If clothes maketh the man then hair maketh the poodle
Next week is Hair Expo. The very best stylists in the land will gather in Sydney to show off their talents.
There is no more defining characteristic than hair. It is both unique to the person yet capable of dramatic change. What we do with our hair is an expression of our personality.
Yet the pinnacle of hair expression lies not with people but with poodles. The poodle coat has become a canvass for the most artistic of canine coiffeurs. With a pom-pom on the tail and an afro on the head a non-descript mutt can be transformed into the elegant high society hound.
The practice of fine poodle grooming dates back more than 400 years. Designed originally to suit a working water dog the poodle cut was refined first by gypsies and then the French nobility who turned the practical into an aesthetic.
Our miniature poodle, Gary, befits his pedigree. Highly strung and very dapper Gary has always been at ease with the typical poodle cut.
But our dear late standard poodle, Woodsie, on the other hand, was different.
He was both physically and socially clumsy. As he tripped over his own feet in the rush to answer the front gate he would place his paws on the shoulders of the guests and plant a broad tongue across an unsuspecting face. Unperturbed by the usually negative response to this welcome, Woodsie projected affability.
When we renovated our house Woodsie happily followed the tradies around settling in a dusty patch of dirt as they went to work. Indeed Woodsie could have been a tradie dog but for the fact that taking a poodle onto a construction site is culturally prohibited.
If Woodsie were a human he would’ve drunk beer, ate pizza and watched the footy.
With these contrasting personalities both Woodsie and Gary once spent a week at the dog hotel while Rachel and I went to hospital for the birth of our son.
Entering the hotel looking shaggy we took the option of the add-on grooming service. We asked for a poodle cut for Gary and a teddy cut for Woodsie.
Now a teddy cut is nothing more than a number two all over which disguises the poodle identity and leaves passers by in the park inquiring about the pedigree. A standard poodle with a teddy cut becomes a large black dog that can roll around in muck and sniff other dogs with impunity. It is just how Woodsie liked it.
But it turned out that the groomers at the dog hotel were artistes. Fine artisans of a precise craft, a number two all over was for them like asking Rembrandt to draw a stick-figure. Presented with a highly pedigreed standard poodle to work with was in turn like being given a Ferrari with a 20kph speed limit. It was too much.
So Woodsie got the works and the teddy cut went straight out the window.
The scene when I picked up the dogs was shocking. The groomers presented their work with the contented pride of master-craftsmen. Gary, a small dog, strode forth with the confidence of a great dane. While Woodsie slinked into the back of the car in the hope that no-one would see him.
A closer inspection at home revealed a pom-pom on Woodsie’s tail plus two more on each rump. A lion’s mane had been created which culminated in a coiffed head of hair reminiscent of Dolly Parton. Pants were cut on to his legs complete with tight shorn poodle shoes. And the masterpiece was completed with a finely manicured and twirled moustache.
Just then a visitor was at the gate, an event which immediately had us rushing to restrain Woodsie before he planted his welcoming kiss. But there was no scatter of paws, no raucous bark, in fact there was no movement at all. Our guest made it to the front door without being violated and all the while Woodsie was hiding under the bed.
Woodsie may have been the perfect expression of our groomer’s skill but the change in identity had crippled him.
Woodsie was a slob forced to wear the clothes of the snappiest Toorak dresser and as a result he was no longer comfortable in his own skin.
In short, Woodsie had lost his mojo.
A few months on and the fine lines of the poodle cut started to fade. An element of shag appeared and with it Woodsie’s confidence grew by the day.
He eventually recovered but we should have known better. The tale of Samson is in the Bible for a reason.
The lesson is simple. You tamper with hair at your peril, for just as hair defines the person even more so does it define the poodle.
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