of traffic before I could even blink. Not letting the wind get to me, I ventured inside and got mediocre directions on how to get to Waukesha, but he had no clue where HAWS was and now neither did I.
As per directions from my new gas station friend, I get onto Interstate 94 and start madly dialing my friends. I had for some reason memorized the address of HAWS, but not the phone numbers of anyone that could actually give me directions there, so the next best thing was to get anyone with an internet connection. After calling all of my family, my partner Jay, and several friends in California, my dear friend Ashley in Texas answered her phone. In a panic I explained my situation and she promptly saved my butt! She stayed on the phone with me until I pulled in the parking lot, and wished me luck. The time was now 11:40am, and I only had 20 minutes to get all my stuff unpacked, meet my dog and figure out what the heck I was going to do with it!
I run in, mutter some quick pleasantries as I set up all my equipment and find the person I need to get my dog from. At this point there are only two dogs left, so I reach in the hat and pull out a little slip that says, “Moose”. And this is what I got:
Needless to say I was dumbfounded by the 4 inches of hair on Moose’s back, neck and sides while having less than an inch of floppy wimpy hair on his spindle legs. I was told Moose was some kind of Poodle mix, that he was moving to New Mexico (adoptive family) and that although he was portly, he had already lost 2 pounds in the 2 weeks he had been there. At this point my brain was so fried from everything else that had gone wrong that something just click. I may have had a lemon, but I’d be darned if it wasn’t going to be lemonade! I settled on a modified Schnauzer face with more of a Westie skirt (to hide his bulge) just when time was called to begin grooming.
I expected to be terrified grooming while Chris Sertzel judged me and a room full of dog lovers watched but somehow I tuned it all out. I wish I could say that was the end of all the things that went wrong, but sadly it wasn’t.
Since I was one of the last people to arrive, I got to set up my table front and center, less than 2 feet from the spectators. The lovely people in the front row: 3 small talkative and whiny children and a mother who could not control them. I channeled all my patience and pushed through.
Moose was also not a fan of his muzzle being touched, period. So when it came time to blend his lovely new schnauzer face, while the kids in the front row threw a fit… let’s just say I did what I could and was proud that I did. Frankly getting eyebrows alone on this dog was a miracle.
I knew I wouldn't place, but I was darn proud I had done the best with what had ended up being a pretty rough situation, though it did help that I feel in love with Moose while grooming his wiggly butt. After the winners were announced, I cuddled on Moose one last time and gave him back to the kennel staff. Two days later his adoptive family came to pick him up and adored his haircut. So the new owners were happy, and in spite of all the craziness I actually had a great time! That makes me a winner in my book.