'I had a lot of emotions that night': Elgin couple make final, get engaged on 'Pooch Perfect'
It was the romantic gesture of childhood dreams.
Holding girlfriend Alyssa Kasiba's hands, Justin Dorn told her, "I know you wanted something very special and unforgettable and magical and storybook, and I wanted to give that to you."
"And I know now that I was waiting for this moment right now," he said, dropping to one knee and pulling out a ring box.
With hands covered in doggy hair dye and standing on the "Dog Walk" stage on the set of the ABC network show "Pooch Perfect," Dorn asked Kasiba to marry him. People in dog costumes behind them cheered.
"Holy crap," Kasiba said.
After another interjection and questions from judge Lisa Vanderpump over whether that meant yes, Kasiba said the word. And so it was that on the same night they made the finals of the creative dog grooming competition show, the Elgin couple got engaged with a couple of million people watching at home on television.
The program, hosted by Rebel Wilson, started with 10 teams that competed in weekly challenges, with the season winner taking home a $100,000 prize. Kasiba and Dorn are one of three teams remaining before the show's finale airs at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
It's been a pair of dreams come true for the lifelong Elginite Kasiba, who said the engagement was a "120%" surprise.
"Not only are we having the time of our lives on this show, but now ...," she says, trailing off. "I kind of felt like we were going to be together forever, but I didn't expect it like this. I had a lot of emotions that night."
The program has weekly themed competitions pitting the teams against each other to see who will be that week's "Best in Show." Themes have included holidays, for which Kasiba and Dorn won for grooming a dog to look like a jack-o'-lantern with a skeleton body and ghosts on its butt. They earned another win on Disney night when Kasiba created a Lilo and Stich design. The dogs are volunteered by Los Angeles-area families to be on the show.
Kasiba said she heard about the show through social media groups last year and was interested. Before she could apply, someone from the show reached out to her after seeing her profile online.
"They told us they were going to do 'The Great British Baking Show' vibes and didn't want all the drama, because we're doing something that's amazing and grooming dogs and want to keep it positive," Kasiba said. "I think they nailed it."
"They picked some of the most amazing people who have gigantic hearts and love for animals, and that's the only way you could make a show like this," Dorn said.
The couple, who have been dating for more than seven years, started a mobile grooming business, Simply Diffurent, in February 2020 before being chosen to be on the show.
Filming took place in late January and wrapped up in mid-February.
Dorn said he had done some ring shopping before the opportunity to be on the show came up, but when it did, he knew he had found his "magical" moment. He said he wasn't concerned about the timing of waiting too long and getting eliminated.
"I know she's the best groomer in the country," he said.
Producers of the show were slow to reveal much about the contestants in the beginning, knowing creative grooming can be a hot-button topic. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has criticized the program, saying it could encourage people to try it at home, where they could use dyes that could be harmful to pets.
"Color on dogs is a really touchy subject," Kasiba said. "They didn't put our last names or our business names out there right away to let people simmer down and realize that we're not torturing dogs, and to let them learn a little more about the process we use and the color we use and how we're professionals and do our research," she said.
Kasiba puts her money, or hair rather, where her mouth is and uses the same vegan doggy hair dye on her own head to color her rainbow look.
While Kasiba and Dorn can't reveal what will happen during Tuesday's finale, they can say they loved the experience.
"It was amazing, the staff, producers, directors, Rebel were all just amazing," Kasiba said. "They took a thing that I love so much and showed it to the world."