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Canine Couture

| Friday, March 24, 2006

Linda Urbanek's Claws-N-Paws Professional Pet Grooming looks like an auto-body shop for canines, complete with slickers, rakes, forceps and a muzzle.

Urbanek, 53, will be entering her 11-month-old Shetland Sheepdog, Carson, in the Western Pennsylvania Kennel Association dog show this weekend.

Carson, who's named for Carson Kressley of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" fame, will be competing for his first time, but Urbanek is no rookie when it comes to dog grooming. Her Gibsonia shop once won a "Rising Star of the Year" Intergroom dog grooming competition in New Jersey.

Four days before Carson's big debut, Urbanek gave us an insider's look at a doggie makeover. She said her main goal for Carson, who's almost 16 pounds (on the small side), was to build lots and lots of volume.

"I want to make him big and bushy, because he's a little guy," she said.

At 9:16 a.m. , Carson is standing in two inches of water in a dog bath. The point is to take dirt and oil out, Urbanek said. She can't do anything with a dirty dog.

To get Carson clean, Urbanek uses "The Coat Handler." This catalog-order purple shampoo concentrate is good, Urbanek explained, because it brings out white fur's whiteness. Carson is mostly black, but has tan and white, too. His feet are spotted tan-on-white. His chest looks like a white pillow.

At 9:24 a.m., Urbanek uses a HydroSurge spout to saturate his fur with a water-and-soap mix, to get all the way through to his skin. She works on the ears, especially, and adds a little "Ultra M.D." soap for that.

At 9:30 a.m. , Carson is looking like a punk rocker, with hair standing on end. Urbanek rinses Carson until he is "squeaky clean." (If one pulls hard enough through a wet piece of clean fur, it does actually squeak.)

At 9:34 a.m ., Urbanek puts Carson on a grooming table, and assistant Karen Chulak fires up the K-9 Hot Blower-Dryer. It looks like a green fire extinguisher. The point is to move hair forward from the beginning of the shoulder, helping to build on Carson's natural mane, Urbanek said. She blows the rest of his hair downward, creating a tapered effect for the rest of the body.

The actual Blower-Dryer is screaming loud and sounds like a Shop-Vac; hair begins to fly around the shop like a fur-storm.

At 9:37 a.m. , Carson's hair still looks like an '80s hairdo, stringy and big. But Urbanek continues, from neck to nose, blowing hair forward, building volume. It starts to look a little better. A wave of Carson's hair blowing, almost dry, looks like a field of corn swaying in the wind.

At 9:43 a.m ., Urbanek breaks out her spray-bottle of chemical "Fluff Out" and takes the Blower-Dryer drying nozzle off. She uses the now-weaker dryer head to really get into the mane. She starts to fluff, using her hands.

At 9:56 a.m. , the war against flat hair begins in earnest. Urbanek grabs a pin brush. Hand dryers, applied experience and guile, and human hair products grab hold of this makeover and prepare it for a landing.

At 10:02 a.m. , Urbanek moves Carson onto another grooming table, in another room.

At 10:07 a.m ., a hand dryer is turned on, and used.

At 10:09 a.m. , Urbanek grinds down Carson's nails on four toes on all four feet with a buzzing mini-sander. The Dremel rounds off the nails, spitting off nail dust. (Long nails are bad because they cause excessive clicking, when walking -- a dog show no-no, Urbanek says.)

At 10:10 a.m. , she clips short hair around paws with scissors.

At 10:12 a.m ., she works on rear hocks, cutting off stray hair from the backs of rear legs.

At 10:19 a.m. , more whitening occurs. Urbanek rubs in cholesterol (a grooming cream that comes in a plastic jar) to the white parts of Carson, including his feet. She then adds white grooming chalk to his feet. The cream helps grab the chalk, she said. The chalk helps accentuate Carson's whiteness.

At 10:28 a.m. , Urbanek arms herself with some serious hair product: L.A. Looks' "Extra Super Hold" mousse. The bottle's packaging alone implies that this stuff leads to tornado-proof results.

When Urbanek's experienced hands are done massaging in the mousse, Carson looks like the dog world's version of Jon Bon Jovi. His hair is absolutely shocked, dwarfing his comparatively tiny muzzle.

At 10:31a.m ., Urbanek does some finishing touches. She adds chalk to the white part of his back mane.

At 10:33 a.m. , Urbanek adds cholesterol to his muzzle and then chalks his white chin.

At 10:34 a.m. , she "brown chalks" his muzzle sides.

At 10:35 a.m. , she "brown chalks" his tan right front leg.

At 10:36 a.m. , she shapes his ears by snipping away extra fur with scissors.

At 10:40 a.m. , she puts a jeweled collar on and brushes his coat around, hiding the collar.

At 10:43 a.m ., Urbanek applies "Envi" human hairspray. The hair surrounding Carson's head is now a full-on mane, worthy of a miniature lion.

"For a puppy, that's not bad looking," Urbanek said.

Urbanek looks pleased, and Carson just looks pretty.

She worked on Carson for three hours last week, Urbanek said. A dog groomer's work is never done.

Urbanek said she would repeat most of this shorter routine again, just before the dog show.

Additional Information:

2006 Dog Show

Presented by: The Western Pennsylvania Kennel Association

Where: The David L. Lawrence Convention Center

When: Tomorrow and Sunday. Doors open at 7 p.m., judging begins by 9 a.m. Best in show (awarded both days), should take place around 5 p.m. Judging times for each breed are available at wpka-inc.org

How much: $8; $4 for ages 4 to 12

Details: 724-746-4794

Doggie report card

Judges look for the following qualities when evaluating canines. The contest judges purebreds on their 'perfection,' relating to breed standards:

General Appearance:

Symmetry Temperament Coat

Head

Skull and stop Muzzle Eyes, ears and expression

Body

Neck and back Chest, ribs and brisket Loin, croup and tail

Forequarters

Shoulder Forelegs and feet

Hindquarters

Hip, thigh and stifle Hocks and feet

Gait

Gait--smoothness and lack of wasted motion when trotting

Source: American Kennel Club's Web site, akc.org

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