Does a Dog Really Need Coat Conditioner?

April 14, 2017

Jennie, a Soft-coatd Wheaten Terrier, needed more than a bath.

I was  going to address this topic from a different perspective, but I’ve had this debate with a couple of dog groomers whom I respect. They insist on using coat conditioner/creme rinse on all dogs.  I do not…and here’s why:

  1.  Coat ‘conditioner’—what is it?  it is  a product to seal moisture into the coat.  While it’s true some dogs desperately need this…it just makes the dog harder to dry;
  2. Why would a  smooth coated dog  like a Lab or Pit Bull need conditioner?   By the time the cuticle  separates due to being too dry, the hair has shed out.   If your shampoo is mild enough—and these days  all shampoos have ‘conditioners’ or ‘softeners’ in their formulas,  you are just going to  rinse it all off. What most of these dogs actually need is a skin conditioner—which can be applied and left on after the bath;
  3.   If you are going to say that it’s to seal the cuticle of the coat—& that is what I want a conditioner to do—–I  usually put on a leave-in conditioner—or a coat polish…during my drying process. Saves time, saves the product.

Too many of us fall for the marketing.   Advertisers are still promoting copious  shampoo lather. Lather is SALT—sodium:  it dries your skin and hair, and can make you itchy. Same for the dog.  Lather is not good. I want my shampoo to lather up just enough so I know I have it on the dog, and I can see the dog needs rinsing…and that’s the problem with conditioner:  it’s difficult to rinse out.  You leave  it on a dark dog—and you see film.  The dog is not only not clean, it will attract more dirt. That makes no sense.

If you doubt your shampoo has conditioner, do this:  get either Murphy Oil   soap or Dr. Bronner’s. Both are Castile soaps. They are soaps—no conditioner.  You will feel the difference not just on your hands, but on the dog, Using these product  once in a while will not hurt the dog.  Dr. Barbara Royal, the holistic veterinarian, sometimes suggests these soaps for dogs that have an extreme reaction to sodium. These are great for  after the beach, or a field trial quick bath—but so is Listerine!

All that said, conditioner is necessary to seal the cuticle of the hair and  calm the skin.  I work  in a kennel where some dog owners are  eccentric. Whenever their dog comes in for daycare,  at the end of the day, they want the dog bathed.  I use an extremely mild shampoo.  It is not a great ‘cleaner’—but it will get the stink off and not irritate the dog’s skin if used every day.  What is the ‘conditioner’ in the shampoo?  I have no idea—some sort of fatty acids, or cetyl alcohol. Just enough to not irritate the dog’s skin, but leave the hair soft.

What dogs do need conditioners? dogs with very dry coats.  However,  even if the coat is dry, and you want to seal the coat cuticle, you don’t want to SOFTEN the coat, or that will actually make it worse. That’s why you want to know that the product you are using will do what you want it to do. That involves experimentation.  I know this, because I groom Coton de Tulear… all in specials coat.

You can not imagine a coat more dry than that of a Coton (except, of course, the  designer Shih Tzu mixes bred for the  consumer market).  They are very  affected by static. The cuticle opens up if the dog runs on carpet…or merely turns around. This is especially true when the dogs are puppies going through a coat change.  the breeder and I,  with the expert advice of her (AKC professional) handler, have  used several different products.  sometimes, the dogs are  bathed more often than once a week.  The owners have taken up the carpets  and put in wood floors, and their furniture is leather.  Nothing helps…and these dogs have the ideal coat texture for  Cotons.  What  chance does a pet owner have to keep a Coton in coat? Virtually none. the breeders suggest  having the dogs trimmed down like Bichons.

Also, a  few words about deshedding treatments….  I am bringing this up because  they way they are formulated if used according to manufacturers ‘ instructions—-can be great deep conditioning treatments.  The reason for this is that they are formulated with  Vitamin E, and meant to be left on the dog’s skin for  five to 10 minutes, and make the skin more supple.  Then, you leave the conditioner on for  a few minutes as well.  By making the skin more supple,  it causes the hair about to shed out, to loosen.  It will not make a dog loose coat if the dog is not losing coat, but it will coat  every hair and  you can see the results.

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Hong Kong: A Great Trip for a Single Woman, but not as Quaint as I Expected

March 3, 2017
Hong Long is a 'high density city. I don't think you are allowed to put ip a building that is under 50 stories.

Hong Long is a ‘high density city. I don’t think you are allowed to put up a building that is under 50 stories.

I was in Hong Kong recently.  It was on my bucket list.  I didn’t have  a lot of vacation time (as I want to take another trip this year), and several people suggested that  five days in HK would be more than enough time.

I got a round trip airfare for under $600 from Chicago.  How did I do that?  If you make  one stop, it reduces the fee by a lot.  Going, my stop was Vancouver (I only had about an hour between planes). Returning, it was in Toronto.

Several websites had suggested getting an ‘Octopus’ card at the airport.  The initial fee is high (HK $50 for the card, and  a minimum of $100 for use), but not only is it good for the airport bus to wherever you want to go, it’s also good for city buses,  the MTR,and the express train back to the airport…& they refund your balance at the end!  It’s great!

Lodging was under $50 per night including tax.  I used Booking.com , Tripadvisor, and Trivago to do the research.

ChunKing Mansion is NOT a mansion. it is a large building with many small hotels.

ChunKing Mansion is NOT a mansion. it is a large building with many small hotels.

ChunKing Mansion is NOT a mansion.   I stayed at the Everest in Chunking Mansions.  This is an excellent location, right on Nathan Rd, across the street from the Peninsula, an iconic hotel. Very spartan lodgings, a towel was included, and toilet paper, but no soap! It was perfect for one, but would have been cramped for two, and the bathroom was very small.  Had I not traveled in Africa, I might have been shocked at how spartan it was, but you  aren’t planning on spending that much time in your room, are you?  It’s just to sleep, drop your stuff, and shower, right?  I probably should have checked out more places in Chunking Mansion, as it is a large building divided into several sections (and it is not a ‘mansion’, but  a complex of dorm like rooms),  but…although my room was very clean, it was not cleaned the whole time of my stay, and the building is sort of ‘earthy’.  That is,  a bunch of  Asian men from India & Pakistan (they seem to be an interesting mix of Sikhs, Hindus, and Moslems)  sublease the ‘hotels’, and on the first floor, they run  little kiosks  and  food stalls.  This would be a very interesting  study  for  an urban anthropologist, as they are  on the edge of a section of  HK where the subcontinentals live.

The whole area is considered Kowloon, but it is the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR stop.  Right outside the door.

Tsui Tsim Tsai MTR entrance...ther are about 6 for this 1 stop!

Tsui Tsim Tsai MTR entrance…ther are about 6 for this 1 stop!

Extremely convenient…if the  actual train wasn’t  about 1/2 mile away underground!  Actually, the MTR system is very clean, people are around who speak English and are very helpful, but it would probably take about a week to learn the system. Just as in the USA, where one subway stop has multiple  entrances and exits, it’s the same with the Metro Transit Railway of HK.

So, what did I  do on this trip?  I got on the Big Bus, which allows you to hop on & off, to see the main attractions.  I  heartily recommend it, because it goes to just about everywhere, or close by.  They have several routes, and if you buy a 48 hour pass,  it gets you ‘express’ into some attractions.  I took it around for a look/see first, then again to where I wanted to stop.  My first stop was the town of Stanley.

I was disappointed.  Most of what you want to see is along the water, and it’s a row of small shops selling mostly touristy types of things (although there was a dog groomer down there).  There are also several restaurants.  The thing is, where the bus lets you off is a modern mall, with a McDonald’s and an H & M, and I was picturing something more quaint and rural.  It’s picturesque, very hilly (HK is the land of escalators), but not what I expected.  Same with Aberdeen, which many guidebooks describe as a quaint fishing village,  and suggest stopping for a fish lunch—which I was looking forward to.  Maybe 20 year s ago.  It is a harbor filled with small fishing boats, and  these days, women give tourists rides in the boats…but HK come right up to the harbor.

Everyone  says you have to go to Central for the elevators on the sidewalks.  Well, that would be fine if you had something to do in this section of town.  If you don’t, it’s like being in a crowded outdoor mall.

View from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

View from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

My last  tourist site of the day was the tram to Victoria Peak. I was really looking forward to this:  going up to the  top and watching the lights at sunset come on in the city. I live in Chicago, and I have brought many people to the top of the Hancock Center to watch sunset over the city, and sometimes, fireworks.  So, that was the plan.  But this  actually  is what happened:  even with express passes, it took us 45 minutes to get on the tram.  It was really crowded.  Someone told me it was because of Chinese New Year, but whatever.  I know some people waited in line over an hour just for tickets, and had to wait much longer to get on.  So, it’s 3 minutes to the top, and at the top….is a mall.  I kid you not. Right when you get out, there are all these  vendors of touristy things, and they follow you around, because it looks like  one big store….but it is actually about  eight vendors!   You walk around, and it struck me there was a Swatch Watch store at the top, and two ice cream places…and a Starbuck’s.  I was expecting a park.  It was about 3:00 or so, and I saw all these people waiting in line to get back on the tram to go down.  The last Big Bus  leaves at 6:30, so if you missed that, you’d have to get on the MTR…not a far walk, but….I decided to walk down the peak.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but you spiral down, of course, about  3 miles. I wanted to catch a bus, but I got about 1/4 the way down, and  I notices there was a traffic jam going up the peak, and no traffic coming down. About 1/2 way down, I met a Chinese man (Mr. Hu) who was walking down the peak…he was going to the MTR, but  didn’t want to take a cab, and he pointed out to me that nothing was coming down (and also, there was a hospital near the top, so there might have been an accident), and so, we walked and walked.  Finally, we got close to Central, and he flagged a cab to take us to the MTR. The cabbie  tried to take us on a circuitous route (Mr. Hu thought it was because we were speaking English), but  he went with me on the MTR all the way back to  Tsim Sha Tsui, which was very kind of him.  It wasn’t really that long a MTR ride, but I got to see how vast the underground was. Very bright, very clean.

Ocean Park

Ocean Park

The next day, I took the Big Bus and got off at Ocean Park.  Ocean Park is sort of like Sea World and an amusement park. They do some research there,  and  promote environmental education and recycling, and there are a few rides.  I was going to go to Disneyland, but all the  guide sites  said Ocean Park was iconic & not to be missed.  I had to wait in line  about 45 minutes for a ticket to get in. The park is divided into  two sections because of geography  You can take a skyway ride to the section of the park you are not in. There are several other rides, including a roller coaster, which is described as a ‘mine train’ but isn’t.  There is a small  zoo, with both  red pandas and a giant panda, and a  display about how goldfish breeding has evolved.  I can see how a family could spend the day there.  I spend about  three hours.  Of course, there is a huge gift shop, but it sells the usual souvenir stuff:  T-shirts, water globes,  key chains,and stuffed animals.  They really missed the boat:  no dog squeaky toys or chopsticks,

Water between 'Central' and 'Kowloon"

Water between ‘Central’ and ‘Kowloon”

Day  three, in the morning, I wanted to go to the HK Art Museum, but it was closed for renovation.  The cultural center  didn’t have anything going on. Both of these are along the promenade.  So, I decided on a  tour of Kowloon, and took the Big Bus first to the Jade Market, and later, to the  Ladies market.

I felt both were disappointing.  The Jade market is under a big tent, and there  has to be  over 100 vendors.  Many have  small antiques and other jewelry.  If you don’t really know jade, you don’t know if you are looking at plastic or glass.  Bargaining is suggested, but so many young  people come from the rest of southeast Asia, and are willing to over pay, so I didn’t buy anything.

Same with the Ladies market.  Most guidebooks  describe  the ladies’ market as selling toys, clothing, sportswear….but  the irony is…you can get most of the stuff more cheaply in the USA….especially if you live in a ‘major market ‘ (or a community with a large Chinatown).  In fact, the Fodor’s guidebook suggested a  store called ‘Me and George’ for vintage clothing.  I actually found the store, but  it was mostly men’s stuff just crammed in, with  one rack of women’s blouses that were way out of style, and a rack of skirts.  It was a big disappointment.  I probably spent about  two hours at the Ladies Market, and I bought 2 sets of chopsticks.

In the evening, I was interested in taking a dinner cruise during the light show, but the people at the tourist office told me I would have to take a cab to another pier, and the  fee for a dinner cruise was in the $80 range.    Not worth it.  Several online sites suggested a place called Mak’s  for noodles, and there was  a Mak’s in the Ocean Pier Mall.

I have to say  a bit about this mall. First of all, I  missed seeing Mak’s several times, even though it was on the main floor, because they have  one small sign and they are behind  the ‘Greyhound Cafe’ (not sure why it is named that).  People come to HK to shop, and the whole first floor of this mall, aside from a few upscale restaurants, was boutiques offering baby clothes:  Baby Dior, Baby Channel. Stuff, you know, like Beyonce and the Khardasians would buy…not normal people.

Second floor was adult designer stuff…including Stella MacCartney.   & more jewelry. Really really expensive stuff.  Third floor was all electronics.  It just boggled my mind.

In any case, I had dinner at Mak’s, which was just noodles with a wonton…for $13.  Not bad, but really, not worth going our of your way for.

Day four, I took a day cruise,where you can see all the tall buildings along the harbor.  That was nice.  In the afternoon, I shopped  a little west of where I was staying.  The prices were a bit lower, but I saw nothing I had to have.  The guide books suggested  the bird market and the Goldfish markets, but I would have had to do more walking, and seeing animals just to see them isn’t my thing.  I wanted to go to the tea museum, but several people told me it was very small, and  due to construction  in the area, could have been difficult to get to.  So, in the evening, I went to the Promenade along the  harbor, where  some awful musicians played until the official music and ‘light show’ started.

The light show….I was expecting fireworks after all, this is China), but what is was was a few green lasers.  What was really interesting is that all the buildings in Central facing the promenade are all lit up.  That was sort of cool.

Clan housing in a more rural part of Hong Kong

Clan housing in a more rural part of Hong Kong

On Day five, I took a totally different tour  to the area known as ‘new territories’, with a guide and several other people. Apparently, when the British came to HK, they needed some land designated for  agriculture, and  made a deal with the clans in this very rural area  to allow them to keep their land, but not sell it for development.  So, they are allowed to build three story buildings.  They had to live in the buildings, and, traditionally, their children would live in that upper two floors….but real estate  appreciated so much in value that, although  one family member still has to live in the building, most are rented out, and it is the only low density housing (if you can call it that) in the region.  Indeed, I don’t think I saw a building under 50 stories, and most were over 100.  Also, the guide told us that most of it was public housing, and most apartments are about 400 square meters.  Very small. But also,  most  people don’t have children…it’s too expensive.

Other impressions of Hong Kong?  Yes, people come to shop, and I was shocked by the number of designer watch stores.   Tag Heur, Phillipe Pateke, Swatch, Rolex…Rolex stores across from each other!  People still seem to think a wrist watch is status.  I can’t believe that  so many people buy watches that it pays to have so many.   And…jewelry  stores.  In the windows, many (there is a chain that is on every block, and I am not exaggerating), they have  solid gold ‘character’ tchotchkes. Ugly, but  people collect these things…and remember, gold is portable.  Also, in HK, there  is Watson’s, sort of a drugstore with a wider variety of non-prescription drugs than our American stores (I went in for Nyquil, got Melatonin), and several stores specializing in cosmetics.  I also  stopped at several groceries, some offering good deals.

It was very crowded where I was. A zillion tourists, mostly from South Korea, Japan, the Mainland,  Malaysia,  New Zealand and Australia.  Every young person was either glued to a cell phone,presumably following a tour, or taking a selfie with a selfie stick. I have never seen so many.  Nobody watches where they are going.

I am glad I went, but now that I’ve seen it, on to another adventure.

Move on? Resist? What’s the Plan? 2017

February 24, 2017
Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, in 1992,  the country was  undergoing a big shift. There had been a president, who had named himself  life president, and had served, at that time, 26 years:  Hastings ‘Kamuzu’ Banda.  He was s dictator:   he terrorized the country.  He was supported by the Europeans & the USA because he was NOT a communist, and  he  supported apartheid in South Africa. About the only good thing he did for the Malawians was build a  decent road infrastructure.  The school and health care systems were virtually nonexistent.  It was a country run by elites. who went for medical care out of the country.  Malawi was socially stratified:  if you had a decent job and were literate, most likely you employed an illiterate servant to clean your house & probably cook for you. There was no way to improve your lot unless you were (or are) particularly ingenious.

Of course, I worked with elites.  They  two I worked with were honest, and had integrity.  Things were the way they were.  Pick your battles. but I explained to them that  democracy did not bring good government, but representational government.

And here we are, over 30 years later, and our  representational electorate has elected  a guy who lied, who had no plan, who  disrespects women, minorities, the handicapped…. people who are not white Europeans.  It will be interesting to see how  his Orthodox Jewish son-in-law works with the white supremacist  Bannon, who is a close advisor.  Really interesting….but I think they are sell-outs. I have some friends who I really lost respect for.  It’s one thing to think your friends are  uninformed—but to see they voted for the white guy because they believed ‘fake news’ (what we used to call lies….as ‘toxic assets’ were liabilities) and just didn’t like  or trust Hillary.   Was it because she was a woman?  Doesn’t matter—she actually got the popular vote. She won!  But due to the political mumbo jumbo of the electoral college, these former friends who voted for Trump think—really, that HE won!  It’s like saying 5-3=10!  So this is the new reality.

I fear for the environment.  Even the Clean Air & Clean Water acts were signed by Nixon—a Republican.  It is proven that when you offer free birth control and family planning information—the unplanned birth rate goers down, and the community prospers….but our rulers  really have a mindset that women should be punished for having sex—the punishment being raising  children, and this will lead to a surplus in labor.  Our economy can no longer absorb uneducated people—as it can’t absorb the educated ones! What other explanation can you  come up with for  defunding  Planned Parenthood or making abortion illegal?  It’s not like the people who make these laws are fostering or adopting orphans or kids in the child care system.

I also think  the Democratic Congress made the banking industry more accountable. Trump thinks it is too much regulation.  Education would  fix this, as kids would understand more, but with DeVos, they have demonstrated that  making sure kids learn math & science is not a priority.  it’s up to us…in the states…to work this out.

So, as a result of all this, I am much more in touch with my elected officials.  I let them know how I feel about everything.

But  are there  citizen movements emerging to develop strategies to  change it all back….or…?

While   I have big issues with the Affordable Care Act, the problem is with insurance companies, and it is time for Single Payer.  If Trump wasn’t flitting off to Florida every week, there’d be plenty  of money  for  people of all ages to buy into Medicare. You wouldn’t have to—you could still pay for private insurance if you really believe you’d get a better deal….but, having had to  deal with  health insurance a lot recently (Bursitis, and I was bitten by a dog), I can tell you, the government couldn’t make a bigger mess out of what things should cost & how hospitals get paid than the insurance companies have!

If we are going to ‘resist’ and make things better, we must educate ourselves, so we have talking points.  I want everyone who wants to make a difference get  4 books and read them.

  1.  The First is, “Lies My Teacher Told me, ” by James Loewen  You really have to understand American History, first, or you will be ‘condemned to repeat it.  It’s outrageous, what we learned in school and  what we think is real;

2. “Charlie Wilson’s War,”  by  George Crile.  Aaron Sorkin made a pretty funny movie by manipulating facts.  All of what Charlie did, and why,  is sort of ‘funny’ in an ironic way.  It’s important to understands what he did and who influenced him, as he changed history.  You will learn  that he actually armed what became the Taliban, ISIS, and all the others who hate  freedom;

3.  You ought to read a book on economic history.  “The Big Short,” by Michael Lewis, again, was a funny movie.  Not so funny  is that is our history, and he documents it and writes about it in a way you can understand.  Bottom line:  because we are  an innumerate nation, and so few of our schools teach  people real math and budgeting, our neighbors trusted the banks—even thought the numbers were right in front of them. We all lost, big time.

If this seems too convoluted, get a copy of Robert Reich’s book, “Aftershock.”  We could have saved ourselves, but Hillary didn’t make it engaging enough (that, and the Russians and FBI director Comey put the final nails in her coffin);

4.  Finally, how do we actually  get the hearts & minds?  You have to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point.”  We’re not going anywhere in a hurry unless we know the dynamics of social change.  In simple language,  this book tells us how it’s done.

Afghan Hounds…. and managing keeping your home clean

January 6, 2017
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?

I haven’t been blogging  the past several months because I’ve been busy doing other things, but  I thought this information might be helpful to anyone who owns or is considering owning an Afghan Hound or any drape coated or double coated dog.

I am not a neat freak by any means…but I am not a total slob, either.  I don’t like sticky surfaces, and I don’t like dust.  I had Afghans for over 30 years, and although I love the breed, I know my limitations,and now own Whippets.  You know the types of questions people  usually ask:  Are they easy to train  ?  Do they shed much?  Afghans and Whippets are at different ends of the spectrum.

I’ll get the Whippets out of the way, first.  Whippets tend to be cuddly, very  oriented to their humans, very eager to please, and hardly shed at all.  Many are bald underneath (so are Greyhounds),  often due to a vitamin deficiency.  They are great dogs & I love living with them.

Afghan Hounds tend to be aloof…much like most cats.  A veterinarian likened  having one like living with a roommate who never cleans up after himself.  They will steal your food.  They usually don’t care  if you come or go.  If you keep them brushed, they hardly shed at all….but what does happen is that their hair will break off….especially if you have carpets.  If they lay on carpets,  the carpet will act sort of as a brush.  Due to static, the carpet will pull out loose hairs and break off old hairs.

When I lived with Afghans, and  lived in homes with carpeting, I used to take a slicker brush and brush the carpets before vacuuming, or the  vacuum cleaner bags would be filled with dog hair—as would the beater bars on the vacuum cleaner.  I relived this just  this week—as I took care of an Afghan last week.  I vacuumed…. and the beater bars were filled with her hair.  She has only been in the house 4 days!

I had clients  who desperately wanted to grow coat on their dogs, so I told them to take up their rugs.  They did it, and refinished their oak floors, which looked incredible, and their dogs  stopped losing coat.  I currently work for a Coton de Tulear breeder who did the same thing.  I also admit to doing this:  taking up wall-to-wall carpeting, sanding, staining, and refinishing floors…so my dogs’ coats would not break off.

The biggest problem with long haired dogs is  carpets, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have hair collecting along the floorboards. while a Swiffer will  work….you will be changing that pad several times if you don’t do your floors at least  once a day.

So, what  can you do?  #1:  keep the dog clean.  if the dog is clean and brushed out, there will be less hair breaking off & less hair getting stuck to surfaces.;  #2—take up your rugs.  Unless you’re the type who can stick your rungs in a washing machine once a week, you will never keep the rugs clean…or  the dog clean;  #3:  cut the hair off the dog’s feet.  This can  be done so it looks natural, but still….less hair equals more clean; #4  Get a rug brush:  a fine gauge slicker, like a Vista slicker, to  top the rungs before you vacuum.

It’s Not Obamacare…it’s the Entire Health Care Industry.

November 11, 2016

This may seem amusing to those who have health insurance that somebody else pays for…but it’s not so funny.

This started in April 2016.

I was having  pain in my hip that I thought might be arthritis (it turned out to be sciatica), and also …a rash—like heat rash, that I could not get rid of.  I also had ‘trigger finger.’

I made an appointment with a doctor in my health plan…but not only did it turn out that she was no longer at the clinic, they called me two days before to cancel the appointment because my insurance would not cover it.  Never mind that I planned to pay for it out of my Health Savings Account.

So, I called the insurance company, and thy told me I was entitled to a Women’s Wellness Exam. This would cover  a PAP smear, a full body skin cancer check, and a scheduling  for a mammogram. The insurance would pay. So, I made another appointment with a  clinic picked  gynecologist.

She was an hour late, so she didn’t do the skin cancer check (so would not look at the rash), and could not address the pain in my hip, but she did take a PAP smear & scheduled me for the mammogram. I specifically asked her if I needed any paperwork.  She told me, “No, just go to Mount Sinai Hospital. You are in the system.”

This turned out to not  be true. I was in the system, but they still wanted paperwork, Thankfully, I had the clinic card in my wallet , and called them to FAX the paperwork.

Now, although I was in the system scheduled for the mammogram, I then had to go to Mount Sinai intake and have my contact info entered  again. Even though the  clerk had all my info in front of her, she managed to spell both my first & last names WRONG:  Robin Micheals—but I did not  see this until I was actually in the x-ray room.

It took over a month to get the mammogram, so I had to schedule a different visit at a different clinic with a general practitioner to look at my rash &  address the pain in my hip….and my finger.  I don’t doubt the doctor is a decent doctor, but the pills he prescribed  for the sciatica did not help at all, and the ointment he prescribed (yes—at $26 a tube) me  did not work, either.  He did tell me that if the problems did not go away in 2 weeks, to call him.  He referred me to another doctor  for the ‘trigger finger’, who gave me a shot, and told me it would only last 3—6 months.

Well, due to his being on vacation and  my taking a different job, a month went by.  I decided to see a chiropractor who was highly recommended by  neighbors who had had sciatica treated.  She really is good….but her treatments didn’t hold.

I did called the general practitioner about the rash, but could not talk to him directly. The clinic insisted I make an appointment to see him to get a referral to a dermatologist.  I haven’t been billed yet, but I went in, and he told me to wait and left the room.  About 1/2 hour later, he came back & told me that the clinic had to find a doctor who would accept my insurance plan.  I laughed.  I said, “This is ridiculous.  I have a $6000 deductible, I’ll pay for it out of  my Health Savings Account.”  He rolled his eyes and wrote down the name of a dermatologist.  A few days later, I got a letter with the name of a dermatologist in my plan.  I called, and could not get an appointment for 8 weeks!  Not until after….Thanksgiving!

I mentioned this to a friend, and she said, “I had that—just get some Desitin.” Which I did. It took about two weeks to work.  I will cancel the dermatology appointment.

Meanwhile…I got a letter from Mount Sinai.  My mammogram was inconclusive. They tell me to call my doctor and have her reschedule another mammogram.  You see, I can’t do this myself, for some reason. So, I call that clinic…& they want me to schedule an appointment (and pay for it—or charge health insurance) just for her to make another appointment!

But wait—there’s more!  So the chiropractor suggests I  get an MRI to find out why the adjustments she’s making are not holding.  She tells me  that the cash rate will be $350—400.  That is no problem…but when I call  and ask if I can submit it  to insurance—they may pay (and—how can you reach your deductible if you don’t submit)…ah, no.  Because…they may charge the insurance company $1500, and if THEY DON’T PAY, I have to. That is the difference.

Now, why would an insurance company be charged  double or triple?  Well, that’s how it works.  When you add a step, you add ‘overhead’—and people on a payroll pushing papers, and filing, and a guy at the top who makes $28,000,000 a year.  This is how we create jobs.  They all have a vested interest, which is why they continue to pay our politicians to not have single payer, and allow this  waste.

As I write this, Trump has won the presidency.  He may replace the Affordable Care Act, but the health insurance industry has too much invested in Congress to  allow any changes. We are not going to get anything like single payer  for at least  four years.

I was telling a colleague about this, and she said, “It doesn’t seem like this should be legal.”  Well, anything that is not specifically illegal is legal.  It’s what makes America great.

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.

I got a Long haired dog…now what?

July 22, 2016

I am very  concerned about the number of people who  impulsively get a non-shed dog with no clue  as to how they  are going to take care of it, or even if they can afford  to own it!

I see people post on Craigslist that they are looking for a Shih Tzu (or another small long haired dog…or even a Bulldog), but they don’t have a fortune to spend.

I want to own a Scottish Deerhound, but you could not buy a pup for under $5000, and adults never go into rescue.  There’s a lot of stuff I want but can’t afford.   I guess Americans  feel that because they want something, they should have it, and others should accommodate their wants.

Thus, I spend a lot of time  showing people how to brush their  dogs. I show them the proper  brushing technique. I explain why dogs get matted. I show them my tools (various brushes & combs).  I explain on how to to make the task easier, and explain that, at least for small dogs, it should not take more than  5 minutes a week.  Even if they  grow the coat as  long as it will get naturally, it should not take 10 minutes.  The Afghans  take me about 1/2 hour.  However….now that I know what I am doing, I have them  come in every  two to three weeks, and it usually takes me  90 minutes to bathe & brush out the dog.

I looked up videos on YouTube.

What I don’t like about this  1 is that he starts at the top.  This is fine if you are brushing a dog wet, but I think it could be a bit confusing.

What I don’t like about this 1 is that she uses a pin brush.  Good luck. it will just bounce over the matts, and  the pin matts will not be touched. Also, it’s really hard to see the line brushing part.

I currently work for a hobby breeder who raises Cotons. This video would not be bad, but again, it’s difficult to see what she is actually doing.

Neat,huh?  I have no idea what this contraption is. I have never seen  it.  This won’t help at all!

God bless this groomer—but there is no reason  to do this.  Your dog comes in matted every week? I am shaving your dog. There is no humane way to  ‘dematt’ this dog without pulling the hair and hurting it.

The groomer is using an Oster Rake.  I use 1. It’s very good.  In fact, the Top Performance  rakes that PetEdge sells are cheaper & just as good.  But Jun, the groomer, is not showing  us how to line brush the dog & prevent it from becoming a holy mess in the first place!~

So, I am trying to find a videographer to help me make a video of  how you actually line brush a dog, what tools you use, and why you do it the way I am showing you.

 

The Pledge of Allegiance

July 15, 2016

Odd topic, I know, but  there is a trending question on Facebook:  should we still make kids learn the  pledge?

My gut says, “No!”  We learn all these syllables: I pledge allegiance (what’s allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic(what the heck is a ‘republic’) for which it stands (what an awkward phrase!), one nation under God, indivisible (there’s a good one!), with liberty and justice for all.

Now, of course I know what it all means now, but I was probably in high school before I dissected it.  The pledge was originated by a utopian
Christian socialist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance

And refined and introduced to schools  in the  1940s.  On the one hand, it is good for kids to learn to memorize  something, but we have a problem  with teaching blind patriotism in the USA. What i think would be a better idea is putting the periodic table of elements to music and have kids memorize that.

We teach kids so much bs.  It’s stuck in my head that George Washington chopped down his father’s cherry tree (the Parson Weems  painting), and how Pocahontas saved John smith, what a bunch of hooey.  Yet, we  can’t manage to teach real history…like how white people took over  land  used by Native Americans, and slaughtered them.

We really have to look at what is taught in our schools.

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.

Career Goals? or Maybe Bucket List

July 1, 2016
Fahs and me completing his Rally Novice title. Gosh, I love doing things with my dogs!

Dash and me completing his Rally Novice title. Gosh, I love doing things with my dogs!

A prospective  employer asked, after I had told him I had titled  dogs in obedience, rally, lure coursing and conformation, had published in the  pet industry,and  won and placed in grooming contests…what my career goals are.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and lived overseas…in  Africa.   I, with  a few others, got  household recycling instituted in Chicago.  I’ve sold my art.  I would like to continue to compete in rally and obedience…and lure coursing if I acquire a young enough dog. Frankly, I’ve met my career goals.  I keep thinking of selling the house (due to property taxes) and buying a small kennel. Again, it is a ‘quality of life’ issue.

I currently work  for a business where the people are nice, for the  most part, but the set up for grooming is less than ideal.  I can live with that, but there are some irritants that cause me to keep my eyes open for a better situation.  The commute, while not terrible, is long.  One of the employees  does little things  to sabotage my work and make my day longer. They  continue to  put stressed out boarding dogs in my work area, and we have a very high ‘no-show’ rate  for grooming.  I don’t really have an ally or advocate at work.

I love  the job tasks of grooming dogs, but I am getting too old to put up with  confusion and pettiness.

I don’t know if this is a career goal, but if I had a husband to  keep me  in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed, I’d go to the American Whippet Club and Saluki Club of America  specialties every year.  So many great dog activities, and fellow dog lovers.

I’d travel more.  I haven’t really been to Europe yet (except for stop overs),  or Costa Rico  or Panama, and I still have a lot to see in southeast Asia.

I’d volunteer more with  few groups I support.  I’d continue to work with dogs.  I’d get together with friends more.  There’s not much different I would do.