SXSW 2019: Well Groomed
Working at an animal hospital, I always love seeing a dog come in for an appointment and their owner telling me they’ve been freshly groomed. Their coat is soft, clean and trimmed, which makes them look all the better than they were originally. Not only does a groomer help a dog look fancy externally, but sometimes they help out with ailments a dog may have internally. Numerous times, appointments at the vet have been scheduled due to the fact that a groomer feels a lump, or catches a rash that is on a dog under its fur causing irritation. In the past, the media has blasted groomers for their treatment of animals, and rightfully so. However, not every groomer is an amateur or a hack. Many are there to help pamper your dog and make them look as presentable as possible.
In Rebecca Stern’s documentary, Well Groomed, we learn about a touch-and-go area of dog grooming called “creative dog grooming.” Creative grooming is an artform where a groomer dyes the fur of dogs and then creates works of art amidst their abundant fur. White coat’s seem to be the best option so you can get a fully grasp of color once presented. The groomer chooses a breed that is comfortable for them and isn’t skittish when it comes to being around crowds of people at competitions. In Well Groomed, a majority of competitors use poodles due to their lovable temperament, training skills, and fluffy white coat.
Well Groomed follows the competitive year of four artistic women leading up to the biggest dog grooming expo around, in Hershey, Pennsylvania. These women are at various levels of their talent as we see the ups and downs of an art that makes them happy. “In a lot of ways, I care about dogs more than I care about people” says one of the groomers. That quote encapsulates the disposition of these four women. It’s not that they dislike people completely, but dogs are extremely important to them even though this artform seems unordinary.
At one point, we’re introduced to the negativities people have about creative grooming. “Why are you exploiting your dog?” was a question muttered by a news anchor. Going into this documentary, I too had my reservations about creative grooming. I didn't understand it and thought it was far too bizarre. Finishing it, I can answer that question about exploitation with that it is none of anyone’s business. If the dog is happy and wagging their tail then so be it. Well Groomed gives you a behind the scenes look into the dyes and products used. The proper products do not put a dog in danger whatsoever. Dyes are researched and created with ingredients that are non toxic. Just like human hair, dog fur grows out. It can be shaved off and regrown. Their brightly colored fur is not a permanent situation. What is the worst that could happen? That they get more attention, which means more pats and love? I’m sure the dog just hates that, right?
Alice in Wonderland scenery, Moana-influenced oceanography, and wildlife designs are beautifully and intrinsically created in the coats of these beautiful creatures. Every groomer in this documentary has their own unique touch and their artistry deserves a round of applause. The best part about this is that their fur babies don’t mind in the least. The dogs are so nonchalant about the whole process and they just love being with their owner. They are treated with the utmost care.
Not only does Well Groomed tweak your outlook on grooming dogs in this ornate fashion, but it also gives you a lesson to hold onto in real life. Stop being judgemental. You don’t know the full story or history behind something unless you dive into it. If this is something that makes the groomer happy and in turn the dog is safe, than why should someone be nasty about it? Creative dog grooming is not for everyone and if you are someone that just doesn’t get it, then it is best to just stay quiet. This may not be something I would do to any of my dogs, but I would be a fool to deny that the creative dog grooming world is fascinating.