Archive for June, 2011

Want to run for governor of Illinois? Do you really have that much contempt for us all?

June 30, 2011

Well, or last governor,  once again, was found guilty of …corruption.  Trying to sell  key appointments, shaking down non-profits.  & he seemed like such a nice guy, too. He still seems like such a nice guy!  Why does this keep happening to us?

I was born in the last century, so I remember Ogilvie, then Dan Walker.  We had a brake with Jim Edgar, who had and still seems to have a lot of integrity.  Trouble was, he was very socially conservative, and not really as fiscally conservative as one would have you believe.   I guess he couldn’t cut out  more pork without being seen as NOT a team player.

So, then we got George Ryan.  He seemed to have integrity.  It seemed like nothing got worse…but we—or rather—the press—was not looking at the pension funds back then.  Nobody was. As long as real estate kept appreciating for no logical reason, the economy hummed, so tax breaks could be given to  major (Fortune 500) companies to ‘create’ jobs in Illinois.  If you don’t live in Illinois, you don’t remember what brought him down.  It was the whole ‘licenses for bribes’ deal…where employees of the  Secretary of State’s office had to raise money for the  boss (George Ryan started as secretary of state) to keep their  patronage jobs.  The way they were doing it was  selling drivers’ licenses to people who had failed the driver’s test.  Just one of them was driving an unsafe truck, where a tire came loose and caused an accident where  6 kids (from 1 family…what an irony) were killed, and it started the journalists on a frenzy.  George Ryan went to jail.

We citizens had had enough of the Republicans, so we elected  Blagoyavich, who was a glad hander. Very friendly, said all the right things…and another irony….his father-in-law, an alderman by the name of   RichardMell—-didn’t get along with him.  In Chicago, there could be no more ringing endorsement of your integrity than having a Chicago alderman  not like you—especially your father-in-law!

& that’s the way the  2 parties seem to choose their candidates:  by who hates them, and how friendly they are.  Not whether they’ve ever run a business, or know anything about accounting, or drafting laws…but by how friendly they are and how much cash they can raise!  Can we really not do better than this?

On a national level, I am shocked by  how much the Republicans are getting away with by sabotaging government operations…& how much the press is allowing them to get away with talking about how Obama is  responsible for the deficit—-a deficit that would not exist at all had  Dubya not gotten us into  two wars!  Oh, yeah!  With a vice president (Dich Cheney) who had been intertwined with a major recipient  of ‘foreign aid’—Haliburton.  We all just ignored that—& now we’re suddenly concerned about the deficit they ran up?  & nobody asks—if these people so concerned about the deficit want a smaller government—why are they so concerned with  controlling women’s reproductive freedom, and making them bear children  nobody wants to take care of.  After all, infrastructure doesn’t pay for itself.  Where to  the tea partiers  & other libertarians think the money for roads and their own pay will come from?  Not to mention schools, libraries, hospitals (right–we are on our own…)   I wonder how many have ever been to Melbourne, Australia, where the expressways are not freeways—but tollways…and it can cost $12 to go five miles. That sounds like a plan!

A few weeks agi, I reviewed Dr. Reich’s book, Aftershock.  I think we need to email our state & federal legislators & start suggesting they take people who make over $500,000. Why? there are still people who make  under that who consider themselves barely middle class. Really—& plenty who make over half a million  who could pay more & still be rich.  We should also mention that  if we didn’t have 2 wars going, & had not  bailed out the  companies that were ‘too big to fail’ (give us a break),we wouldn’t have to  whittle away at Social Security & Medicare.

You  can easily find out who our ELECTED OFFICIALS are. Don’t let them get away with  being overpaid &  not doing what we pay them to do:  be responsible & act with integrity. Tell them if they want to  cheat or help out their friends, to leave the government & go into the private sector!

Don’t buy a dog because it looks cute…

June 22, 2011

Or you want to save its life.  I have to admit:  I am guilty on both counts.  Let me tell you about Chuck….

I had just euthanized my old Afghan bitch. She has been a wonderful dog, and I  had put a novice obedience title on her, as well as a field championship, and she was like a sister to me, but  she  suddenly aged so badly, becoming blind, deaf, and incontinent in a matter of months, and I knew her quality of life was very poor.

A few days after that, a client brought a toy Poodle into the grooming shop where I worked, and actually said to us that she didn’t know whether to have him groomed or put him to sleep.  He seemed like a sweet dog, and was older than my Afghan, at 15 years, so it just fell out of my mouth:  “I’ll  take him.”

Why did  the owner no longer want the dog?  He had grown up with the kids, the kids were all moved out, she wanted to travel, and nobody was bonded to the dog enough to want the poor old guy.  He seemed  sweet enough, but had very bad teeth.  I took him to  a veterinarian & told him to  do what he had to do.  He left Chuck with the 4  incisors. That was it. He also told me to not let him eat solid food for a couple of days, but Chuck felt so much better that he practically climbed into my Whippet’s food bowl & started eating.

My roommate adored him,and they bonded in minutes, and Chuck became very spoiled and remained spoiled until he died at age 18.  Fact of the matter was that he adored my roommate, but was not good with anyone else.  He was a biter.

I understand the attraction to  cute.  In fact, evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould has written about  the human attraction to cute.  I was initially attracted to sighthounds because of the  physical aesthetic, their grace.  But that is the wrong reason to choose a pet.  I just happened to have lucked out

Most people do not.  I know this, because, about 10 years ago, I has  over 40 clients with Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers.  These dog buyers were all attracted to the breed because the are not too small, not too large, don’t shed, & they had either met one or seen a photo…& on the basis of that—they  got Wheatens.  Problem was, the breed was too hyper for most of them. They all (I have ranted on this before) thought they were getting  Lassie and didn’t train their dogs. As those dogs died of old age (some were euthanized for biting), they were not replaced with another Wheaten.

My clients who enjoyed all aspects of their dogs have  bought or rescued a new one that was the same breed as the old one, are Shih Tzu owners, Miniature Schnauzer owners, Cairn terrier owners,  Briard owners, and Whippet owners. Some of the Afghan Hound owners have gone to Salukis:  same temperament, less hair.

My clients with Labradoodles, Tibetan Terriers, Bearded Collies, and Scottish Terriers have not replaced those dogs with like. I have a few clients who keep getting Pit Bulls, but only because they believe in rescue, and  those are the dogs in rescue.

I have a few clients with Frenchies & English Bulldogs, and I know they will not replace those dogs with  similar breeds: the health car costs are shocking…something  none of them realized.

OK, so..if you are not choosing a dog on how it looks—how DO YOU CHOOSE A DOG? First of all, you have to do an honest personal assessment:  if you work all day…how are you going to housebreak a puppy?  Why not choose an older dog? Do you want to be active with a dog?  Or are you really more of a couch potato that just wants to live with a dog?  Do you mind a dog being yappy? What about hair all over everything?

There is a reason Golden Retrieves, Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, Poodles and Shih Tzus  remain popular breeds:  even bad breeders rarely screw up their  personalities/temperaments.  Oh, it happens, & mostly, dogs have physical/genetic issues, but these dogs are the go along/get along types of dogs.

I always suggest attending a dog show and talking to exhibitors, but many dog groomers have experience with lots of breeds.  It pays to meet owners of the breeds that appeal to you—but owners who  are not selling puppies.  We Saluki owners joke about  how we try to dissuade people from getting a Saluki (Afghan Hound owners tend to be the same way).

I must admit…the most wonderful dogs I’ve gotten were via the pounds, shelters, & rescue.  I believe in planned breeding—but I also believe we have a responsibility to the breeds we favor when those dogs fall on hard times.  The rescued dogs were always the most eager to please & the most trainable.

Looking for a Dog Grooming Job in Chicago, part2

June 16, 2011

I am sort of amazed by how many people  find this blog by searching for how much the average dog groomer makes a year.  Google that question, & you will see that the AVERAGE is  in the  low $30,000 range.  Divide that up by how much you have to earn a day, or a week, and you will know  sort of what to expect.

Next—add up your expenses—you know, rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance (health & car, many renter’s), food/groceries, clothing, etc, etc.  Are you going to be able to generate that  grooming dogs?

I am belaboring this because since the first of the year, I have  been offered 6 jobs.  No joke!

First one was  by a kennel in a very elite area, and I had high hopes. The build out was really nice. Trouble was…the owner wasn’t actually ‘working’ the business. He was using it as passive income—& it wasn’t even generating that. Why?  Too many people on the payroll making too much money  & not adding value to the business:  not  cleaning, not grooming, nor really doing anything…I could see that there would not be enough business unless we  contacted old clients & either called them or  mailed them a ‘reminder’ to make an appointment—-but the manager would not do it.  She kept making excuses….for  over 6 weeks!  She’s on the payroll…. but I was an independent contractor—so that was the end of that.

Next was a  very nice kennel  very close to  the Chicago Loop.  It’s been in business over 10 years. The staff is generally excellent. Their problem—the owner doesn’t really want to  be involved in day-to-day operations anymore, so she became lax about contact information for her grooming clients.  She told me she didn’t know why the last  2 groomers quit…but she also told me they didn’t complain about the horrible lighting or not having regular work (gee—I wonder if they  lived with a parent or husband who paid the bills…). She told me she was absolutely certain she could provide me with  2 full days of work (averaging $150 per day, per week) every week, but this turns out to not be true. I am slowly building up the business, but I still do not have adequate lighting , &  it took over 6 weeks to get a dehumidifier (& she only bought it because the kennel manager insisted).

Another business that has been through 4 owners in 40 years, called me for just Saturdays.  This business used to have a 4 week waiting list for new clients—they were so busy—& still have 7 groomers during the week.  Nobody ever left…but the economy has even affected the wealthy.  This business was NEVER open on Saturdays..but now they are—& just 1 groomer works, or so I was told.  I didn’t believe the owner, a groomer, herself,  was  going to be dishonest with me, and she told me they take dogs in for the day they worked. Turns out–the  groomer already there—has seniority…what we , in Chicago, call first dibs.  That means, she is entitled to all the work she wants—& what she can’t handle, the next groomer is entitled to.  Except if another groomer who works during the week also wants to work on Saturday, and she has second dibs.  So,  the first groomer got 14 dogs, the second groomer got 7 dogs, & I got 4 dogs, & the  first 2 groomers complained  about me being there on Saturday, so that  ended quickly.  There’s a lot of that.  Be careful with shops that think that is fair. What they end up doing is hiring a groomer fresh out of school, who can only groom  2 or 3 dogs a day & doesn’t mind being critiqued, & she slowly works her way up. … but don’t expect a living wage for months….

A guy who interviewed me 2 years ago, with a very good boarding & dog training business, emailed me & told me his groomer left & they really needed someone…so I met with his manager.  He’s been through 4 groomers in 2 years. The problem?  He has one ‘Force’ dryer…& that is it.  Clients are complaining about dogs going home wet.  I suggested  a Sahara  or Grizzly      (these are carpet dryers used in the grooming industry to  move a lot of air), or even just a few box fans & crates, so you wouldn’t have to blast a dog for 1/2 hour.  The manager told me they didn’t believe in crate drying.  I asked why.  She couldn’t come up with a good explanation. So, I told her  the  solution was….if the owner would not invest in more  fans, dryers, or  crates, to contract with a mobile groomer.

From there, I went to talk to a guy opening a new dog grooming school—Chicago Academy of Dog Grooming.   Steve Cox, who used to train groomers for PETCO—& was screwed by them.    Very nice shop, he has an excellent online reputation.  I am sure he can teach people to groom.   Not styling, really. You will never see a Bedlington or a Bouvier des Flandres in his shop, nor a Lakeland or Kerry…He wants a full time groomer  so he can teach full time—much more money in that.  But when I asked him what I would make a day, he told me I’d average $75. Well—what’s the point of that?    I can do that at home grooming 2 dogs a day—in fact, make more!  I asked him if he’d tell  students what they’d make.  He said he’d tell them the range. These dog grooming schools are a huge racket—because the State of Illinois will give students grants—paid directly to the schools—so students can learn a new skill—whether there is a market for them or not.  let the buyer beware?

Finally, I interviewed at a very small shop—only about 100 square fee5t in the front for product, but a nice  build out in the back. The owner, not a groomer, but a typical corporate refugee, wanted  a dog business.    She did her research & invested in god equipment, but—even though she has kept the business going for over 3 years now, &  does excellent social marketing, she is learning that the business is too small to  support a non-working owner…and has had to  take consulting work to support this indulgence.

I have blogged about  the  few I know that just didn’t make it.  One that I thought would, “Sit!”, which had an excellent groomer, recently got sold to “Soggy Paws”, a chain of small  grooming shops with an excellent reputation( & good for groomers who need health insurance) because the could not generate enough per square foot or per day—in income—to support a non-working owner. In any case, the owner of this very small shop asked me about some of the terrible  reviews for my grooming on-line. I asked her to show them to me, but I told her about Dan London, Doggie Bath House, how I refused to work for him, so he decided that I would work for nobody if I would not work for him.  & I told her about  the  breeders selling on Craigslist , and how, since they are sure I cut into their business  when they are flagged off for selling, they will libel me whenever they can.  She told me she had been through that as well.

Meanwhile, via word-of-mouth, I remain busy  either at home, at the kennel downtown, or working now & then for other friends, and that is fine.  I have not had to go into savings, even though I recently had to do a major infrastructure repair on the house & buy  a new stove & bathroom vanity for the 1st floor flat.  I am sure the backyard dog & herp breeders—now that they have saturated the local market, are NOT doing so well.  Many of the idiot Pit Bull breeder seem to have disappeared.  Hey—many have gone into foreclosure…& it seems, also, that many more are being flagged off the Craigslist  pet section (& general for sale section) by others just like me who feel the same way:  let the older pets  you’ve already sold  have a chance to find a home. Go pay for an ad in the paper.

Our Civilization in Decline….

June 10, 2011

Ever since I sold a 500 gallon aquarium in less than 15 minutes by posting on Craigslist, I’ve been a user.  It’s a wonderful website—something someone should have thought of this before Craig  thought of it.

What’s particularly unique about the site is that there  is a huge  agreement—and warnings—about what is not legal to post.  However, since nobody monitors the site, the skanks  will always post the illegal stuff…ammo, drugs,  and live animals.  And—if they think you think you have maligned them—or—rather—cut into their income,  will post all sorts of  untrue posts, after their posts have been ‘flagged’ off. thinking they will hassle you.  & they are so sure it’s YOU who has flagged them off.

I have to admit….about a month ago—& I was not staying at home at the time….so it sort of backfired on them (except to annoy my roommate who finally shut off the phone) some skank posted my contact info  in the CASUAL ENCOUNTERS section.

You would think that the  average guy of average intelligence might  realize that most of the posts are from ex husbands & disgruntled ex boyfriends,  wanting to offend the woman who rejected them, but unfortunately, the average intelligence of the average guy in America is—-well—look how many are willing to join the military & die for the very rich?  Makes no sense.

My roommate, a really intelligent guy ( Ph.D. & bilingual Japanese & English), wanted to know why any guy would want a CASUAL ENCOUNTER.  Is he not sweet?  I told him  that many guys don’t want a girl friend—-too high maintenance, & they don’t want to masturbate. They’d rather risk getting robbed & shot, & AIDS.  Tough guys—& they vote Republican, join the military…& apparently breed herpetiles (snakes,monitor lizards, Bearded Dragons, etc) & Pit Bulls.

Huh? What?  That’s right. The guy who posted my contact info was someone who I asked  not to sell the animals that he bred on Craigslist.  They don’t  have to pay to advertise, & it’s a buy/sell/trade website that everyone uses. It’s just that the sale of live animals is not allowed.  Even  though the TERMS OF USE state that no animal sales are allowed and  you can’t post anything illegal, you can not only buy  baby animals, but endangered species, drugs of all sorts, ammo & guns, stolen goods…& law enforcement is clueless or too lazy to follow through, respond to the posts, & arrest thee people.  & to me, this is a no-brainer.   Craigslist even posts—in the terms of use—that you can be fined $10.000 per illegal or fraudulent or libelous post—but try finding a lawyer to take your case. You need at least $10,000 minimum to mount a lawsuit.

I  responded to one woman  who posted that she wanted to BUY A PIT BULL WITH A LOW FEE.  I asked her to check out  local shelters that always have Pit Pups—but she didn’t want a shelter dog, she wanted to see at least 1 parent dog—SOMETHING I SUPPORT SO MUCH!!! Just  not on Craigslist.  But something else…. even though there were puppies posted, apparently all the skank breeders were asking too much money for her taste.  How ironic!  So, she decided I was harasing her by responding to her email.  Ok, whatever… what she doesn’t understand is…..local police will not do anything unless they know for sure I am in their  policing area…& she can prove she was harmed.  I know this because I have contacted my local police about harassment.  I’ve talked to detectives.  The government is broke.  Harassment is legal. I don’t mean to harass.  Many people thank me for the info… telling them where to look for a healthy dog… but not the dog brokers.

The there is a family that frequently looks for  a dog on Craigslist.  They post ‘dog wanted’.  Since they post anonymously, I suggest they just respond to the posts. They told me to MYOB.  See. as I said–the people genuinely looking for a dog  email me & thank me—not the brokers.

Well….after weeks of searching, the family finally got the dog they wanted….but no—not really….he’s not working out, the seller won’t take it back, & I am harassing them by telling them to demand the seller take it back. & you know what? They will ultimately dump this dog via a Craigslist post—& post for another dog.  It’s easy enough to do, and totally legal.  &—I know this happens, because the idiot animal sellers—to harass me—often post that I am giving purebred puppies away.  I can’t imagine what these dimwits  are thinking.   I tell every caller that someone put up a scam post, that only bona fide shelters & rescues can post puppies because it is clearly posted in several places that NO ANIMAL SALES OR BREEDING ARE ALLOWED ON CRAIGSLIST—& they will not find a free puppy unless it is sick or stolen—and I can refer them to shelters, rescue, & hobby breeders who will be honest with them….& they thank me….

Why do I bother? I do know honest hobby breeders….& the economy will never recover to what prosperity we had during the Clinton years…& some  breeds of dogs are going to die out.  Not Pit Bulls, though. Pit Bulls are now the #1 breed owned in America. Why?  They are easy to take care of, good with kids, smart—and you can find them all over the place.  Too many are bred for the number of homes there are—& with the  ‘no-kill’ shelter adoption movement  encouraging people to adopt rather than buy—-& people wanting any dog that needs a home—that is what they get—because that is what is available.  A few Beagles, many Huskies (they are bred to run—so why would you get one if you live in an apartment & don’t have a huge fenced yard?).  In the small  toy breed, we are over run with Chihuahuas & Shih Tzus.

What annoys me more than anything is that our law enforcement professionals are not perusing Craigslist for all the illegal activity that really does affect most of us.  Illinois is in the hole for  several billion dollars. Granted, the fines most of the  illegal posters would face are only about $1000 per, but gosh, there are enough of them that it would be more than a break even proposition to  go after these  ‘libertarians’ & it would improve our quality of life:  fewer animals needing homes, fewer  animals in shelters for us to feed before we have to kill them.

I an not a professional profiler, but I have an undergraduate degree in anthropology…& it seems to me that the people who think it’s a good idea to raise pet animals as livestock in an urban environment haven’t thought the implications through. That’s obvious…but more—the rest of us, who let them get away with this, have a false consciousness. ‘We’ seem to think that somebody will deal with all these surplus animals (& the weapons sellers, & people trafficking women) and protect us from these thugs.  Well, guess what— in a bad economy, it is proven that there is more crime.    We already know the solution—tax the rich &  give grants to job creators.  It won’t happen. Why?  The wealthy—& that would be households worth over $500,000—have far more influence over politicians than you or I do. We are not vocal enough. We don’t tell them that  this is a crisis—and we don’t inform ourselves  about how to  fix this.

I’ve cited John Kenneth Galbraith,  Keynes,and Robert Reich in the recent past.  The wealthy have a vested interest in not only keeping  regular folks ignorant, but keeping us busy  taking care of pet animals—particularly the unwanted ones.

Book Review: Aftershock, by Robert Reich

June 2, 2011

Knowing that Dr. Reich was Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, and seeing that the book was ‘only’ 174 pages long (including the index), I decided to give it a go. Read a page or 2, and see if I could get into it.  I mean, really, a book subtitled:  The Next Economy and America’s Future.  Do I really  want to  read economic philosophy?

Published in 2010, it is an amazingly easy read.  Reich really makes our economic history, and what governments are really capable of doing, clear.

Aren’t we all sick and tired of hearing politicians boast about how they will create jobs?  I am doubly sick of  people who were entrepreneurs, and who should know better, boast that they know how to create jobs.

Before I had much of an education, I met a Tanzanian man studying economics here in the USA, and I asked him what he found most interesting about the USA:  “The size of your economy,” he told me.

I had to think about that, but it’s true.  compared to a lot of countries (I was told the whole operating budget for Northwestern University was larger than the government of Tanzania!), we can absorb more shocks.

I have blogged about what a mess we are in several times, and in this book, Reich has the stats and history to bear out what I am saying.  He’s no communist,    but a Keynesian, and a true one, with the facts to back himself up.

The fact of the matter is, I am an anarchist.  I believe in small governments . But infrastructure does not pay for itself.  We can all scoff at Karl Marx, who was a lazy ass  supported by his father in law, but considering that he was the first to point out that, in an industrialized economy, the playing field was not level, we owe him a lot—if only for putting his ideas out there.

Unfortunately, most Americans have what Marx called a false consciousness , identifying with people who do not have their best economic interests at heart.  They’ve convinced a bunch of people to join the military and die for their interests, convincing them that they are really putting their lives on the line for ‘freedom’—and that is not so.

I haven’t read it in 30 years, but I remember being impressed by John Kenneth Galbraith’s  The New Industrial State as well, although it is not as easy a read as Reich’s book.

I hope you will check this out, & then nag out elected officials in Washington to  start taxing the rich more. That’s where the money is, and they won’t miss it…. and as Reich points out, as the middle class can no longer  afford to buy the things we produce (or now—that those overseas produce), we will never climb out of this hole. So much for freedom.