Archive for December, 2014

Another Bad Guy

December 26, 2014

I’ve mentioned before in past posts that I am an advocate for  animals in the court system in the metro area of Chicago.  Often, I go to court, and there isn’t much of a case.  Or, rather, there might be were there more evidence.  I keep reminding people that  real court is not like what is portrayed on TV.  Law & Order comes close, as the District Attorney’s office is always sending investigators to get more evidence…but that’s not really how it is.  Even, so, that is more realistic than the courtroom scenes.

In Chicago, the courtrooms are dark (or at least have very low lighting), and the acoustics are horrible.   You usually can’t hear the judge nor the attorneys..  You have to hang around and catch the prosecuting attorneys when there is a break.  Often, they barely have any facts, because NEVER is a case ready to go to trial.

Today was typical. I was emailed the day before that there might be an indictment…but the case hadn’t been given to a grand jury yet.  The  police in charge of animal crimes said there was enough evidence.  Today the bad guy was told he’d be indicted in a few weeks. Another court date.  The bad guy did have a private attorney.

I am not sure who turned the guy in, but he was charged with 4 counts of aggravated cruelty, 1 count of promoting dog fighting both felonies, 4 counts of ‘neglect of owners duties’, and 1 count of drug paraphernalia (paraphernalia I expect will be dropped).

He was still in custody, so bail ($200,000 bond, bail would be $20,000) had not been met.  He  had a small support section of 4 mature adults (relatives?)  who stood up when he was arraigned.  That was it for today, I was in court less than 20 minutes. So…

We have a lot of questions, but according to a Tribune article, police confiscated 4 emaciated dogs that were chained in the basement, and there  were several puppies on the main floor. It was  also reported that somebody paid him to  stage fights, and the neighbors  said he was a popular guy.  I am afraid this is another uneducated victim of the system, and he needed the money…and he really doesn’t have a consciousness about dog fighting or cruelty.   However, he is a known gang member, and  has had other arrests. The dogs were taken to Chicago Animal Care and Control as evidence, and hopefully  the owner will forfeit them, and they will be evaluated for  placement as pets.

If we want to stop this, we really have to address educational and job  opportunities in low income communities.  I am not defending dog fighting.  I am  suggesting what is now known as ‘restorative justice’, as a way to  deal with cruelty.

We also have to come to the realization that  an awful lot of people have a lot of violence in their lives, and  they  don’t give  cruelty a second thought.  They are not Buddists. In fact, most are Christians.  This is their reality.  Right now, the only  person who wins in this kind of case is the private attorney.  Not you, me, or the dogs.  & we have to face it:  there is a whole subculture that loves to gamble, and  they  don’t mind seeing animals tear each other apart.  As long as we are a meat eating and fur wearing nation, this will remain hard to address.

Book Review: The Social Lives of Dogs, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

December 19, 2014

I try to read all the popular stuff on dogs to keep up with what  people at events are talking about.  While I  am not a fan of Cesar Milan,  you could find worse information on dog training… don’t get me started on Barbara Woodhouse..or the Koehler Method.  While these  ‘old timers’ have been discredited, unfortunately, Milan is all over  the place thanks to National Geographic, and  you can find Woodhouse’s No Bad Dogs and the Koehler  book all over  the place.

Lots of people take issue with Marshall Thomas because she is not a ‘professional’ animal behaviorist or fancier, and she allowed her dogs to breed.  Well, I bet we have issues with a lot of people we call friends.  I enjoyed The Hidden Life of Dogs, and I enjoyed this book  as wellI will add that I also enjoyed  The Harmless People, her book on the !Kung of  BotswanaHaving Asperger’s Syndrome, I am endlessly fascinated  about how communities work our social interactions.

Marshall Thomas is a phenomenal writer.  She writes clearly,  and describes what she has witnessed. She really is a pet lover, and while I would take issue in  allowing dogs to  breed indiscriminately in our modern, urban society, she explains dogs relations  to each other, and to humans, and this is what is important.

There are a lot of books written about dog training, and raising a puppy, but there is not  much written about multiple dog/pet households, and how dogs work out hierarchies and interactions.    Many of my clients started with  one pet, then  chose a companion for their first pet.  Sometimes it works out, often it doesn’t. Pets really have to choose their own friends, and pet owners can’t decide who will be dominant.

Marshall Thomas describes how  these particular animals came into her household, and what the social dynamics were among them.  Some  people might think she is anthropomorphic, but if you read and understand what she is saying,  if you are a dog owner, you will recognize what she says is true.

This is NOT a book on dog training. It is about relationships.  However, in her  Appendix, she  addresses control of dogs, and I would suggest this to anyone who  plans to work with dogs.  She is absolutely right.  She also has a separate appendix on keeping parrots.  While the books is really about dogs and their relationships to other sentient beings,  this appendix is also extremely valuable, and I am glad she  put it ion the  book.  So many people who   go for owning exotic dogs also go for  other exotics without thinking of the ramifications.

This book was published in 2000.  There is nothing out there like it.  Her anthropology training helped he  describe what she observed:  dogs being dogs.

If Not us, Then Who?

December 12, 2014


Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in southern Wisconsin. This is the largest gathering of Maltese fanciers in the country!

Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in southern Wisconsin. This is the largest gathering of Maltese fanciers in the country!

I keep writing about the pet industry being in a sorry state: so lacking in integrity, defending  inhumane  breeders (breeding pets as livestock), selling  useless or  dangerous products.  I know that there are people who agree with me.  How many who agree with me are willing to  do something about it?  How many actually spend time talking with pet owners?

I subscribe to all the free pet industry magazines:  Pet Business, PetAge, and Pet Industry News.  For years I subscribed to  The Gazette (Purebred dogs, the AKC magazine) which I learned so much from, from so many different  fanciers who wrote about  what they were learning about dogs.  Now that it is no longer in print, it is much more difficult to get information about specific breeds of dogs  if you don’t subscribe to all the Facebook feeds.

Keep in mind, that were it not for hobbyists and fanciers, there would be no  grain free dog food industry.  It wasn’t  veterinarians who  promoted  grain free foods, and  most pet store retailers were  bemused by the requests.  It was  hobby breeders suggesting to their puppy buyers, and to people they were meeting at dog training classes  and performance events  talking about  the ear infections and foot licking might be related to corn or wheat sensitivities.

When I was a teenager, I worked briefly for  Afghan Hound breeder Fredric Mark Alderman. He had quick, phenomenal success with the Akaba dogs he got from Lois Boardman. His kennel name was Dynasty. He had a waiting list of people wanting  his dogs, and he had a policy: you want a Dynasty Afghan Hound, but have no experience with the breed, you spend a day grooming with him.  He didn’t want to hear that  you didn’t enjoy brushing or bathing a dog, that you didn’t know the equipment you’d need or how much time it would take up.  If that’s how you felt at the end of an afternoon with him, no harm, no foul…you didn’t get an Afghan.    Not  one other breeder in the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Chicago did what he did.  So many of theirs ended up neglected or abused.  Not the dogs Fred bred.  I knew breeders in other breeds who had similar policies. Arlene Fenney, who bred Bearded Collies in the Chicago area, insisted that all her pet buyers buy a portable grooming table.

A blog I posted a couple of years ago “The Irony of the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier,”  got an enormous amount of attention recently, going  from  possibly 1 viewing a week to well over 200.  I suspect a  fancier  found it, and  then sent the link to other fanciers—but I didn’t get  one comment:  I suspect they all understand why the breed got popular, and then declined in popularity.    I will address more of that in the future.

I am addressing this  topic of information in the pet industry  because of what I am dealing with  now.

I recently worked for a dog business, as many people know, owned by a business woman who thinks she is a dog lover, but who has never trained a dog, nor actually worked cleaning or  observing a playgroup in her own kennel.  She had a vision of how large she wanted her facility to appear, and how much she wanted to make, and, once again, trusted  people who  were taking her money, instead of people who knew dogs. She has asked me to never mention the name of the business in my blog because she claims I say too much negative.  If it weren’t the truth, I wouldn’t spend the time. You can’t make this stuff up.

We have had, in the 3 years since I worked for her, a 98% change in staff.   When we parted,  I had been with her longer than any other employee.  2 others who worked in the kennel had been there almost two years.  They quit within a couple of weeks after I left. With such a high turnover, organizational memory is lost.  So, new staff are constantly  doing new procedures,. reinventing the wheel,  or screwing up and having to address screw ups. The owner moved into what looks like a beautiful building  where the floors are shiny and dangerous to both humans and dogs, many dogs are afraid to walk on it. Temple Grandin addressed this in Animals in Translation, but of course, neither the owner or manager have read anything she’s written. They are business people.  The electricity is  set up in such a way that there is not enough where it is needed, and too much available where it is not.

In any case, as a groomer, who loves dogs, and loves being with the dogs, I  want my clients to be happy with their dogs. Unfortunately, for about a decade, the  pet industry—meaning retail sellers—have been bamboozling people into buying  harnesses for their dogs..and Flexi leashes.  Everyone  pays for a Flexi.  It’s hard enough to control your dogs with a harness and  six foot leash.  Harnesses are designed so the dog will not be restrained when pulling you.  I’ve addressed this before.  In any case, I am trying to get my clients to switch to Martingale collars.  This is what sighthound people  use, and more  and more hobbyists are switching from buckle collars to  Martingales because you really DO get more control—without hurting the dog!

So, I spend a lot of time talking to  my clients about their relationship with their dogs.  And I’ve gotten several good clients to switch to  Martingales over the last several months.  I’ve mentioned this to the owner and the manager.  Blah blah Blah.  Now, there is a nice looking retail space.  What do they sell?   Fancy Dog cookies.  Dog beds (at least 4 dozen in inventory).  Dog coats and toys.  NO  collars. None.  My clients—OUR CLIENTS are going elsewhere for collars.

I showed a client who owns a pet consulting business my MillerForge Curved Slicker brush,  She thought it was  amazing, it is.  I get them from   The business owner  could sell those, too…but she selling dog cookies….or rather, there is a nice display, they are not selling (nor are the dog beds).

I show my clients how to brush their dogs. This is something the breeder (yes, that includes the idiot backyard breeders who constantly post on Craigslist in every city—people who claim they are NOT breeders!) should show them how to do.  If not the breeder—all these shelters and rescues that also want good homes for  the dogs they adopt out, should   address brushing, feeding, a care schedule, what shots will cost in the future—but not a one does.  You bond with your dog  by grooming it.  These people disrespect  hobby breeders—or they throw them in with the lot of puppy mills.  You could not call Fred Alderman irresponsible.  He  was and is not breeding the dogs that wind up in shelters.

Whatever. It is up to groomers to address all these things.  Grooming, nutrition, finding a good veterinarian,  good websites and YouTube videos on dog care—particularly training.  It is up to us to  sell THE FEATURES OF THE EQUIPMENT WE USE.  The sales  clerks and managers at all these pet stores are not going to sell the dog owning public what they need.

The hobby breeders are telling the puppy buyers to return to them for grooming as so few  pet groomers have the experience or talent to groom their breeds.  I can’t blame them.  However, it is those hobby breeders who actually got our pet grooming industry started.  All those designer dogs that the puppy mills and backyard breeders are putting out  won’t keep us afloat for so many reasons, including  being poorly bred and having genetic issues, and the owners  coming to the understanding that  that fluffy fantasy puppy wasn’t as much fun to take care of as they hoped, or was way more expensive than they dreamed (I  went from having Afghan Hounds to Whippets partly because of time commitment,and partly expense).  What am I saying?  We have to  be in touch with and more friendly with hobby breeders breeding for the betterment of their breeds.  We have to join more kennel clubs.  We have to work with the  organizations that say they want permanent homes for all pets.If the business owners really cared, they  would  be more holistic about addressing  dog car to every  dog owner who walked through the dog.  They are not, and it is up to us.

My Friend, Janie Wondergem

December 5, 2014
Reggie Wondergem, doing the scent articles at an obedience trial.

Reggie Wondergem, doing the scent articles at an obedience trial.

I am a purebred dog fancier.  I’ve stated this many times.  The reason I am a purebred dog fancier is that I know that there are several hundred breeds of dogs.  Not all will make  good pets. When people ask what kind of dog I would suggest for a family, I have to ask a lot of questions about where they live, who they live with, how much free time they have, what they  like about dogs and what they dislike. Often,  I tell  people to go an animal shelter and choose an older dog, Really.  Unless you work at home, training a puppy can be daunting.   Most  dogs in animal shelter are either already housebroken, or so eager to please, they  can be trained quickly (if you don’t sabotage their success).  However, if people have specific likes and dislikes, I usually suggest a variety of purebreds and tell people how to go about finding them. It is not that I am opposed to rescue—not at all.  I just don’t want the backyard breeders choosing the dog I should have.  Neither did my friend, Janie.

That said, I would NEVER suggest a Saluki for a family pet.  They are not demonstrative, and have a tendency to be nervous.  They generally like being in a pack.   If they had opposable thumbs, they’d be dangerous.  Google ‘Saluki Tree of Life’, and they have a great photo of a Saluki eating cat food on the top of the refrigerator.  However, they are quiet.  Catlike.  Perfect for a single person or a couple of adults.  They  really don’t need exercise:  most end up being couch potatoes—but I think  they  do better if you can encourage them to move.

In any case, I love Salukis.  I was showing my 2nd Saluki at the International Kennel Club show, which is benched (meaning you have to be there, on exhibit, for a certain number of hours), and Janie approached me and gave me her phone number. She had seen in the catalog (the directory of dogs being shown) that I didn’t live far, and she also had a young Saluki, Reggie.  We did get together, and became friends.  This was  about  15 years ago, about 1999.

Early on, she told me she was interested in  leaving nursing and starting a dog related business.  We were going to buy a business together, but she didn’t trust the  people we were to buy from and we were somewhat estranged for a while, but  in the end, she was right. She started her own pet care business , North Shore Pet Services, and did very well with it. We referred clients to each other. She learned, by trial and error,that some dogs  were always going to be a problem because their owners spoiled them.  She also taught herself to groom dogs, and  was amazingly proficient in a short period of time.

My dog, Dazzle, just adored Janie.  He had a thing for  people with light colored hair.  But he really really liked Janie and would really  turn on his  normally  aloof personality for her.  He was  sort of ambivalent about  Reggie, and the other 2 brothers she ultimately acquired, Khan and Ivory.  However, when we  went straight racing, as participants in LGRA (Large Gazehound Racing Assoc), Dazzle would crowd in with her guys in their exercise pen. That’s the great thing about Salukis:  rarely are there fights.

Janie was a petite woman.  I’m 5’4″, and she was a bit shorter than me, and probably weighed 50 pounds less.  I  didn’t think she’d ever get Reggie (TSH Crystal Payday, UD ). under control, but not only did she get him under control, she  put 3 AKC obedience titles on him, and he became one of less than 10 U.D. Salukis.  If you’ve never trained a dog, you have no idea the dedication and patience needed—particularly for what we  think of  as a ‘non-obedience’ breed.  Reggie was a typical Saluki, too.  I remember  Janie taking him to a conformation class, and him leaning all the way over rather than allow a ‘judge’ to examine him.  From being like that to standing alone in an obedience ring and allowing a judge to approach and go over him.

I also remember showing at Skokie Valley Kennel Club.  We were the judge’s last breed of the day,the only sighthounds she was judging, and she was clearly not happy.  She withheld ribbons and said, “I’m sorry, but none of these dogs are show quality.”  Janie’s husband, Fred, was furious, and he said he’d never show a dog again. I was sort of amused.  In fact, my dog finished his championship less than a year later. So, there.

Both of our dogs were disqualified from ASFA (lure coursing).  My dog, Dazzle, for playful interference, and Reggie, also, for interference, although who started the  interaction is in contention.

Janie had so many interests.  She did a lot of decorative things around her house,and was a phenomenal gardener.  She became active in North Shore Dog Training Club and the Chicagoland Hound Club…but nobody ever nominated her  to be a member of the Saluki Club of America. She wasn’t breeding dogs.  I felt that to discount her love and contribution to the breed was inexcusable, but it was what it was.

Being a nurse, Janie knew a lot about  drugs and health.  She read a lot.  She was really the only person I could talk to about purebred dogs, and training, particularly sighthounds.  She influenced me so much.  I really respected her.

Early  this year, Janie was being treated for what she described as ‘gurd’, sort of an indigestion problem.  Her doctor was treating her, but she was not improving.  Janie demanded a chest x-ray, because she was afraid something else was going on.  Her doctor kept dismissing her, but Janie was insistent.  Turned out she had lung cancer.    Janie had not smoked for over 30 years. Worse—her doctor knew the diagnosis, and went on vacation without telling Janie until she returned that she had cancer, and then would not refer her to an oncologist.  Janie had to find one on her own.

Even worse than this, was that Janie had, via the  Affordable Care Act, switched from what we both felt was a mediocre  policy with a high deductible to a  Blue Cross Silver  ‘Choice’ Plan.  While it ended up covering a lot of her expenses,  she could not find an oncologist within 10 miles of her  that accepted the plan!  Mind you,  she did not live in the inner city, but an upscale suburb of Chicago.    We have since discovered that  this is very common:  that people can’t tell all the Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans listed on the health exchange, apart.  Many  people have complained about this  to our congresswoman. Jam Schakowsky.  This is why we need a single payer system (though I do wonder if a single payer system in the USA will cap funds for cancer care).

I know how rare it is to meet someone  as a mature adult whom you really connect with.  I knew Janie a quarter of my life.   She died  a couple of weeks ago.  It had looked like  the chemo had shrunk her tumor, but within a couple of weeks,  it roared back.  She was on oxygen and had had a blood transfusion, and was getting weaker.  Finally, she had a stroke.  I really miss her, and will for a long time.  There was so much about her to miss.