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Woman grooms winning dogs

December 10, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Mary Oldham's dog Cash is the world, the moon and the stars to her, and she's got the pictures to prove it.

The 3-year-old standard poodle recently won first place in the expert category for Oldham in Barkleigh Production's creative grooming competition in Hershey, Pa.

With a combination of careful trimming, stickers and the use of colorful vegetable dyes, Oldham was able to depict a bright orange planet, glittering stars and comets on Cash's coal-black fur at the Sept. 14 event.

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"At the competition, I had Cash standing in front of a poster depicting the stars and planets so he would fit right in," Oldham said. "I called it The Final Frontier."

Open to groomers, kennel owners and pet sitters, the annual grooming competition is divided into three levels - beginner, intermediate and expert.

"I won first place in the intermediate last year," Oldham said. "That meant this year I could only compete in the expert category."

In addition to the pride of winning, Oldham took home a huge trophy that now sits in her grooming shop, Dogs R Us, located for the past seven years at 7 E. Potomac St.

"And I will be featured on the cover of 'Groomer to Groomer,' a nationally-known magazine," Oldham said.

Most contestants use white poodles, but that isn't mandatory. After establishing a theme, the groomer illustrates it through creative cutting and the use of nontoxic vegetable dyes.

A Greencastle, Pa., native, Oldham, 46, got into the pet business with her husband, Ralph Oldham. For five years, they ran R&Ms Tropicals, dealing mostly with fish.

"We got some toy poodles and I began teaching myself to groom," Oldham said, which led to her opening a shop. Still, she never entered a competition until 2002, and she won first place, repeating the win again this year.

"My employees ganged up on me and suggested we enter the competition," Oldham said.

All experienced groomers, Oldham's four employees are Aimee Linn, Stephanie Cavin, Faye Westurn and Terri Garner. Between them, they have 40 years' experience in grooming.

The day-to-day operation is Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. until the work is finished, Oldham said.

"We take very few new customers," Oldham said. Regular customers account for an average of 30 dogs a day through the shop.

For $26 to $28, a dog gets a bath, has its nails done, ears cleaned and its hair cut.

"We do a few show dogs, but mostly it's household pets that require bathing and grooming," Oldham said.

"Customers are more like clients. Most leave here with an appointment card for their next visit in their hand," she said.

Oldham's husband and son, Eric, 28, both work at Transwheel in Williamsport. She said both are very supportive of her work and her recent, and highly successful, foray into the world of competition.

Grooming and competing have been very fulfilling, and Oldham has no plans to do anything differently.

"I've tried other things over the years, but I always come back to this," Oldham said.

For more information about Dogs R Us, call 301-223-5209.

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