Archive for October, 2012

They Fell for the Hype and are now Disappointed

October 25, 2012

Earlier in the month  the Chicago Tribune ran a feature story on the Caterpillar workers. Caterpiller is an old Illinois manufacturing company.  They  used to manufacture farm implements and now it’s mostly road building equipment.

The thing about manufacturing—traditionally—is that you were  creating value added products.  Durable goods. Tangibles.  Those used to be good, middle class jobs for  men who had high school diplomas. The jobs currently pay between $11 and $25 per hour.  Sounds good, right? These  workers live in a rural area.  How can you NOT afford to live on $440—$1000 per week?

This is how: those jobs no longer  come with health insurance. So, that will bankrupt you right there.  Car payments.  Kids….but the  worst part of the problem is….these workers really  believed the  American Dream—that if you graduated from high school, got a job with a good company, and worked hard, you’d be able to retire at age 65 and travel.  They also never wanted to say to their kids, “we can’t afford it!”

My parents were not wealthy by any means, but they   thought saving and planning for the future was very important. I can’t tell you how many times I heard my mother  reply to a request, “We can’t afford it.”  & these were the days before  computers, everyone having a cell phone, or, dare I say it—-were living on credit.  The only monthly payments my folks had (1950s—1970s) were car  and mortgage.  Yet, I knew they were saving.  My father wanted to open his own company, and they borrowed from relatives and leveraged that against a bank loan. But it wasn’t for luxury goods.

One of the workers, the article reported, said he pays $95 a month for cable TV so his kids can watch a 24 hour cartoon channel.  I wanted to tell him, “Honey:  by a computer, pay for a DSL line. Get rid of your landline, and the kids can find anything on the computer they can find on TV. You Tube .  As for all your cell phones:  get a pay-as-you-go plan.”  But hey, wait a minute!  Did this guy ever think to say to his kids, “Nothing on TV? READ A BOOK!”

Clothing?  Try The Salvation Army, Good Will,  AmVets/Value Village, etc. & make a couple of trips into Chicago & try Plato’s Closet or any of the other resale stores if you absolutely have to pay more than $10 for a pair of pants.  You can get  discount underwear at Marshall’s.  They are cheaper than Target or Wallmart.

You must have land behind your home, Plant a vegetable garden.  Shop at Aldi’s, Their dairy products are 30% cheaper than just about everyone else, even Walmart.

I could go on and on.  It affects me:  I groom dogs for a living. Believe me:  that is the first to go!    many of the beauty schools give free haircuts in Chicago. my tenants furnished their entire house off of Craigslist & what they found in the alleys.    Their taste is incredible.  You can find a lot of nice stuff in the cast-offs.
However, if you have more than 2 kids, and  the surplus are not foster kids (the state gives foster families money and resources), you are right. You have beyond ‘replacement’ for you and your spouse.  Too bad you made a poorly informed choice.  You will not be able to game the system for these  three reasons:

1.  land rents 2. energy costs 3. health care

Land rents are  generally property taxes, and  because  our  legislators have been generous with pensions, we will never get out of this particular hole—having to pay way more than  it its worth.  This is not going to change in our lifetime, or our childrens’ lifetime, so  were I YOU, I’d look for a  state—or even a country—-where  the politicians haven’t been so  greedy;

Energy costs?  In a way, energy costs are tied to land rents and pension funds, as we are still seriously tied to  fossil fuels.  You either buy a Prius, build 18 inch thick walls around your house & triple pane your windows (&  don’t forget the roof), or you are  S O L;

Health Care? Same deal.  It’s not just physicians  & nurses that  deserve a living wage—its’ the health care administrators, and the many insurance companies—& they have a monopoly.  I have friends who’ve moved to France,  Panama, and Thailand—all countries that have superb health care systems.  They couldn’t afford to stay in the US.  I also know of people who’ve moved to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and a few other countries.

Face it, this country was not made for regular folks.  The mortgage interest tax deduction was really the  growth spurt that created the middle class in the USA, and  while the politicians were all patting themselves on the back & reminding us how great a country this is, and that the Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars preserved our freedoms, they robbed us blind.

Notice that nobody asked any of the presidential candidates about cutting or reigning in government pensions.

Now, we can all whine about how unfair this is, or we can determine to develop strategies to remove ourselves from the system.

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A Celebrity Needs Dog Grooming

October 18, 2012

This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not grow like this naturally. they need haircuts.

Early in my grooming career, I worked for a place called Collar And Leash, at Wabash and State, on the ‘Gold Coast’, in Chicago.  The location got razed, and is now a huge building owned by Loyola University.

The owner had learned to groom dogs from her mother, & the late, great Jack Funk, a dog show handler who taught my boss how to groom Bedlington Terriers (as an aside, I also learned Bedlingtons from someone who learned from Charlie Praeger).

In any case, due to our location, practically downtown, we got a lot of clients  who were  entertainers, in town to perform.  I groomed Debbie Reynolds little Poodle, &  one of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Lhasa Apsos.  By the way, both women took care of their own dogs, and did a beautiful job.  I also spent  three days dematting Hugh Hefner’s Old English Sheepdogs. Nobody knows why he had these dogs, but long haired dog were ‘in vogue’ at the time, and his staff just couldn’t manage the work.  That’s just a small sample.  We groomed over 20 dogs a day, they all booked just a day before, and  80% of those dogs were Poodles.

Well, this happened recently, so I thought I’d write about it because, well, you will understand.  I am not using the celebrity’s name. His staff person  got us involved.

I got called into work earlier in the week, for an 11:a.m.Sunday morning meeting with my  boss & 2 other groomers where I work  on Friday & Sat. I was working more days, but since I won’t do the grooming van (which the owner alternates with  either being the worst decision she ever made or she’s making tons of money…but she is not breaking even on it), she took my very lucrative Monday away & gave it to the mobile groomer.  She wanted me to also work Sunday, & I told her I wouldn’t mind doing every other Sunday if we are totally booked on Saturday, but she is understaffed, &  the managers don’t answer the phone, which she denies.
Now, I also wanted to go early to the Backer(pet industry) show, but that was  screwed up by this meeting, but, oh, well….I arrived a few minutes to 11, & the kennel manager had no idea about a meeting (of course).
I was sitting around, the phone rang, so, of course, I answered it.  Guy asks if we can do mobile grooming today, I respond, “No, I’m sorry. In fact, there is no office staff. Possibly tomorrow, & I can leave a message for staff to call you. I just came in for a meeting, & another complication is  the pet industry show…”
“Oh,”  he sighs, a little frantic, then says, “We need  them done today for a photo shoot tomorrow. Do you know who  **** is?”
“Sure!”  The celebrity is a comedian with a radio show , talk show, & best selling book.
“Well, my name is Eric, and I work for ****, and we have a shoot with People magazine at 9:a.m. Monday, & the dogs need to be groomed.”
“What kind of dogs are they?”  I ask
“A Cocker Spaniel, a Yorkie, and a baby Maltese.”
“Oh, I know!  Call my friend Romaine. She does mobile grooming. She comes to you….”  & I gave him Romaine’s cell,. my cell, and then I called Romaine.
Long story short…
she had just groomed a dog in Streeterville  (vey close to  where these dogs were)& was on her way to the Backer show.  By this time, it was 11:20—& neither my boss nor co-workers have shown up.  I told Romaine I gave her number to Eric, told her I’d fetch her, and while we were out to Rosemont, Eric called her. We made arrangements to come over about 7:p.m. to groom the dogs.
It rained on & off all day.

I left the trade show early, Riomaine called, and I went to get her & her stuff. She told me she had left a message on Eric’s phone that we were on our way.
We get down to the location (Trump Towers, where all the celebrities stay these days if they plan a long-term stay…), call Eric, and he says he is so sorry, but the Cocker got diarrhea & was vomiting, so Mrs. **** took the dog to the vet, and he wasn’t sure if she wanted the others groomed!
Ok, we are down there.  Keep in mind that to see the emergency vet on Sunday night it is at least $500. So we wait for him to call us back. 10 minutes, Eric calls back (now, he had both our cell #s, but whatever…), &tells Romaine that Mrs. *** doesn’t want the other 2 dogs groomed now, but he knows we expect to be paid for our time.  So, Romaine charges him $100 for the visit.   Eric is audibly shocked.  Takes about 1/2 hour  for him to scrape up cash, but Romaine leaves him with toys,  an odor eliminator, her card, & the card of a veterinarian who makes house calls (this also proves to   **** that we showed up), and  finally, about 7:30, we are on our way back to Romaine’s to offload all the stuff.
I missed  the Amazing Race (which they never rerun) but made $50 for the aggravation…so that’s how that went down.  What happened to my boss & the others?  1  groomer decided to quit, & the other  was late, &b my boss forgot her cell phone to tell  us she’d be late.

The Politicians Keep Doing it to us in Illinois

October 11, 2012

I always liked Gov. Pat Quinn.  He’s a progressive, like me. Unfortunately, he’s reached his highest level of incompetence.  He keeps making dumb decisions.  The most recent you have to wonder about, is his wanting to hire a woman who declared bankruptcy in 2009 to  be head of the Illinois Sports Facility Authority.

Let’s break this down. First of all—the Illinois Sports Facility Authority.  So, we issue bonds to upgrade Soldiers Field (home of the Chicago Bears),  U.S, Cellular (formerly known as Comisky Park, home of the White Sox), United Center (home of the Chicago Bulls & Blackhawks), and, I don’t know…do we have stadiums or sports facilities in Kankakee, Aurora, Joliet, or Champaign?  Does it matter? The teams that play in the facilities are for profit ventures!

The  ISFA has been criticized for lack of transparency for sweetheart deals with all the team owners.    We  citizens pay,  and the  politically connected owners profit.  So, that’s an issue.

Then, the issue is…he wants  a woman who clearly has a problem managing money to be in charge of it.  She did not declare bankruptcy over medical issues, but for spending money on stuff to  maintain a lifestyle to which she wanted to become accustomed  and couldn’t afford.  Is there really nobody in the entire state who has  a verifiable track record in managing public funds, or a government agency, who would do this for what she  would be paid:  over $100,000?   (she has been making $111,000 as Gov. Quinn’s spokeswoman. No joke…& the last ISFA head made $175,950.  Nice round number).

I am flabbergasted.  Quinn is currently blaming Rahm Emmanuel, the mayor of Chicago, claiming  Emmanuel is criticizing  Quinn because Emmanual wants his own choice to be head of the ISFA.  Maybe so, but  I can’t believe  Rahm would choose someone who had declared bankruptcy within the past  seven years.

Quinn is handing the governorship to the Republicans, and they are laughing. Soon, it will be their turn, again, to screw us all. Look at our history.  Neither party has any respect for the voters of Illinois.

Demoralizing, really.  Just demoralizing. But I am not letting this  rest with mere bitching. I will bitch to my state senator & state representative. Both Democrats. They really have to say something.

Is there a solution to this cronyism (I hesitate to  say  anything else)?  Yes. We have to  beg the Norwegians to run our government for a few years.

More on senior dogs: When is it ‘time’?

October 4, 2012

I have a 15-year-old dog…and it’s true, every day is a gift.

He  looks awful. He is just skin and bones, and  can barely stand.    However, when you know your dog, you know if he has a good quality of life.  In the case of Dazzle, he’s eating (although, having a diminished appetite, we are trying Cyproheptadine, an antihistemine …to increase his appetite, and  it seemed to work very quickly), he’s still housebroken, and although he sleeps a lot, he was never  an active dog.

I also give Glucosamine Chondrotin to aid in joint flexibility.  So, while he looks awful, he’s ok.

For me, the tell-tale signs  that a dog has given up are:

1. walking into a corner & just standing there;

2.  eating & pretty much immediately vomiting;

3. becoming incontinent;

4. personality change–usually for the worse–possibly  snapping or growling  if startled, or  in pain.

Dogs can suck up a lot of pain and  stress, so  you have to take a number of factors into account.  I am amazed at the number of people who think that bringing a puppy in will liven up the old dog.  This rarely works. It’s one thing for a dog to be just old, but not having  signs of decline.  Quite another to bring in a pesky young’un to harass the older guy.  That’s what puppies do.

I have several clients who have had dogs  get what veterinarians call Labyrinthitis or vestibular disease.  Usually the dogs suffer some sort of  episode of paralysis, and they can’t focus their eyes:  their eyes seem to spin.  The dogs may be dizzy.  I’d give  the dog 48 hours, and then, if his condition doesn’t improve,  you  really have to make a choice. I think Dazzle has  had several strokes, with similar symptoms.  He would be particularly lethargic & although he would move a bit, you could tell something was going on.  This has happened several times, where I though it was the end.  But he snapped out of it  and is ok.  Thing is, I can see he is losing control of his hind quarters, and  there’s no doubt about it. He has but weeks.

Having worked with so many dogs for so many years, and having seen people hang on way too long, with paralyzed, incontinent dogs, not wanting to admit the dog is not comfortable and the situation is not going to improve, I am particularly sensitive.  Dazzle  has probably been the best dog I have ever lived  with.  He has never gotten into trouble in the house.  I can count on  one hand the number or housebreaking accidents he’s had.  He’s been healthy, patient, obedient, ans sweet.  Not a watchdog.  Not a competition dog.  Just a nice companion Saluki.

I have friends who raise dogs who  say they  ‘don’t do old dogs well’. That’s a shame, really. Me?  I don’t do puppies well.  You have to be all over them, like being all over a toddler.  I would sooner take another mature dog—even an old dog, than I would a puppy.

In fact,  about 20 years ago, I took a 15-year-old toy Poodle from a grooming client who didn’t know whether to have the dog groomed, or  euthanize him.  Turned out his bad teeth were causing him a lot of pain.  When the veterinarian was finished, all Chuck had were incisors, but  he perked up immediately, and lived to be 18.  He died of a stroke,the day after a huge party where he ate everything that dropped on the floor.  His people just had never really bonded with him, and  they all grew up and moved out, and he was a bother.  I know he loved being with us.

For me, my dogs have defined  stages of my life.  I feel I might be getting too old to have a large dog.  I could never afford a full dental on a dog  again, like we did for Chuck so long ago (thankfully, there are now many topical products you can use on dogs’ teeth that keep the teeth in good condition).  I just know that all the dogs enriched my life, and it will be hard, again, to get another dog.  Something to think about.