Archive for June, 2014

Who Knows More? Veterinarian or Groomer?Dog Behavior 101

June 27, 2014

In  order to be able to groom dog, you have to be able to handle the dog. You have to have the attitude that you are in charge.  You have to know how to get control of the dog without injuring the dog, frightening the dog. You getting the dog to trust you. Everything goes more smoothly when the dog trusts the handler.  This means the handler has to have confidence, because the dogs all pick up on body language.

My brother had just gotten his veterinary degree, but he still didn’t have his license, so I asked him to help me in the shop, bathing dogs.  He asked me how I knew the dog wouldn’t bite me.  I told him I could read the dog’s body language.  “Oh,”  he responded.  “They don’t teach us about that in veterinary school..”

Funny?  Ah, no, They all seem to be afraid that every dog is going to bite them.  Unless they  have been very involved with pet animals, they seem to not trust them.  They also  don’t know any better.  I have volunteered with  people trained to be veterinary technicians who have apparently been taught to  put a dog in  his most vulnerable position to cut his nails. Why why why?

Veterinarians also don’t know that  blindness & deafness are color linked.  You don’t breed a ‘merle’ (marbled coated) dog to another merle, as this color is linked to congenital blindness and deafness.    This includes harlequin ( small black spots on a white dog) patterns in Danes and Dalmations.   The black & tan color pattern is also linked to deafness in many breeds.

Most veterinarians are trained as agricultural vets:  to work with farm animals, They’ve been taught that these animals  can endure a lot of pain, and the idea of respecting them  has never been broached in an academic setting.  In this day and age,  I think this is shameful, but  again, if a veterinarian is not a hobbyist or fancier, chances are he stopped learning   when he got his diploma.

About 20 years ago, right about the time that people started using the internet, , people who owned dogs  that had chronic  yeast infections in their ears, and  other skin issues including  foot licking, started to address diet.
By trial and error, they  started feeding  grain-free (no corn, wheat, or soy) to their dogs.  They also started experimenting with protein sources. A result is the  grain free and variable protein dog food industry.  This did not come about because veterinarians suggested this to  dog food manufacturers.  In fact, they pretty much dismissed the  hobbyists and fanciers who  wanted this addressed.   These hobbyists and fanciers , who met at ‘performance’ (obedience, rally, agility, field trials, and even conformation dog shows) shared information.

We hobbyists and fanciers have also been behind using sodium free shampoos for dogs with sensitive skin.  Oatmeal shampoos may be effective, but if sodium is exacerbating the  itchiness—it is NOT helping!  Yet, veterinarians are still  ignoring this fact!

Veterinarians are telling people to use harnesses for dogs with trachea  problems (rather than wide martingales—or—-training the dog to not pull), totally ignoring  the fact that people do not have control of their dogs. This is dangerous. They  ignore the fact that people are using  prong collars and are still not in control of their dogs.  They  don’t advise pet owners of their responsibility to test for genetic defects before they breed their dogs.

Yet, when we groomers address these issues, they  discount us.  The justification is always that they have  doctorate degrees, and I may have only been a high school graduate!

This is why I always suggest that  hobbyists/fanciers  really question their veterinarian—to find out if the  doctor they trust is on the ‘same page’ as they are.

Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, by Charles Darwin, is actually one of the first books I read on  animal behavior, but there  are now so many good books:  anything by Temple Grandin, Brian Kilcommon, Pat McConnell.  There areb so many good books and websites on dog training and understanding dogs.  There is no excuse for  working with animals and not learning how   to understand them.


Affordable Housing…What the 99% Folks Don’t Want to Understand

June 20, 2014
Upscale Housing in,DaNang, Socialist Republic of Viet Nam

Upscale Housing in,DaNang, Socialist Republic of Viet Nam

Do you know the difference between  socialism and democracy/capitalism?  Are you sure?

I was in my  twenties before I realized that someone planned infrastructure. Roads and plumbing were not just there.  Due to a comedy of errors, I ended up getting a master’s in urban planning, and  a concentration in land use & zoning.  It’s amazing to me that there was a time in America that we could afford to lay  water and sewer pipes.  It’s also amazing to me that  the politicians thought it would be a  great idea to allow private companies to handle energy  and other infrastructure services.  Not  everything will make a profit.  Some things—like infrastructure, you have to provide to support economic development. This is why we need governments. For no other reason, really.

The companies that have a monopoly on  infrastructure  now  realize that nobody will rein them in. They can do whatever they want and charge whatever they want.  That is capitalism.

In many places in the world, they (meaning politicians) don’t allow the private ownership of land in urban areas with infrastructure.  You get a 99 year lease, and then  the lease is renegotiated.  This is  to prevent land speculation and inflation blamed on land rents.  However,  often the lease holders  sublet the space, and this causes inflation.  I saw this when I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Blantyre, Malawi.  Improved land had been sliced and diced so many times, that, per square foot, improved land was as expensive as it is in Chicago.  It was shocking, and this was why many people were starving.  They could not go back to their  ‘home’land/tribal area, as all the arable land was  spoken for. They could not be farmers.  They didn’t have enough education  to get a job, nor enough connections for access to capital. This is also why crime is rising in the urban areas  of developing countries. People are desperate.  This is also why we need public schools. There is  currently  an uproar about ‘core competency’.  Do we really not agree that  our populace has to know basic business math, science concepts, and how to write a proposal?  More serious, still:  do we not understand that we  graduate  people as  teachers who don’t know how to teach this kind of stuff?

Forget the bs that there is enough food that nobody should go hungry, and that nobody should be homeless. Those are not the real issues. The  issue, bottom line, is still that  men are still choosing (for women) to have  more children than the economy can support.  It’s a global problem, now, and it’s a problem that most  politicians will NOT address.  Too controversial.  But the bottom line is that  jobs will never be created fast enough for  all the people who need employment.  That’s capitalism.

On my most recent trip to Viet Nam, it appeared that most urban people were very sophisticated about family planning.  It was surprising  how small an area  in Hanoi that  the entrepreneurs had  carved out for themselves.  The  government  could never create enough jobs, so entrepreneurship is encouraged.   It’s that, or crime. These people might be poor, but they all have cell phones and TVs, and they don’t have to punch a clock. Their time is their own.  That’s how it is in  many places in the world.  Just not so Europe or the USA.  If more Americans could do this,  they might possibly demand that their schools teach getter mathematics and science.  How teachers are taught in the US would be funny were it not tragic!

I got to thinking about this again, because a young woman, Amara Enyia , child of Nigerian immigrants, is running for mayor of Chicago.  She came to a very small community meeting, and someone asked her what she would do about creating more affordable housing.

She  thought very carefully before answering, because she’s smart.  That train has left the station.  There is no longer any  affordable housing that is decent because our land rents—-property taxes are too high. They are not the same all over the city, but  in my neighborhood, Rogers Park,  which is right along the lakefront, and has several rapid transit stops, and a private university (Loyola), we now average over $100  per week per unit in property takes.  Even if you live in a studio apartment, under 500 square feet, your landlord is paying at least $200 a month in property taxes.  And then there are  the heating bill, water,  maintenance. Also, our politicians pay themselves an outrageously high salary—over $100,000 a year, and they have their patronage workers, too. If you are poor, and didn’t luck into a Section 8 voucher (which, apparently, is good for the life of the holder), or subsidized housing (also good for life), you are s…o…l.

I’ve always thought that  a rent subsidy should only be good for a limited time:  five to 10 years at most.  When you have a subsidy, you have no incentive to improve your skills or try for a better job, or to make any money.  Neither do your kids.  It becomes a chosen lifestyle—that of being poor and scamming the system.  Nobody has dared to do a study of this, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence:  people are proud to say they live in this or that housing project, as did their grandparents.  No joke.

Now, you could say I’m lucky, and  I have white privilege.  However, I made a choice to not have children I could not support, to buy my first home in what was considered a slum area, and move up.  I know a lot of women like me.

What Ms. Enyia said in response, in so many words, was that you have to work with others in your community and get control of the land. They are called housing trusts. That means working together with other poor people, forming an organization, and raising money.  Still private, but you  vote on how the money is spent—like a cooperative.

It’s been done, but the people whining the most want others to do it for them.  I want I want…I want to live in Manhattan, or San Francisco, or LA. I want a Cadillac.  I want someone to clean up my house.  I want to go on vacation to Hawaii  three or four times a year.

Our schools don’t teach kids to  think, but to comply.  Couple that with people being in denial that they can’t still live in the community they grew up in, and I see much more strife coming down the pike.

They Just Didn’t Value the Dog: Why so Many Dogs End up in Shelters, and What the Issue Really Is

June 13, 2014

I am not the first person to recognize this. Gary Wilkes who writes about animal behavior addressed this in a recent Groomer to Groomer magazine.   He also addressed how  professional dog groomers can  help their clients address behavior issues.  There is a problem we can’t address, however: it’s  how clients regard their own dogs.  do they regard them as playthings, for amusement, or are they bonded to their pets?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, because I  work at a dog daycare business, and I am shocked at how many dogs get mid day meals.  Why would a dog  coming just for daycare—to play—need a meal in the middle of the day.  Why does this matter>?  It matters because  the best way you can bond with your dog is to feed him.  True, some dogs are not food motivated, but  they  know who prepares their food. They can smell YOU on their dish.  If they know nothing else, they know YOU are the giver of life.

When we train dogs, we talk about high value treats.  This is usually meat or cheese—something  moist and possibly messy.  Not what they get every day.  When a dog has behavior issues, many trainers suggest hand feeding the dog to  build the bond.  Yet, we have  all the clients, every day, who are requesting not that their dogs get a dog cookie, but their actual meal. they are, in effect, asking us to bond with their dog!

Some of these people just don’t know, most don’t care.  Most over feed;  more food is love.  There is no logic.  Just people assuaging their guilt at not spending time with the dog.

We have clients who fell in love with the way their dog looks, but won’t make the time to train the dog.  Or, they spoil the dog.  Sometimes,  one partner wanted the dog, and the other ‘half’ went along with the choice as appeasement, never dreaming how unhappy he’d be with the choice (I am finding this more and more with designer dogs, particularly Doodles).

Recently, in Chicago,  we’ve made it illegal to sell commercially bred  dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores.  A county -wide ban was  also passed, but is being revisited  due to pet industry lobbying our county commissioners, and apparently paying them off to get them to change their minds—asking them to RESCIND THEIR VOTE!  The  explanation to rescind the ban is that   if people can’t buy pets in pet shops, they will go on the internet, and make worse choices. This hardly seems possible. It seems that most people who buy a dog aren’t really thinking at all.  In fact, I wonder how many go to rescue events and  impulsively  choose one with a sad story. Then, I wonder how many stay adopted.

What I  questioned to the commissioners  was how many businesses would go under rather than change their business models, and how many  living wage (meaning being able to pay a mortgage and property taxes)jobs would be lost—and how much tax revenue do they generate…is it enough to  pay  for our dog pounds  which take in the  impulsively bought pets—particularly rabbits around Easter?

Unfortunately, because the  veterinary societies —these are doctors, mind you—-are telling the commissioners that not ALL the breeders are bad, that  there should be no ban on selling  pets as livestock.  Keep in mind that  veterinarians these days make much more money  off these poorly bred and cared for animals than off of  pet owners who love and care for their  pets.  Sad, but true.

We are addressing a cruel industry  in this case, selling  to  people who wouldn’t have bothered to actually  research the various sources for getting a pet, or even if the kind of pet they ended up buying was actually what they wanted.  This also leaves out  the  huge problem of backyard breeders, whom NOBODY considers breeders!  Lots of opportunities for cruelty and neglect produced by these  folks.  The irony remains that all the people involved in rescue from shelters and pounds are condemning ‘breeders’.  All I know is that none of the breeders I know—the ones showing dogs, are contributing to this  problem:  they are taking back—-often buying back—dogs they bred. The backyard breeders?  They are off the hook because the rescue  volunteers  really don’t understand that they are the problem!

Please start the conversations:  with your own veterinarian, at the dog park, with your friends and neighbors. This is how we will affect change.  Will  more dogs be saved?  Not in the short run.; this is a long run type of  problem.


On the Wrong Side of History: My recent trip to Viet Nam

June 6, 2014

Food sculture, Halong Bay, VN  Food Sculpture, North Viet Nam


I visited Viet Nam a few months ago.  It’s  taken me  some time to wrap my head around what I  experienced.

I  bet most people under the age of 50 don’t know anything about the “Viet Nam War” (what the Viet Names call “the American War”) which occured in the 1960’s and why we  fought there.  We never actually declared war on Viet Nam, but  we sent about a half million  people to fight, and we instituted a draft around 1969 to  compel young men to  join the military—to fight in Viet Nam.  Remember?  I do, I’m 60.  I remember coming home from school and seeing news of the war on TV every night.  We allowed our government to tell us a bunch of lies.  We allowed our government—& the pandering news media—to tell us we were fighting communism, and if we didn’t stop communism in Viet Nam, the whole of southeast Asia would fall (the domino theory).  The Viet Namese  ‘won.’  After all our fire power and expertise, they gained control of their own  country.  Not all Viet Namese were happy about that. Same as any country in the world.

So, when people ask why I went to Viet Nam on ‘vacation’, I  responded, “Well, we fought a war there.  I want to see what we were fighting over.”

Others  are curious because  they might want to retire there, or are interested in history.

There are very few traffic signals (what the British call  robots and zebra crossings) in urban Viet Nam.  Most people who have vehicles get around on  motor scooters.  You really take your life in your hands crossing the street. Best to do so in groups.  You also notice everyone wearing surgical masks.  Is it because they don’t want bugs flying into their mouths, or they want to avoid disease?  Not sure.  I was told a combination of both.  but enough with amusing first impressions.

Our guide, Tran,  had lived the history and was  very good at explaining it (Gate One Travel, which, by the way, I would highly recommend–particularly if your travel time is limited), but there is no getting around it. As Tran told us, Viet Nam has been at war for about 3000 years.  If it wasn’t the Chinese, it was the French, and then the Americans.  Why  did (or do) larger powers pick on Viet Nam?  Great location,  lots of arable land.  Why the link? It’s an interesting place to get some perspective.  Search Wikipedia,and you will get some jumping off points.  Lots of people don’t know that Indochina was a French colony.  Land was appropriated for rubber, fruit, and rice plantations.  Yes–appropriated.  There are about 30 ethnic groups in Viet Nam, and you have to give Ho Chi Minh his props—that he organized all these disparate, rural ethnic groups to work together and think of themselves as VIET NAMESE.  Remember, he did this without the internet.  He did this  by persuasion, as most people at that time (1950s and ’60s) were illiterate. They were also feeling oppressed by the French.  the French just barged in and took whatever land they could.

It’s important to understand the dynamic, and  what we  westerners  didn’t know( or understand).  The  biggest priority for Ho Chi Minh and his followers (really—mostly young people under 30) was land reform.  Between the French and the Chinese, there wasn’t much left for the native Viet Namese to even grow food for their families.  This is 1 reason it was so easy  to get  people to fight. They were desperate, and had nothing left to lose.  But more:  the west had divided  Viet Nam into north and south in the 1950’s.  The reason is still not totally clear ( side digression:  do we know why we fought in Afghanistan, if Karzai, who took our money, didn’t want us?  Are we sure we are  on the right side in Syria? Iraq? Ukraine?   Really?)  We told ourselves that the north was to be communist, and the south, with no clear leader, would be free.  Uh—free like democratic—compared to the north?  Free like capitalism—so the colonialists could come back and take what was not theirs?

I had so many questions. We started the tour in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon) in the south.  One of the first places we visited was the Cu Cin tunnels.We also visited an organic farm.  We asked how  most people made  a living in Viet Nam, and Tran told us that if they weren’t farmers, they were entrepreneurs.  Indeed.  We  visited fishing  villages, wood carvers, marble carvers, clothing and embroidery workshops (stull, hard to know how many were actually owned by the Chinese…).  So many self employed people in all the urban areas!  This is an irony, really.  This is a socialist country, but there are  probably more self employed  people in Viet Nam—per centage wise, than in the USA!

HCMC from Hotel, VN  In  historic Hoi An, Hue, and  Hanoi, many small shop owners.  While there are  large shopping plazas with  what we would call grocery stores,  they are sort of a blend of  a large ‘anchor’ ans many small vendors. It is amazing how many people  have small stalls selling  spices,  tchokes, hair ornaments and other junk jewelry, toys, tools, medicinal or first aid stuff, fruit, and clothing.  So…what is socialist about the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam?   Good question.  It seems to be the ownership of improved land.    Hoi An is  a world heritage site not far from DaNang.  It’s a beautiful, quaint old town.  Many expats, particularly from Australia,  now make their livings there.  I was able to visit with Cat Besch, who runs the Viet Nam Animal Welfare Association.  They have a small animal shelter,  and are trying to promote the idea of humane treatment of animals—and not eating your pet dog after you grow bored with it.  Seems that the Chinese, who have always been in Viet Nam, have brought the idea of eating  dogs to this mostly Buddhist country.  People will steal dogs, and sell them by the pound to restaurants.

In Da  Nang, a city along the China Sea, there are miles and miles of upscale housing developments. Huge high rise buildings with luxury interiors and amenities. We asked Tran who was buying all these condos.  He told us,’Rock Stars’, but there couldn’t be that many.  It has to be…the Chinese elites who can not buy  such luxury housing on the oceanfront in China.  As the British buy in the south of Spain and France, the Chinese are buying Viet Nam, and there is a lot of animosity.

Also in visiting the historic sites, we  learned a little more about how the  US became  so involved in Viet Nam.  Diem was, apparently a reluctant president.  He was a businessman who wanted to  expand his drug selling (cocaine, heroin) empire. His  sister-in-law was the power behind the ‘throne’.  Very integral to  understanding this was knowing that the elites in the south were Catholics, and they wanted to govern and exploit the  rural Buddhists peasants.  Diem was encouraged to  contact Cardinal Spellman  in Boston who, of course, had ties to the Kennedy family. With little more than connections, we got ourselves on the wrong side of history (more recently, when the CIA paid Achmed Chalabi $238,000 a week for intelligence, which turned out to be bullshit…in Iraq…everyone involved is off the hook for that war, except the American citizens who now have to support a bunch of war maimed soldiers…same in Afghanistan…).

Tran encouraged us to get Le Ly Hyslip’s book, “When Heaven and Earth Changed Places”, her view of how the war  affected her life as a child  growing up in Viet Nam.  Obviously, it was a vacation which caused me to do a lot of thinking,  There is a lot to see and experience in Viet Nam.  It’s not just  the jungle.  You can easily have a beach vacation and  not see  any of the rest of the country.  However, you’d miss so much.