New Year, New Challenges…


Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki,  on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki, on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

What an interesting year it has been for me.  Mixed bag.  The week of Thanksgiving, I lost my very dear friend Janie Wondergem to lung cancer.  Then, the week before Christmas, Jerry Schinberg, who founded the  first grooming contest in the country, died.  These people are my contemporaries.   Were it not for Jerry, i would neve have met Romaine Michelle—the  top groomer in the country for years. Gives one pause, as they say.

If it’s at all possible, I learned last year to be more skeptical about any job offer.  I have blogged ( about a year and a half ago…) that I quit working for Pet Care Plus because the owner, Jennifer Stavrianos was not only NOT AT ALL ENGAGED IN DOG CARE AT HER DOG CARE BUSINESS, but she hated the environment of  this business so much she refused to believe anything her managers were telling her, and wouldn’t vheck anything out herelf.  (This is not uncommon  with  pet stores and dog daycare/boarding businesses….more and more, they are being operated by business people with no interest in having a relationship with a dog, the fancy , animal husbandry, or animal welfare).   Because she didn’t like the way  the Force dryer looked (it looks like a vacuum cleaner, which, basically, it is), she put it up in the ceiling where I could not turn it on 1 switch at a time and let it power up, but had to  turn it on by a wall switch–  not how it was designed to be used.  She did this because her  ‘fenemy’ and competitor had done it—but she didn’t ask how the competitor had done it, or why.  She refused to believe it was unsafe, and that  it was blowing fuses even over night.  My roommate, a forensic  engineer, who investigates fires and explosions, told me to bring my personal effects home because there was going to be a fire.   The dogs were alone at night. Nobody was on site.  By the time anyone  would hear a smoke alarm, the dogs would all be asphyxiated.   Just for the record, I would never board my  pet at a facility where there was not somebody on site 24 hours.  However, this is very common, You  can’t just assume  that people who operate  pet service businesses really love pets enough to have integrity.  I quit, she hired 2 people to replace me, one whom she fired for being  clueless, the other quit because she wasn’t making enough money.    She  asked me to return—full time 6 months later (she cultivated me for about  two months).  I was working else where making  triple the money, but the commute was  three hours. I had negotiated  for a 5% raise in my commission and a parking place.  She then ‘forgot’ to tell her management staff  of these details, creating a lot of friction.   She never gave me  a written agreement.

She appointed an assistant manager to be a business manager, and to oversee the build out of a new facility, someone with less than a year  experience at her job, and no actual kennel experience at any other  pet business.     A contractor joked that she didn’t  know what  B was paid to do, and compared her to  George Costanza on Seingelf.  By the time  Stavrianos finally took me to see the build out, all the infrastructure issues were behind finished walls. I told her that her architect ripped her off.   He just manipulated a CAD design.  it was the same design—right down to many of the wall colors, I had seen at another facility I had worked in!  That angered her.  Her newly hired general manager (by now, it was July)  who had no pet industry service  experience, just retail, agreed with me,  and Stavrianos told him not only to find excuses to suspend me, but  to build a case to fire me,  and that she intended to fire all staff after the New Year.  Why?  Who knows, as she  didn’t know any of the procedures that were involved in  boarding dogs in her own kennel.  She had never taught any staff. All her staff  was originally’ inherited ‘ from another business, and they  trained other employees.   Illinois is a  fire at will state.  Technically, she doesn’t need an excuse. I told my  manager we were losing our organizational memory. Stavrianos found out about this because, although I had sent the email to the manager, she decided, after hiring him in July, to request he take a 50% pay cut in October. He quit, she intercepted the email I sent to him, and decided I had created a hostile work environment.  It might have been a coincidence that her customer service manager quit a week before, then the manager.  So , since Illinois is a fire at will state, it was my word against hers, and  we are still fighting over whether I am entitled to unemployment compensation. The manager  who quit knew that  Stavrianos was having  some sort of neurological problems because  she kept forgetting conversations  that there were witnesses too, as well as written phone texts she had sent!

I have been offered  several jobs, but  when  doing the test dogs, I was learning that most  businesses offering me job were owned by people who  are new to the industry, and really didn’t care if an employee could make a living wage.   They really didn’t have enough business to hire me even part time, and were in denial. They are destined to get people right out of grooming school who can only shave dogs.   One still owes me $200 (Bella’s in Bolingbrook—I have a case with the ill. Dept of labor).  It’s sad that the industry is really facing a decline, but  all industries go through cycles.  I mean, video rental (Blockbuster) lasted  about 20 years, then Netflix came along, then  even Netflix started offering streaming, and there are no more blacksmiths.

I am lucky that I have enough income coming in from other sources that I don’t have to take just any job, and  can manage to piece an income together.  I also have the free time now to be a court advocate for animals in the court system, and possibly be of service to other nonprofit groups, and possibly do more consulting.  I am optimistic.

A bummer lurks on the horizon in the fact that my old Whippet, Bebop, whom I got  from  Whippet Rescue before there was WRAP, is now 15.  He had an episode  of vestibular disease, as well as a benign but rapidly  growing tumor.  He had the tumor for over a year, and it finally got larger than his head and burst.  We didn’t take it off when it was small because  I didn’t want him to go through the trauma of surgery, and we both thought he’d die first.  The  veterinarians were able to remove it, and his quality of life is better, but he is having cognitive issues.  He is now blind, deaf, and  very stiff.  Glucosamine chondroitin helps, but the Sam-e did not.  He has become  incontinent, but my roommate is quite helpful, and loves the little guy.  In fact, Bebop had come to live with me and Dazzle (now gone 2 years) just a few months before  Kunihiro arrived.  It would be much easier if it weren’t so cold.  I absolutely must put his coat on him.  He’s still eating, and if he hears anyone going to the kitchen, he will trot across the apartment to see if there is a dish on the floor.  It is what it is. Every day is a gift. As long as he is still eating, and seems to have some cognition,he has a right to his life.  Sometimes, it seems to others who don’t know your dog that your dog looks awful or in pain, but you know your own dog.

I’ve had tenants  break a lease unexpectedly when  one  lost a job. This is always a pain in the neck, and I had to replace the clothes dryer and a ceiling fan. When I got the  credit card bills, I looked at the amounts owed, and exclaimed, “What did I buy?” Kunihiro laughed and said he often feels the same way.

Berbop on Santa's lap, with Dash

Berbop on Santa’s lap, with Dash

My real indulgence has been dog training. Dash is much different than Bebop. Bebop, while very brave,  was a tough guy, and I never felt he was perfected enough to  compete in obedience with (although he probably was…I just couldn’t find a class that offered AKC novice ).  Dash got his Canine Good citizenship in ’13, and  his  Junior Courser title this past Spring, and  in early November ’14, got his Beginner Novice and Rally Novice titles at the same trial!  I was very pleased.  The thing is, he doesn’t own the venue for any performance, and is very well-behaved at dog  shows and obedience trials.  He believes he owned all the  concrete from my house to about a mile around it, and gives every dog the stink eye (if it isn’t another sight hound) and is crazy reactive.  he will  just go berserk, then sit and look at me for  two seconds, and resume being crazy,m sit, look at me, resume—you get the picture. . Sort of embarrassing, but that just means I have to keep him under control and remind him acting the tough guy fool is inappropriate.

Are we making progress on the humane issues that I think are important?  Hard to say.  I had a nice chat with Beverly Isla, who may or may not edit it for a webcast.  One thing I always do is remind people  there are  small  things they can do that have a big impact.  I subscribe to a feed, Flagging Animal Sales on Craigslist, which has over 5600 members.  It used to be that  four or five different isps could get a post flagged off, but now it seems it is taking more than 10.  We just have to get more people flagging. In any case, there is an American Bulldog breeder—a backyard breeder, very arrogant, who has litter after litter and posts  on Craigslist to sell. Seems that one of us called the guy, paid him a visit, found out he lived in the city limits of Waukegan, Illinois , was running this as a business, and the police confiscated his litter.  Hope the word spreads.  The  backyard breeders and mini puppy mills have libeled  and harassed me and my employers, and I am sure most of the dogs in animal shelters come from these types of breeders—as there is a lot of evidence they are coming neither from commercial puppy mills nor hobby breeders. If we could pass a law in Illinois mandating the microchipping of every  dog and cat, we could find out more about who is  abandoning  pets people get bored with (nobody who loves a pet  is moving into housing that doesn’t allow pets. That’s an excuse. Nor is anyone getting a job).We just have to make it crystal clear to everyone breeding for fun and profit that they are responsible. They should be funding the animal shelters—not me.

Family issues—I will be glogging n a few weeks about the  dynamics among my sisters, etc.  Amusing and aggravating at the same time…but my  parents raised us to be contentious.

I thank my long term subscribers to this blog.  You need to know that my blogs on prong collars and housebreaking difficult dogs are the most  clicked dog blogs, and the  blog on the Murdoch map of Africa is a close 3rd.  The one I did on fake animal rescues is getting read more and more.  Social media is helping get the word out that there is a community that  won’t allow inventors in the pet industry and  unethical breeders set the tone.

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