My Year in Review (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.

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