It's rare to see Hatboro Borough Councilwoman Patty Fleming without makeup, her hair styled and her outfit and accessories coordinated.
Yet, as put-together as Fleming looks, it's her dog, Clem, who takes more time primping.
The 2-year-old West Highland White Terrier gets her hair trimmed weekly, which takes about an hour. And then there's the poofing and products that make her fur, particularly around her face, stand at attention.
"She has so much product in her hair," Fleming said. "They have gel in their hair and there’s powder in it and there’s hair spray. That whole head stands up."
Such is the life of Fleming's show dog, who will compete this weekend for her grand championship title in the National Dog Show.
And, Fleming, who has no human kids, will be there to cheer on her prize-winning pooch. No stranger to the dog show scene, Fleming likens the fun, yet competitive atmosphere to a kids' soccer game.
As is the case in sports playoffs, which lead to championships, dogs too, earn points toward championship and grand championship titles. Clem is 1 point shy of the 25 points needed to earn her grand champ title through the American Kennel Club.
"A championship is kind of like having your college degree," said Fleming of the first title Clem clinched, with 15 points, on Sept. 9. "A grand champion is like having your masters degree."
To get to the point of nearly graduating from dog shows, Clem - short for clementine, as in the orange markings used to distinguish her from the rest of the litter - had to win. And win a lot.
In fact, since Fleming began having Clem professionally handled by Goodspice Kennels in August, the dog has been a show-stopper in the ring.
"Before she was a champion, she had won Best of Opposite Sex many times, beating champions, to get points towards her title," Clem's handler, Sarah Murphy, of Goodspice Kennels told Patch. "She has won Best of Opposite Sex (best female) more than 15 times in just three months."
Fleming, who had limited success with showing her male Westie, Aloysius, said she never expected Clem to get so far, so fast.
"She’s going gangbusters.There are people who take a year or two to get a championship with a dog," Fleming said. "She just wasn’t losing. When a golfer gets hot, you keep going."
Murphy credited Clem's "terrific pigment," great coat and "very showy attitude" to her success.
"She is a natural show girl and is very proud," Murphy said. "The best show dogs have many traits that match their breed standard, are in good physical and mental condition and who have a 'look-at-me' attitude."
But, the perfect look doesn't come easy. It takes at least three months to develop what Murphy calls the "ideal coat."
"She has a wire coat which is meant to protect terriers from elements when they are doing their original job of hunting vermin," Murphy said. "The best wire coats go through a process of 'rolling,' which mean they are trimmed every week to create layers that help the hair to lay flat and keep the rain from getting to the skin. The hair cannot be cut, it has to be plucked to keep the harsh texture or else it will become soft and absorbent rather than weather-proof."
Fleming said Westies get used to the process similar to the way women get used to various forms of beautification.
"It’s kind of like plucking your eyebrows," she said.
Yet, beneath the championship title, globs of gel and numerous squirts of hairspray, Fleming said Clem, who happens to be her first real show dog, is just your average dog.
"She has a normal life in our household," Fleming said, adding that Clem likes to chase squirrels around outside.