Deb Compton, dog groomer at the Fitchburg location of Pet Supplies Plus, paid homage to Wisconsin in a way that she said has never been done.
With some fur dye and scissors, Compton transformed a pup into the emblematic Badger during the first episode of ABC’s dog grooming competition “Pooch Perfect,” which premiered Tuesday, March 30.
Compton told the Star that filming the show was a great experience to push herself as a groomer and an artist. And as the show continues to air at 7 p.m. each Tuesday on ABC, Compton said she hopes viewers can get a sense of the dedication groomers have for their career and canine clients, she said.
The title of the show was inspired by “Pitch Perfect” star Rebel Wilson, who serves as both the executive producer and host. The hour-long program showcases 10 experienced pairs of groomers fighting to keep their spot and, if they make it to the finale, win a $100,000 grand prize.
Compton is teamed up with her son Jordan, 19, who is also a dog groomer at a Pet Supplies Plus location in Austin, Minnesota.
Working alongside Jordan helped her keep her cool while grooming in front of the judges and under a time restraint, she said.
“He had been working with me for a few years and helping me at some of the grooming competitions,” Compton said. “So he kind of gets it, you know? He knows one look on my face, and he’s like, ‘OK, OK, it’s gonna be fine.’”
Together, the pair take on the two challenges per episode. An Immunity Puppertunity challenge where the best team can earn immunity from the second challenge, the Ultimutt Challenge. During Ultimutt, groomers are expected to take artistic risks, show off technical skills and showcase it all down the ‘dogwalk’, she said.
Pushing the limit
The show features challenges like turning dogs into different animals – like Compton’s badger, a fire ant, goldfish or skunk to name a few.
For Compton, this style of grooming is right in her wheelhouse, she said.
“Oh man, my artistic style is pretty extreme,” Compton said. “Bright colors, loud, depth, dimension, mostly scissor work and clipper carving.”
And while “Pooch Perfect” is her first reality show, she is no stranger to competition or the camera. Compton has competed in (and won) dozens of grooming competitions, and a few years ago, she was featured in the documentary “Well Groomed,” which followed groomers through a competition season.
Though the process of being cast and filming the show was still intense for her, she said.
Producers contacted Compton through Facebook in February 2020. Then after nearly a year of background checks, pre-filming and interviews, she and Jordan flew out to Los Angeles for five weeks of filming in January and February.
Despite the long days and nerves, Compton said it was a great experience. And by the end of it, she surprised herself, pushing the limits of what she thought was possible.
“I thought I had done everything,” Compton said. “No, I did stuff I’ve never done before, so I loved the challenge.”
Compton said she was able to learn from the other contestants by just watching their techniques and observing what tools they used. While most of the groomers knew each other from social media, she said doing “Pooch Perfect” together was a bonding experience.
Getting her start
Blake Hernandez, one of Compton’s friends and a fellow contestant on the show, flew out to Madison to practice “bedazzling” techniques. Hernandez, who manages a San Diego dog salon, said he hopes audiences can get a better sense of what it means to be a groomer.
“ I hope that viewers realize how much joy a true groomer has for their job,” Hernandez said. “We make an instant bond with a brand new dog – that is how we live our lives every day.”
Compton agrees, saying that marrying her passion for art and a love of dogs is her favorite aspect of grooming. She said that many people may not understand that grooming is a real, meaningful career with artistic value.
It was a value that Compton herself didn’t understand until two decades ago when dog grooming became a temporary way for her to make ends meet.
She started at Petco in Tamarac, Florida, where she was working in the retail industry to save money to pay for schooling to become a firefighter. Eventually, Compton moved into the grooming department and “never looked back,” she said.
She said that at first, some family members didn’t understand that dog grooming could be a permanent job. But Compton said she hopes shows like “Pooch Perfect” can change that and showcase the talent and energy that go into grooming.
It can also help customers stop stressing when dropping off their dogs, she said, because they know what they are doing.
“I think that’s one of the appeals to doing these shows is if you can showcase your skills with this kind of work, it sets in people’s mind that your little yellow fluffy Shih Tzus is easy, ‘’ Compton said. “If we can put a monkey on our dog’s back, like, your Shih Tzus is fine.”
To check out some of Compton’s work, visit her Instagram page @makograms.