updated 09/03/2009 AT 8:06 PM ET
•originally published 09/04/2009 AT 7:45 AM ET
“Watching the owners turn these balls of hair into something so intricate and detailed really does baffle anyone watching,” says photographer Ren Netherland, who has spent more than 10 years traveling the United States, taking pictures of dogs competing in “extreme grooming” competitions. “You have no clue whatsoever what they’re planning.” At times the only professional shutterbug allowed to snap shots of the pups featured at some of these shows, Netherland, 48, has seen what would seem unbelievable unless documented: poodles turned camels, poodles turned fairies, even poodles turned NFL football players! “One of the reasons I love my job is because I love animals so much,” he told London’s Daily Mail in an interview. “I much prefer working with them than people.”
Extreme grooming is a high stakes world – competitors can nab up to $1,000 per show for their looks – and while Netherland finds some of the processes laughable, he thinks the animals do truly enjoy themselves. “By the time the dogs get to me after they have been through the tournament they are bounding around and very happy,” he says. “I think all the attention that gets bestowed upon them through the whole process must be nice for them.’”
Click here to see some of Netherland’s craziest pictures!
Tell us: What do you think of extreme grooming?