Archive for April, 2010

Are they naive? Or do these pet lovers really have no integrity?

April 16, 2010

I originally published this in 2010—and as of 2014, I am happy to say the Whitakers,  who OWNED Yuppy Puppy, sold the business, and the new owners  have made so many improvements, only the name is the same.  I urge you to give them another try because they seem to have  so much more knowledge about dogs.

I am updating this blog as, “Changes in Local pet Businesses, for Better or Worse.”

I get so many hits on this particular blog, which I posted in 2009, that I decided to re-edit and update it.   It has to do with people  who are active in the pet industry.  Believe me, they are not all pet lovers. They are not pet haters…but because they make their livings from either breeding or caring for pets, the public  thinks they do love pets more then the pet owners love their pets.  Some of the ‘integrity challenged’ seems to have a lot of time on their hands to just be evil bullies.

Someone emailed me a Craigslist post—where the poster  had said my Facebook account had been disabled—& sure enough—it was!  Facebook staff knows who disabled it, but, oh, well, that’s how it goes.   They are protecting the saboteur’s privacy! Facebook takes no responsibility.  Funny thing—I don’t use   Facebook account for business. It’s just to stay in touch with friends & family.  The  asshole who did this had to spend some time doing it.  Meanwhile, I have no idea who he or she is.  When a Facebook staff member finally emailed me, they wanted ME to  send THEM a fax of my government i.d.’s!  Yet the person who had my account disabled had to prove nothing.  Do you really want to do business with these folks at Facebook—-where you can never talk to a live person, & they allow strangers to sabotage  your account?

I get emails from  animal sellers in the Chicago area regularly,  telling me that if I  flag their Craigslist post again, they are going to send the police after me.  They really have no idea who flagged their posts off, but some  idiots with too much time on their hands tells them to  contact me.   This has not happened since early 2011, because Craigslist actually suspended the accounts of some of the people libeling me—but they still troll…

I have no idea who these people are, if I have,  indeed,  flagged them for selling  animals they bred (they seem to believe everything they read on the internet),  or where they live, but the police in Chicago will not go out even on a crime in progress. They tell you they will send a squad car when one is available.   More to the point: You post anonymously on Craigslist, you flag anonymously on Craigslist.  I can be off for days, and I still get these emails.  & why would I  even bother with Craigslist?   I don’t breed or sell dogs.   Often, people are looking for  advice on housebreaking, or how to find an ethical hobby breeder.  I get thanked all the time, too, but  many formerly  ethical people  affected by the economy are now  attempting to raise animals for fun and profit.

Then, I got this from Jamie Cook at Discovery Channel/  I had asked them to  either remove the negative comments on my  site, “Robyn’s Groom Room”—as they are libelous—because  the people who posted them are not my clients & never have been—they are irresponsible breeders libeling me, & this is how  Cook responded:

“Unfortunately, we will not be able to remove the ratings posted for your grooming service.  One of the many features that our directory offers is the opportunity for users to post ratings, both good and bad, about the businesses with which they have had experiences. We don’t censor these ratings as that negates the purpose of offering them. If we remove negative ratings for businesses then we are not portraying an objective and well rounded service for visitors.

“We highly encourage you to have clients who are happy with your office and the services they received  post their own positive ratings. Simply have them click the following link, then click on the Rate it! link and enter their comments:

“The other option would be to remove your listing completely from the Local Services & Supplies Directory. This would remove all information about your business, including any ratings that have been submitted, so any users who are looking for a groomer in your area would not see your information. If you would like to go with this option please let me know and I will remove your listing immediately.”

That’s right.  He totally ignored what I told him.  I told him to ask the people who libeled me for veterinary receipts.  Yes—several claimed I injured their dogs!  I told him, since I  don’t take new clients who live over  5 miles from me, unless they mail me a deposit  (because they tend to not show up), to ask these people where they lived.  I asked him to  ask them what colors my grooming room  are (people have commented on my color choices—so they don’t forget it).  But nothing—no response.  Petfinder is going about happily believing  every  poster has a bit of integrity.  I shudder to think how many rescues that post are actually  puppy mill outlets—but I guess we’ll never know.  They clearly don’t do any ‘due diligence’—relying on the integrity of any poster.

What really affected me last week, however, was the loss of a job I should have never taken in the first place.   I took the job because  the location was somewhat close to  some of my former grooming clients, and  the owners of the business lied to me.  Of course, I was able to determine that they lied to me right away.  The business is Yuppy Puppy, Inc., in Lake Bluff, Illinois.  They  originally set it up to do dog daycare, but realizing they could not make  enough money doing that, they also do overnight boarding. They are licensed to keep up to 85 dogs overnight.  Licensed?  By The Illinois Department of Agriculture, of course.  The laws pertaining to dog boarding, dog daycare—indeed, even puppy mills—-are so poorly written, that unless the building is dangerous for humans to occupy—you get a license.  That’s how it is in Illinois.

The business is owned by the Whitakers:  Peter, the father, & Lucy & Simon, the son & daughter. Thing is—Lucy got married & moved out of state, & Simon is about to do so.  This leaves Peter, who clearly  isn’t  really a dog enthusiast. He is a businessman.

When he called me, he told me  a groomer had just  not shown up for work, and he needed someone reliable for 2—3 days a week.  I asked him if he could give me full days.  He asked what I expected, and I told him that I expected the average gross per dog to be $50, with 6 dogs her day, so my gross would average $150 a day.  For those not numerate—this is about $36,000 a year gross.  I live about 22 miles from this business–so it’s my gas &  car, too.  He assured me that  was how it was.  But it wasn’t. According to their computer records, the average charge on a grooming dog was $40 a dog.  Much less.  They did not know this because, as they made it very clear to me, they were operating a dog daycare/boarding business, and grooming was extra—a service to their clients. They really didn’t care what I thought.

Nor did they care that they didn’t have enough towels or  equipment.  Nor that there wasn’t adequate light coming into the grooming area (however, the boarding area  and offices were very bright).

They told me it would take 2 weeks for me to get on the payroll.  It took 4 weeks.   But there were other aspects to this business that troubled me, and still do.

They are business people, first and foremost.  Not dog lovers.  No experience in training, grooming, working in an animal hospital or for a shelter.   No animal husbandry background.   Their attitudes are  that they are licensed by the state, there is nothing  else to know about dogs.   They  take turns coming in in the morning for a few hours, and kennel staff  ran the kennel. The staff did a pretty good job, all things considered, but since nobody really knew anything about  canine husbandry, it was a very stressful place—especially for the dogs.

What bothered me the most was that this  business is a totally indoor kennel.  The small dogs are kept in 1 paddock area, the large dogs in another.  They are separated out into dog runs or crates for eating, but there is not one crate per dog.  At night, the dogs really have to bed down where they relieve themselves, and most pet dogs won’t do that.  Not much actual  play goes on. Staff is too busy cleaning & feeding.

Dogs will stand until they are exhausted rather than lay down where they relieve themselves.  I saw many dogs with urinary tract infections. Dogs will hold urine if they are housebroken, until they are stressed, and this is one way those infections occur.  You’d wonder what kind of people with any sense would think this is a stress free environment for their dog.    Keep in mind that most veterinarians are agriculture vets, and  few clients will ask about the safety of this kind of facility.  Most vets won’t  speak negatively of a business that sends them business.  And—they ARE LICENSED BY THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.

I’ve never been overly fond of  the concept of dog daycare, but  having worked in some  outstanding kennels (check out Pawsatively Heaven Pet Resort in Chicago Ridge, Ill., or Paradise for Paws, in Schiller Park, ILL), I’ve softened.  Some dogs  have a lot of energy, and love being part of a pack.  I see dogs playing together all the time.  However, Yuppy Puppy is not this kind of place.   A lot of dogs standing around, totally confused. You could tell they  were stressed—that is—if you know dog behavior.

We had a  couple of disagreements.  I thought we were working out raising prices, but  we had one client who lied to me about her dog being a biter. She told  me and Simon that the groomers usually muzzled her dog, and that they shaved him.  This poor little guy was the boss in his house, and I would not have him be the boss of me.  I  didn’t have to muzzle him, or strike him—nor did I have to shave him.  He looked pretty good, in fact.  As soon as I brought him out to his owner, he started micturating(lifting his leg to mark territory).  I yelled, “Hey,  Beckham!  No!”  & the owner took  offense at me  YELLING AT HER DOG—and did not  attempt to get the dog under control.  That sort of shocked me.  In 40 years of grooming, every place I ever worked asked owners to  leash their dogs or get them under control (except PETCO, which dances around the  control  issue by having a sign that says LEASHED PETS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME. Does that mean unleashed pets are not welcome?)

But Simon actually fired me because, after  getting 7 dogs bathed so they’d be ready for their owners on time, plus 2 more also needing grooming, he  had kennel staff give me an out-of-control Golden Retriever.  The dog was pulling me all over, and I was pulling him back, and when I went to put him on the table, he  jumped back & stood on his hind legs—and nobody came to my aid. Simon  came into the room and told me to calm down, and I told him I could not groom the dog because I could not get the dog under control.  He then blew up at me:  “You WILL GROOM THE DOG BECAUSE THE OWNER PAID FOR A GROOMING!”  I told him I could not, and wanted to tell him that if the owner got the dog under control, I would groom the dog.  But then, he accused me of choking the dog (the dog is on a slip rearing up, backing away. Anyone who has ever trained a dog knows that if you stand still, this will happen, and the dog may look like he is being choked, but he is just asserting himself).

Then, Simon told me he’d call the police and have me charged with animal cruelty, and he would withhold the pay he owed me to that point if I did not groom the dog.  I told  him to bathe the dog.  He shouted that he wasn’t a groomer, and it was my job, and he was my boss.  Ultimately,  one of the guys working in the kennel bathed the dog—& the dog attempted to jump out of the tub  three times.  I quit, he fired me—it was a mutual agreement.   But—as an example of how these people conduct business, I shaved down a very old Collie—-& since he was too lazy or mad at me to walk into the grooming area to ask me how much to charge ($75), he charged the owner $50—cheating us  out of $12.50 each.  Multiply that by 6 dogs, and it can be a third of my pay for the day.

I’ve been offered  two more grooming jobs in the past week.  Both business owners have no dog experience—or  they’ve just owned pet dogs.  No grooming, no training.  Just money. They  both believe they are different .  But they are not different from any other dog business owned by people who don’t groom, train, or show dogs.  Even if they sign a contract with me that guarantees me a minimum  take per day, I’d have to go to court to enforce it.   These types of people own  over 50% of the pet service businesses in my area.