Archive for August, 2013

Puppy Mill Bred Dogs versus Shelter/Rescue Dogs, and the Marketing Battle.

August 30, 2013

puli side (Small)

The dog in the photo is not a puppy mill dog, He is a Puli (Hungarian Sheepdog) in full corded coat.  One of the breeds you will NOT find in a puppy mill, or a shelter.  People just don’t know what they are.  Since there is no demand for them, the commercial & backyard breeders haven’t exploited them, The newest exploit is the Cane Corso…a large, Mastiff type, used as a guard dog just for their size. They tend to be very shy, but look impressive—so every  failed backyard Pit Bull breeder is now trying his hand at them—soon to be in a pet shop near you….and then every animal shelter.  All it took was  one  hobby CC breeder to let out a bitch with registration  papers (OR MAYBE NO PAPERS, & THEY GET  CONTINENTAL KENNEL CLUB or APRI—not real registries), thinking getting the numbers up was a good idea.

Having worked with many types of dogs, I  know what I want  for a pet.  Not having the  expendable income to show a dog, a ‘rescue'(the jargon used for  discarded dogs that need homes) dog  of the breeds I am interested is fine with me.  However, the breeds I am interested are  ‘closely held’ by their breeders & fanciers. The  last Whippet I  got via breed rescue,his owner had died, and someone in the family knew of rescue, and that was how he was placed.  I had learned, via a chance meeting, that the breeder would have gladly taken him back, but , she had not been in touch with the buyer, & the family did not know how to contact the breeder.  The most recent ‘acquisition’ came from his breeder. There were no  Whippets in rescue in the Midwest at the time, and the breeder had bought  Dash back because the owner she had sold him to no longer wanted him:  he chased the cat.  Big shock, eh?  He came housebroken and obedience trained, and is avid for squirrels s and mice.

This is what  good breeders  who live the dogs they breed, do: they buy back the dogs they sell. They may use their breed rescues for ‘private placement’, but they don’t want the dogs they sell discarded and languishing in animal shelters.  This is why  you don’t see many ‘rare’ breeds in shelters.  In fact,  ‘due to the economy’.   fewer ethical hobby breeders are breeding litters unless they have a waiting list of people wanting puppies.   The  irony is, the AKC, realizing this, and —though they are a  non-profit— still having to keep their income up—–has been bending over backwards to help the commercial puppy mills, helping them screen for hereditary defects, and promoting AKC registration.

People, for some reason, think  that registration–particularly AKC registration, but any registration, means quality and integrity, It does not. More, they want dogs that will stay a certain size and not shed, or act cute, and their friends and pet store employees have more influence in  how they get a dog than veterinarians, groomers, or dog trainers.

A survey by the Best Friends Animal Society (bestfriends.org), cited in the Chicago Tribune August 18, 2013 by William Hageman, has found  that, among the 18 to 34 age demographic, “…the pro shelter/adoption message is being lost…”  The article goes on to  mention that this demographic is going to ‘breeders’, but it doesn’t say if they are backyard breeders, commercial breeders, or ethical hobby breeders— ad we know they are going to mostly  backyard breeders and  commercial breeders. It’s a fact.

Why?  Well, first of all, bad breeders are EASY TO FIND.  You can violate the Craigslist posting rules and be very visible, and look like you have integrity  and are raising  dogs because you love  dogs…when you do NOT.  Also, pet shops look like nice, fun places, where shelters look  institutional—like kennels.  But more:  people want puppies. they want the fantasy of a puppy, and the pet store won’t be asking a bunch of questions, like…if you are gone  over 8 hours a day at a stretch, how will you get this puppy housebroken?  when will you have time to obedience train  the puppy?  Do you own your own home, or rent?  If you rent, what if you have to move?  This non shed dog MUST BE BRUSHED, and you will have to pay for professional grooming every  six to eight weeks. Can you afford this?  Who else do you live with?  What about other pets?  Why do you want this type of dog? Those are the kinds of questions the shelters, rescues, and hobby breeders ask—but the pet shops do NOT.

Working at an animal hospital, every day I see  puppies that come from  puppy mill outlets. In my area, it’s Petland and Happiness Is Pets.  Nobody asked the buyers for anything but a credit card. Since these are established businesses, the buyers trusted the sellers to steer them right. They all bought a ton of stuff with their puppies, including the wrong brush—but no matter—the pet shop  people didn’t show the buyers how to brush the dogs.  They didn’t know how!

When I was a teenager, I worked briefly for Fred Alderman of Dynasty Afghan Hounds.  You did not get a dog from Fred until you had spent a day grooming with him.
This was pretty well known.  He didn’t want to hear any excuses that you had no idea how much work was involved.   He also  co-owned the dogs he sold until you proved you were trustworthy. Many breeders are like Fred.

So here we have it:  the backyard breeders , also not asking questions that might sabotage a sale, selling  puppies (particularly Pit bulls, but Chihuahuas,  designer  dogs, Puggles, Boxers),  whatever.  And  everyone knows that if you can’t  find a home for the pup you got without thinking, the animal shelters will keep them forever, so you don’t even have to think you are party to a murder.

You also have the very visible  NO KILL shelters, that pick & choose  who they save from the HIGH KILL (that’s what THEY  call them—what they are is OPEN ADMISSIONS) SHELTERS, claiming there is no need to euthanize dogs, even  if there is a surplus, or they are temperamentally unsound, trying to make ME feel guilty for not taking any random dog.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again:  i don’t want the  low life backyard breeders choosing the dog I should have.  As long as they believe that SOMEONE will save the dogs they breed, why should they stop when they can make money?

The message we really need to get out is that people who  own the mommy dogs are the breeders, and if they don’t want  to meet you, they really don’t care what happens to the dogs they breed as long as they make money.   Also, if they don’t tell you right off they want you  to sign a contract that yu will return the  pup to them if you can’t keep it, they are breeding for cash—not because they love dogs.  That cute, fluffy  puppy may end up costing  a lot if it had genetic defects. Also, people selling puppies that don’t ask to meet everyone in your household, ask why you are choosing this type of dogs,  how you will manage to  housebreak and train the dog if you work a regular  8 hour a day job, or if you own or rent, are rip-off artists and not dog lovers.  It is legal for them to do this, but they are not animal lovers, and  you need to know this. They are business people  who want to make money, and are do better than pimps or dope dealers, and that’s a fact.

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Book Review: Leap of Faith, by Queen Noor

August 23, 2013

Queen Noor  (the former Lisa Halaby) is my ‘agemate’.  I remember seeing photos of her  and King Hussein in the newspaper when their  engagement was announced.  I was fascinated that such a young girl ( she was 26 at the time) was choosing to marry such an ‘old’ man  (he was in his 40’s), even if he was a king.  I  also wondered if her father married her off.

Several years ago, I became interested in T. E. Lawrence.  He is  pretty much responsible for the modern Middle East.  So, when I got the opportunity to  read what  the queen had to say, and had the time, I decided to read her memoir.

She is a fascinating woman.  It was not merely chance that she met the king.  Her father was an aviation executive, and of Jordanian descent.  He was friendly with the King.    Lisa had gotten a degree in urban planning and architecture, and was working around the world consulting on airport design.  The king was an avid aviator, it so happened.  She was working for her father  and as a consultant in Amman when the king started pursuing her, but it was a love match.

Although Queen Noor grew up in the United States,  she was a global citizen.  She  took to her new role as wife and stepmother easily, or so she writes.  She  did much to  improve the welfare  of women and children in Jordan, but she was still a royal, and she writes easily of having homes in  England and the USA, as well as multiple residences in Jordan.  So, although she professes concern for the citizenry, she apparently had no problem  jetting around.

The important message from this book—and there is a message, is that  the king wanted peace, but he was saddled with Palestinian refugees and  a difficult Yassir Aarafat.  Also, A neighbor to the west, Israel, that kept encroaching on disputed land.

For those who did not know,  there were no countries here  until after World War I.  It was ‘Palestine’ with no geographic boundaries, because it was Ottoman Empire.  It was T.E. Lawrence, who had  worked on archeological digs  in the years before the war, who learned Arabic, who  worked with  King Hussein’s great grandfather so the
Arabs could rule themselves. One of the  compromises the  old King (or Sheikh) had made was to give a live of land along the Mediterranean to the Jews as long as  the Arabs had a port, thinking this would be Syria and Lebanon.  When Lawrence worked this out, with the  approval of higher ups in the British government (they wanted the cooperation of the Arabs to  get control of the Ottoman lands), he did not know the British had  already agreed to Sykes-Pikot, and were also selling him and the Arabs out to the French.

Were that not bad enough, because the Palestinians were not  the same ‘tribe’ (I hesitate to use the word–ethnic group would  be better) as the Jordanians, they wanted  control  of the land ‘deeded’ to them  between World Wars I  and II.  Many do not know this, but  in some cases, ‘Israelis’ bought land from the  Palestinians, , and in some cases they terrorized the Palestinians off their land.  It is hard for me —as a Jew—to say this—but it is fact.  And, after the 1967 war, they took  control of the disputed  land that was under Palestinian Control.

Ideally, Jerusalem should be a city/state, like the  Vatican, Republic of Srbska in Bosnia, or Lichtenstein, under control of neither Israel, Palestinians, or Jordanians, but  the King of Jordan, as the head of Hashemites, has historical  stewardship of the Mosque in Jerusalem.

Due to  ultra orthodox Jews and right wing hardliners having so much influence in  Israel, and their lobby in the USA, there is  slim chance of this happening, or  of dismantling settlements on the occupied lands—so there will be no peace. And, while many of the old Palestinians are now dead, they instilled in their children remembrance of what they lost.  It would also be ideal to allow the Palestinians to govern themselves. While there are many  educated Palestinians, they  got their educations  as exiles, & the  local population is not educated enough to manage without the help of the  rest of the Arab/Moslem world (that said, when many Palestinians are Orthodox Christians). However,  Israel would be in a terrible way, much less developed, were it not for the very active Jewish lobby in the USA, who are also philanthropists.

This tension was a constant  throughout Queen Noor’s life.  She really concentrates a lot on  her devotion to her husband, and  working for  women’s rights and economic development in Jordan, but says very little about her children.  The book is well-edited and  explains a lot about a  country most of us know little about.    It’s a good, captivating read, and I recommend it.

Why I Went to Thailand

August 15, 2013
Topiary, Bangkok

Topiary, Bangkok

Hernando de Soto, Cabeza de Vaca, Magellan, Amerigo Vespucci.

If you  went to primary school in America, you learned all about the European adventurers DISCOVERING the world.  There was no history of America—or anywhere—until the Europeans  went out looking for gold and treasures.

Of course, that isn’t true, but I became curious about  the culture and geography of southeast Asia.  Ankhor Wat—the whole Nak culture and Ankhor  civilization spread  out hundreds of miles, and the architecture. The apsaras, and  so much uniform, repeating  art.  The many  Buddist Temples.

There is so much about Thailand that  is amazing the the ‘white bread middle class’ American.  So much  history, and the  intricate temples made of laterite that still stand.  The canals.  The silk industry, attributed to Jim Thompson.  Their amazing infrastructure and use of it, and art, as well as hospitality to grow their tourism industry.

In the northern part of the country (that is, from the Gulf of Siam north), Buddism predominates, and the  dynamic is very much ‘live and let live’.  The Thai are very tolerant of invaders, be they tourists or  business people.  If you didn’t already know, there is a huge  community of  gay men:  transgendered and cross dressers, very much integrated into society as a whole, very much for the better.

Literacy is very high, and although there are complaints, the  macro economy  thrives.  I was  very surprised to find dog groomers in many Thai cities. This indicates to me that   there is a middle class population with expendable income.

Thailand is  known for  reasonably priced luxury items.  In Chiang Rai, in the north, by the Myammar border, you can buy rubies.  In Chiang Mai, you can  buy  so many interesting things on the street,, see the Buddist Temples, and also see the Maesa Elephant camp, where the  former logging elephants now  play soccer & paint.

If you go, you will want to get the book, Very Thai:  Everyday Popular Culture, by Philip Cornwel-Smith (photographs by Jolin Goss) to help you make sense of  what you are experiencing.

Steely Dan Concert Experience Marred by Self-Centered , Spoiled Yuppies

August 8, 2013

I love Steely Dan. When I first heard their music on the radio in the early 1970s, it was like no other, They were the first jazz-fusion  group to make it big.  I could listen to Aja over and over.  Deacon Blues  is my favorite song.

A bunch of audiophiles told me they would never tour as they could not  recreate their sound live. It was studio music and machines.  Fagin & Becker with machines.

Not true.  I ‘ve heard them 3 times now. They  always have at least  4 horns, and a serious percussion section. Becker is an awesome guitarist. If you are a music lover…;particularly a jazz lover, there is nothing like live big band music.

So, when I realized they’d be  performing at Ravinia, I had to get a ticket.  I admit, I waited too long, agonizing  paying for $90 for a pavilion seat.  I reasoned that  the experience would be awesome,  Thing is, the  ticket resellers  buy up tickets, and only sell 2, never singles.  My roommate—the Japanese guy, told me it would be wasted on him, so  i drove up to Ravinia and bought a single ticket.  In fact, it was an extra, unreserved seat.  They put up about 100  folding chairs!!!

I was psyched. I even borrowed binoculars from a friend. I took the train up,  if you don’t know Ravinia, it is a beautiful park, with a concert pavilion, several small halls, and a restaurant.    You can take a train from downtown Chicago( which stops in my neighborhood), directly to the park.  I’d never seen it happen like this, but the  lawn was sold out!  People come and picnic there.

The concert was great.  Becker & Fagin are getting up there (70s?), and Don Fagin can no longer reach those high notes he wrote.  Also, they didn’t bring the chimes (that you hear on Aja, FM, etc), which was a slight disappointment.  From where I was, you could not see the entire stage, but you could see enough, and Ravinia has also installed large screen TVs.

This would have been  ideal were it not for the many rude rude rude people—of my generation—with ants in their pants, bladder issues, or ADHD, up & down for two hours.

In their brochure, Ravinia says that late-comers are seated at the discretion of staff.  I am  sure they would not have allowed this in a  classical concert.  It was shocking how many people came in late, during songs.  For the entire  2 +hours.

I have  heard Gary Burton, the vibraphonist stop his playing to  ask people why they were talking. Recently,  a concert reviewer for the Chicago Tribune addressed the fact that people were talking during concerts. How  self-centered can you be? This is my generation.  Maddening.

I am not sure what can be done about this.  People thinking the world revolves around them. Just think about this  when you  plan on paying to see performers you really love.

You might want to  bring this topic up among your friends. Do they see this?  In movies?  At any liver performance?  Are they the talkers? the  people who can’t sit still for 2 hours?  Why would they waste their own money?

We are Suckers for Charming Politicians: Beware of Tax Increment Financing!!!

August 2, 2013

Especially in Chicago.  Both Mike Royko  (“Boss) and Len O’Conner  (“Clout” )wrote books on how  our machine worked.   It is no longer a machine, it is an institutionalized political process.  If you can talk a good game and can get rich folks to give you money,  and  your opposition is weak or has a shred of integrity,  you will get elected and stay elected.

I remember a report asked Mayor Richard J. Daley  to what he attributed a particular election win, and his  answer was plain:  “we got more votes.”

Things are different now, but not by much.  We don’t have  vast armies of patronage workers to go out on the street. The marketing is  more sophisticated, and costlier.  If you  can mow us down by inundating us with media, it doesn’t matter if the other guy is more honest or can run a  government better. All that matters is that  the richer candidate  appears stronger  and  more influential:  better able to get things done.

2 things make it bad for us in Chicago:  1 is that a seemingly very  ‘progressive’  candidate can get  monetary support form people who don’t live or work in the city.   Other  political players &  rich folks just throw money because the candidate seems like a nice guy.  The other  is that we have so many people who start out as regular folks who become aldermen.  The city council.  Few know anything about political science, urban planning, economics, or fiscal responsibility.    Knowing anything is not a requirement of the job in America.    They vote to approve a capital budget because the mayor wants it. They all assume that SOMEONE  has made sure it is based in reality.

Another problem  in Chicago is mass media.  They are all cheerleaders for whatever cockamamie plan any  mayor comes up with.  We dodged a bullet when we didn’t get the Olympics (no thanks to  Obama).  Go to any city  that has hosted the Olympics in the past 50 years & see what kind of monstrosities the citizenry paid for that  can’t be used. In Chicago, over the past  25 years or so,  the mayors and their minions have approved Tax Increment Financing—where  certain properties—privately owned, have their  taxes skimmed off in the name of economic vitality. The taxes that are skimmed off…where does that money go?

We have a huge problem  with Tax increment Financing .  The  ability to use Tax Increment financing…or ‘TIF’s— was originally developed to help manufacturers use taxes they paid to  improve their operations and create  more jobs for employees who would then be able to  pay property taxes.  Living wage jobs.  This has never happened.  I  believe the closest we got in Chicago was improving infrastructure around Finkel Steel, so they would stay in a gentrifying area, and more recently, for Republic Windows & Doors so the employees could buy their plant & keep working, when the owners illegally shut  the [plant after abbsconidng with  grants gotten to  maintain the plant & keep the jobs  here.  We’ve seen evidence of TIF dollars skimmed to help car dealerships and private real estate developers, & now, coming up, $55 million  for a private partnership between DePaul University and a group of investors  for…an entertainment center & hotel on the south side.  Funny thing is….a hotel was built about 30 years ago, torn down as being not profitable enough, then rebuilt. No joke!  So, we are all wondering , when the mayor (Emanuel, who gets lots of out of state  donations for his  political fund)has closed 50 public schooled, ‘laid off’ (say fired)  over 2000 teachers, & cut the  budgets for the remaining schools—why we have money skimmed off our property taxes for this?  Another  issue—sort of an aside… the teachers who’ve been laid off paid into their pension fund…as they are not eligible for SSI—Social Security. do they have to start over, or what?

No matter.   We will soon be as bankrupt as Detroit.  if Emanuel won’t use the TIF slush fund to close the budget gaps (there is an estimated $1.3 BILLION unaccounted for0, how will we continue to pay Richie M. Daley, the recently retired mayor, his $200,000 annual pension?