I had so much fun judging the Rags to Riches grooming contest sponsored by Double K. last week. Months ago Stephen had asked me to judge this contest and I was only too happy to say “YES.” I’ve judged this type of competition before and have always found them intriguing. This year's Rags to Riches proved no different.
At the closing date loomed, reminders started to come in that we were getting close to judging time and there were over 400 entries to look at! Yikes! I looked at my already too full calendar, juggled my schedule and pushed other obligations aside to ensure that I gave myself enough time to review all of the entries.
This was going to be a daunting task and I had to get some organization into the process. The first thing that I did was I took all of the competitor’s names and drop them into an Excel spreadsheet so I had a hard copy to look at as I clicked on each and every entry. Foremost in my mind as I looked at so many amazing transformations, was the judging criteria. Our instructions were clear and concise. We were to look for:
• The most dramatic improvement in the dog's appearance between the before and after photos.
• The best groomed dog.
• The degree of difficulty and skill required for the groom.
• The quality of the photography of the groomed animal.
With this list of four items firmly etched in my head I set to work with my computer and my trusty hardcopy list. With so many entries this was going to take a while!
So how does a judge go through this process? I'm not sure how Lisa Leady and Jodi Murphy handled their judging assignments but this is how I handled mine.
First, I had to get it down to a manageable list. I rapidly clicked on each entry and took a look at it - something had to catch my eye quickly in order for me to tag it. Since this was the Rags to Riches Contest, the before and after transformation had to be pretty dramatic to make me stop and go, “Whoa, let's take a second look.” On my first cut, I got it down to about 50 dogs. From there I narrowed the field down a little bit more to my top 25. Once I got down to my top 25, I needed hardcopies to look at. I copied and pasted all 25 of my top entries into a Publisher file with two entries on each page with the before and after photos. I printed all of these pages, cut the pages so each entry stood on its own 5.5 x 8.5 sheet of paper. I then took my stack of images over to my pool table. My pool table had just become the ‘contest ring.’ From here I could spread all the photos out and see the entire ring at once, just like in a ‘real’ grooming competition. I now had to narrow the field down to my top 10.
In normal grooming competitions we have divisions that compare similar breeds or grooming jobs against one another. With the Rags to Riches grooming competition, there were no divisions. Judging an adorable little pocket pet against a giant furry monster was almost impossible!
Once all three judges had come to the conclusion of their top 10, we submitted those entries to Stephen. He compiled a list from all three judges. Many of the judges had selected some of the same dogs in their top 10 category. Stephen sent us the report so we could review each others selections. We then scheduled a conference call for all three of the judges and Stephen to discuss our top picks. Somehow out of this amazing work we had defined the top three dogs in the US and Canada Divisions and one International winner.
Prior to our call, I had made copies of any of the dogs that the other judges had selected but I did not have in my list. This allowed me to keep all the images directly in front of me as we talked about each dog. During our conference call, we had great discussions about so many dogs that we really found appealing. We felt so many competitors did a fabulous job meeting the criteria of the competition. I was shuffling papers like crazy across my desk. When the dust finally settled, I had the images of three amazing dogs sitting in front of me in the winning lineup in the US and Canada Division and an amazing winner out of the International Division. Around the winner’s images was a sea of amazing runners-up scattered over my entire desktop.
This was such a fun assignment. I’m honored that Gregory Crisp from Double K Industries and Stephen from PetGroomer.com allowed me to participate with the judging. I felt privileged to have the opinions of two very talented judges, Lisa Leady and Jodi Murphy, as we worked together to find the winners. But mostly, l applauded the efforts or ALL the groomers and stylists out there that had the courage to enter. You all did some AMAZING work and many of you should be stepping into physical grooming competitions around the county! I can’t tell you how many of the dogs we would have loved to put a comb through their coats and know you would have been in the ribbons!
Congratulations to everyone and we hope to see you enter again next year!