Archive for October, 2015

Some are More Equal Than Others

October 30, 2015

I’ve blogged about  my family dynamic before, and I am sure other families have this struggle.  You know a family member is not thinking right, and another family member is enabling  the mentally ill one to continue to  be ‘aberrant’.

I learned that after I called the health department on my brother(several years ago), he was already in foreclosure (apparently, my father did not know this, but it would not have mattered).  So, the family  legend is that my brother was ok until I ratted on him. That was the start of his problems.  Apparently, my father thinks that he wouldn’t have gone into foreclosure…because apparently my brother lied to him about it.  I am sure my father would have paid his mortgage.  After all, my father gave my brother $7000 to  bail out of jail.  While he was in denial about this, and getting evicted, his water was turned off. As my niece said, “He could not even flush a toilet.”  Still not clear that my father knew this, but my father still thinks it’s a lack of common sense—not mental illness.

My brother moved to a commercial area, still  continuing to not throw away garbage, still breeding snakes, mice, and rats. He apparently turned on his air conditioner, and the businessman next door called the police and said, “I think there’s a dead body in there.”  Apparently, the postman did this too—-but apparently the police. did not get a warrant.  However, the landlord moved to evict him.

Since I was not there, and only heard this from my sister (who also hears another side from my father, who believes my brother’s problem is—again—– a lack of common sense, and there is no odor), not sure what order all this happened in.  What we do know is my brother had some sort of horrible skin infection on both legs….from June (this is what happens to heroin addicts:  they don’t die of heroin addiction unless they take an overdose.  They die of the secondary  physical ailments they ignore), and  was in the hospital in early August to be treated.  While hospitalized, he got evicted, and my FATHER was aghast and called my sister, and asked if my brother could move in with her. She told him he could not (she had taken him in over a decade ago, and although he agreed to have no animals, within a month he  moved in snakes and mice). So, my father  bought my brother a mobile him to live in. My sisters and I think he should move in with my brother for a month and then decide if it is a lack of common sense, or if my brother is mentally ill. My brother is 59, my father is 88.

Since I continue to be blamed for my brother’s behavior, I  really see no reason to  be in contact with my father.  He blames me when he speaks with my sisters, but will call and  expect idle chatter as though everything is normal and just fine, and I am oblivious.  He will also  complain about my brother, but now  we sisters will cut him off, as we’ve been hearing the same thing for decades. It pains me to see my father so distressed, but he chooses to believe my brother is more credible than  his three daughters and his wife.  Yes:  one male child is worth more in aggravation and monetary outlay than  three  female children.

I had mentioned that if my brother had  paid 10 years into Social Security, he might be eligible to go on mental disability—but he’d have to be evaluated by the foxes running the henhouse.

I have to think of it this way (correct me if I am wrong), but talk therapy is not going to change anything….but not being able to continue to raise snakes, mice and rats—or have access to the internet–might change things.  All I know is, somebody is going to die, and the other is going to be unhappy, but we girls and my stepmother will be relieved.

Many of my friends are concerned about ‘the homeless’.  There are men with signs at busy traffic intersections, begging for money, holding up signs that say:  “I made some bad decisions…”  But for my father’s wealth, my brother could be one of them.  Having  bullied friends and family, lied to them, stolen from them, many people still feel these people are  entitled to some security.  I used to work for an agency that  provided shelter to the homeless.  Problem was, these guys didn’t want to  live by the rules.  They didn’t want anyone telling them what to do, and didn’t care who they disturbed…so we wouldn’t provide shelter to them. They weren’t stupid. they weren’t physically ill.  They weren’t women and children. They were assholes.  I’m not sure what the solution is except to bring them out to places where they can farm.  Mental illness is awful.  I’ve been mentally ill.  However, nobody can make you seek treatment.

There  are a lot of issues I care about.  This is one reason i  write this blog, but  asshole men who think they are entitled to  a comfortable life  just because they are men…is not  high on my list of concerns.

Book Reviews: “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”:, and “Life, Love, and Elephants”

October 23, 2015

I love books about animal behavior, and I have  two to recommend to anyone interested  in caring for animals, or who just wants to learn more about animal behavior.

The first is, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,”  by Mark Bittner.  Bittner is  (or was) a sort of lost soul/hippie, who  had a hard time finding his way in life. He spent time as a street musician, and lived  off friends and the kindness of strangers, as well as by doing odd jobs, for years, in San Francisco. He lucked into a job as  ‘caretaker’ of a house that he knew would ultimately be sold.  Having a lot of free time on his hands, he noticed a flock of conures, and started feeling them.  From feeding them, he started observing their  behavior, and the dynamics of the flock.  He’s very observant, and an excellent writer.  He realized that the conures are not native birds (to San Francisco), and started learning all he could about them, by going to his local library, bookstores, and seeking out experts.  This is  a great book for any bird lover, and especially for anyone thinking of buying a pet bird.

I had  known about the Sheldrick Trust (of Kenya) because I had seen a feature on their work with orphan animals on the  TV show, 60 Minutes.  This book is an autobiography by Dame  Daphne Sheldrick, who was married to David Sheldrick (who died young of a heart attack).  Her family had  originally  been farmers in South Africa, and were enticed to Kenya.  Yes, her family  were settlers.  It’s a rough life.  However, early on, they were committed to environmental conservation.  She and her first husband went to Tsavo to manage the ‘conservancy’ and address poaching, One thing leads to another,  and she  developed a system to  save orphaned elephants and rhinos.  She saved other orphaned animals, too.  When her husband died suddenly, she was really at a loss, but the Kenyans working in the Wildlife Department, as well as the founders of the African Wildlife Foundation, recognized that she had  worked unpaid along side David for much of her adult life. Kenya needed her.  The Sheldrick WildlifeTrust  not only  nurtures orphaned animals, but also provides environmental education  to the students in communities around the parks.

Both of these books are excellent histories/environmental studies for  animal lovers. The first  book partly addresses how the pet industry impacts wildlife.  The second book addresses the economic as well as social aspects of environmental conservation.


Neglect of Owners Duties

October 16, 2015
 I have friends who believe I play with dogs all day.  What follows is  a draft of an article I wanted to  get published in a pet industry magazine, but the editors of several felt it was to controversial:

This is a section of the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act. You see there is a lengthy section on tethering. What I am going to address is section (3).

(510 ILCS 70/3) (from Ch. 8, par. 703)
Sec. 3. Owner’s duties.
(a) Each owner shall provide for each of his or her animals:
(1) a sufficient quantity of good quality, wholesome

food and water;
(2) adequate shelter and protection from the weather;
(3) veterinary care when needed to prevent suffering;

(4) humane care and treatment.
(b) To lawfully tether a dog outdoors, an owner must ensure that the dog:
(1) does not suffer from a condition that is known,

by that person, to be exacerbated by tethering;
(2) is tethered in a manner that will prevent it from

becoming entangled with other tethered dogs;
(3) is not tethered with a lead that (i) exceeds

one-eighth of the dog’s body weight or (ii) is a tow chain or a log chain;
(4) is tethered with a lead that measures, when

rounded to the nearest whole foot, at least 10 feet in length;
(5) is tethered with a properly fitting harness or

collar other than the lead or a pinch, prong, or choke-type collar; and
(6) is not tethered in a manner that will allow it

to reach within the property of another person, a public walkway, or a road.
(c) Subsection (b) of this Section shall not be construed to prohibit:
(1) a person from walking a dog with a hand-held

(2) conduct that is directly related to the

cultivating of agricultural products, including shepherding or herding cattle or livestock, if the restraint is reasonably necessary for the safety of the dog;
(3) the tethering of a dog while at an organized and

lawful animal function, such as hunting, obedience training, performance and conformance events, or law enforcement training, or while in the pursuit of working or competing in those endeavors; or
(4) a dog restrained in compliance with the

requirements of a camping or recreational area as defined by a federal, State, or local authority or jurisdiction.
(d) A person convicted of violating subsection (a) of this Section is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. A second or subsequent violation of subsection (a) of this Section is a Class 4 felony with every day that a violation continues constituting a separate offense. In addition to any other penalty provided by law, upon conviction for violating subsection (a) of this Section, the court may order the convicted person to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and to undergo any treatment at the convicted person’s expense that the court determines to be appropriate after due consideration of the evaluation. If the convicted person is a juvenile or a companion animal hoarder, the court must order the convicted person to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and to undergo treatment that the court determines to be appropriate after due consideration of the evaluation.
(e) A person convicted of violating subsection (b) of this Section is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.
(f) As used in this Section, “tether” means to restrain by tying to an object or structure, including, without limitation, a house, tree, fence, post, garage, shed, or clothes line at a person’s residence or business, by any means, including, without limitation, a chain, rope, cord, leash, or running line.
(Source: P.A. 98-101, eff. 1-1-14.)

I think most of us wonder what we can do about the violation of section (3): veterinary care to prevent suffering.

When I first started my grooming career in the early 1970s, I worked for a dog groomer who would give her clients an ‘ultimatum’ after she told them twice the dog needed veterinary attention: no new appointment until the dog’s medical issue had been dealt with. Twice I remember, it was dogs with bad teeth. Once it was a runny eye (related to teeth).   After veterinary treatment (teeth being pulled), the dogs immediately gained weight and seemed livelier. THEY WERE NO LONGER IN PAIN.

We were not the only game in town. These clients could have gone elsewhere. They didn’t.

Unfortunately, I know too many groomers who will tell a client once, then ignore the issue because they are afraid they are going to lose the client (as though no other groomer is going to mention that the dog has an ear infection so bad that pus is coming out and the skin had necrosis. Disgusting, aggravating, infuriating.

I am a volunteer for a wonderful organization founded by a couple of dog trainers. The organization is . It was founded to address animal cruelty and its effects on our community. We provide dog training classes in under-served communities, work with kids (and adults) in the justice system, and we volunteer as advocates for animals in the court system.

Setting this program up took years. We had to find friendly police, judges, and prosecutors who could understand that cruelty and violence towards humans often starts with animal cruelty.
We had to explain the laws, and how to interpret and enforce the laws. We had to get prosecutors to take animal crime seriously…and we continue having problems with police not gathering adequate evidence.

However, we do get people charged, and prosecuted.   We do get people to show up in court on behalf of the animals. We wear court advocate badges, and we make sure the judges know we are there.

Generally, the charge of ‘neglect of owners duties’ is an added charge, to dog fighting, other cruelty, or hoarding.  Recently, however, a veterinarian had a client charged. An older couple brought a dog into his animal hospital in a buggy. Not sure why they brought the dog in, but the dog was wearing a diaper which hadn’t been changed in….nobody knows how long, The dog, of course, had feces burning his skin.

My gut reaction to hearing this was, ARE THEY STUPID? But how many clients do we see with feces stuck to the dog, or eyes sealed shut, or necrotic ears? Dogs with rotting teeth? It’s not just puppy mills, and we know it. I’ve had dogs come in with maggots.

We are afraid to turn these people in to local humane officers, aren’t we? I have told clients that there dog is in pain. I’ve suggested they contact local animal shelters which I know will treat dogs at a very reduced cost if money is the issue. You know there has to be a psychological problem on the part of the owner when, six months later, they bring the dog back to you, and the dog is still in horrendous condition.

Because I keep a reminder calendar, I’ve started noting on my calendar when I hope to see the dog again. If the dog doesn’t come in, I contact humane officers to do a well-being check. I am nearing retirement and don’t really care if I anger someone who doesn’t have the integrity to euthanize a dog in pain if they won’t have a veterinarian treat the dog. I’d like to know if any groomers have had any other solutions.



Focus: Getting the Dog’s Attention

October 9, 2015
Berbop on Santa's lap, with Dash

Bebop on Santa’s lap, with Dash

I see dogs with behavior problems most days of the week.  Pet dogs. Dogs that people have gotten as pets with  no plan  or strategy  to get the dog  ‘trained’.  I know the reason this happens is that  dog owners  not only get   wrong or incomplete  information from watching TV, but from the ‘experts’ who have never trained a dog, but who speak with authority, and tell these dog owners what to do.

This is more baffling and irritating (to me) because now, with the internet, you can find all sorts of good information. So, I guess people are lazy and stupid.  I can’t think of any other   explanation for dog owners allowing their dogs to be out of control.

One of my fellow dog groomers told me about a client of hers who just got a puppy.  It’s an Australian Cattle Dog puppy, and  it’s ‘already biting’ so they just keep it in the crate.  She tells me the  owners got the pup from a  Cattle Dog rescue. Really?  A puppy…and it’s already in rescue? Doesn’t that tell you that  too many people are breeding Cattle Dogs, and there are  not enough good homes?

OK, whatever.  I think this  family was expecting a Shih Tzu or Maltese pup, not a working dog, bred for generations to  chase and bite the heels of  sheep and cows.  In my last post about dog training,  I addressed spending a few minutes at a time  shaping the behavior of the dog to get the results you want.

I  offered to help the  family teach the dog to focus, and teach them how to get the dog’s attention, so they can start undoing  what  they’ve already ‘taught’ the pup, and start over….  since my co-worker is the actual contact, we’ll see how this goes…but this is what I am going to tell you all who  got pups under  six months old who are biters:

Most puppies that bite are reacting to something they fear, and are using their instincts to stop what (or who) is causing them to fear;

Or, they were bred to  bite first (react) and if you are planning on keeping this dog as a pet, you have to get his attention;

It’s up to you to make sure the  pup is getting enough exercise, enough rest, and a nutritious diet.  There ar no excuses.  if you are making excuses.  Admit you made a mistake and return the pup.  I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t go looking for another home for the dog—return it to the people who sold or gave you the pup. It is THEIR RESPONSIBILITY.

After exercizing the pup, have the dog sit, touch his temple with your finger then immediately touch your temple, causing the pup to make eye contact. Say, ‘watch me.’ IMMEDIATELY GIVE THE PUP A TREAT (the size of a cheerio.  Click with your tongue as you do this (unless you  have become very adept with a clicker). Do this several times a day.]

Start walking the dog on a leash—-with a martingale collar. NO HARNESSES. harnesses were designed so a dog can pull you, and you don’t want that.  A Martingale collar won’t choke your pup, but will restrain it.  Call  grooming shops, veterinarians, even your park district, to find out who runs dog training classes, and what they teach. You might not be the best dog trainer in the world, but the whole point of doing dog training is  bonding with your dog, and starting to communicate with and understand each other.There are also many  excellent dog training books available.  I like, “Good Owners, Great Dogs,” by Kilcommon & Wilson.

In any case, we’ve learned a lot about dog training and how dogs learn in the last several decades.  It’s all kind, and all positive.  If you don’t want to communicate with a dog, why did you get a dog?


Book Reviews: Over My Head, by Claudia L. Osborn

October 2, 2015

Long story short:  in the late 1980’s, physician Claudia Osborn was taking a bike ride with a friend through her neighborhood, when she was hit by a car and sustained massive head trauma.

On the outside, she looked healed and perfectly normal, but it was obvious to people close to her that she was not healed, and could no longer work as a physician.  her  biggest problem was short-term memory.  She could drive a car, but could never remember where she was going, Indeed, she could not follow through on a lot of activities unless she made a list.

She was lucky to find a program that treated people with head trauma. Although she lived in Michigan with a friend,  she was able to  attend a specialized program that attempted to retrain  people how to think and manage their thought processes, based in New York City.

Her long-term memory was still ok, and she still knew  medicine, and she wanted to practice medicine, but she also realized that  she needed a lot more recovery time and  practice  thinking and managing her life. This is what this book is about.

The idea that she  could even write this book, and explain  her healing process as well as she did, is a miracle.  What is more astonishing to me is that she  could not only pay for this specialized treatment (I guess, as a physician, she had excellent insurance), she could also  afford to fly back & forth between Michigan and  New York City for months.

I am sure strides have been made in treating head trauma in the past 30 years, but  recovery is, I am sure, still a slow process.  Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head, can tell us about that.

This book is very well written, and i would suggest it to anyone  who cares about a person who  has had a stroke or any traumatic brain injury.