Stoneham dog groomer hopes he ends up as best in show
He's a finalist on reality game show
It all started with an e-mail last November. Animal Planet, the cable TV channel, was searching for dog groomers to participate in a new reality game show.
Jasper Asaro didn't think much of it at first, but his wife took the lead and sent in a response. Ten minutes later, the Stoneham groomer got a phone call. It was the network, and it was interested.
Asaro became a contestant on the show "Groomer Has It" within a few short weeks, and is one of six remaining competitors for the grand prize of $50,000, a mobile grooming salon, and the title "Groomer of the Year."
"Once you get past the first couple days with the cameras in your face, once you get down to the grooming, you do what comes naturally," Asaro said of his experience on the show. Contestants were brought to Los Angeles and sequestered in what the network has dubbed "the Dog House," an upscale loft away from radio, television, the Internet, and their families.
Asaro said the hardest part of the competition was being apart from his family for the month that filming took place.
"My father thought I was a little bit crazy," he said, "but my friends and family supported it."
In doing so, they were behaving as they did when he started his dog-grooming career 18 years ago. Asaro managed an auto parts store then, but he had "had it with the rat race," he said, and wanted to do something he loved. He had always wanted to work with animals, he said, although dog grooming had never occurred to him as a job. One night, encouraged by his wife, he decided to take the plunge. The auto parts business became a thing of the past, and Asaro has never looked back.
Even in these tougher economic times, the Dapper Dawg School of Professional Dog Grooming will remain successful, Asaro predicts.
"It's recession-proof," he said, adding of his customers: "Even if they don't have the money for anything else, they get their dogs fixed up." His TV exposure certainly hasn't hurt. Asaro said his Stoneham shop has seen a flurry of activity of late, with people frequently coming in to say they saw him on the show, which has finished filming but is still airing.
As for how his work with Boston-area dogs prepared him for his national spotlight, Asaro said the Dapper Dawg business is far more stressful than the on-camera one. In his day-to-day work, he contends with everything from standard poodles to heavily matted fur, so he thought he had a pretty solid foundation for anything the show's producers might throw at him from the canine world.
The show's list of challenges, however, didn't come solely out of the American Kennel Club's specifications for dog breeds. And for Asaro, there was a big problem: cats.
"Once I saw the cats, I thought, 'I could be going home tonight,' " he said. Their appearance came only a few weeks after the show's participants found themselves shearing sheep and working on dogs made of yarn. But Asaro didn't depart on cat night and is still going strong in the competition, now placing among its top six contestants.
And what was it like to spend every waking moment with nearly a dozen strangers who wanted to beat you at your own game?
"We mostly just sat around and talked after challenges. . . . It was tough to talk to total strangers for eight hours," he said, particularly as the field was winnowed down and fewer contestants remained. Asaro said he has stayed in contact with some of his fellow groomers, getting the odd call from former opponents when episodes air.
One other highlight from his participation, Asaro said, was appearing on NBC's "Today" show. There he focused, not surprisingly, on grooming a dog in a short period of time.
But are the lights and cameras of Hollywood calling to him, now that the show's taping has wrapped up? No, said Asaro. He's happy to go home, get back to work, and spend time with his family.
"There were a lot of people looking for the drama," he said. "I was there to win a contest."
Adam Sell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.