Archive for June, 2015

Book Review: Ladies Coupe, by Anita Nair

June 26, 2015

  Traveling as a single woman can be scary at times.  Sometimes, men are jerks.  In many countries, there is a car designated specifically for women on rail lines—including light rail lines in  city areas.  I have  traveled on  Women Only  cars in Cairo (great subway line) and several other cities.    The advantage of the women’s car is that there is no jostling, no stinky asshole choosing to sit next to you, and surreptitiously masturbating.  You can relax and read a book, or look out at the view.  You can also  innocently  talk with other women you meet. This novel’s setting is south-eastern India.  the main character meets the women the author writes about on the train.

Nair’s book  is a book of stories intertwined with  the main character’s  story.  Her father died when she was a teenager, ans she stepped up to support her younger siblings. So, nobody  looked for a husband for her and she developed her career.  The novel is not just Akhila’s story, but the stories of the women she meets in the Ladies’ Coupe.

The interwoven stories are well told.  We learn a lot about Indian culture from  women’s perspectives, as well as Brahman norms. Our experiences of being  abused and exploited by men—and being called bitches when we don’t allow it,  are universal. These are stories of late 20th century Indian women. Not much has changed since the turn of the century  Women are still allowed to live…to be…at the pleasure of men.  This is particularly true if one has brothers.

In 2013, I reviewed Girls of Riyadh, by Rajaa Alsanea:

Girls of Riyadh is about upper middle class young women i9n Saudi Arabia.  Alsanea’s stories are  much different from Nair’s, but what they have in common is intelligent women looking for dignity and peace.

I like this book, and would consider giving  it as a gift to a teenage girl. This is not a fairy tale.  It is not a romance or mystery. Chick lit?  Hardly.  It’s women negotiating their  lives.  Also, Nair includes some India recipes at  the end of the book (cooking is so important in Indian culture).

Unifying the Pet Industry: Ed Sayres, CEO of PIJAC has a ‘new’ Marketing idea

June 19, 2015
An example fo a curved slicker brush---generally, the right brush!

An example fo a curved slicker brush—generally, the right brush!

For those who don’t know, PIJAC is the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council—the lobbying group for the  pet industry.  It encompasses commercial breeders, manufacturers, and retail pet shops.  Anyone in the  pet industry can join, if you want to support the status quo. This is what the pet industry doesn’t want you to see:

-if you think this video is overly sensational…do you think this was staged?

And they also deny that this is typical:

PIJAC defends the bad practices of the pet industry. Although they  say they do education, what members pay them to do is lobby legislators on local, state and federal levels to  not allow those of us who object to inhumane treatment of animals to have more influence than the industry does.  They  have lobbied to make it illegal for us to  document on film inhumane treatment of animals.

This is the irony of the pet industry.  The industry sells the concept of love, care, animal husbandry, and compassion. What it does in reality is defend  worst practice and the  bad actors.  I am responding to a recent Op/Ed piece in Pet Business magazine (June 2015).  Something  people need to know  is that  Ed Sayres, the head of PIJAC, was recruited from the ASPCA :    Yes! He was the head of the American Society for The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,  a humane organization, to head a lobbying group whch, if you come down to it, has opposite intentions of a humane group.

Looks like the board of directors of the ASPCA has some explaining to do on this past hire—and I, again, want to remind people who want to help animals to not fall for marketing flim flam and  keep their donations to local groups that they can actually visit, and ask their boards  what they really do to  care for animals.

In  a recent opinion piece  in Pet Business, Sayres addresses what he—and the industry in general  as the  problem:  animal rights people. Pet Business:

When you  don’t understand who the enemy is—the opposition, as how YOU see them, and not as how they are, you are fighting an entity that does not exist.  You can’t solve the problem.  I’ve said this to animal rights activists as well.

What’s the issue? Well, the  animal rights/welfare people paint all  pet breeders with the same broad brush, and claim that because hobby breeders are selling puppies, animals in shelters are not finding homes.  This is laughable. Why? The people looking for a purebred puppy are looking for a specific type of dog of a specific age. In fact, very few  purposely bred pups from either hobby breeders or  puppy mills actually end up in shelters (the purebreds  don’t end up in shelters until they are mature, and only in  certain parts of the country do those  unsold mill bred pups wind up in shelters—I’ve written about how Wright-Way in Morton Grove, Illinois,  gets their puppies, for example.  I am sure other ‘rescues’ follow the same business model).  If you want those people  who  are searching for  a specific  puppy to consider the shelter adult dog, you had better market that shelter adult dog better.  However,  if your goal is a fantasy, you are not helping those adult shelter dogs find homes.  Also, to tell me that I could not really care about dogs as long as I support planned breeding, you clearly don’t understand the problem, and have alienated me as a supporter and donor!

What I would always do is ask people searching for a puppy:  why not consider an adult dog?  Particularly if they work outside the home over  six hours a day, they will never get the dog housebroken.  As to cats, there is no guarantee that a kitten will mature to be an engaged adult cat—especially if it is alone most of the day.  If the dog seeker is not addressing  coat care and  training,  they should be discouraged from choosing any pet.  Unloved/unwanted pets are dying, and it is not the fault of the pet seeker, but those many backyard breeders who are NOT being held accountable by anybody!

On the other side of the spectrum,  Mr. Sayres is also painting anyone opposed to the sale of live animals in pet stores as animal rights activists—and liars.  He didn’t call us do-gooders, vegans, or naive…but we are all  under the same umbrella. It’s as as though we should see  animal rights activists as all dues payers to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who are upholding their agenda. This is also laughable.  Can you not care about animals and not be discounted?

I see my self as a steward  for my pets.  Most people who seek a pet know they are responsible for  its care.  Most  don’t know how to find a healthy pet. It’s a fact  that many animals destined to be sold as pets die of stress and inhumane handling.  Morbidity is   a fact in the pet industry.  Animals get stressed by temperature, lack of food and water in transport, injury.  They are not humanely euthanized upon arrival, but trashed—and Sayres knows this and  PIJAC never addresses this.  Another dirty secret they (pet industry managers) never address is what happens to animal that don’t get sold. Are they sent back to the breeders?  Dumped at shelters? Killed?  I guess it depends on the individual pet store.  Because  these are issues, and because retail managers know their client base, many now don’t sell dogs or cats…but do sell  ‘lesser’ animals (rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, chinchilla…mice & rats…then herps, birds, fish).  Do these animals deserve less consideration?  Is their pain any less when they are injured or stressed in shipment, then not humanely euthanized?

In his essay in Pet Business:, Sayres  speaks about  how poorly the American Public regards the industry.  He claims the industry  is not ‘getting the story out’ on how competent and caring  the industry is, and that a  new partnership with the PET LEADERSHIP COUNCIL will change all that.

Competency?  I think not.  This is my experience  virtually every day, as a dog groomer:  New client comes in with a small dog wearing a harness attached to a ‘Flexi’ leash.  Because a harness is designed so a dog can lead an owner without feeling physical restraint, this is exactly what the dog is doing….but doesn’t know where to go, so he is dragging the owner  all over.  The owner can’t control the dog.  Even going through an obedience training class run by a pet store (that has sold the owner the harness and Flexi), the owner has failed to get control of the dog.  While it is true that neither the collar nor the leash  trains the dog, having a proper fitting collar and a 6 foot leash make it much easier for the owner to get the dog’s attention.  However, because of the dynamics of the harness, the Flexi, poor mentoring of the  owner as amateur trainer, as well as  the  genetic temperament of most small dogs, the owner has failed to be able to communicate with the dog. The owner is disappointed, and while they  most likely will not dump the dog in a shelter (unless they move,  ‘have a lifestyle change’, get too busy. or …), they will NOT get another dog because owning one is too expensive, too much work,  not enjoyable…and the kids are gone.

The wrong brush for most dogs is the top selling  brush style in America---thanks to the idiots who  manage pet shops!

The wrong brush for most dogs is the top selling brush style in America—thanks to the idiots who manage pet shops!

For over a decade I have been asking  why pet shops don’t sell martingale collars instead of prong collars or harnesses, why they  don’t sell standard leashes rather than promote Flexis, why they  don’t  teach their managers and employees how to use grooming equipment and sell proper slicker brushes rather than  the double sided pin/bristle brushes,  & we can ask why  they don’t SCREEN prospective pet owners  about what their  lifestyles are like and what their expectations for a pet are.

The reason  they don’t do it  RIGHT is because they are retail managers selling products, not animal lovers, and not thinking long term.

There is another way.  Retail managers can  partner with dog clubs as they are starting to do with  animal rescues, and invite the clubs in to  talk about their breeds, and  the club members can advise retail managers about the equipment  to sell that would do the most good. And…they can stop selling pets as livestock.

Unfortunately, the plan is now to sell their competency, or rather, rebrand  their lack of competency, and to continue blaming animal rights activists for the decline of the image of the industry.

So, I have to remind PIJAC ans Ed Sayres of this.  I AM ALSO THE PET INDUSTRY, and it is embarrassing to have to tell  people that they trusted the wrong people: you.



Book Review: Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman

June 12, 2015

By now, most of us have heard of the TV show that is based on this book, and how Netflix  took a leap of faith to finance production of what is a web based TV show, but that is really not the story…nor is the dramatic TV series the story.

The story, very well told by Kerman, is about how she ended up in  jail and her experiences in jail.  For those who  do not know how a ‘white, blond, college educated’  woman ended up in jail…in a nutshell:  she was in a relationship with a woman who  was not running drugs, but who was transporting money for drug dealers.  She had so much cash to transport that she asked Kerman to  help her.  Kerman stopped doing it,  started a new life, and years  later, her  friend was arrested and implicated Kerman.

It is  more complicated, as lawyers are involved, of course, but ultimately, Kerman was sentenced to just over a year in a minimum security  penitentiary.  I think all of us are curious about what life is like for women in jail, and Kerman does a good job of  describing how women cope.  I learned a lot.  So did Kerman.

What really compelled me is my interest in Restorative Justice.  Incarcerating people is expensive, and it does not make communities whole.  I have  no objection to locking up  violent offenders.  I, personally, do not understand why child molesters do not serve life in prison, or why a police officer’s life is worth more than a civilians.  I do not think people who sell drugs or engage in prostitution (unless they are trafficking others) should be locked up.  Unfortunately, we can no longer afford to lock people up for being assholes, or for being stupid.

Indeed, many of the women Kerman met  were locked up, serving arbitrarily long sentences for either trusting some man, or defending themselves against a man.  Many women came from  broken families, mothers who were  drug addicts, absent fathers (who  weren’t working steady jobs anyways).  They were forced apart from their children.  Many could not read.

I knew a lot of this before reading the book, as I volunteer as a court advocate, and I  also have a sister who  does similar advocacy.  We, who think we are law abiding, and manage to stay out of trouble, think  of  the situation as  Us vs. Them, and that’s not how it is.

At the end of the book, Kerman gives information on how to reform the ‘justice’ system, and works for that. I strongly recommend this book as not just a good read, but as an entre into a world we think we understand, but don’t.  The Netflix series is not how jail is.

Are we Making a Dent in Puppy Mills?

June 5, 2015
My last Saluki, Ch. Scenario Razzle Dazzle, JC.  His breeder  hung on to him, thinking he was not show quality, waiting for the right home to come along.

My last Saluki, Ch. Scenario Razzle Dazzle, JC. His breeder hung on to him, thinking he was not show quality, waiting for the right home to come along.

On Facebook, we recently learned that a couple of pet stores—puppy mill outlets—were planning a fundraiser at an area restaurant— so they could pay their legal bills!  for real.  They  claim that (we activists) are putting them out of a legitimate business…and puppy buyers will be forced to  go to the suburbs to buy pups. Really?

Or, maybe…just maybe…they will be forced to do some research and seek out hobby breeders.  Or check out the hundreds of dogs in area shelters and breed specific rescues.  It could happen.

I wrote  to the reporter who broke the story…that the fundraiser was cancelled when Cari Meyers from The Puppy Mill Project, ans several other activists  talked to the restaurant management about what the problem REALLY is.

I have no idea where to start on this…but let me try.
I am a dog groomer.  I have been working with dogs for  over 40 years.  I learned to groom from other  dog lovers:  people who bred and showed dogs.
What I learned is that no ethical  hobby breeder, who loves dogs, sells any dog to someone else to resell. Ethical hobby breeders  want to meet  possible buyers and determine if they understand  how to take care of the pup they want.
As a teenager, I worked for this eccentric named Fred Alderman.  He was a pretty well known Afghan Hound breeder.  Lots of people didn’t like him…but if you had never owned an Afghan Hound, you had to spend a day grooming with him if you wanted 1 of his dogs.  He didn’t want to hear that you  didn’t  know how much equipment you would need, how often it needed to be done, how long it would take.  If—at the end of the day—you  didn’t want an Afghan, no harm/no foul.

I worked for a Miniature Schnauzer breeder.  In the late 1970s,  the hobby breeders were noticing that a lot of the dog they bred were  going blind at age 2 or 3.  Clearly, it was a genetic issue, and they set up a test breeding program  with  veterinary ophthalmologists, and  virtually eliminated  congenital juvenile cataracts from the breed.  Unfortunately, this was just dogs bred by hobby breeders.  People breeding dogs as livestock, for resale, and people breeding their pets didn’t even think about this, because once their pups were sold,  they  weren’t involved with them.

We were making good progress  in making purebred dogs genetically more sound, then the recession hit, and another bad dynamic:  veterinarians who  really aren’t pet lovers not discouraging  people from breeding dogs with discoverable genetic defects…and even leading  pet owners to believe that mixing breeds  resulted in ‘hybrid vigor’ (they are the same species—not hybrids—these designer dogs).

So now we have a whole segment of  pet lovers who believe a designer dog is healthier than  a purebred (not  necessarily so).

I am not the ‘adopt—don’t shop’ type, but my last 4 purebred dogs  came to me as adults from  purebred dog breeders who   are breeding for the betterment of their breeds—and who took dogs back because buyers changed their minds.  That’s what hobby breeders do. They take back their dogs because they love them.  No excuses.

Do you understand the difference? That Amish  commercial dog breeders, and/or USDA licensed breeders are breeding pets as livestock?  And ripping people off?  Every week I get  dogs in for grooming who  bought from these types—- from pet store owners, who were not  screened, were not given proper grooming or training instructions, and believe me ultimately, that all breeders are the same.

The irony is that if these jerks  really loved animals, they could change their business models and not be adding to the many adult dogs abandoned or dumped by  dissatisfied  pet buyers.  & to justify this by saying that these buyers will go to puppy mill outlets in the suburbs? Really?  I bet within a decade we have a state-wide ban on commercial breeding of pets.

I will add that many of the  rescues  are just as bad:  adopting out dogs with questionable temperaments and not being honest about grooming and training needs…but at least they aren’t breeding dogs.

I wish we could hold the shelters and rescues accountable for adopting out dogs that look cute, but are actually a danger to public health, but that  is another issue.  The American Kennel Club is defending the very bad breeders.  We must hold them accountable, and out veterinarians accountable as well.