Before there was Blossom, there was Lacie.
Before there was Lacie, there was Casper.
And before there was Casper, there was Tedi.
Twenty years ago this spring, Delise Knight took her 1-year-old standard poodle, dusted him with a non-toxic pastel chalk and informally introduced the first pink poodle to the Cherry Blossom Festival.
March in Macon has never been the same.
Delise had a background as a dog groomer. She owned Bardel Pet Grooming in Milledgeville. She took the first three letters of her mothers first name, Barbara Chapman, and the first three letters of her own name, Del, to come up with Bardel.
In 1989, she and her mother invested $90 and started making dog bows. Bardel Bows, headquartered in Fort Valley, is now the largest supplier of dog bows in the U.S.
For years, Barbara was known by another name. She was called Medi Tedi. She would dress in a bear costume and entertain patients at The Childrens Hospital at The Medical Center of Central Georgia. She would also visit patients on the cancer ward. She was popular with the hospital employees.
When her mother died in 1993, Delise grieved for months. A friend told her she needed a companion and gave her a white, standard male poodle from championship bloodlines. The high pedigree was the dogs father, whose name was Whisperwind on a Carousel, the top winning standard poodle in history.
Delise named him Tedi, in honor of her mothers unforgettable bear character, the goodwill ambassador who had brought such joy and comfort to so many people.
When Tedi was a puppy, Delise would walk him in neighborhoods in north Macon. In the spring, she would watch people take slow drives through Wesleyan Woods to admire the Yoshino cherry blossoms.
She thought it would be cool to have a little eye candy -- a pink poodle.
This was not her first rodeo. She had plenty of experience dying the white coats of poodles at her grooming business. She also had been a judge for creative grooming competitions.
On his maiden voyage as a pink poodle, Tedi made a big splash.
He loved the attention, Delise said. He always knew when he was pink.
The next year, Delise grabbed a bottle of Jazzing by Clairol. The color was Fuschia Plum. It took eight hours to dye him. She shaved his back and painted a blossom with water-soluble markers. She took him to Central City Park during the festival to the Dixie Disc Dog Competition and stole the show without catching a single Frisbee.
Blessed be the dye that blinds.
He was very good about his masculinity, although he probably would have preferred for it to be a blueberry festival, Delise said, laughing.
By the third year, Tedi was a showstopper everywhere he went. Children would run to hug him. Old folks would lean over to scratch behind his ear. (If cellphones had been popular back then, college students probably would have stopped to take selfies to post on Facebook.) Tedi also became the first therapy dog allowed to visit the Childrens Hospital. He went to see a little girl who was paralyzed. Her favorite color was pink.
There were times when Tedi would be surrounded by so many people that Delise would lose sight of him and her husband, Paul.
It was like having a movie star on a leash, Paul said.
Not to mention a chick magnet. If I had known before I married it was going to attract this many women, I would have gotten a pink poodle long ago, he said.
CNN and Disney
The Pink Poodle Paparazzi never fazed Tedi. He was so intelligent he could strike a pose for the cameras. Delise and Paul would take a two-week vacation during the festival so Tedi could participate in events such as the childrens parade and fashion show.
When Paul and I were with Tedi, we were invisible, Delise said. Nobody ever noticed us.
He was on CNN and the Disney Channel. After an appearance on ABCs Good Morning America, when he was front and center to millions of viewers, Delise and Paul took him to Central City Park that night. Someone came up and told them they had seen Tedi on Good Morning America that morning and had driven over from Savannah.
They said Macon had to be a cool town if it had a pink poodle, Delise said. And I told them it was a cool town.
Every time Tedi got a bath, he would lose a little more of his glow. The pink dye sometimes took several months to wash out completely. He would still have traces of pink around his ears by the time the next festival rolled around. Someone once asked if they bred a pink poodle with a blue poodle, would they get lavender?
In 1998, Tedi sported his pink coat a few months early so he could be photographed for a promotional advertisement for the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau. He appeared with Miss Blossom Florence Wood and former festival chairman Vernon Colbert.
The photo shoot went fine, but it threw off Tedis pink biological clock.
He was depressed for weeks after that because he knew he was pink, and he thought he should be getting up every morning and going somewhere, Delise said. So we would put him in the car and ride him around. He thought he was supposed to be doing something.
Paul would take him to McDonalds so the employees could come to the drive-thru window and make a fuss about him.
By his final years of the festival, Delise and Paul had moved north of Fort Valley to Pineola Farms. Tedi stayed pink for 10 years during the festival, and was both pink and peach in both 2003 and 2004.
He lived to be 15 years old, which is 105 in dog years, of course. When he died in 2008, he was cremated and placed in a cabinet near his favorite rug in the den.
Delise and Paul remain faithful supporters of the festival -- and of local dog groomers Paul and Alice Williams, who have carried on the pink poodle tradition with Casper, Lacie and Blossom.
Who would have thought something that started on a whim would have turned out like this? Delise asked. We are so honored.
Its all about making memories, she said. Memories for themselves. Memories for others.
They hold those memories dear.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org