The Loss of a Legend by Teri Di Marino
Each segment of life has its legends. Music has Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. The art world has Rembrandt, Van Goth and Picasso and the pet styling industry was blessed with Liz Paul.
Born into a show dog family in Bournemouth, England, Elizabeth Susan Wright was destine to become the single most decorated pet stylist in the history of the industry. Her entry to the United States, with her family in 1974, brought her into the American dog show scene, where she continued showing Poodles. In her first grooming contest, in the late 1970’s, Liz garnered a Best Groomed Dog in Show award and, what was to be a lifelong passion began.
A top ranked GroomTeam USA stylist, Liz was in the Top Ten nearly every year from its inception in 1988, as part of the infamous hand-picked “Dream Team”, to 2004. The three years that Liz was not ranked was because she did not compete. In those years Liz graciously stepped aside to help her sister, Julie, launch her own competition career. Over her career time, Liz managed to win the Best Groomed Dog in Show and the Best All Around Groomer awards at every major show in the US. Concurrently, Liz was also making her mark as a judge. Her fairness was matched only by her speed and efficiency. Constructive input to the competitors showing under her was taken very seriously as “mini lessons” and the improvements manifested in the contestants grooming showed that these lessons were well heeded. These ring accomplishments netted Liz the Cardinal Crystal Grooming Achievement Awards for not only American Groomer of the Year but also for Judge of the year. Liz also holds the record as the only four time winner of Intergroom.
While success in the States abounded, Liz took her magic abroad as a winning member of many international GroomTeam USA competitions. Her contributions always helped the USA team consistently stay in the medals.
Back home, Liz was an integral part of the NDGAA certification program, helping set many of the breed guidelines still followed today by that organization.
All recorded history making aside, Liz’s greatest accomplishments were the setting of standards for grooming excellence both in the ring and the salon. Her style, flair and precision remain unequaled. To “groom like Liz” was perceived as the model of excellence. The goal of many a new stylist was to compete against Liz, with the possibility of placing over her in the class. This did not happen very often but, when it did, the accomplishment meant that that person had “arrived” in the grooming community. Liz’s work quickly became the barometer by which contest grooming was measured. A mentor to many, Liz privately tutored some of the top winning groomers, thus propagating her own legacy.
Liz successfully carried her competitive standards over to the salon. A hard worker, Liz prided herself in grooming her pet clientele with the same precision and care as her contest dogs. She truly loved dogs! Her greatest accomplishment in life, she simply stated, was “becoming a dog groomer.”
Liz was a gourmet cook and an accomplished artist. She worked effortlessly in pencil and pen and ink. Liz’s personal life stayed in the shadows to most people that saw her only at industry trade shows. A shy person by nature, she was never comfortable behind a speaker’s podium but when put behind a grooming table with a model dog the audience was guaranteed a comprehensive grooming demonstration that they would never forget.
Liz leaves behind more than a legacy. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and Liz’s daughter, Becky, has already made her presence known in the professional grooming arena. Becky recently gifted Liz with her first grandchild, Lillian Marie, and Liz spoke of her fondly. Liz is also survived by her father, George Wright, her older brother, Christopher Wright, and younger sister, Julie Ostoski.
The grooming world will never be quite the same. Liz Paul established industry standards that are followed by many groomers today. These standards will be passed on for grooming generations to come. The eye of the dragon is said to possess the sight that transcends time and space. Liz, like her beloved dragons, will transcend time in a way she could never imagine. Hopefully she knows that her ongoing fear of not being remembered will never come to fruition.
A Father’s Perspective by George Wright
Liz Paul was born Elizabeth Susan Wright within sight of the English Channel, at Bournemouth, England on 8th March 1953. She was a good baby, unlike her older brother, Christopher, who never wanted to go to sleep. In 1956, her parents moved to the London area. They bought their first dog in the Spring of 1958, a black miniature poodle they called “Dinah”. The next year Dinah gave birth to a litter of five puppies. Since they were “Our Dinah’s”, the kennel name of Ardynas was registered with the Kennel Club. From the proceeds of the sale of the puppies, the Wrights bought their first show poodle, a brown toy named Tophill Forever Amber. Amber went to her first show in December, 1959. Her appearance was not enhanced by Liz’s first attempt at grooming, since Liz had snipped off much of her topknot. However, still with a diminished hairdo, Amber won a first prize at Crufts in February,1960. At that show, a TV personality, Stanley Dangerfield, was interviewing children and their dogs. At that age Liz had a tendency to lisp. When asked by Stanley the name of her dog, she replied “Forether Amber”. The spueaky toy she hoped would spark Amber’s interest, alas, had also lost its potency.
Liz always said she taught herself to groom, but in fact it was her mother, Jean, who did this. Liz learned from her mother and improved on her finish. Mother and, eventually, the two girls began grooming neighborhood dogs, and the local doctor lent them a book on genetics. The Wrights acquired Yorkies, American Cockers and a Shih Tzu, as well as Standard Poodles, all of which helped Liz learn the show grooming of other breeds. Liz showed some of the cockers and, when her mother allowed her, the toy poodles, leaving the standards to her Dad. At school, Liz excelled in Art; one of her scraperboards which was exhibited at school, had other parents arguing that it was a photograph. She also sculpted a model standard poodle as a trophy for the Standard Poodle Club.
Crufts was, and still is, unlike any other dog show in the world. The classes for poodles, as well as many other breeds, were always large, and breed entries often totaled more than 200. Not only was it a show, it was an international market place for show dogs and puppies. The Wrights sold many dogs abroad, especially to Canada and the U.S.A. In June 1974, they were invited to visit clients in New Jersey and Cocoa Beach. A grooming business was on offer in the Cocoa Beach area, which they decided to buy. Jean and Liz flew to the U.S. on 4th October 1974 and took over The Poodle Hut, on Merritt Island. Business was just ticking over to begin with, but by Christmas news of the quality of grooming had spread, and things took off. In 1977, Liz saw a flyer for a mini contest in Orlando. She entered three dogs, and under judge Michelle Romaine, won with two of them, and also went Best Groomed Dog. Michelle was impressed by her finish, and encouraged her to enter for Atlanta and Chicago the following year, which she took by storm. In 1978, she branched out on her own, buying Pampered Paws in Satellite Beach.
Liz became one of the top winners in the grooming ring and was a member of Groom Team U.S.A. for many years. Her crowning achievement was going Best Groomed Dog at Intergroom four times, and no groomer has achieved more in competition. The quality of her finish was legendary. Liz was a gracious judge and lecturer. There were no trade secrets with her, merely constructive advice to other groomers. Her passing leaves a great void in the industry.
From Canada with Love
Shaunna Bernardin and Staff, Wags To Whiskers Inc
Calgary, AB Canada
It is with sadness we heard of the passing of Liz. We wanted to say a few things about Liz and what she meant to the Grooming Industry.
Her name is synonymous with the Bichon. We have a poster in our shop of her famous Bichon Trim and our Staff and Students use it as their Guide. Anytime one wants to learn more about a Bichon, we pull out a Magazine or Book with Liz Paul’s Perfect Bichon trim for them to see. Our staff would dive through their Intergroom Catalogues each year when they arrived to see if Liz was Judging or not. If she was they would be nervous to compete under her because she was a talented and fair Judge. They knew they would have to work hard to be able to get a placement under her. If she wasn’t judging, they would be just as nervous because that would mean they might be competing with her!!! How will they be able to compete with her talent? Liz, because of her style and talent made everyone try harder to achieve what she has achieved in her Grooming Career. We always recommended to new comers to make sure they attend one of her Grooming Seminars or Demos. You would always come away with a wealth of knowledge and could not wait to try out one or more of the techniques she would demonstrate.
Liz Paul will always be remembered throughout the Grooming Industry on an International Level as a great ambassador and an excellent example of excellence.