WARSAW — After 14 hours of cutting, coloring, sculpting and styling, the design process was finally complete. With a pair of scissors, bottles of pet-safe dye and patience in hand, the dynamic duo was ready to take the stage at Pawject Runway in Fort Wayne.
“Dogs are man’s best friend” holds true for Sarah Kasten and her medical alert service dog, Raya. The adorable poodle stayed calm and patient as Kasten designed flowers, butterflies and vines on her fur in preparation for the creative grooming competition.
“Raya knows when she’s had color put on and she just struts her stuff,” said Kasten. “She loves it.”
Kasten has had a love for dogs ever since she was young. She participated in 4-H dog projects for 10 years and worked part-time at a vet clinic in high school before going to college and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in veterinary tech.
“I did vet tech for several years but then realized that it wasn’t quite for me,” said Kasten.
She then began working as a pet groomer in Winamac when she learned about the creative coloring process for dogs in a magazine. That’s when she got her first white poodle and began entering competitions in 2010.
In 2012, Kasten won third place at an Illinois show with a Chicago Bears design. She then took some time away from competing and in that time, Kasten’s first poodle passed away.
“I then began to have a lot of anxiety issues as I lost my parents both in the same year,” said Kasten. “I wasn’t coping well and I knew I wanted another poodle.”
Kasten then found Raya and had her flown in from a breeder in Kansas.
On Feb. 9, Kasten and Raya competed together in the Allen County SPCA Pawject Runway, where groomers competed for prizes by styling dogs for runway presentation. All proceeds from the event benefitted homeless pets, helping to provide medical treatment for animals.
“It’s a big fundraising event and some of the judges were top competitors in the nation,” said Kasten.
Kasten represented her employer, Urban Paw Boutique and Pet Spa, Warsaw, at the competition. The duo placed first in scissor work and second in color out of 21 creative stylists.
“The people who ran the competition were so nice and down-to-earth,” said Kasten. “I enjoyed the competition and it was all for a good cause.”
Kasten and Raya will be competing at PetQuest in Ohio in June and the All-American Grooming Show in Illinois in August.
“I think one aspect of the competitions people should know about is that creative coloring is not abusive and is totally safe,” said Kasten. “Raya is my baby and I would never use any product on her that isn’t safe. Some people say that it’s cruel, but honestly? It’s just hair. Absolutely nothing is affixed to her skin.”
Kasten said she enjoys working at Urban Paw Boutique because there are several clients in Warsaw that want something unique for their dog. She also said it allows her to learn more about the grooming process.
“Creativity doesn’t necessarily mean color when it comes to a new style,” said Kasten.