Archive for the ‘independent contractor’ Category

Taking Care of a Dog for Extra Income

August 5, 2016
Notice the Afghan Hound taking her half out of the middle. What do you think the Whippets are thinking?

Notice the Afghan Hound taking her half out of the middle. What do you think the Whippets are thinking?

There are several companies that do this now.   It could be a good way to make money.  They advertise nationally, and are always looking for dog care givers.

Before you jump in, let me tell you some  stories…

  1.  Friend who traveled for work left his dog with a family many times.  This was years ago, before cell phones. Finally, the dog got out.  At least he had a collar with a rabies tag. The police picked the dog up, and tried calling my friend, but he was out of town, so  wasn’t listening to his  answering machine (this was before voice mail).  He got home, called the people who  were supposed to have his dog, and they told him the dog got out. They had his  contact info, and never  bothered to call him.  This dog was 1 day away from being euthanized;
  2. An acquaintance was doing this for a living, Didn’t ‘believe in crating’.  Took a dog out for a walk, left a large Shepherd type dog sleeping.  A  small dog went up to the sleeping dog & barked at the Shepherd. the Shepherd bit the small dog, who lost an eye;
  3. Friend was doing this in her home.  During the interview with the client, she sort of noticed that  the client REWARDED both Pugs with a treat every time they barked at him.  He left, and  she had these barking dogs all weekend. They never shut up;
  4.  Acquaintance who actually bred the dog, knew she was nervous, but had her loose in the house while boarding her for the owner.    Breeder’s husband came in and the dog ran out the door as he was coming in. They never found the dog.
  5. I agreed to take care of a client’s  dog.  I didn’t think she’d be much trouble, until I realized she would not urinate or defecate in the yard. She had to be walked.  This would not have been  problem, except that she was large, strong, and after every bunny and squirrel…and barked at strangers.

If you  don’t have any pets and work from home, and have a secured fenced area to let dogs out, or don’t mind walking a dog or two—and are strong enough to handle any size dog, none of this matters.  If you DO have other pets, don’t have a secured yard, and aren’t used to being  in control of a dog, this might be more than you signed on for.

It’s good to get the veterinarian’s contact info (as well as ‘next-of-kin’ for the dog’s owners), info  if they have pet insurance, a big deposit if they don’t.  You may be able to  find sample contracts on line—but you want details spelled out.  You’ve got to have home owners, and liability insurance (many policies won’t cover damage or loss of life). Most care givers ask owners to bring their own food supply (in fact, many boarding kennels do this now).  You absolutely have to have your pets—& the boarder, meet on NEUTRAL TERRITORY and walk in together…at least the  greeting.  You will have  ‘4 more feet of dog’.  It’s not going to be a party.

****

I am thinking of moving the  dog blogs all to another  blog:  “Married to the Hair.”  I’ve about said everything I’ve been wanting to say about dogs, and I’ve been blogging very steadily for four years.  Time  to consider other  ways to express myself.

Why Pet Industry ‘Professionals’ Can’t Find Groomers

July 8, 2016
You'd be lucky to find a pet groomer who can still do a classic Poodle trim.

You’d be lucky to find a pet groomer who can still do a classic Poodle trim.

I had another demoralizing experience a few weeks ago.  I guess what made it worse was that I was hoping  for  a better experience.

I’ve been looking for  part-time work because, where I work now, they can’t get me enough work.  We are working out  the ‘bugs in the system’, because  originally, they didn’t want to pay me to  groom dogs that were getting ‘just baths’.  To most groomers, it is never ‘just a bath’,  and we make money on the dogs we don’t clip, but that is not what this is about.

The kennel owner has been training dogs for over  decade, and  although she provides  dog daycare,  she is one of the few that does not run huge packs of dogs, and knows that most  dogs coming  into her business really need more training.

She told me that she knew nothing about grooming,  and didn’t even know how to bathe a dog, but that her groomer was overwhelmed—-booked at least  two weeks out (doing about 8 dogs a day), and she needed more help.   She was even thinking of quitting. The kennel owner was having a terrible time finding a groomer.  She called all the grooming schools, and people weren’t showing up for interviews, or would groom for a day and not show up again.

Her  set up was ok.  She had adequate dryers and tables, and a good tub.  She showed me her appointments,  and was, indeed, booked two weeks out.   I asked what she was charging for a small dog. She told m $45.  I said, “That is  pretty low, and you really can’t raise your prices over 10%.”  She was not averse to raising prices—or so she told me.  In fact, she wanted  to  open a school for  dog daycare providers, and asked me  if I had eve trained anyone to groom.  I told her I had, but you can’t train a person to have an aesthetic eye, and that’s the problem with  for profit  vocational schools. She, again,  told me she knew nothing about grooming, but felt she had to start looking for  people to train.   I told her I could come in on Wednesday, and to start me with  six dogs and we’d see how it goes.  The kennel was  a bit less than 30 miles from where I live, so it was nice that I could bring my dogs.

A dog i groomed when I worked (frifly) for Pet Supplies Plus, The dog's owner was over joyed, but I got fired for wearing a scarf.

A dog I groomed when I worked (briefly) for Pet Supplies Plus. The dog’s owner was over joyed, but I got fired for wearing a scarf.

In any case, I showed up  at 8:00a.m., and the other groomer was already there and grooming.  She had the computer print -out of our appointments, and I saw I had  eight (not six)  dogs.  I thought that was a bit much, and the other groomer thought so, too, but, as she pointed out to me, the owner and kennel manager decided this. The other groomer always told them no more than  six and they always overbooked her.  I  asked about  the shampoo, as the owner told the groomer always  diluted shampoo first thing. Well, not exactly.  Making it up as I went wasn’t he most irritating thing.  Not being able to regulate the water tempeture was  the most irritating.  I do like to  have everything ready at the start of the day,but there were other irritations.

The other groomer had been at this job for 10 years.  I asked her why she hadn’t suggested raising prices, and she said she had, but some people refused  an increase, so the owner let them get away with the old  price—a price that hadn’t gone up in at least five years, and was low even then.  In fact, their whole fee schedule made no sense. A small dog,  full grooming, was $45, but a ‘bath & touch up was …$40?  a Siberian Husky was $45—and that is really just a bath and blow-out, but a Golden Retrieve was $35 +  $15 for the nail trim. A nail trim takes  less than  five minutes, but a Golden Retrieve bath, blow out, and  neatening will take at least as long as any small dog that needs scissoring, so….?  Yes, the groomer said, but  the kennel manager & owner—who do not do her job, told her  she wanted too much.  I knew I would have to ask for 60% to take this job.

Now, I am getting the lay of the land, and I am called down stairs to talk to a client.  The new client were referred by a relative who has their Golden Retrieve shaved, and they want their Golden Retrieve shaved like that. The  ‘new’dog is 11-years-old, and never has had a professional bath, let alone  had a clipper taken to it.  Not good.  I said to these people, “I have to be honest with you.  I am not sure I can do this, and were he my dog, I would not. It is a matter of integrity for me to tell you he will not be cooler, he will not shed less, and it will not look good.  If he’s not used to the vibration of the clipper, he might not let  me do this.”  They looked at each other and then to me, and, yes, they wanted this  11-year-old dog shaved because they liked the way the other dog looked.

So much stress.  The reception area was crowded with other  clients, so there was no sense addressing  clipper alopecia, and the  business owner’s  husband, who was at the reception desk,  did not say anything.  One of the kennel staff had to carry the dog upstairs to the grooming area (later, I heard the owner say the dog  does stairs at home, so they didn”t understand what the problem was.  What the problem was…was a scared dog).  I had to get more cooperative dogs started, so it was about noon before I could start this old dog.   He was actually in good shape, but he had no idea what was happening.  I  needed someone to hold the dog on the table, as he would not stand.  The other groomer had to text  kennel staff (there is no intercom), and a guy comes up and tells us he’s on lunch break.  Huh? So why  not send someone NOT on break?  About 20 minutes later a girl  comes up,  and I get the dog out of a kennel and have to ask her to lift the dog and hold the dog up while I do nails, sanitary, and get some hair off.  Then she  held the dog up in the tub for me (where, by the way, we never got hot water as we could not regulate the temperature), then helped me get the dog into a crate to dry.  So this dog (mind you, at the most, a $60 fee in most places, and the  business owner is charging  $50) is a two person job. The kennel is losing money on this dog.  I asked the girl to return in about 20 minutes so we can finish the dog.  Meanwhile, the kennel manager came up to ask how I am doing and if anyone is ready to go home.  I ask her to send someone up to help with this old dog, who will not stand for grooming.  After  10 minutes, the other groomer texts downstairs—again, and  about 20 minutes after that, a young man comes up.  I ask him to get the dog, and he starts futzing around with a kennel leash, so I get the dog, ask him to  put the dog on the table and hold the dog up while I shave the dog. While he’s holding the dog for me, he actually texts someone.

The other groomer  uses a very long blade on the other Golden, because the dog has clipper alopecia, and now has a very soft, sparse, fuzzy coat.  The long blade is not doing it for this dog, so I use a shorter blade. It looks decent, but not good.  Choppy.   Meanwhile, the other groomer tells me she actually likes grooming, she is just sick of these people. She is very disrespected.  They have not raised prices, they’ve  taken her dustpan and they don’t have a shop-vac.  Our garbage cans are way too small, and she feels she has  options to  get a job with less stress.  I tell her I can’t return unless they pay a higher  per centage, but I also asked her how often she sees the kennel owner, as the kennel owner has not come up to talk to  me or given me any paperwork.

I am finished with my  eight dogs about 2:30.  I went to reception to  tell them I am finished. The owner is in the training hall with the kennel manager and her husband.  She smiles at me but doesn’t say anything, and leaves out another door with a dog.  The husband sits down at the front desk and starts  rifling through  a drawer.  I say, “You know, Katy didn’t give me any paperwork.”

He hesitates, and finally  says, “Yes, well, we are  parting company. We didn’t like some of the things that went on here today.”  Interesting. Nobody came upstairs to say anything to me.  Except the kennel manager to ask how I was doing, and I said, “I am a bit overwhelmed.”  Several years back, I  took a job where I was told I would get seven dogs a day, but the bather would bathe my dogs.  That never happened due to  the dynamics of the shop.  Within  two weeks of my starting, a groomer who had been at the shop over  22 years came in one day and took all her stuff—-quitting, but never said anything to management…and suddenly I had nine dogs to groom a day.  I told the practice manager it was too much, and she told me to do my best. Then, I was getting  ten and 11 dogs a day, and I continued to tell her I could not do a good job on that many dogs.  I worked for about eight weeks, from 8:00 until  often after  4:30 p.m.  One day, she calls me over to tell me she has to let me go—she is getting too many complaints!  But  give me just seven dogs, and have the bather bathe my dogs?  Not happening.

So what didn’t the  owner’s husband not like? That I tried to dissuade the people with the Golden from getting the dog’s hair cut!  “Now, I know that Goldens are not supposed to be shaved, but…”   he says. It’s a money thing.  I was—again—in a no-win situation.”That dog was 11 years old!  it was a matter of integrity to  suggest they not do  this.  Did they like the way the dog looked?”  “I don’t know,” he replied.

What pisses me off was that  his wife—the kennel owner—didn’t have the integrity to tell the owners of the dog this was not ethical, and she didn’t have the integrity to talk to me about it, although she had all day. She had her husband—a person I had never met…do it.  Yet, she is going to bring integrity and professionalism  to pet services.  And she wonders why she can’t find a groomer.

We had an unpleasant email exchange, where she accused me of doing a bad job on purpose, and also claimed I cut the dog & she had to pay the veterinary bill & refund the grooming fee.  She actually never saw the dog.  she also told me  the other groomer was quitting because of an injury.  clearly, the other groomer needs a reference, and  won’t tell the owner the truth.

Here’s what another groomer blogged about, recently: https://poodlequeen.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/where-have-all-the-groomers-gone/

I can’t imagine how  someone who has never  even groomed their own dog  thinks  they will  just be able to hire a groomer, with no thought about  equipment,  how long a grooming takes, or what  a fair fee for a job is…but this is the direction  my industry is heading.

Vacations for Animal Lovers

May 13, 2016
Pariah dog sleeping at Ephasus in turkey

Pariah dog sleeping at Ephasus in turkey

My passion is  working with animals.  From  before I could read, I knew volume #7 of the Encyclopedia Britannica had the dog pictures.  I used to love  pulling it out and looking at the dog pictures.  Growing up, I lived in a very middle class suburban (Skokie) neighborhood, where, if people had dogs, they were behind fences.  If I saw someone walking a dog, I went crazy. Part of this obsession was because my parents wouldn’t let us have a dog until we were  mature enough to take care of one.  My father  owned his own business,and my mother  had four kids  under 7 years old. Looking back, I  totally understand the logic.  What happened, however, was that my sister and I  took every dog book we could find out of the library. We finally got  our first dogs when I was  nine-years-old.  We  taught that dog all sorts of things.  I took every opportunity I could find to work with dogs. I learned to groom dogs.  I have also titled my pet dogs in performance.  When you work with dogs, you learn your limits.  At one time, I wanted to own a kennel and have a bunch of my own dogs.  When I started working in kennels, I learned that it is  hard to give quality time to more than a few dogs. So many dogs need homes, and many without homes need advocates. What could I do?  If I fostered a dog, I would be cutting into the quality time I spend with my own dogs. and it would change the dynamic in our household.  So, I looked for opportunities where I could help others who  care for pets needing help.

Reception at Lilongwe SPCA. in Malawi

Reception at Lilongwe SPCA. in Malawi

There are many ways to help when you  can’t foster or adopt another pet.  Most shelter and rescues need help with accounting, marketing, and fund-raising, as well as recruiting  other volunteers.  Here in Chicago, I volunteer as a court advocate for  http://www.safehumanechicago.org  This means, when someone is charged with an animal related crime (neglect, cruelty, or dog fighting are the common ones), I go to court to make sure the judge knows that the community has an interest in this case.  Mostly, it is just being there.  We let the  prosecuting attorney know  we are there, and they make sure the judge knows we are there if the  courtroom is crowded. The police making the arrest also know that we are there.  This makes everyone take animal crime more seriously. Another thing I do is support pet rescues, especially pet rescues in  developing countries.  Now, due to the internet, where you can google ‘animal shelter/country, you can get linked up with  animal lovers in  most places.  In many places, you can even volunteer. I volunteered , via Cross Cultural Solutions, to work with a community based group in New Delhi, India, and some people told me about Frendicoes.  Friendicoes mostly does trap/neuter/release, and has a small shelter.  Virtually all the animals they have are pariah dogs and cats:  that is, they are true street  animals, and really not suited to be pets. Several years ago, I visited Turkey. Via networking, I was able to get in touch with  the people who run the Forest Sanctuary, outside Istanbul.  They had about 100 dogs at the time we visited.  Western Turkey is becoming very urbanized, but the Turks, for the most part, never  kept dogs in their homes.  Also, like impulsive people all over, many  buy dogs and tire of them.  Those involved in rescue are very pragmatic.  They do trap/neuter/release (and one reason for the  protest over loss of park land in Istanbul several years ago was not just  over loss of open space to a shopping mall…but loss of habitat for the street dogs and cats), but also care for  dogs at the Forest Sanctuary outside of the city. They work with a Dutch rescue, and ship many dogs suitable for homes to Holland. I’ve also  visited  ‘shelters’ in Hoi An, Viet Nam (http://www.vnanimalwelfare.org/category/slider/) , and both Lilongwe and Blantyre, in Malawi.  They all welcome volunteers.  Soi Dogs, in Thailand not only needs volunteers, but  people who can accompany a dog (as a courier)  from Thailand to the USA.  The Sighthound Underground and Galgos del Sol also need couriers, and you can volunteer to work in the Galgo kennel in Spain. There are also  animal shelters in more ‘vacation oriented’ places.  http://www.animal-kind.org  can put you in touch with  many shelters needing assistance.  So can Norah Livingstone: http://www.animalexperienceinternational.com/aboutus.html.  World Vets:  http://worldvets.org/volunteer/upcoming-projects/  has volunteer opportunities in  Central America and southern Asia.  If you are more the type who  just wants to observe, or maintain habitat, Earthwatch http://earthwatch.org/has programs, many involving habitat conservation or observation of animal behavior, overseen by scientists. Meeting  other animal lovers and sharing information is a great way to spend vacation time.

The 2nd Blog About Going Back to Africa

February 4, 2016

I’ve been doing research almost every day on transport, say, from Mua mission to Mangochi (in Malawi), and places to stay.  Google ‘Lilongwe to Lusaka by bus.’   You can get Lusaka to lilongwe, but not the reverse. Traveling in inland Africa  is so …difficult. Roads are bad, transport is badly regulated, bus companies go out of business or  radically change their routes.

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock's ethnic map of Africa

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock’s ethnic map of Africa

I paid for the airfare back in June 2015.  I did this after Zambia removed the requirement for a Yellow Fever shot. Having had 3…I would have gone to Hong Kong or  Costa Rica if the requirement was still in place (no word on Zika—now in the news…).

I sent my passport to the Zambian embassy for a visa in October of 2015—before the ‘holiday rush’, and checked the Malawian embassy website—still no visa needed. Apparently the requirements changed  just after I checked the website.  From $0 to $100.  How did I find out? By checking the Peace Corps Malawi Facebook page…someone just happened to post asking if anyone had trouble getting a visa!   This was now the middle of January, 2016.   So, I checked the embassy website again, and sure enough, yes, a visa is now needed. Why?  It’s only fair:  they charge  now for whatever country  charges their ‘nationals’ for a visa, and the USA charges $161.

So, I emailed the embassy.  All the emails bounced back. So I called…and they graciously returned my call, and told me, as the website says, they could get it done in 5 days…and to Fed Ex my passport.  I asked if I could get one at the border, and they said I couldn’t.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but I could picture having to get off a bus at the Zambian/Malawi border, and being asked for $100 & to fill out forms, and a bus not waiting,  and being stuck.

So, I got the application, flight info, photos, passport together and Fed Exed it.  This was on Jan.19.  It got to the Embassy on Jan. 20.  On Jan 28, I called to ask how things were going. Not well. Seems that—due to the blizzard that hit Washington, DC earlier in the week, the embassy had been closed, because the roads had not been cleared (let alone the sidewalks).  But, I was assured that  the passport would be sent out  on Friday, Jan.29.  But it wasn’t.  I checked the  Fed Ex tracking number—for the return envelope I had sent, and it was still sitting there!

Now, I’m frantic.  I can’t get on the plane without a passport.  I called my credit card company, Chase Freedom, because they insure  for ‘trip interruption ‘ when you pay on their card (my airfare).  Ah, no…they never heard of anything like this, but this wasn’t weather related as far as they were concerned. So, then I called the travel insurance company, WorldNomads.net, to see if I was covered.  No, If it is not explicitly listed  in their causes, no.  I am not covered.  I call Emirates asking about penalties for rebooking.
They tell me to call the travel agent to see about fees.  What to do?

I decided to call FEdEx and arrange a pickup at the Embassy for Monday morning. I even offered to pay overnight express.  Funny thing—they say the Embassy has already paid it on my tracking  number!  They just have not set it out!

Here’s the thing:  if your envelop is not ready to go, the Fed Ex driver will not wait.  Due to the embassy people being behind on everything, they  did not see that it was not picked up on Friday, then on Monday, they had a question about the address (I had it sent to a local receiver  due to my running around), but it finally got out Monday night.

So I have a few other questions & continue to email contacts in Malawi. What denomination bills should I get, as the exchange rate is Mkw 726.38 to  $1 USD…and do I need to bring my heavy  electric converter to recharge my cell phone.

You Can’t Miss it!

Since roads are often unmarked (but everyone knows what they are…)

Here’s an example of  directions I got for  Chishawasha Children’s Home outside Lusaka:

From Kathe Padilla: You will probably need to take a bus from the main bus station downtown out Great North road.  About 5 K out of Lusaka (going North) there is a
Police Checkpoint, where all the automobiles and trucks are checked.  A bus may or may not get checked, I am not sure.  Three K beyond that check point
on the left hand side is a large sign for the Chishawasha Children’s Home of Zambia.  It is quite a few years old by now, so it is looking old (presuming
it has not been re-painted since I was there in July of 2015).  Take that road (a dirt road named Minestone road, but there is no sign for the road) and walk
about 4 tenths of a kilometer and you will see the gate, which says Chishawasha Children’s Home and the school itself is visible from the road. FYI the school
is pink)  Go to the guard and tell them that Aunt Kathe invited you to come visit and the guard can direct you to the administration building.  You will want to
talk to Mary or Carol.
Another way of arriving at the same place is:  about 7 K from Lusaka (again on Great North Road a few K past the police checkpoint) there will be a large billboard sign on
the right side of the street for “Spinalong”.  When you see that sign look down the road (going North) toward the left side of the road and pick out the
tallest tree on the horizon.  That tree is located just at the road where you will need to stop (you should see the CCHZ sign before the bus stops).  Againwalk 4 tenths of a K and you will see the CCHZ gate.
Good luck.  It really is quite easy to find.
And….
Directions on getting to  Friendly Gecko Rest House, outside Senga Bay, in Malawi:
Public transport is pretty straight forward from Lilongwe to Salima, and you can get minibuses from the main bus station.  From Salima, you will want to take a minibus, truck, or whatever transport you find towards Senga Bay, but make sure to let them know you want to get out at the Lifuwu turn-off (parachute battalion)If you get lucky, you’ll find a truck going directly to Lifuwu.  If not, when you get to the turn-off you can hire either a bicycle taxi or a motorcycle to bring you to the village.  When you arrive, you can ask anyone where the azungu cottage is, or pay your taxi a little extra to get you to our guesthouse.
And here are directions to Malawi Children’s Village:
I asked:
I plan to  come from the north—from Mua Mission.  If you are closer to Monkey Bay, there is no reason for me to go all the way into Mangochi—especially if I  catch a matola. So—-once I get to Mua, should I take  M10 towards Malemba?”  Then, towards Mzima Bay, or south then towards Club Makolola?
Response: We are south of Monkeybay Mangochi road.  From Club Makokola we are almost 3 kilometers going south.  When you catch Matola just tell them you are dropping at MCV.  Everybody knows this place.  We are looking forward to meeting you soon.

So, where do you see yourself in five years?

December 19, 2015

bewaresignSince I failed to marry someone to keep me in the style to which I wanted to become accustomed….I know the only way I would be ‘independently wealthy’ is to sell my house within the next year and move to a cheaper place.  Cheaper meaning a place with lower or no property taxes, as my property taxes are now higher than the mortgage!  Really. We pay about $400 a month  in property taxes (more or less, with exemptions), and  Mayor Rahm,instead of promoting the tax on  investment trades, is closing our public schools and laying off teachers (all the while with evidence that the charter schools are not providing a better  education product for our students) & lets not forget Barbara Byrd Bennet, who  ripped off the students not just  for her outrageous salary, but for $20 mil in  a skim for her ‘consulting firm’!  & lets not forget payouts for  bad police behavior.  Yeah yeah yeah—this has been going on since at least Daley, if not before, but it’s now over the top.

At one time, I saw myself owning a boarding kennel and showing dogs, but it really took Enron, 911, and the financial crash of 2008 (read Michael Lewis’ “The Big Short” if you’re unclear about  this), to dash that. In fact, I had learned about  the craziness of land speculation  when I was in grad school, but we all had to be in denial  or we  would have  given up.  In any case, that  was  one of the first nails in the coffin of ‘the fancy’, which I have blogged about ad nauseam.   Many of my naive kennel club members really believe we have to support AKC lobbying efforts on behalf of commercial breeders, as this affects all breeders. But come on—can we not come up with  a number of dogs a dog lover can keep  and have a relationship with?  Sure, some puppy mills, like Blythewood, breed excellent dogs….but is Joan Huber or her staff actually screening buyers….or do they  just think that anyone who would pay that much will automatically provide a good home?  I am sure she doesn’t care if less honorable  puppy mill breeders buy from her.  I am sure the explanation is that ‘at least they are buying genetically sound dogs to breed.’

I love grooming dogs, but I can see what’s happening, too. Fewer people  care if the  dog  actually looks good, and fewer people are training their dogs anything.  Fewer people are middle class.  I’ve been working at businesses in upscale areas, where  people can afford the service, but more and more are getting mixed breed dogs—and they are not rescues.  They are still believing the marketing.   It’s very discouraging, because many of these mixed breed ‘designer dogs’   you can’t make look good. Their coats are just impossible. I may spend more time training my own dogs .

About 30 years ago, after Peace Corps, I was thinking of  academia, but it’s hard to  get in, except as an adjunct, and frankly, though it is hard to believe, dog groomers make more per hour!

So, I see myself now as mostly retired, maybe grooming  2 to 3 days a week,  doing volunteer work, and traveling several times a year.   I really have enjoyed the Saluki Club of America and the American Whippet Club weeks of specialties, with all their activities.  I still have not been to Central America or Hawaii.  I’ll just have to see how it goes…

Why I Joined a Kennel Club

December 10, 2015
This is a display of rosettes at the American Whippet Club Specialty , 2015

This is a display of rosettes at the American Whippet Club Specialty , 2015

When I was thinking of breeding and showing dogs, I became a member of a kennel club.   One of my employers had been a member of the Waukesha Kennel Club in Wisconsin, and it was from those club members that she learned to groom the terriers and  many breeds we saw in our shop.  In fact, she learned to groom Bedlingtons from Charlie Prager, who invented the first portable grooming table and fluff dryer (Groom-Rite).

For a long time, I was not active in a kennel club.  I was either working my own business or  in the process of a divorce, or in school. Then I was in Peace Corps, then  re-acclamating myself to life  in the USA.  I just didn’t have ‘time’.  And how much time would it have actually taken to be a club member?  Not much, really.  In fact, it would have helped with business networking.  This is really the best reason to be a member of an all-breed  dog club, for groomers and trainers. Hobby breeders sell puppies that need services.

However, I knew from being a club member (I was a member of the Goldcoast Kennel Club in Chicago until 1987…the club has since  folded),  many of the club members were not breeders. They were  fanciers who may have shown a dog in the past, or were hoping to show a dog, but they were not active breeders.  We were all members for the same reason:  to support the fancy. That is, support people breeding dogs for the betterment of their breeds.

Vern Price, of  Crown Jewel Dalmatians, did a lot to  make the club a success.  He  instituted a 50/50 drawing for cash, and pulling a member’s name out of a hat at every meeting for a cash prize.  He made sure the club offered both obedience and conformation classes.  Vern made sure there were prizes for every dog show class at  the annual all-breed show.  Whether you  liked or hated Vern,  he made sure the club functioned.

Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki, on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right. Bred by hobby breeders for the betterment of their breeds.

Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki, on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right. Bred by hobby breeders for the betterment of their breeds.

When Vern died, the club started to disintegrate, and there is no longer a Goldcoast Kennel Club.  In the Chicago area, there are still about a dozen all breed clubs, but hardly any has an active membership. Worse, though, is that the specialty clubs are folding due to lack of members.  Granted, most clubs  exist at all  for breeders to promote their breeding and support their breeds.  They  have done this by holding dog shows, paying for research into health and genetic problems their breeds have, holding grooming classes, and supporting  performance training and events (agility, barn hunt, schutshund, lure coursing, etc) to keep interest in their breeds—and  individuals  competing with their breeds, alive.  Actually, the  breed club I belong to, the Greater Chicago Whippet Club—has no breeder members!  We are all  pet and racing folks who want to  socialize with other sighthound fanciers!

Purebred Bedlington. another breed with such a small gene pool, with genetic health issues, that the puppy mills have generally ignored.

Purebred Bedlington. another breed with such a small gene pool, with genetic health issues, that the puppy mills have generally ignored.

What has been happening —and those of us who have been grooming for several decades know this—-is that the American Kennel Club, the holder of the stud books (that is, records of who got bred to who), is supporting commercial breeding of dogs in our state legislatures (and defending the right to commercially breed pet dogs), at the expense of the fancy (what purebred dog enthusiasts are called).  Many breeders have ‘aged out’ or died, or just got disgusted with the whole cultural milieu.  Their  children either  never became interested, or can’t afford to  breed dogs.  Few  people can, with the middle class actually being less than 49% or all households.  So that means than many wonderful breeds don’t have viable gene pools…and as for the popular breeds, your chances of buying a  well bred pup without being on a waiting list is slim to none.  Of course, many of us are willing to take mature dogs, but how about our clients?  So, if they want a dog of a breed, their only option  is buying commercial breeders.

Why should dog  groomers be concerned? You might think this does not matter because  you haven’t gotten a new client with a purebred dog in several years (unless you  breed your own business).  Indeed, I  work in an elite section  of the Chicago area, and  all we are seeing is designer dogs.  It’s shocking  how many people have paid so much money for these mixed breed dogs…and virtually all of them have genetic health issues, because the people breeding dogs for the market really don’t care.  Also, by the time these pet owners learn that their  dogs will need a pricey health intervention (repair of liver shunt, removal of cataracts, fixing luxated patellas)….the breeder will be gone.  This is not to say  this  does not happen in purebreds—as it does, and these mixes are not pariah dogs, but mixes of purebreds.  But I do know that members of the American Miniature Schnauzer Club virtually eliminated congenital juvenile cataracts in their members bloodlines by paying for research , test breeding, and putting in the time and heartache.

If we don’t support hobby breeders, and let our  grooming clients know there is a difference, we  won’t have a grooming industry in about 10 years…unless you’re happy with shaving down dogs.

We must work together on this.  I urge you to network, and find a dog club you can work with.

Why ‘They’ Can’t Find Dog Groomers

August 14, 2015
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 have  several friends who work as consultants in the pet industry.  They network, they market.  One has extensive experience training dogs. Another has worked in dog businesses, but she has never trained a dog,

They both see the posts on Craigslist another sites where business owners post for dogs groomers.  They are wondering why these businesses can’t find  groomers.  Here are the reasons:

1.  The most competent dog groomers may or may not have learned at dog grooming schools, but  they keep up their skills or learn new skills by  networking with other fanciers and going to dog shows.  YOU want them to work weekends, when most dog shows take place.  They can make just as much money working out of their homes;

2.  You don’t offer a living wage. The average dog groomer makes about $30,000 a year: .http://www1.salary.com/Animal-Groomer-and-Bather-Salary.html   This all depends on demographics, the macro economy, weather, location relative to competition, etc.  You can see from the chart that some groomers do better, but many don’t.  You can go to a community college and become a pharmacy technician and make much more with a lot less stress. So, knowing this (most people who decide to become dog groomers do NOT know this, nor do they do any research…), why are people becoming dog groomers?  They think of them selves as  unique, artistic, independent, and want to work with dogs.  The schools will ‘teach’ you,  whether you have any common sense or talent.  These are private, for profit schools.  Nobody will know until you do a ‘test’ dog for them.  The big box stores will teach you themselves.  Do you  know what a living wage is in your area, or are you living with a parent or partner who pays all your bills?

3.  The employers, especially the ‘big box’ chains, think 1 groomer is just like the next. They  know a certain  number of employees won’t show up on time,  will not follow their rules,  may not thoroughly rinse a dog , clean the dog, or dematt the dog. Some will accidentally injure a dog.  All these employers care about  are profits per square foot or per hour.  Their business model is to  be cheaper and more available than a skilled artisan, and they are banking on the average pet owner not really caring about anything else.  If you dare question a fellow worker  or their store polices  regarding being safe or inhumane, you are out.

4.  These non-grooming employers have a ‘vision’ of how they want their businesses to  appear: business like. This has nothing to do with being safe or humane,because they  know most pet owners aren’t looking that closely.https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/i-got-fired-for-wearing-a-scarf-why-the-corporate-pet-stores-are-always-looking-for-groomers/

5.  Working conditions are poor.  often there is no place to park. Lighting might be bad. There is no dehumidifier, and often not enough dog dryers.  Some shops  allow dogs to run around, so the dogs are underfoot, pooping, and that is stressful.  People run in and out of your space and distract dogs.

6..  The experienced groomers know this and won’t be fooled again. they either leave the industry or groom our of their homes, getting clients by word-of-mouth.  Until the  managers and decision makers learn to respect groomers and treat groomers as skilled workers—or people stop spending money on getting dogs haircuts, there will be a mismatch.

Dog Grooming Terminology…and the State of the Industry

July 17, 2015
This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not  grow like this .naturally. they need haircuts.

This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not grow like this .naturally. they need haircuts.

Should dog groomers be licensed?  If so—who makes the rules?

In case you didn’t know from reading past blog posts, I  generally work as an independent contractor.  Often, taxes are taken out of my paycheck (& I feel this is a good thing, as I pay less per cent FICA—or Social Security), but my hours are not regular, and often I don’t know what I am doing day-to-day.  Doe a very long time, grooming terminology was pretty standard.  If I made a mistake—it was leaving a dog’s hair too long—and it could always be cut shorter.

Often I’ve had employers/contractors lie to me about how booked they are and how much work I can expect (and how much income I can expect to make).  This has been happening much more often in the past 10 years as  the hobbyists/fanciers who originally owned dog businesses retire, and the  ‘slack’ is taken up by people  who just want to own a pet business (who are not groomers), or  people being taught at dog grooming schools—who think they really know how to groom.

Some DO know how to groom—at least they can  scissor evenly. But do they know the nuances of the breeds?  Or,  that if you clip a double coated dog you might cause clipper alopecia? How about that it’s not how much suds you get —but the agitation of active ingredients of shampoo against the dog’s hair?  Do they know that neither hair—nor water—in the dogs ears cause ear infections, but it  is  a synergy of  bacteria, yeast, and stress that  are the cause of most ear infections?  Ah, no.  Nor do these newbies know anything about animal behavior. They are not fanciers from way back who  took delight in communicating with their pet dogs. Many I have met decided to groom  because they didn’t know what else to do with their lives and they ‘loved dogs’, or (more recently) a dog groomer  injured their dog, so they decided they’d do it better….yet…

These newer groomers (who’ve been taught  in the past 10 or so years), who  claim they  run  their businesses so they are safe, or are better at  styling, or do a better job brushing dogs—-do they really offer a better outcome in terms of safety  for dogs or quality of work?

I recently worked for a very skilled groomer who  graduated from a grooming school and never worked for anyone but herself.  That was a red flag to me, because we learn so much from each other.   Upon graduating grooming school, she immediately bought a mobile  grooming van, and was successful.  I’ve had several mobile groomers tell me their clients are not so concerned about styling.  They are  concerned about convenience only. It so happened that this particular groomer I was working for  was very conscientious.  However, she thought that everyone who ever learned to groom learned the same terminology, the same methods, the same styling  practices, but worse, now that she was in a shop (rather than in the van), it was safe to allow all the dogs to run loose in the shop.  It was not safe, for  individual dogs, and  this was for many reasons.  In any case, she thought we should be licensed as it would be safer for  dogs. Really?

Her dog was  killed when it hung itself  jumping out of the tub…and although she has signs that say: DO NOT LEAVE DOGS IN TUB UNATTENDED, her bather regularly does this.   The owner is too busy to notice.   So, she allows  two practices  that are not safe for  pet dogs.

This business owner complained about how much shampoo her groomers were using.  It could be very irritating  to a dog’s skin to use concentrated shampoo…but she was not making sure the shampoo was being diluted to the ration the manufacturer suggested.  I  guess that as long as the groomers made the dogs look good, it was not enough of an issue to  solve.

When I  was taught to groom dog…every dog was a poodle.  Maybe  one out of 50 dogs a miniature Schnauzer or a Cocker Spaniel.  We never saw Maltese or Yorkies, and there were no Shih Tzu or Bichons because they were not yet recognized breeds by the AKC.  So how did we learn these  other breeds?  By either apprenticing with hobby breeders or professional AKC handlers, or going to grooming seminars which the kennel clubs held.

There were no ‘bath & tidy’ groomings, but what started happening was that dog groomers offered the service of a bath which included the ‘tidy’: which was—for every shop I ever worked in…besides the bath—the ears and nails, the sanitary trim (including hair in pads of feet), and scissoring up to  first joint:  the hock or pastern!  Now, they are calling any  ‘off’ breed  grooming—which—in the past—you would never use a clipper blade on the body (unless the owner specifically asked)—-a bath & tidy.  For us old timers—this was a full  Golden Retriever (or Collie, or Pekingese) grooming.  I was rudely told  that I didn’t know how to groom because of how I interpreted instructions!

So, how are we going to legislate this?  If the shop owner discounts how unsafe it is to allow a pack of dogs—a new mix  of dogs —including intact dogs—every day—that doesn’t know each other, to socialize, but they are not licensed as a dog daycare center—-so nobody is actively watching  dogs to make sure nobody is bullying another dog,  or checking to make sure  the dogs socializing are inoculated against kennel cough (or don’t  have  giardia or other type of parasite ), is YOUR PET any safer than if the  shop and groomers are  licensed?  As an aside—best practice in dog daycare is :  no intact dogs, and  one ‘handler’ for every 12 dogs. In Illinois,  15 dogs per handler  are allowed…but the law is not enforced.

Who should set the guidelines to license groomers?  The veterinarians,  who’ve mandated that dogs should get a rabies shot every year (when their immunity is probably good for  at least  five, if not 10 years)? The veterinarians who suggest putting a harness on a dog so he doesn’t suffer a collapsed trachea rather than telling the owner to teach the dog not to pull on the  leash?  Groomers who are politically connected, but may not be able to tell a Lhasa Apso from a Shih Tzu, or a Welsh Terrier from a Lakeland?

I worry about all this.  I was told I was not a good groomer  because I didn’t know a ‘bath & tidy’ on a Golden Retriever was actually really a full groom.   I was accused  of not  cleaning a Portuguese Water Dog’s ears out (after a breeder told me to NOT pull all the hair out as it night irritate the ears more than leaving some hair in), and for not  deshedding a nervous dog who clearly was flight shedding…because the instructions did NOT include a deshedding treatment.  I can’t tell you how many groomers have laughed at me about this (not believing that it happens frequently)!

I worked  briefly for a groomer who tethered all dogs to grooming tables, which resulted in  a lot of  anxiety, pooping, and  leash chewing. She discounted that dogs  are stressed when tethered, and she just didn’t want to buy more crates. In addition, she sold  harnesses, so  dogs could pull their owners around.  No collars, only harnesses (not realizing that after this cute fluffy dog dies the owner will have had enough of a dog being in charge of them, but thinking there is no alternative, and not getting another dog.

Maybe I shouldn’t worry.   One groomer whom I respect  said that designer dogs are a fad (but will ethical hobby breeders…breeding for the betterment of their breeds, be able to maintain a gene pool?).  That as dogs get injured in poorly run shops, those shops will go out of business.  I wish I could be so optimistic.

They Aren’t All Dog Lovers! (A Bully Reappears…)

April 3, 2015

Nella Poodle 002 (Small)Several years ago, I posted a blog called, “Are you looking for a dog grooming job in Chicago?”  It mostly gets hits from  non-grooming business owners—and groomers looking for jobs.  The gist is, that  because  in our area we are generally paid commission–meaning you only get paid when you  actually work on a dog, it is easy enough to ‘hire’ a groomer whether you have the work for them–or not.  Some shop owners don’t like this blog because  they don’t like the idea that  I am telling groomers looking for a job to be careful.  I have been told  this is the reason many wouldn’t consider hiring me. Well, I don’t want to work for anyone who is dishonest, unethical,  or who doesn’t think integrity is important. We are  working with peoples’ pets.  They are trusting us to be kind, humane, and  honest.  If they are  dishonest or unethical  with their groomers, the groomers feel the stress—and the dogs they work on feel it, too.

This business is a service business. it’s all about relationships:  the groomers’ relationships with clients as well as the clients’ dogs. I always feel sad when I leave a job because I will miss the dogs.  Sure, I will meet other dogs, but  MY DOGS—THE ONES I’VE  GROOMED WHO’VE TRUSTED ME have to get used to new groomers.  Grooming is an intimate act. Too many business owners discount the importance of this.

If you are a novice groomer, or have only worked  one or  two places in your ‘career’,  you probably will take a while to catch on.  So many  people  who want to groom dogs go to  a grooming school, then think they now know  what thy are doing. I did—and soon learned that I didn’t!  I was lucky:  my third job was with a woman who showed dogs and  took the time to learn from her fellow dog fanciers…but that’s how it was in the 1960’s & 1970’s.  Everyone who  groomed  dogs showed dogs.   They showed dogs not only  to  prove they had the ‘best’ dogs, but to be with other dog lovers.  They learned from other dog lovers. That is no longer the case.

The  industry became an industry when Poodles became popular, and more middle class people could afford the luxury of owning a nonshed dog.  That era really lasted little more than a decade.  It lasted until  the practice of real estate speculation started heating up….but I am not writing about economics so much as the dynamics of an industry where most of the skilled labor are women, and how they look at themselves… and  who  the  business owners are now.

Licensing  groomers or shops will not change who has the capital to  own the businesses, or their views on  who provides labor.  Just because a person says they love dogs—does that make it so?  How about the  person who collects a dog or  two, spoils them, never trains them, and makes excuses for them being biters or not housebroken?  For putting prong collars  or harnesses on them? Who disrespects your experience with grooming and training, because they don’t want to believe that they may not have as much personal integrity as they thought?  I have  checked out jobs with these people. I remember  one business owner who got the capital from her husband, and who learned to groom from a pet shop  chain. She had  five dogs—none obedience trained.  She also didn’t have a business plan when she bought  the business, and was out of business in less than six months. Sometimes, you can just tell …

I am going to  revisit several posts I put up several years ago about why I quit a job and how I  got bullied when I  refused to take a job offered.  The gist of why I quit a job  was that an owner, based on not enough information, put a piece of equipment in  a place where we could not use it safely, and  told me I had too much stuff plugged in.  I knew that was not true.  She was also angry that I would not  work  in her mobile grooming van because I knew I was making more money in her shop, and I was angry that she  asked me to give up  work days to the  mobile groomer  (who wasn’t making enough in the van—big surprise!)  and a groomer who had just graduated grooming school.  Down to 2 days a week—that wasn’t a job!

After I quit, she  was told by several people what a huge mistake she made. This was Jennifer Stavrianos at Pet Care Plus, in Chicago. She  apologized and asked me to return.  Because I was unhappy with the commute I was making (and because I knew the business I was working at was going to rehire  a groomer who was out on medical leave, and that groomer was dishonest and unethical…), I consented to return… with  an agreement.  What happened to the groomers  Stavrianos hired to replace me? Well, she told me she fired 1, and the other quit because she wasn’t making enough money.  I am sure I  didn’t get the total truth, and it  had more to do with   the groomers disagreeing with non-grooming management.  I  think this  is the case because although Stavrianos  agreed verbally with what I wanted… she never told her management staff (nor  put it in writing) & there was tension right from the start.

That’s not the half of it, however.  Because Stavrianos did not want to actually manage her own  boarding/grooming/daycare facility, a woman she hired as a customer service clerk was promoted to general manager and put in charge of a building build out..having no actual kennel or grooming management experience..and it all went downhill from there.  You  want to  know why Stavrianos didn’t manage her own business…as this is a business that grosses in the $500,000 range?  She didn’t like the noise or the smell of dogs,  Gave her headaches.   No joke.

She then hired another manager…a guy with food service experience, who had also managed a Big Box pet shop—but also not comfortable actually handling dogs (not even walking them on a leash), to manage staff. The woman manager  was sent to  manage a grooming shop (she was learning to groom dog  by this time). So,  I  had to train my manager how to manage me.  I know Rick thought I was cynical and  uncooperative at first, but  as time went on, he  learned that everything I told him was true:
Stavrianos didn’t want to actually  work with dogs. She continued to spend money on  the vision she had for  how her business should look, whether is was safe or alleviated the stress of the dogs…or not, and was angry when she had to spend money on making the building safe and functional.  Her husband actually told me he agreed with me, but he apparently loved her so much (and had enough of another income) that he allowed her carte blanch on a business they owned together.

Well, it is what it is…and I found other work…. a veterinary practice manager  purposely mislead me  about  how much dog grooming business  his animal hospital had (so he’d have his own options), so I spun my wheels for a while, and I worked for some friends who  had enough business to employ me part time.

I posted  an ad looking for work on a well known  site used by groomers.  I get a call  every  two weeks or so, from  people  who  say either they own a grooming business and are looking to expand, or have no business yet…. but want to see who’s out there.

Just the other day, I got an email from a  guy named “Joey Nimrod”.  That has to give you pause right there.  Evidently  my post(seeking part time work) had been forwarded to him, he said he owned an upscale pet shop in Northbrook, Illinois,  and was looking to expand…and his current groomer was making  over $100,000 a year, doing 10—12 dogs a day…lots of bath dogs.

I emailed him and told him that was  incredible!  I could not do that without a bather. That was less than 1/2 hour a dog!  & he emailed me back, “I know!  & she does $100—200 in tips!”  So….I  then asked him how many business days out she was booked that she could not take another dog,  and told him to call me…and he disappeared..until…

He posted on  the site where he saw my post, same  bs…. and  I felt there was something wrong.  I have been grooming in this area  over 40 years. We all know who is busy and who isn’t…and all the pet shops.  It’s easy enough to find them,  & no pet shop could be doing this volume of grooming without every  other groomer for 10 miles around knowing.  It would be possible for  a daycare/kennel…but not a retail pet shop.  Only possibly a big box store managed by a groomer,  who had  several people working  hourly wage support doing bathing ,brushing, the phones, could possibly do this—and that is not how they operate.  So, I contacted the owner of the website and told him he needed more info…because I bet anything, it was Dan London.

Let me tell you all about Dan London. He is a bully.  He told me his dog experience was walking dogs at a kennel.  He got some capital, either  via inheritance or a structured settlement, and decided to open a self-service dog washing business in the  south Loop of Chicago. Google “Doggie Bath House.:”  it is now closed, but the 1 star Yelp! review left up is telling. I have worked for  a couple of people who decided opening a self-service dog washing business was a good business idea—based on nothing.  One, in Hyde park, Illinois, was  folded after about a year, and one in  Wicker Park, who was able to  keep the business going until he sold the  lease to a  dog trainer who  hired dog groomers.  You have to think:  who are the types of people who would  use a self-service dog wash?  People who  work during the day and are  thrifty. So why would you keep  9—7  hours?  You would have to be open after  others work and get off, and  every weekend.  Still,  if you look at the economics of this idea, unless you  sell product—and lots of it, you won’t break even.  The only way you can possibly make money is get a groomer who  has a following, like a hair dresser.  That means the groomer has to talk directly to clients—& the owners —who don’t groom—don’t like this idea of  staff having a relationship with clients. They could run off with all the clients  if they  think the boss is an ass.  They see the boss doing  no physical labor—not even cleaning up.  A lot of owners think they are above doing the labor—and this causes their  employees to  disrespect them.

So, Dan London interviewed me,and I could see I would have to bring my own table. dryers, and crates.  I didn’t say anything, as he  hadn’t brought it up.  His plan, though, was, he told me, to  set the prices on all the dogs.  I knew that wouldn’t work.  They always set the prices unrealistically low & think they are going to raise prices 400% (they go out of business before this happens).  So, I told London I could not work for him.  He asked why, and I told him that he didn’t have enough dog experience.

As I said in the previous blog,  he decided that if I wasn’t going to make money for HIM, I was going to make money for nobody.  He had my resume—in fact, because I stupidly  sent my resume to blind ad on Craigslist, he had my updated resume, and promptly started posting  fake Yelp! reviews for these businesses. An example is, “I went to XXX for a tour and saw ROBYN MICHAELS, their dog groomer, beating a dog…”  I didn’t know this until a manager asked me, “Do you remember this guy coming in?”  I checked the Yelp! reviews for my most recent jobs (I was working as an independent contractor) and he had  done this to  several of them.  He’d also call them to make appointments, ask if I was the groomer, and tell the owner, “I saw her beating a dog…” or “She cut my dog!”  He also  cooperated with  the  brokers  and breeders posting on Craigslist, and they decided to post in cities around the country that I  beat dogs, that I was taking dogs from animal shelters & rescues to resell…

He called Pawsatively Heaven Pet Resort in Chicago Ridge (a wonderful  kennel, by the way—really nicely designed and managed by hands on dog people) and claimed that   I stabbed his cat. Well,  they knew that couldn’t be true as I didn’t groom cats, but they said they couldn’t find him in their  client base, and I told them he wasn’t a client.  He continued to harass them.

I worked for Saq Nadeem at Paradise  for Paws.  They did the grooming build out around me.  Saq called me into his office and asked me who  he was.  I told  Saq to get all his contact info, as he would not be ignored, but Saq first told me he would ignore him, and when  the  harassment continued, told me he would get  the ‘internet police’ on him. In fact, Saq had the capital to get a lawyer to find out who was  providing service to  Dan’s 20 or so  email accounts. That’s right.  He used so many aliases, but then he, again, started posting in  all these cities (on Craigslist) that I was a breeder,and to call Paradise 4 Paws and have me fired.  It took him almost 2 years, but when people actually threatened  Linda Lee (the manager)’s life, Saq  told me I was too much of a disruption.

Well , I learned.  I stared blogging, and patching jobs together.  I have been grooming for decades.  I  finally got  to Stavrianos and told her what was going on, and it didn’t matter to her.  Dan London’s trail to me  ended  at Paradise 4 Paws.  He did put  up one blog on WordPress where he claimed he made all this money, and I was a nut case and he had moved to Hawaii, and didn’t understand my crazy obsession with him.

Well, you can harass people from anywhere with the internet. NOBODY KNOWS YOU’RE A DOG ON THE INTERNET!  About a year went by, and I got a call out of the blue from…an architect.  He asked me if I knew who Dan London was.  I  told him my experience.  The architect was calling on behalf of a female friend—who was not a dog groomer. She had posted on Craigslist looking for people to hang out with as she was new to Chicago, and Dan London started bullying her. Why?  Because this is how he gets his jollies.   I may be mentally ill, I may be a nut case, but I can find more to do with my time than bully a stranger for no reason.

You can google Dan London, but nothing will come up—or rather—all the DAN LONDONs who do show up (6 of them)are not him.  He’s a shape shifter. & he’d not dead.

 

New Year, New Challenges…

January 2, 2015
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.