Archive for December, 2013

2013 in review

December 31, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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My Year in Review (2013)

December 27, 2013
Ch. Scenario's Razzle Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki,  on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

Ch. Scenario’s Razzle Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki, on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

The last few years have been a bit of a struggle money-wise and  balance wise, sometimes.   I am lucky to get to the gym once a week. The trouble is that  my commute, when i do have work,  is generally  in the  neighborhood of 2 hours a day.  I’ll get into that.  Fact of the matter is…I have nothing to complain about.  I have been able to save money, make repairs, and travel.  I attribute being  ok to NOT having to support kids or parents. After months of steady decline,  I euthanized Dazzle, my Saluki, in January.  You think you want your dog  to live to an old age…and you do, but then your dog has trouble on the stairs, and he becomes stressed and frightened, and  he was becoming incontinent, and  he’d  walk the hall, back and forth—-like he was going somewhere and would forget why—like an old person.    He was a few months over  15 years.  Now, Bebop has reached that decline, but  what happened with Dazzle, aside from losing muscle mass and becoming blind and deaf, was one day, we went for a walk,  he seemed fine, no limping, and suddenly he could not stand up;  he could not support his own weight.  I took him that evening to be euthanized.  We went to Blue Pearl, the  emergency animal hospital, and while stressful for me, he seemed  fine.  Several people asked if I couldn’t have rigged up a sling.  Sure, but that would not have improved his quality of life.  It would have been a matter of a week or  2 if he couldn’t get up to get to the water bowl, or eat  if I was not home.  Also, the stairs, winter slick. He was a phenomenal dog—an excellent house dog.  He never did a naughty thing.   He never went in the garbage.  His vice was pulling  embellishments—like beads—off fabric (pillows, shirts), and tearing paper. He loved to tear paper.  As much as I wanted another Saluki,  I am getting up there in years, myself, and to lug a large old dog up two flights of stairs is something to think about.   Also, most in rescue  are not only out of the Midwest, but practically feral (not socialized) and  will jump a  fence under  six feet (I have a four foot one on the north side of the house, about  a forty-foot run).  As there were no  Salukis in the area, and no WRAP (rescue) Whippets, I made a few calls, and was sent to Linda Larsen, who always takes dogs back.  She sold me  two-year-old Dash—who was returned because he chased the cat. I do not doubt it. Housebroken, neutered, all shots, obedience trained…and he’s killed a couple of squirrels and a few mice.  Very sweet dog.  Unfortunately, very submissive and not a ‘dog park’ dog:  if he perceives another dog is  more submissive than he is, he is a bully.  If he perceives another dog to be more submissive than he is, he ‘dogs’ them.  That’s how it is.    Being on the board of my local dog park, it is somewhat ironic, but  one board member doesn’t even own a dog, and another one also has a ‘non-social’ dog.   I got Dash after I returned from Turkey.  Great trip with Gate One travel.  I learned so much and had a wonderful time. Speaking of bullies…..when I closed my grooming business in 2006, I went through a lot of bs looking for a job.  I even blogged about it several times : https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/are-you-looking-for-a-dog-grooming-job-in-chicago/   and : https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/2-game-changers/.   I learned the general manager who gave me so much grief was finally demoted two positions.  Not fired, though.   I guess they thought they’d force him to quit, but he is almost my age—where would he get another job with benefits?  I blogged about it: https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/bullying/ I actually, in about a year’s time, worked for  several abusive bosses who  tricked me and lied to me.   I am naive and just assume everyone has the same view of acting with integrity that I have.    It is legal to  hire you under false pretenses, and  demand you do things you were not hired to do, then challenge you when you  apply for  unemployment and say you were insubordinate.   In any case, because  of this, I spent much of 2009  walking dogs and doing over night pet sitting as I looked for employment where I could make a living wage.   During this time, a tenant died.  He and his partner were  pack rats. Much worse than I am.  The kitchen was so bad I had to  gut it (last updated 15 years before) and  rehab that, as well as update my electrical boxes and rewire the house.  I also  insulated my ceiling (with all the holes, due to running wires, it made sense).  That started  the  rehab and  repairs on the  building.  U  just took money out of savings.  My ‘friends’ wonder why I don’t get my hair or nails done, or dress more fashionably.  It’s all in the house. I  got a job  at a major kennel.  That was in 2009.  The kennel owner  had a great business plan, and several good advisors as well as unlimited capital—or so it seemed.    They actually did the build-out around me.    I never knew where there’d be a new wall or door when I came to work.  Huge place.  I would have loved to  continue working there, but at the start, he only had part-time work for me, so he knew I was looking for other part-time work.  That was  the time I had the unfortunate  experience of  running into Dan London, who owned DOGGIE BATH HOUSE :   Dan did not have enough ‘dog’ experience ( actually, very few pet business owners do these days)  and  he decided that if I wouldn’t work for him, he’d make sure I’d work for nobody.  Since he had my resume  from  my initial interview with him, he started harassing the people he thought I worked for,  and began  posting libelous, negative reviews about them  and me on yelp! and Craigslist.  I blogged about him, toohttps://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/you-cant-trust-anything-posted-on-the-internet/   and https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/my-industry-is-losing-integrity-due-to-corporate-refugees/ Well, he started colluding with  pet brokers who used Craigslist to sell animals (a violation of the posting rules—& this is why the sellers are so aggressive and arrogant—nobody is going to stop them but  people with integrity—flaggers—who  try to get their selling posts eliminated). So… they started posting all over the country, in the pet section and in forums, that I  bought dogs from animal shelters to sell on CL and didn’t like  competition, they posted fake ads that I was giving away Maltese and Golden Retriever puppies (that  sort of backfired on them, as I told every caller that  anytime they saw an ad for a puppy on Craigslist, it was either a scam  or dog broker, and where they could research  getting a healthy, well-bred pup) and  where I worked, and encouraged  people to call my employer and have me fired.  It took them several weeks of harassing my employers, but after  three months, they started threatening the life of my manager. I did not find this out until the owner told me he could no longer have me, but it was the manager’s decision, not his.  She told me about the threats as I was carrying my stuff out.    Now, in fact, the owner had told me he was going to  get law enforcement out after these people, but he never followed through. It was easier to get rid of me.  Craigslist told me that if I got a subpoena, they would tell me who was posting the libelous posts.   Not worth $5000 at this time, I still make a pretty good living.   In early 2010, I got a ‘job offer’ from a kennel owner. The kennel is in the West Loop—-a mile west of the CBD.  You might wonder what kind of kennel could be that close to downtown. This is how it is:  Just west of the  interstate, there is an industrial area.  Most of the  businesses are food processing,and there is also a row of  top restaurants, but there are a lot of warehouses and loft spaces, and within a mile of this particular kennel, there are at least four grooming shops and  5 full service kennels. The reason is–aside from being so close to the Loop— the zoning.  I blogged about this experience, too: https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/why-i-quit-my-most-recent-dog-grooming-job/ I was there  two years (until April), worked with integrity, had a good following, but that wasn’t good enough for this kennel owner. She thought she could do better…and learned that she could not.  I quit because she set up a dangerous situation.  I had been working part time about three miles away, but mostly due to the neighborhood (very low income, mostly Puerto Rican and other islanders) I knew I would never be able to  grow that business due to the location and income mix of the neighborhood.    I  also went back to  some people  who had a shop close to where I live. I had worked for them  before and quit, because  they would not invest in their business. Also, they would not let me pay for  marketing, which was really short-sighted of them  and frustrating to me.   An animal hospital in the Western Suburbs offered me  two days a week, and told me that I would definitely  make at least  $150 a day.  The commute was horrid.  25 miles one way, taking at least an hour.  Two hours a day commuting.  I could start work  what ever time I wanted.  I just  felt that, since they started taking dogs at 7:30 a.m., it was a matter of integrity to get in there and start. Why should dogs have to sit in cages for  three hours?  But that was what the groomer who  needed help   E,  was doing.   She liked to sleep in, and since she had her husband to bathe dogs for her, she really didn’t actually start to groom unto noon. Huh?  Aaaah….yes.  Apparently what happened was  that she was hired as another groomer, as N   could not handle the business.  I could see from N’s records that she  had apparently been a grooming school graduate, and didn’t know how to groom or handle dogs.  She marked about every dog as a biter—and they were not—so that meant she was a rough handler.  But apparently she got injured somehow, & my co-worker—E—stepped up, and since her husband— T—was out of work,  E suggested to the practice manager that they hire him to bathe dogs for her, and she could go from grooming 6 dogs a day to 12.  Not only did they agree  to this (at about $15 an hour—when  industry average for a dog bather in our area is $10), she had carte blanc:   she  could do whatever she wanted and charge whatever she wanted.  It was rough to start.  I was NOT averaging $150 a day—not even on Saturdays, because front office filled E’s days before they gave me a full day.  As ‘luck’ would have it,  E broker her wrist (alcohol was involved) about a month after I started…and  they offered me all the days I wanted.  With  four full days a week (nobody had to wait more than 2 business days for an  appointment)m and a bather I didn’t have to pay for, I was making $300—450 a day, A DAY.   It made the commute worth it.   I raised prices on some dogs, lowered  prices on four. Why lower prices? What E was doing was unethical. She would  charge her drinking buddies $25 for an $80 groom, and make it up on clients that would come in maybe  twice a year.  I told the practice manager, but  they just loved E.  I started getting a following, I didn’t think E would be back until February at the earliest. She could not even lift her purse. She started hanging around, to show them how eager she was to return. She told them  she wanted to come back the week before Thanksgiving.  As they  would not guarantee me even two days a week after that, they started looking for a novice groomer, and found one.  But, while E was hanging out, she started ‘editing’ the card file, and although I had raised prices on about 30% of the dogs, I lowered them on  four dogs, and that made her livid. Meanwhile. my  0ld boss— from the job I quit in April, and started courting me about the time I took this animal hospital job. I told her I had a parking space,they were paying me 55%, and no hassle.  However, I  knew I would not work with E—she  is a shaver. I am a groomer.  So  old boss fixed all the aggravating things that bothered me and caused me to quit, and offered me full time.  Things are not perfect, but I have a better chance of working things out this go around.   As with any job,there  are pluses and minuses. it is hard to  groom dogs for an employer who  doesn’t do this work herself. Always. Experienced groomers will tell you this. My family provides plenty of  fodder to exploit: https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/a-white-woman/  and: https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/family-drama/ and https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/my-father-napkins-and-life-insurance/ Being self-employed, I could not refinance the house.  Even though I could pay it off from savings, the  banks are really short-sighted in their credit policies. As an employee I was finally able to  refinance the house.  As though being at the mercy of an employer makes me more  financially secure.  Since I  owed so little principal and had a great loan to value ( confirmed by the appraisal done  for this  refi), I was able to lower my actual payments by over  $500.  The big  issue is the property taxes are way more than principal or interest.   Whatever…we  (friend is a certified kitchen designer) just  completed my dreamed for kitchen rehab.  We also, as many Chicagoans living in multi-unit housing, had a bout of bed bugs.  My extremely diligent  roommate eliminated them. In reviewing everything, I see I am on track to retire in a few years.  Thankfully,the stock market has been very good, and I have a very good mix of mutual funds.  I am going to Viet Nam in February, and hope  next year to  go  back to the Far East, or back to Africa.  I also signed on for ‘Obamacare’ & cut my health insurance premium in half. I am still a left over hippie do-gooder. When I have the time, I  volunteer as a court advocate for animals in our court system.  Check out http://www.SafeHumaneChicago.org  The court system is not like on TV. Defendants are given  continuance after continuance, and although they deny  hurting animals, many of them use the same lawyer—that is more than a coincidence. &, as I have mentioned,  KN is sill with me. Due to the sequester, his contract work has been really cut, but  his  former co-workers  really like him, and of course, he’s good at what he does.  He has a few interesting days in Saudi Arabia after his top secret   waste to energy project got  a big write up in USA Today.

The Groomer Won’t Dematt My Dog

December 20, 2013

indexFor some reason,  pet owners in America  won’t brush their dogs. Or, I should say, they bought 1 of those horrible  ‘wig’ brushes(that have bristles on 1 side) that are ineffective for 95% of dogs, it does nothing, and they stop brushing the dog.  See my post :  No integrity needed:  it’s a capoodle.  By the way, the photo posted to the left is the RIGHT STYLE BRUSH FOR MOST DOGS.  I am currently using a Miller-Forge, and you can get them at
 along with many other great supplies and tools at extremely reasonable prices.

I wasn’t going to revisit this (as I blogged about ‘specials coats’ several years ago), but matting needs to  specifically be addressed.

Matting is caused by dirt, moisture, and static electricity.Depending on your dog’s coat texture,  some dogs will be more affected  by this.  What happens is that the hair cuticle—the outer layer, ‘opens’ up, and  the hair might ‘swell’ with moisture or dirt, and the cuticle  sticks to the cuticle of another hair.   It starts out as clumping, and if you get to it quickly (after a dog has been playing or running  in humid air, within a week or 2 of being bathed), you can  brush it out with a slicker brush.

You brush or comb from the outer edges of the clump.  Often, the clumps start as pin matts—meaning they will go through the pins of a brush or comb & not come out.  You will notice that there will be some hair in the brush or comb (the only dog I have ever seen who didn’t lose any hair upon being dematted was an Afghan Hound I owned of English/’Bletchingly’ bloodlines). Yes, you ‘dematted’ the matt—but you really broke off hair, and this damaged hair is more prone to getting matted.

The  breeds that seem to matt the most are either very soft/cottony coated (Coton de Tulear, Maltese,  Bichon Frise, Bedlington Terriers , Afghan Hounds and many  White Poodles and Shih Tzu), double coated dogs with a lot of undercoat (Old English Sheepdogs, most Labra & Golden Doodles, Spinoni Italiani, Lhasa Apsos, Scottish Terriers, and the double coated  Spitz & Collie types (rough Collies, Australian Shepherds, Pomeranians) that have been shaved and are now  victims of clipper alopoecia (I have included the link to Atomic Canines post on Clipper Alopoecia at  the bottom of this blog).  I am not including Puli, Komondor, or other breeds that cord.  Of course they matt—in long cords that you have to manage—but they are clear at the skin.

Why can’t I dematt your dog?  Once the coat is locked, even if I brush it, it won’t come out. So, what happens is that I irritate your dog’s skin. I may break off coat, but I am not separating hairs. Even if I do get some hairs separated,  I have irritated your dog’s skin.  It is not worth it to the dog.    IT IS PAINFUL—especially to the dog with tender skin not used to being brushed.  An Afghan Hound breeder defended dematting  a dog by stating it takes less time for the coat to ‘fill in’ and won’t  alter the texture.  True, but if you cared so much, why did you let the dog get so bad in the first place?  It’s one thing  when a puppy is changing coats (I dematted my  Afghan Hound every other day for  four months!  & she  never lost a hair!), quite another to pander to a pet owner who is lazy and self-centered and will never learn, and insist you dematt her dog every  several months when she  wants to impress someone.

There used to be an Afghan Hound breeder in the Chicago area—Fred Alderman of Dynasty Afghans, who  would not sell you a dog until you had spent a day grooming with him.  He didn’t want to hear any excuses for why you neglected a dog he sold you, and if you didn’t want to buy a dog from him, that was fine with him.   I also  know of Bearded Collie breeders who won’t release a dog she’s sold until after  the  pet buyer has purchased a rake, a slicker brush, and a portable grooming table.  Unfortunately, very few  breeders have so much integrity.  Neither do the rescues that  adopt out dogs to  people who have no  idea what they are getting into, there is no excuse for this.  It is is irresponsible and unethical.

If you  bought or  ‘adopted’ a dog  and the  agency or seller didn’t  show you how to brush the dog  (and give you  instructions on feeding and training), they are no more than a puppy store—-a mill.  If your groomer won’t take the time to show you how to brush your dog, and what kind of  tools you need, please find another groomer.  Also, if  your local pet shop doesn’t carry the tools you need, they are not animal lovers, and   are just retailers  ripping people off.  We can change this dynamic. Don’t let them get away with saying they love dogs when they  don’t.

From Atomic Canine:

http://www.atomic-canine.com/news/2010/12/truth-for-grooming-for-a-tibetian-terrier/

http://www.atomic-canine.com/news/2010/12/a-day-in-the-life-of-my-work/

http://www.atomic-canine.com/news/2011/03/clipper-alopecia/

Roaches, Bedbugs, fleas…and biostatistics

December 13, 2013

A long time ago, I bought some ramen  packets,and 1 was filled with bugs.  I wrote to the company to complain, and I should have saved the letter.  The response from ‘community relations’ was that, “generally the  bugs are  rendered unrecognizable in the manufacturing process…” and she sent along some coupons for free ramen. That made me feel whole.

Also, a long time ago, I lived in a three flat  that had horrible roaches.  The landlord would  have an exterminator come in  every  three months, but  that was just keeping them under control.  I  owned a dog grooming shop at the time, so I brought home flea bombs, six per unit, and I asked my neighbors to set them off every Monday for  three weeks.  The first night I got home—amazing.  Dead  roaches  all over, we had to sweep and vacuum them up.  The next week, there  were  still a lot, but about half as much as the first week, and the next week hardly any, but  roaches came crawling out of the walls and dying for  the next couple of weeks.  I didn’t charge my landlord. We had  a problem, we fixed it.

I have had dogs with fleas.  the conventional wisdom is that if you see 1 flea on a dog, there are  20 in the environment.  Of course, you have to either steam clean or wash everything & treat the dog, possibly bomb the yard as well as the house…but if you have squirrels or rabbits or any other  rodents,. you will NEVER  get rid of them.  This is why the preventives are a good idea for most dogs.  Sometimes, you will have a dog with 1 flea who will get a flea allergy & rash, some dogs will have hundreds and not be scratching at all. But fleas carry tapeworms, so should not be ignored.

We recently had a bedbug  problem. This is a very big problem in Chicago this year.  They travel easily.  One problem is that so many people live in multi-unit buildings.  When you  have so many  households, with so many ‘cleaning styles’ (or should I say  lack of cleaning), no matter what you do, you will NEVER BE RID OF BEDBUGS.  Why?  As I said, bedbugs travel. They hide in the walls. They also hide in clothing and furniture. Roaches are   generally in the walls & on smooth surfaces, but  generally avoid  live animals, Fleas will gravitate to the warmest animal, usually a dog or a cat, and only go to humans when the host animals can’t support their numbers. They also like soft surfaces rather than hard or solid surfaces.  Bedbugs go all  over.  It doesn’t matter how clean you are.  If you go on public transportation, or to a restaurant, a movie, or a waiting room, they hitch a ride somewhere on your clothes, fall off, go into the walls, come out and get into the folds of your furniture, back to your clothes, etc.Alla over the city we are finding  mattresses, chairs, couches, pillows, clothing in alleys. Sometimes, there will be a sign:  BEDBUGS.  now, the city requires those disposing to wrap contaminated items in plastic, but it is hardly enforced.

The ‘cure’ for bedbugs is thorough cleaning or dangerous chemicals.  Exterminators suggest putting anything that will fit into a hot dryer for  1/2 hour.  Heat will kill them.  A friend suggested putting double stick tape by the trim by the floor boards, but what we did was steam clean the affected furniture, and keep an eye out.  We think we’ve  done a good job eliminating them.  I didn’t have tenants in my lower flat while this was going on, so it was us who brought them in.

That isn’t good enough for a friend of mine who owns a six flat.  She brought in a bedbug sniffing dog ($250—400), then had to pay an exterminator $2500  to do her building.  She won’t be happy until she sees a receipt from an exterminator.

An exterminator told me what to do, and when I asked how he’d determine  if we had an infestation, sine HE didn’t think the dogs were reliable, he told me  he’d do a visible search.

We’ve done that. They are about 1/3 the size of a fleas as nymphs. Very small, like specks of sand or dirty.  Now, since we have not been bitten in several weeks, we believe we’ve been successful, although we keep looking for them.  We both feel that we don’t want to poison our environment unless absolutely necessary.  We haven’t been bitten in weeks  and remain vigilant.

I know we have mice.  As long as I have tenants leaving cat food out all day, and  not doing dirty dishes for days, that’s how it goes.  Recently, my tenants have been good.
When I was in graduate school, studying environmental  management, one  of my instructors  started one course with  statistics, so we could get an idea in our heads what was statistically dangerous and how to determine what was real and what was media frenzy.  It takes a lot to get me excited about  perceived hazards these days.  My friend is panic-stricken, and had gotten several of our mutual friends  all stressed out.  People who have lived where they live over  10 years and have never steam cleaned a rug, or taken their drapes down to wash.  People who go all over and sit all over.  They don’t care about the statistics.  I may as well treat for elephants.   You  know how it is when you  have an issue with bugs.

keeping a dog’s feet clean

December 5, 2013

When I was a very young child, I wanted to catch a pigeon.  My grandmother told me  I had to sprinkle salt on its tail.  I asked my mother why that would work. She responded, “If you can get close enough to a pigeon to sprinkle salt on it’s tail, you can  get the pigeon.”

I am not sure this is a good analogy, but if you keep the dog’s feet clean, you keep the whole dog clean. But how?  If your dog doesn’t have long hair on its feet, skip this blog, it’s a waste of time. If you have a dog with  hair on its feet:  Afghan Hound, Bearded Collie, Shih Tzu, or one of the  Spaniels (Cocker, Cavalier, Papillon, English Toy Spaniel), you might get something out of this.

People who  have  show dogs in show coat generally have a special  area to exercise their dogs where their dogs feet won’t get muddy.  usually this is a slightly inclined  dog run, covered with  (ideally) river rock, which are smooth stones, but it may be gravel or limestone chunks.    Stone drains easily, and although you will lose stone when picking up poops,  this is really the most ideal  surface.  It’s uneven, forcing the dogs to arch their toes.  They usually grind their toenails down naturally, and a healthy foot supports a healthy leg—just supports the whole dog better. Groomers see so many dogs with broken down/splayed feet.  Especially if a dog is overweight (& this is usually the cause of broken down feet, unless the dog  was bred to have  ‘soft’ feet, like Boston Terriers and French Bulldogs), this can be quite painful for a dog, particularly an older, arthritic dog.   I’ve  worked for several hobby breeders who has set-ups like this, and  even had  part of the run covered with a canopy.  The dog was still outside, but if it rained, he didn’t have to  go out in it to relieve himself.  This is something to consider when you board your dog.

Many people who have  a pet they are showing or just like the hair,  put boots on their dogs.  There are stretchable ones that seem to work very well,  You do have to get the dog used to wearing them, and they take some time to put on the dog.

What I do,  is keep a bucket of water by the door, and swish my dogs’ feet around in it to loosen the dirt.  You still have to  brush out the feet when the dog dries. Don’t forget between the toes.  I don’t dematt  those matts. I cut them out.  In fact, for the Afghan Hounds I was not showing, I  scissored up their feet.  I feel it’s the most expedient thing to do.
There is a contraption, a sort of covered bucket with a hole, that you can  put your dog’s foot though  and agitate the dirt out.  I guess it works for some. I’d rather just use a simple bucket.  I also when grooming the dog and finishing the groom, spray the dog all over—including the feet, with either THE STUFF, or Chris Christensen ICE ON ICE. These products repel dirt and prevent matting for up to a week.

Don’t be afraid to wash the dog’s feet.  The whitening shampoos really work, you can see the chemical reaction  in  about a minute.  What they do is sort of create an optical illusion of making the hair reflect light.

I’ve detailed several options.  If your dog is always a mess, you might want to consider one of these.