Ace Gets a Makeover and a Date for Puppy Prom

Helen Woodward Animal Center transformed the 2-year-old Schnauzer for the big event, and he found a home.

When 2-year-old Ace arrived at the Helen Woodward Animal Center this spring, he wasn’t exactly ready for a formal affair. Staff knew he’d come from Imperial County, California, but they didn’t know much else. His fur was so overgrown and matted, they couldn’t even determine his breed. Not neutered nor microchipped, and obviously unloved, this adorable dog deserved to be free from the furry prison that was keeping his cuteness hidden.

“It was painful for him,” explains Jessica Gercke, communications director for the Helen Woodward Animal Center (HWAC).

The condition of Ace’s coat indicated he’d likely been left outside a lot, and had clearly been neglected for years. His fur was so caked with grime, there was no way anyone was getting a hairbrush through it or getting anywhere near his too-long toenails. Still, despite everything he’d been through, Ace seemed to know that he was finally in a place where he could get some attention.

“He was a very sweet dog. You could see that he wanted to connect with people,” says Gerke, who was busy preparing for the HWAC’s fourth annual Puppy Prom when Ace arrived.  The event sees adoptable dogs and alumni mix and mingle on the dance floor.

“We love to bring out what we call the freshman class — dogs who haven’t been adopted yet. We make them look all spiffy and bring them out to meet people,” Gerke explains. “We obviously wanted to give [Ace] a total makeover for prom.”

Luckily, the HWAC staff didn’t have to go far to find a groomer, as Sydnee’s Pet Grooming is right there on site and got Ace in for a clip right away.

“They sheared him like a sheep basically, just because there was no other way to get all of that fur off,” says Gerke. “I know some of that had to be a little bit painful because they’re just pulling at all this thick growth, but he was so loving to everybody and really seemed to understand that we were doing something nice for him.”

When the matted mess of fur was gone, staff could finally tell what Ace had been hiding. He wasn’t a Poodle-Terrier mix (as had been their best guess). No, he was definitely a Schnauzer, and a very cute one at that.

Ace seemed to really enjoy his pre-prom haircut. (All photos courtesy the Helen Woodward Animal Centre)
Ace seemed to really enjoy his pre-prom haircut. (Photo courtesy the Helen Woodward Animal Center)

With his painful mats finally removed, Ace couldn’t help but celebrate.

“We went to take photos of him later that afternoon, and he was literally dancing around. He just wanted to lick everybody. He felt like a million bucks,” Gerke recalls.

Ace’s incredible transformation made the local TV news, and on the day of Puppy Prom, the surprise Schnauzer got a date to the dance. A gentleman whose own dog had recently passed away had caught Ace on TV and knew he had to get to the Helen Woodward Animal Center.

“He adopted him right then and there,” says Gerke.

As Puppy Prom began, Ace was no longer a member of the freshman class, having already graduated to being adopted. He was also no longer called Ace — his new human renamed him Bailey Lee.

According to Gerke, the pup formerly known as Ace looked like a new dog as he strutted into Puppy Prom sporting a dashing bow tie.

“He was happy as a clam, meeting all the other dogs,” she says, adding that HWAC has plenty of other pets who are are hoping for their own extreme adoption makeovers.

“With Ace, his transformation was very, very visual, but what I know from seeing all the animals who come through our doors is that the real transformation is what happens inside of them,” she explains.

That’s why Gerke and the rest of the staff are hoping to see Bailey Lee on the Puppy Prom guest list next year.

“One of the things that we love about Puppy Prom is that we see the dogs coming back. We knew them when they were here, and they were sweet and shy, and then we see them coming back, and there is such joy in them. You can just see that they’ve been doted on, and that’s the transformation we’re excited to see.”

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Heather Marcoux

Heather is a wife, new mom, and former TV journalist in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. You can follow Heather on Twitter and Google+.

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