Posts Tagged ‘dog daycare’

Dog Flu Hits Metro Chicago Hard.

May 15, 2015

Although you’d think we’ d be at the tail end of this epidemic, we  have been hit by  ‘dog flu’ since  the end of March.  Some of the kennels and  dog day-care businesses shut down, but most did not,  people are not going to dog parks (at least the ones who have actually known of a dog that  got the dog flu), but many still are.

Our  dog training club, Northshore Dog Training Club, one of the oldest in the country,  halted classes for 4 weeks, as our facility was closed for disinfecting.

The fear has  also affected dog groomers. while I tell my clients that they should really worry only if their dogs have a compromised immune system, I have enough clients  with  frail dogs that I’ve advised them to wait.

I do have 1 client whose dog got flu. he attends dog daycare  several days a week.  however, being a relatively healthy, young dog, he recovered quickly.

the dogs who’ve really suffered are the dogs in  shelters.  Obviously, they are all under stress, and  when one dog gets it, it  infects others quickly.

I will say this:  as I wrote about the American Whippet Club Specialty, there have been no reports of any of those dogs getting sick.  Obviously, being in  performance condition makes a difference.

We know some veterinarians are now getting the vaccine.  We also know that it is an evolving virus,  so the vaccine may not be effective in several months.

It’s silent  spring.


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.


Andrew Hunte & Pet Business Magazine Have Some Nerve!

February 6, 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!

This is the response I sent to Pet  Business magazine in response to Andrew Hunte’s op/ed, “A Dangeous Mantra”. He was responding to the trend to promote ‘Adopt, don’t shop’ regarding  the  ‘adoption’ of puppies and kittens, rather than selling them.


How irritating! Hunte’s take on what is happening in the pet industry—to retail pet stores—would be laughable had he not so much influence.

I hardly think of Hunte as an ethical dog breeder when he breeds dogs for commercial resale, and doesn’t think it is important to screen every pet buyer. Also, citing Patti Strand’s book, Hijacking the Humane Movement, doesn’t make the arguments any more credible.

When I started out working in the pet industry as a teenager, I worked for several hobby breeders. One, Fred Alderman of Dynasty Afghan Hounds, had a rule: if you had never demonstrated that you could take care of an Afghan Hound, you had to spend the day grooming with him. He kept about seven adult dogs, and he loved his dogs. He felt that good homes were important. He didn’t want you saying that you didn’t know how much equipment you would need, what it would cost, how long it would take or how often it needed to be done. If, after a day of grooming Afghan Hounds, you didn’t think the breed was for you, no harm, no foul. It was not dogs of Fred’s breeding that would up in puppy mills or abandoned in shelters..

Our issues as dog fanciers remain NOT only that commercially bred dogs are more unsound (because the breeders do not do the genetic testing), but that commercial breeders don’t care who buys their puppies. Neither the breeders nor the sellers care if buyers understand the grooming, temperament, and training needs of the dog they are purchasing. No pet shop ever turns down sales…and often they sell the wrong equipment with the dog: harnesses rather than martingale collars, and those horrible brushes that are pins on 1 side, bristles on the other. Ask any groomer: they are good for NO BREED OR COAT TYPE. Why do so many pet industry managers have so little integrity?

We are selling love and smirking at how easily pet buyers are bamboozled!

Hunte (and Strand, apparently) believes that HSUS, ASPCA, and PETA have much more influence than they do. Granted, the national nonprofits do a remarkable job of marketing themselves and fundraising, but not that many people are fooled. More people support local animal shelters, and might support these mentioned organizations for other activities and issues they promote (vivisection, factory farming, the fur industry, how zoo and circus animals are husbanded).

What NOBODY is addressing is that most of the dogs in shelters are bred by what we commonly call BACKYARD BREEDERS. We know they are not coming directly from puppy mills, nor are they coming from hobby breeders breeding for the betterment of the breed. Where do these backyard breeders get their breedable dogs? Either from retail sellers—THE PET SHOPS—-or other backyard breeders. Yet—and this is fundamentally important—-these backyard breeders are allowed to think that they are NOT breeders! Nobody addresses them about the issue of where the pets in shelters are coming from. For Hunte to state categorically that these shelter dogs are temperamentally or behaviorally damaged is specious. In fact, we have been finding that even most dogs confiscated from dog fighters are generally unwilling to fight in a pack situation in a shelter!

If you look at dogs coming into shelters since the 1980s, not only are most of them Pit Bulls (or Pit mixes), the next often most represented breed types are Chihuahuas, Beagles, and ‘designer’ dogs. You never see Briards, Gordon Setters, Salukis, or Portuguese Water Dogs. Could it be that the hobby breeders, breeding for the betterment of their breeds, closely monitor (‘husband’) breedable dogs, and do a better job of screening out unsuitable potential buyers, as well as making it clear them want the dogs they’ve bred back? Could this be why, that we are now seeing more Cane Corso, Shiba Inu, and even French Bulldogs being dumped because the breeders of those breeds didn’t do as good a job husbanding?

Mr. Hunte, I also have horse in this race. I AM A PROFESSIONAL DOG GROOMER. When I learned to groom dog s over 40 years ago, everyone involved in grooming was a hobby breeder and an exhibitor/fancier. Every dog was a Poodle. There were no Bichons, Shih Tzu, or designer dogs. Americans spent a week’s pay for housing and expenses, so they could afford the luxury of a nonshed dog needing regular grooming.

Times have changed. Not only has the middle class shrunk, they now spend 3 weeks pay on living expenses, and carry an average of $5000 credit card debt as well (or more in college loans!). The most popular breeds are now smooth coated. Between the big box pet industry chains training ‘groomers’ and the fancy shrinking (because those people who were fanciers and exhibitors are no longer middle class, the average age of current exhibitors being well over 50), there are a lot more ‘groomers’ and fewer dogs to groom. I used to earn an average of $30 an hour on commission, but have recently been offered jobs by business owners who could give a rat’s ass about integrity or talent offering me $9 an hour. It doesn’t really matter. Go to a dog daycare, and you will see Labrador Retrieves ( and mixes), Boxers, Pit Bulls, Bulldogs, Bostons, Frenchies, and some Doodles and designer dogs. Not much work for me, but a goldmine for the veterinarians.

And Mr. Hunte, not all dogs will be spayed and neutered. You know that. Due to economic conditions, however, we will see a loss of breeds. I remember in the 1970s how many people were exhibiting Afghan Hounds. The loss of the breed’s popularity was an example of capitalism at its finest. However, will we miss the Bedlington Terriers, the Sussex Spaniels, and the Scottish Deerhounds? You aren’t selling them—there is no market.

The other problem is, however, that your resellers have never developed actual fanciers among the buyers.

There is enough blame to go around. It’s ironic that the American Kennel Club has spent so much time and money pandering to your fellow commercial breeders , and that they have expected the hobbyists/fanciers to pay for this in raised entry fees for performance events. I am shocked that the regional and specialty clubs have allowed the AKC to get away with this. Like it or not, we DO have to work together to change the dynamic, and blaming the humane societies for getting their message across while denying the reason this has been so easy to do won’t solve the problem.

Where do shelter dogs come from? If every puppy offered for sale in every location had to be microchipped by law (and that would include the backyard breeders posting puppies on Craigslist), we’d know where all the shelter dogs were coming from. Impossible? Not if we help the local animal shelters train humane inspectors to respond to those Craigslist posts, and demand that the state Departments of Agriculture start leveling fines against those breeders not in compliance, and whose dogs end up in shelters. Who should be responsible for dumped dogs if not the breeders? This is why Portuguese Water Dogs NEVER end up in shelters. Check out the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America code of ethics.

Want to be more credible? Train your resellers on how to screen buyers. Many animal shelters will not adopt out a dog unless they meet everyone in the household. Pets make terrible surprise gifts. Most won’t adopt to renters and neither will ethical hobby breeders—as that is the most frequent excuse people use for dumping a pet: moving to where it is not allowed. The breeders breeding for the betterment of their breeds ask people who will be home to housebreak a puppy, and state, if the owners are gone for eight hours, how do they expect the puppy to get trained? Is that fair to a puppy?

How do you choose a pet food for the puppy? It wasn’t veterinarians who developed the grain free segment of the industry, but hobbyists and fanciers who were dismissed as eccentric by their veterinarians. I have seen far fewer ear and skin issues since more people are feeding the premium foods.

What about the most effective tools for grooming, and keeping shedding down and the dog matt free? Why are sellers promoting harnesses and Flexis, when you can’t control a dog with these items. Why aren’t they promoting martingale collars and six foot leashes ( or head harnesses)? Why aren’t they sending home basic housebreaking and positive training instructions with each puppy? Who should be responsible for this information if not the sellers?

You are right about one thing: people want to know what they are getting. This is why people choose specific breeds: a somewhat predictable temperament as well as the physical traits. I don’t want idiots and thugs choosing what kind of dog I should own, which is why I choose purebreds for myself. That said, we all bear more responsibility in lessening the number of dogs that wind up in shelters. The altruistic should not be made to feel guilty, but the greedy and dishonest should be held accountable.

This link to what Best Friends says about what’s going on is right to the point:

Changes in Local pet Businesses, for Better or Worse

October 10, 2014
These are our pets!

These are our pets!

I originally published remarks about some businesses  in 2009–, because I was so outraged by how several local businesses treated dogs.  Some things have changed, and  since  people Google businesses, I  felt  everyone  was owed an update.

You just can’t assume that people in the pet industry really love pets and really care for them.  I get so many hits on this particular blog, which I posted in 2009, that I decided to re-edit and update it.   It has to do with people  who are active in the pet industry.  Believe me, they are not all pet lovers. They are not pet haters…but because they make their livings from either breeding or caring for pets, the public  thinks they do love pets more then the pet owners love their pets.  Some of the ‘integrity challenged’ seems to have a lot of time on their hands to just be evil.

There is now a  Facebook site called  Flagging Animal Sales on Craigslist.    We have a network of people around the country. Some may even be dog breeders…but they are not selling on CL, which prohibits animal sales.We repost the links (to the animal selling posts)on our feeds, and ask people to flag.  I am not sure how effective we are, but  we may be.  I get fewer emails from  animal sellers, but  people seem to be joining our ranks.  For those who do not know, California prohibits internet sales of pets. That’s where Craigslist is housed.  Craig and  the  founders felt that the site should be for older pets, so they wouldn’t have to compete with baby animals for homes.  Unfortunately, the ‘law of the commons’ relies on integrity—and  animal sellers generally have none, You will rarely find ethical hobby breeders posts. yes, sometimes, some hobby breeder  doesn’t read the rules,  but  most would be horrified to use a free website—as it attracts the wrong kind of potential owner.

I had reported people leaving fake reviews on a PETFINDER site, and the response from Jamie Cook at Discovery Channel/  I had asked them to  either remove the negative comments on my  site, “Robyn’s Groom Room”—as they are libelous—because  the people who posted them are not my clients & never have been—they are irresponsible breeders libeling me, & this is how  Cook responded:

“Unfortunately, we will not be able to remove the ratings posted for your grooming service.  One of the many features that our directory offers is the opportunity for users to post ratings, both good and bad, about the businesses with which they have had experiences. We don’t censor these ratings as that negates the purpose of offering them. If we remove negative ratings for businesses then we are not portraying an objective and well rounded service for visitors.

“We highly encourage you to have clients who are happy with your office and the services they received  post their own positive ratings. Simply have them click the following link, then click on the Rate it! link and enter their comments:

“The other option would be to remove your listing completely from the Local Services & Supplies Directory. This would remove all information about your business, including any ratings that have been submitted, so any users who are looking for a groomer in your area would not see your information. If you would like to go with this option please let me know and I will remove your listing immediately.”

That’s right.  He totally ignored what I told him.  I told him to ask the people who libeled me for veterinary receipts.  Yes—several claimed I injured their dogs!  I told him, since I  don’t take new clients who live over  5 miles from me, unless they mail me a deposit  (because they tend to not show up), to ask these people where they lived.  I asked him to  ask them what colors my grooming room  are (people have commented on my color choices—so they don’t forget it).  But nothing—no response.  Petfinder is going about happily believing  every  poster has a bit of integrity.  I shudder to think how many rescues that post are actually  puppy mill outlets—but I guess we’ll never know.  They clearly don’t do any ‘due diligence’—relying on the integrity of any poster.  The update on this is that we keep finding  ‘fake’ dog rescues…where people get  dogs to rehome, often doing no health check, and not screening adopters.  Neither PETFINDER nor do any due diligence. that’s the way it is,  let the buyer (or adoptor) beware….  As of 2014, no more businesses can post, They’ve closed this part of Petfinder.  I guess they realized what I said was true..

I had taken a grooming job for a  business, because I saw the potential….  and  the location was somewhat close to  some of my former grooming clients, and  the owners of the business lied to me.  Of course, I was able to determine that they lied to me right away.  The business is Yuppy Puppy, Inc., in Lake Bluff, Illinois.  They  originally set it up to do dog daycare, but realizing they could not make  enough money doing that, they also do overnight boarding. They are licensed to keep up to 85 dogs overnight.  Licensed?  By The Illinois Department of Agriculture, of course.  The laws pertaining to dog boarding, dog daycare—indeed, even puppy mills—-are so poorly written, that unless the building is dangerous for humans to occupy—you get a license.  That’s how it is in Illinois.

The business is  (was) owned by the Whitakers:  Peter, the father, & Lucy & Simon, the son & daughter. Thing is—Lucy got married & moved out of state, & Simon is about to do so.  This leaves Peter, who clearly  isn’t  really a dog enthusiast. He is a businessman.

Update—very important!  This business was sold several months ago  (early 2014)to Walter Puterbaugh, and he has made phenomenal changes!  I stopped by the business as I  check Yelp! reviews, and  a change of ownership was indicated.  Walter and his fiance, Janae,  obviously know way more about dogs that the Whitakers ever cared to learn.  They have done an amazing build out that will alleviate a lot of stress on the dogs.  If you are looking for dog daycare  in the northern suburbs of Chicago, I urge you to check them out. Granted, they are still totally indoors, but the set-up is so much  better!  Only the name is the same.

I’ve never been overly fond of  the concept of dog daycare, but  having worked in some  outstanding kennels (check out Pawsatively Heaven Pet Resort in Chicago Ridge, Ill., or Paradise for Paws, in Schiller Park, ILL), I’ve softened.  Some dogs  have a lot of energy, and love being part of a pack.  I see dogs playing together all the time.

I have been working for the same employer for  about three years.  We recently moved the  operations to a new building.  There are some very nice aspects to  this, and in some ways it is better (for the humans, at least), but I am not sure it is better for the dogs.  Our indoor floors are shiny and slippery, and our outdoor play area is mush smaller.  We no longer have a huge pool, which was a big selling point in the old building.  The fact is that most of the large dogs don’t really  run around that much—but they might if their footing was more solid and they had more space.

One guy I had worked for briefly and blogged about, Vaughan Neita, “A Doggie Business,” is OUT OF BUSINESS.  He was charged with ‘neglect of owners duties’  ( animal cruelty) and word spread.  You can Google him, the links are still up.

Plus, a bit of unhappiness….a business I worked for on contract for several years, recently suffered very bad local attention. They were “The Hungry Pup,” and changed their name several years ago to “Follow Your Nose.”  They offer natural dog foods, dog walking, and overnight pet sitting.  I had trouble working for them because they  would not address their web marketing, nor procedures so I would know  several days in advance what I was doing—or even if I had any work (grooming), but I had to give Dave Gulyas credit for being able to schedule so many dog walkers.  I mostly did over night pet sitting.  Problems started to arise when  more and more people  started asking for ‘vacation care’ rather than overnight pet sitting—because they didn’t want to pay extra to have someone stay in the house.  I didn’t think the Gulyas’ should allow this, because there was no way the last walk would  occur after 9 p.m.  and the first walk would be before 8 a.m.—and that is too long an interval for most dogs. But also, what kept the dog walkers honest changed:  When the Gulyas’ started the business, everyone had a landline at home. so, when you arrived to walk a dog, you’d call in to  Dave (a computer would take the call), and 20 minutes later, after the walk, you’d call in to say you were leaving, You had to wait 20 minutes  for the interval, you may as well walk the dog.  I don’t want to get into the complications of getting a dog suited up, the keys, possibly cleaning up, or the dog not eliminating on the walk. The point is, you called in from the client’s phone.   As people  got rid of their land lines, you’d supposedly call in from your cell, but I knew the Gulyas’ were not keeping track, and often, I’d be the next walker and see the previous walker hadn’t shown up!  Well, it came to a head, recently.    A dog walking client didn’t want to pay for overnight pet sitting.  He set up a ‘nanny-cam‘ that was  set to alert him (on his cell phone) to movement in his home—and he discovered  the interval was 18 hours.  A walker  had not shown up.    Worse, when he did, he  dismantled the nanny cam!  The Gulyas definitely know who did this, and I would sue the evil eunuch for  sabotaging my small business if this was my employee.     Frankly, several friends and I wondered why he didn’t keep the dogs in exercise pets, which  would have given the dogs a bit more room, but that’s another issue.   I am sure he  alerted the Gulyas’, but what can they do?  That’s the problem with running a dog walking business:  you rely on the integrity of the employees….and, unfortunately, the people who are doing this often are doing this because they can’t get other work.  What this client DID was contact local news media…and this was definitely not good for a business that was already marginal.  I often referred people looking for dog walkers to  this business, as I really trust Dave & Ramie…but the fact of the matter is, unless you can learn from the business owner how you can be assured your dog will be walked….look for as many options as you can, including friends and neighbors who live close by.  or, if it is  a occaisional thing,  get your dog used to dog daycare…or at least day-boarding.  For those who own dog walking businesses—if you change the walker’s routes every day, the statistical odds of all your walkers being  immature, self-centered assholes are  slimmer.   Labor intensive?  Overkill?  These are peoples’ pets.  They may be spoiled, out of control, hard to handle, but  I know hiring a dog walker may be a last resort before abandoning a pet. Actually spot checking the walkers you hire helps.  I understand people wanting the same walker, and  dogs being familiar with who is coming in (believe me—none of these dogs is a watch dog), but  face it—-most people have less integrity than you have, not more.


Who Knows More? Veterinarian or Groomer?Dog Behavior 101

June 27, 2014

In  order to be able to groom dog, you have to be able to handle the dog. You have to have the attitude that you are in charge.  You have to know how to get control of the dog without injuring the dog, frightening the dog. You getting the dog to trust you. Everything goes more smoothly when the dog trusts the handler.  This means the handler has to have confidence, because the dogs all pick up on body language.

My brother had just gotten his veterinary degree, but he still didn’t have his license, so I asked him to help me in the shop, bathing dogs.  He asked me how I knew the dog wouldn’t bite me.  I told him I could read the dog’s body language.  “Oh,”  he responded.  “They don’t teach us about that in veterinary school..”

Funny?  Ah, no, They all seem to be afraid that every dog is going to bite them.  Unless they  have been very involved with pet animals, they seem to not trust them.  They also  don’t know any better.  I have volunteered with  people trained to be veterinary technicians who have apparently been taught to  put a dog in  his most vulnerable position to cut his nails. Why why why?

Veterinarians also don’t know that  blindness & deafness are color linked.  You don’t breed a ‘merle’ (marbled coated) dog to another merle, as this color is linked to congenital blindness and deafness.    This includes harlequin ( small black spots on a white dog) patterns in Danes and Dalmations.   The black & tan color pattern is also linked to deafness in many breeds.

Most veterinarians are trained as agricultural vets:  to work with farm animals, They’ve been taught that these animals  can endure a lot of pain, and the idea of respecting them  has never been broached in an academic setting.  In this day and age,  I think this is shameful, but  again, if a veterinarian is not a hobbyist or fancier, chances are he stopped learning   when he got his diploma.

About 20 years ago, right about the time that people started using the internet, , people who owned dogs  that had chronic  yeast infections in their ears, and  other skin issues including  foot licking, started to address diet.
By trial and error, they  started feeding  grain-free (no corn, wheat, or soy) to their dogs.  They also started experimenting with protein sources. A result is the  grain free and variable protein dog food industry.  This did not come about because veterinarians suggested this to  dog food manufacturers.  In fact, they pretty much dismissed the  hobbyists and fanciers who  wanted this addressed.   These hobbyists and fanciers , who met at ‘performance’ (obedience, rally, agility, field trials, and even conformation dog shows) shared information.

We hobbyists and fanciers have also been behind using sodium free shampoos for dogs with sensitive skin.  Oatmeal shampoos may be effective, but if sodium is exacerbating the  itchiness—it is NOT helping!  Yet, veterinarians are still  ignoring this fact!

Veterinarians are telling people to use harnesses for dogs with trachea  problems (rather than wide martingales—or—-training the dog to not pull), totally ignoring  the fact that people do not have control of their dogs. This is dangerous. They  ignore the fact that people are using  prong collars and are still not in control of their dogs.  They  don’t advise pet owners of their responsibility to test for genetic defects before they breed their dogs.

Yet, when we groomers address these issues, they  discount us.  The justification is always that they have  doctorate degrees, and I may have only been a high school graduate!

This is why I always suggest that  hobbyists/fanciers  really question their veterinarian—to find out if the  doctor they trust is on the ‘same page’ as they are.

Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, by Charles Darwin, is actually one of the first books I read on  animal behavior, but there  are now so many good books:  anything by Temple Grandin, Brian Kilcommon, Pat McConnell.  There areb so many good books and websites on dog training and understanding dogs.  There is no excuse for  working with animals and not learning how   to understand them.


Boarding Kennels: Choosing a Good, Humane Place to ‘Store’ Your Dog

March 21, 2014

Things have changed since I started grooming.  It used to be, if the owner didn’t live on site, the kennel manager and his family did.  The best kennels were booked up  six months or more in advance.  Boarding kennel owners were usually  hobby breeders who showed dogs. Sometimes, they were veterinarians or professional (AKC) dog show handlers. Once the kennel was full, that was it.  They didn’t set up extra crates so store dogs in just to make extra money.

I blogged last year  about how to choose a boarding kennel: about touring  the kennel and having your dog stay in a suite or kennel run while you  you toured, asking if there was staff  24 hours;  if there was a lot of barking, or an odor;  who owns the kennel and  are they on site, or are they absentee?  Are the owners involved in dog sports at all, or is this  just a  business to them?

Unfortunately, more and more,  dog businesses are owned by  people who want to own a dog business, but who aren’t necessarily ‘hands on’.  They are  rock stars at business networking events…indeed, anywhere they go and where people ask them what they do.  People have a fantasy in their heads about  what it means to  operate a dog business. But dogs are not their lives. That’s just how it is.

Many  kennels/dog daycare and grooming businesses are owned by  refugees from other industries.  Showing, training, or breeding dogs are not their hobbies.  They know nothing about animal husbandry and  know that most government agencies charged to do inspections are broke or  so understaffed that they will never be inspected—at least not by any inspector who  knows what he is looking at.

I have worked at kennels that were  reasonably run—not well run, but not dangerous…when   it wasn’t vacation season or a major holiday like Thanksgiving or Easter.    At holiday times, when the  kennel was full—and the owner or manager had the option of stuffing more dogs in—it was a nightmare. The fact of the matter is that  in order to capitalize on the opportunity of  idiot dog owners who wait until the very last minute to make boarding arrangements for their dogs, they often charge more for these impulsive types, and  set up crates for  these extra dogs.

Kennels used to be set up where a dog was housed in a kennel pen attached to an outdoor  dog run.  They were set up this way to prevent dog fights.  While it was true that dogs didn’t get a lot of exercise, they got some, and most kennels also had paddock areas  for exercise.  The advantage  of the traditional kennel  is that you don’t have to handle  dogs once they are in the kennel pen:  you have a guillotine door, and you could put food down, or clean, without having to interact with the dog.    Why would you want a boarding kennel set up this way?  Many dogs  don’t like strangers, and the stress of being  in a strange place  stresses them out more, and they lose their bite inhibition.  The set-up is great for these dogs, and intact dogs, or dogs that don’t want to play or who are bullies.

I worked for a hobby breeder who had  inside pens for her dogs, and she had to walk all her dogs out to an outside exercise area. She  purposely set her kennel up this way so she’d have to touch her dogs  several times a day. Something to think about.  Why would you not want to touch your dogs every day?

More and more, the businesses that run  dog daycare, run packs of dogs.  The  dogs usually have to be neutered if over a certain age, and must be social. It is very labor intensive to accept non-social dogs, but because the kennel owners aren’t hands on, they  tend to discount the disruption.  They won’t be honest about nonsocial dogs getting enough  exercise or attention.    Some have  side yard paddocks for these nonsocial dogs, so the nonsocials  can see the pack, but can’t directly interact with them.  This is ok…until the kennel gets busy.  The nonsocial dogs are going to be short changed.

This would not be so bad, but kennel owners who are not hands on  rarely add on adequate personnel. In my state, the law says you are supposed to have  one person for  every six unrelated (this means from  separate household—not genetics) dogs  who are run in a pack.  This NEVER happens.  Some people feel comfortable  with a 10 dog pack, but over that, you are playing the odds that one dog won’t offend another.  It’s dangerous—and in a  space where there isn’t an average of 10 square feet  per dog, no play occurs:  it’s just dogs milling around, possibly looking for a ‘friend’, possibly looking for a place to just hang out and not be bothered.  Is this what you have in mind for your pet?  One of the places I work currently  runs 35 dog packs with 1 person attending.  Another close by has over 50 dogs in their pack, and 2 teenagers  supervising.  Not safe.

But getting back to the busy kennel at holiday time. The manager  sets up crates.  The crates aren’t all Great Dane size, they are different sizes, and if you don’t  know how big your dog really is, your dog may not be able to stand up to his full height or stretch out.   That is the minimum USDA standard—but since nobody’s inspecting, you have to RELY ON THE INTEGRITY OF THE OWNER AND STAFF. Feeling lucky?

Because of the extra dogs, many of whom  have never come to this  place, many of whom  have never been in daycare and run with a pack, and most of whom are stressed out, they won’t be on a regular schedule.  Even is there is one kennel attendant per 20 dogs, it is not enough for all the dogs to  be let out, make sure they all potty, and clean up.    A lot of dogs are going to eliminate in their crates due to stress, and the time that might have been spent on play is taken up with cleaning.   Try to look at it from your dog’s point of view:  why did his  family leave him  in an animal shelter? He doesn’t know you will come back if you haven’t toured and  left him for a few minutes and picked him up. Then, there are the dog owners—our neighbors—who lie about their dog’s health:   their dog  NOT having diarrhea, ear, eye, or skin infections, parasites…. not a pretty picture.

I really don’t want to be prejudiced, but  it’s true:  the kennel owner manager who is likely to be involved in dog performance training and exhibition  is  more likely to take the risks seriously.  My experience has been that the people who just want to say they own or manage a dog business are more likely to  take all comers and  not  care that all the dogs are stressed.

So, how do you find a well run kennel?  Believe me, your veterinarian, unless  involved in dog performance, has no idea. Lots of them  work with puppy mills or own poorly managed kennels and  make money off of stressed pets.  You really have to  network with dog trainers and groomers  who know.  It’s a difficult  position to be in as a dog owner.  What do I do?  If I haven’t  worked in the kennel, I  ask for a tour, and ask all the questions I addressed at the top of the page—-including being allowed to leave my dog in a kennel suite.  I ask dog club members and fellow dog groomers for suggestions. I have also had care givers come to my home to just feed my dogs and let them out if I didn’t have a trusted friend to do so.

If you have doubts about  a kennel or care giver, this is  what you are doing to your dog. Your dog will forgive you if he lives.  I am asking you to be mature, act with integrity, and  plan ahead.

Why do Pets End up Homeless?

January 31, 2014

I shouldn’t have to say this, but the websites that are forums for buying  and selling, and I will particularly single out Craigslist and Kijiji, if not E-Bay & Amazon, rely on the integrity of sellers….as well as buyers.  Adam Smith, the early economist pointed out how important integrity and trust were to capitalism and a working marketplace. Businesses do collapse when  found to be  shoddy and the word gets out.  Unfortunately, with the internet, you can change your name ans start over.

This is why the person selling—- dumping an item (or a live animal), gaming the system—- sold you something that didn’t work.  Whacha gonna do about is, sucka?  Sue them over $200?  Warn others?  No, you bitch to your friends and eat it.  You might complain or leave a bad review on EBay, Etsy, Amazon, or Yelp!   If you has sense, you’d complain to your State’s Attorney’s division of consumer fraud. If you bought a pet, you either take it to a shelter or try to sell it to the next idiot. Not  Healthy?  Not housebroken?   Not Good with kids?  Not your problem—let  the buyer beware, right?  You will pray to Jesus for forgiveness and you can live with yourself.  Be absolved of your sins, Move on to the next one.

Do you  think I am being harsh? The pet industry is saying that if they breed and supply healthier pets, they should be allowed to sell pets. It is up to buyers to be more informed and discerning—not up to sellers to screen and lose a sale.

I come from a different reality.  I believe that when it comes to a live animal, sellers  should  have to act with more integrity.  Since a pet store employee will  be fired for not making a sale to a  financially qualified buyer, pet shops can  not be counted on to act with integrity when it comes to  selling pets.

I’ve written before about  Fred Alderman, the  owner of Dynasty Afghans, who refused to sell dogs to people who would not spend a day grooming with him.  The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America encourages co-ownership by the breeders0 of all pet puppies until they are  titled or neutered.  The culture of integrity varies from breed to breed.  I was only able to purchase my 2nd Saluki because the breeder knew the breeder of the first one I owned.  The breeder of my first Saluki knew me from my participation in field trials.

The backyard breeders (byb) don’t delve too deeply.  They may have  overpaid another BYB and want to make their money back, and now they have pups and didn’t realize how hard they’d be to sell.  You got  money, you responded to the Craigslist post, you seem nice, Sold.  I don’t  want to know that you live in an apartment with a month-to-month lease with your mother who doesn’t want a dog, or that you  are gone from home 12 hours a day and have no idea how you will housebreak the dog.  Not my problem.  Until you the buyer, realize you are in over your head, and  you can’t trick someone else into overpaying.  That’s what animal shelters are for, right?

My tax dollars at work. Don’t shop—adopt. right?

On the one hand, we have  dog pounds. You pays your money and takes your chances.  You get a dog or cat.  No questions asked. No better than a pet store, just cheaper.

At the other  end, we have the breed specific rescues that ask so many questions and have such onerous applications  it’s amazing they are able to place any dogs at all. And, among them, we have the hobby breeders who will buy puppy mill dogs at auction to ‘save’ them, thus  essentially sabotaging their own efforts—because why should anyone pay for  YOUR over  priced  champion bred puppies when the puppy mill saves cost less than half that?    Since we should not buy puppy mill puppies….I am confused…since YOU bought them to ‘save’—are they healthier?  What’s up with that?

Nobody is dealing with the puppy mill or BYB. My own state  department of Ag doesn’t have enough inspectors to get to dairy farms, let alone puppy mills.

I am amazed at the naivete of  the public, and even my friends and relatives.  They really believe that people selling pets are honest for the most part, because they have no indication that they are NOT.  I partly blame veterinarinans, if not pushing spaying & neutering,k are also not  informing  BYB about  the odds of finding good homes or breeding dogs with genetic defects..

There is some statistical evidence that up to 25% of these dogs bred by BYB (who  won’t acknowledge their contributing to the dog surplus) will wind up in shelters, if not abandoned  somewhere.  If the dogs seem cute or endearing enough they will be adopted.  Most dogs  in shelters are too frightened to put on a good personality display, and may now be dangerous or ‘fear biters.’ Unless a no-kill group saves them they WILL BE KILLED.  Do you think that by taking that 1 pup posted on Craigslist, you will be preventing this?  If you pay  more than $25 not only will you not be, you will be encouraging this BYB to breed more.  If the  person posting  is a broker  for the BYB, and he sells  4 dogs at $100 each, he has made money.  Shots—if given at all, cost about $10, and you can buy a packet of the certificates that say they were given—they often come free with the vaccine.  This is pretty good extra income for that guy who works at Walmart for $12 an hour.

It’s a puppy you want,  not an adult do with ‘problems’, right?  You’ll make your own problem dog, right?  I have not bought a puppy in over 30 years. My last 5 dogs came to me as adults from shelters, rescues, or  networking.  Great dogs, all.  To me,the only reason  to take a puppy is that no adult dogs are available,  Think about it. The whole chewing, lunging on the leash not being housebroken.  Is that  so much more fun than an adult dog from a shelter  who appreciates  your attention?

But here’s the deal, really:  if you don’t have time to  work with a dog—training it, bonding with it—at least 1/2 hour a day, starting now, and  you don’t know how much  shots, other veterinary care, and grooming costs, or  who will take care of your dog when you are away, yo are not prepared for a dog right now.  And if you haven’t done research into  the type of dog who will fit into your lifestyle, and talked to owners of those kinds of dogs, you are not ready.  And if you haven’t at least visited an animal shelter before choosing your companion for the next 12 years or so, you are not ready.

My Year in Review (2013)

December 27, 2013
Ch. Scenario's Razzle Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki,  on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

Ch. Scenario’s Razzle Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki, on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

The last few years have been a bit of a struggle money-wise and  balance wise, sometimes.   I am lucky to get to the gym once a week. The trouble is that  my commute, when i do have work,  is generally  in the  neighborhood of 2 hours a day.  I’ll get into that.  Fact of the matter is…I have nothing to complain about.  I have been able to save money, make repairs, and travel.  I attribute being  ok to NOT having to support kids or parents. After months of steady decline,  I euthanized Dazzle, my Saluki, in January.  You think you want your dog  to live to an old age…and you do, but then your dog has trouble on the stairs, and he becomes stressed and frightened, and  he was becoming incontinent, and  he’d  walk the hall, back and forth—-like he was going somewhere and would forget why—like an old person.    He was a few months over  15 years.  Now, Bebop has reached that decline, but  what happened with Dazzle, aside from losing muscle mass and becoming blind and deaf, was one day, we went for a walk,  he seemed fine, no limping, and suddenly he could not stand up;  he could not support his own weight.  I took him that evening to be euthanized.  We went to Blue Pearl, the  emergency animal hospital, and while stressful for me, he seemed  fine.  Several people asked if I couldn’t have rigged up a sling.  Sure, but that would not have improved his quality of life.  It would have been a matter of a week or  2 if he couldn’t get up to get to the water bowl, or eat  if I was not home.  Also, the stairs, winter slick. He was a phenomenal dog—an excellent house dog.  He never did a naughty thing.   He never went in the garbage.  His vice was pulling  embellishments—like beads—off fabric (pillows, shirts), and tearing paper. He loved to tear paper.  As much as I wanted another Saluki,  I am getting up there in years, myself, and to lug a large old dog up two flights of stairs is something to think about.   Also, most in rescue  are not only out of the Midwest, but practically feral (not socialized) and  will jump a  fence under  six feet (I have a four foot one on the north side of the house, about  a forty-foot run).  As there were no  Salukis in the area, and no WRAP (rescue) Whippets, I made a few calls, and was sent to Linda Larsen, who always takes dogs back.  She sold me  two-year-old Dash—who was returned because he chased the cat. I do not doubt it. Housebroken, neutered, all shots, obedience trained…and he’s killed a couple of squirrels and a few mice.  Very sweet dog.  Unfortunately, very submissive and not a ‘dog park’ dog:  if he perceives another dog is  more submissive than he is, he is a bully.  If he perceives another dog to be more submissive than he is, he ‘dogs’ them.  That’s how it is.    Being on the board of my local dog park, it is somewhat ironic, but  one board member doesn’t even own a dog, and another one also has a ‘non-social’ dog.   I got Dash after I returned from Turkey.  Great trip with Gate One travel.  I learned so much and had a wonderful time. Speaking of bullies…..when I closed my grooming business in 2006, I went through a lot of bs looking for a job.  I even blogged about it several times :   and :   I learned the general manager who gave me so much grief was finally demoted two positions.  Not fired, though.   I guess they thought they’d force him to quit, but he is almost my age—where would he get another job with benefits?  I blogged about it: I actually, in about a year’s time, worked for  several abusive bosses who  tricked me and lied to me.   I am naive and just assume everyone has the same view of acting with integrity that I have.    It is legal to  hire you under false pretenses, and  demand you do things you were not hired to do, then challenge you when you  apply for  unemployment and say you were insubordinate.   In any case, because  of this, I spent much of 2009  walking dogs and doing over night pet sitting as I looked for employment where I could make a living wage.   During this time, a tenant died.  He and his partner were  pack rats. Much worse than I am.  The kitchen was so bad I had to  gut it (last updated 15 years before) and  rehab that, as well as update my electrical boxes and rewire the house.  I also  insulated my ceiling (with all the holes, due to running wires, it made sense).  That started  the  rehab and  repairs on the  building.  U  just took money out of savings.  My ‘friends’ wonder why I don’t get my hair or nails done, or dress more fashionably.  It’s all in the house. I  got a job  at a major kennel.  That was in 2009.  The kennel owner  had a great business plan, and several good advisors as well as unlimited capital—or so it seemed.    They actually did the build-out around me.    I never knew where there’d be a new wall or door when I came to work.  Huge place.  I would have loved to  continue working there, but at the start, he only had part-time work for me, so he knew I was looking for other part-time work.  That was  the time I had the unfortunate  experience of  running into Dan London, who owned DOGGIE BATH HOUSE :   Dan did not have enough ‘dog’ experience ( actually, very few pet business owners do these days)  and  he decided that if I wouldn’t work for him, he’d make sure I’d work for nobody.  Since he had my resume  from  my initial interview with him, he started harassing the people he thought I worked for,  and began  posting libelous, negative reviews about them  and me on yelp! and Craigslist.  I blogged about him, too   and Well, he started colluding with  pet brokers who used Craigslist to sell animals (a violation of the posting rules—& this is why the sellers are so aggressive and arrogant—nobody is going to stop them but  people with integrity—flaggers—who  try to get their selling posts eliminated). So… they started posting all over the country, in the pet section and in forums, that I  bought dogs from animal shelters to sell on CL and didn’t like  competition, they posted fake ads that I was giving away Maltese and Golden Retriever puppies (that  sort of backfired on them, as I told every caller that  anytime they saw an ad for a puppy on Craigslist, it was either a scam  or dog broker, and where they could research  getting a healthy, well-bred pup) and  where I worked, and encouraged  people to call my employer and have me fired.  It took them several weeks of harassing my employers, but after  three months, they started threatening the life of my manager. I did not find this out until the owner told me he could no longer have me, but it was the manager’s decision, not his.  She told me about the threats as I was carrying my stuff out.    Now, in fact, the owner had told me he was going to  get law enforcement out after these people, but he never followed through. It was easier to get rid of me.  Craigslist told me that if I got a subpoena, they would tell me who was posting the libelous posts.   Not worth $5000 at this time, I still make a pretty good living.   In early 2010, I got a ‘job offer’ from a kennel owner. The kennel is in the West Loop—-a mile west of the CBD.  You might wonder what kind of kennel could be that close to downtown. This is how it is:  Just west of the  interstate, there is an industrial area.  Most of the  businesses are food processing,and there is also a row of  top restaurants, but there are a lot of warehouses and loft spaces, and within a mile of this particular kennel, there are at least four grooming shops and  5 full service kennels. The reason is–aside from being so close to the Loop— the zoning.  I blogged about this experience, too: I was there  two years (until April), worked with integrity, had a good following, but that wasn’t good enough for this kennel owner. She thought she could do better…and learned that she could not.  I quit because she set up a dangerous situation.  I had been working part time about three miles away, but mostly due to the neighborhood (very low income, mostly Puerto Rican and other islanders) I knew I would never be able to  grow that business due to the location and income mix of the neighborhood.    I  also went back to  some people  who had a shop close to where I live. I had worked for them  before and quit, because  they would not invest in their business. Also, they would not let me pay for  marketing, which was really short-sighted of them  and frustrating to me.   An animal hospital in the Western Suburbs offered me  two days a week, and told me that I would definitely  make at least  $150 a day.  The commute was horrid.  25 miles one way, taking at least an hour.  Two hours a day commuting.  I could start work  what ever time I wanted.  I just  felt that, since they started taking dogs at 7:30 a.m., it was a matter of integrity to get in there and start. Why should dogs have to sit in cages for  three hours?  But that was what the groomer who  needed help   E,  was doing.   She liked to sleep in, and since she had her husband to bathe dogs for her, she really didn’t actually start to groom unto noon. Huh?  Aaaah….yes.  Apparently what happened was  that she was hired as another groomer, as N   could not handle the business.  I could see from N’s records that she  had apparently been a grooming school graduate, and didn’t know how to groom or handle dogs.  She marked about every dog as a biter—and they were not—so that meant she was a rough handler.  But apparently she got injured somehow, & my co-worker—E—stepped up, and since her husband— T—was out of work,  E suggested to the practice manager that they hire him to bathe dogs for her, and she could go from grooming 6 dogs a day to 12.  Not only did they agree  to this (at about $15 an hour—when  industry average for a dog bather in our area is $10), she had carte blanc:   she  could do whatever she wanted and charge whatever she wanted.  It was rough to start.  I was NOT averaging $150 a day—not even on Saturdays, because front office filled E’s days before they gave me a full day.  As ‘luck’ would have it,  E broker her wrist (alcohol was involved) about a month after I started…and  they offered me all the days I wanted.  With  four full days a week (nobody had to wait more than 2 business days for an  appointment)m and a bather I didn’t have to pay for, I was making $300—450 a day, A DAY.   It made the commute worth it.   I raised prices on some dogs, lowered  prices on four. Why lower prices? What E was doing was unethical. She would  charge her drinking buddies $25 for an $80 groom, and make it up on clients that would come in maybe  twice a year.  I told the practice manager, but  they just loved E.  I started getting a following, I didn’t think E would be back until February at the earliest. She could not even lift her purse. She started hanging around, to show them how eager she was to return. She told them  she wanted to come back the week before Thanksgiving.  As they  would not guarantee me even two days a week after that, they started looking for a novice groomer, and found one.  But, while E was hanging out, she started ‘editing’ the card file, and although I had raised prices on about 30% of the dogs, I lowered them on  four dogs, and that made her livid. Meanwhile. my  0ld boss— from the job I quit in April, and started courting me about the time I took this animal hospital job. I told her I had a parking space,they were paying me 55%, and no hassle.  However, I  knew I would not work with E—she  is a shaver. I am a groomer.  So  old boss fixed all the aggravating things that bothered me and caused me to quit, and offered me full time.  Things are not perfect, but I have a better chance of working things out this go around.   As with any job,there  are pluses and minuses. it is hard to  groom dogs for an employer who  doesn’t do this work herself. Always. Experienced groomers will tell you this. My family provides plenty of  fodder to exploit:  and: and Being self-employed, I could not refinance the house.  Even though I could pay it off from savings, the  banks are really short-sighted in their credit policies. As an employee I was finally able to  refinance the house.  As though being at the mercy of an employer makes me more  financially secure.  Since I  owed so little principal and had a great loan to value ( confirmed by the appraisal done  for this  refi), I was able to lower my actual payments by over  $500.  The big  issue is the property taxes are way more than principal or interest.   Whatever…we  (friend is a certified kitchen designer) just  completed my dreamed for kitchen rehab.  We also, as many Chicagoans living in multi-unit housing, had a bout of bed bugs.  My extremely diligent  roommate eliminated them. In reviewing everything, I see I am on track to retire in a few years.  Thankfully,the stock market has been very good, and I have a very good mix of mutual funds.  I am going to Viet Nam in February, and hope  next year to  go  back to the Far East, or back to Africa.  I also signed on for ‘Obamacare’ & cut my health insurance premium in half. I am still a left over hippie do-gooder. When I have the time, I  volunteer as a court advocate for animals in our court system.  Check out  The court system is not like on TV. Defendants are given  continuance after continuance, and although they deny  hurting animals, many of them use the same lawyer—that is more than a coincidence. &, as I have mentioned,  KN is sill with me. Due to the sequester, his contract work has been really cut, but  his  former co-workers  really like him, and of course, he’s good at what he does.  He has a few interesting days in Saudi Arabia after his top secret   waste to energy project got  a big write up in USA Today.

2 Game Changers!

October 10, 2013

I am an independent contractor.  Yes, I do take jobs where taxes are taken out, but rarely have I qualified for benefits.  It is also important  to me to be able to act with integrity and be prepared to quit a job if I am asked to do something unethical or that might endanger a pet.  If you are a regular reader, you  know I’ve quit a lot of jobs—or been told to not return.  It’s shocking to me that people can say they love dogs and have so much influence—and  just do  so much that  gives people wrong information, or shows  lack of respect for a dog.

When I closed my business  in June of 2006, I bounced around for a few months. I checked out job offers.  One was  to groom at a  pet store—-Pocket Puppies in Chicago, that sold puppy mill bred  toy breed dogs. To this day, the owner, Lane Boron, still markets that he buys from  family breeders. True—Amish puppy mills are run by families.  They are breeding pets like livestock, and Lane is selling them like livestock…the only screening he does is making sure  buyers don’t have toddlers.  However, if you work or are gone 10+ hours a day, and  just leave a pee-pad out, & have the cash (or credit) to buy a dog—that’s good enough  for Lane.

I  checked out The Collar and Leash, on Wells in Old town.  I had worked for the original owner, Jan Condurso over 30 years before! Two  problems stopped me:  they paid an hourly wage—no commission—and they also sold puppy mill bred dogs.  The fact of the matter is that the guys were just fair groomers. They really didn’t love dogs, and were just  making a living…..and their over head was way too high.   Jan and her sister, Barbara Lewis, had set them up in business, as the 2 cousins —their sons—were high school drop outs, and they knew what they were doing was unethical, but didn’t care.  Dan Raymond, one of the cousins, died recently.  Just about 3 months ago , Dan’s wife decided to stop  retailing the puppy mill dogs &  marketed that she would work with shelters & rescues…but there is no evidence that  that ever happened.  They could not sustain the business without  hiring a groomer, and could not get a groomer to work for them.

Across the street from the Collar And Leash, , The Furry Beastro was interested in  me being available  one weekday and one weekend day, but I could see the way they  were set up that I would never make money.  For one thing, they had 1 groomer, & he took in 1 dog at a time.  If that dog didn’t show up…he would not be making money.  They wanted me to be available for his over flow.  The owner also had 4 people on the payroll hanging around and the store wasn’t even open for business!  Sure enough,  they were  out of business within 6 months

I took a job at an animal hospital, as a groomer, that had over a 90% ‘no-show’ rate, so I had to look for other work, and got hired by Best Friends Pet Care, which owned a chain  of kennels.  I could never used them as a reference as my manager quit, and Bruce Blaine, well….  It took a couple of months to be hired, and I had to be assertive about it, because, although their website  tells you to  apply at  the location you want to work at, you  do that & the manager tells you he needs approval from corporate.    Huh?  It was also disturbing that a friend of mine was training with an independent contractor dog trainer at this location who told my friend she wouldn’t want to be caught alone in the building with Bruce Blaine, but what was I to do? They had business and I’m a tough broad.

Bruce was a real asshole.  He  allowed men  on his payroll to  be irresponsible, lazy, and not do any work, and he was  always angry and condescending to the women.  The way the kennel was set up, you had to walk dogs out to an ‘exercise area’ for them to relieve themselves.  This would have been ok if the last outing wasn’t  9:p.m., and you started letting dogs out at  6, but  because  Bruce  wasn’t there in the mornings,—or because he didn’t care—- and he only had 2 kennel staff scheduled, 1 girl  had to  do all the ‘walks’. &  this meant that  if there were over 10 dogs in the kennel (like on a holiday or weekend), dogs were sitting in their own mess.  Real dog lovers, these guys.  I asked for a shelf in the laundry room, so kennel staff wouldn’t take  towels out of the dryer & just throw them on the floor, and he told me to mind my own business.  My  2 days off were Tuesday & Wednesday, but he had me come in on July 4th—a Tuesday—to groom 1 dog  that didn’t go home until after 2 on July 5th. I guess he showed me who was boss. I know  one issue was that I was netting more than him  working less hours, and getting a lot of compliments on my grooming. So it goes.

My  manager—an assistant, quit, because she couldn’t take working for him.  After a year, I wanted to be able to take    off 1 weekend day of a month. I asked Bruce  how we were doing grooming wise, and he wouldn’t give me any info, so I called human resources. They told me I had INCREASED NET IN THAT LOCATION by over 10%.  You’d think I’d have some bargaining power, but no.  A few weeks after, I got a certified letter telling me they were cutting my health insurance and benefits because I wasn’t working an average of 30 your a week.  “But you told me I  have increased your net!  You are penalizing  me for managing my time well!”  The response: “Yeah, well, that’s just our policy.”  Bruce was away—at a meeting, but  when he returned he was livid.  He actually told me he would have given me kennel hours. As it was, I WAS working in the kennel, as I  didn’t want dogs I groomed  sitting in  peed up runs, but no matter. Someone offered me a  job, and I quit.

I have a client who still used Best Friends for boarding, and I said something about how Bruce manages the kennel.  She said, “He’s no longer there.” So, I called another   dog trainer who also worked there.  She told me she had it in her contract that Bruce could not talk to her.  She told me the corporation  was sold, they promoted  an assistant manager, and Bruce was gone. They gave him an assistant manager’s job at another location.  He now has  two layers of bosses over him.  Oh, well…

Lots of groomers take jobs with  corporate owned pet shops for the health insurance.  Some even quit in spite  of having health insurance. Now with affordable healthcare (a/k/a Obamacare), I bet a lot of dog groomers are going to be quitting corporate pet shops…Pretty soon, there will be many more groomers available, at least temporarily.
we’ll see if they really know how to groom dogs…

Is it Gossip if it’s true? Or any Boss can ruin you…..

July 26, 2013



I’ve been accused of being a blabber mouth , and ‘dissing’ businesses.  One  groomer friend told me  I didn’t get the whole story about   a recent situation where a dog groomer stopped showing up at work.  She had actually given notice, and due to very poor management, key people didn’t get the information. This does not surprise me at all.  However, the groomer didn’t go out of her way to make sure the key people got the information.

An anonymous groomer told me that the reason I wasn’t getting jobs (!?!) was that  employers googled me and I had disrespected too many.  She felt that  enabled her to get more work. I’m wondering…is she really a groomer….or a possible employer…Can she read? Can she comprehend what she reads?  Do you really want to work for people who  don’t buy equipment or supplies, who don’t keep good records, who under charge, or who really aren’t busy?  How about people who don’t give you your tips, or don’t pay what they owe you? Or bounce checks?   How about people who don’t run safe facilities?   Or who sell puppies they did not breed?  Not me. I  trashed her  comment because she  signed with a fake email address.  So, here’s the deal on  ‘not getting hired’:  I am working 3 part-time jobs now by choice.  Why?  In some cases, the  business owners  either do not market grooming or I have to travel too far to  work for them every day. I don’t enjoy sitting 2+ hours in traffic.    I’ve noticed that , the farther a business is from the city, the busier they seem to be….yet the groomers still aren’t making over $40,000 a year.  What’s the point? Especially if you don’t get health insurance!  At some point, I will probably only work for  1, as I still have my  ‘private’ clients whom I get by SEO.  That is, they google  ‘key words’ to find a specific type of groomer, and, generally, I am the only one who shows up on the search.  That is fine with me, as I  don’t want to deal with every backyard breeder with 6 Shih Tzu bitches who hasn’t figured out how to use a clipper.

I talked to a dog groomer recently who  took one job I was not able to keep.  The employer felt she needed me more than 3 days a week, so fired me in favor of a full time groomer. Then, because this new full time groomer wasn’t as good as she hoped…they hired my friend for part time work.  I learned that everything I had told the manager  as being a problem (the bather being over worked and needing help, the  receptionist  sabotaging good relations) turned out to be true. The bather quit,  they  started losing business, and now, after 20 years, they are thinking of shutting the grooming business as their overhead is too high and they are no longer profitable.  Should I not   post this?  I haven’t mentioned any names on this one.   Meanwhile, another place I had worked part time, which was badly managed because the owner really didn’t know anything about microbusiness &  hired too many people who were not ADDING VALUE… sold the property.  Recently.  Big shock, they list  fewer managerial staff on their web page.

I  also recently met a groomer who  met a mutual friend.New groomer had  never seen an Afghan in  ‘specials coat’ on the street.  We got to talking, and she had worked at places that  had apparently googled me and would not hire me.  Her attitude was that I had done myself a favor. She had also worked at  one place I had considered working for, but  refused to work for as they sold puppy mill puppies…  Pocket Puppies  in Lincoln Park in Chicago.  They are still in business. When you buy low & sell high, just 1 puppy a week can keep you afloat. This also upset the groomer, which was among the reasons she had quit working for them.

I respond to anyone who leaves a lucid comment (warning to you Africans).  I want to know  how you found this blog. Sometimes, you  don’t know the dynamics of a business until you’ve jumped into the fire. The managers at PETCO lied to me, It’s legal to lie to employees.  Pet Supplies Plus told me they hired me to do one job, then expected me to do many other jobs  so I would know was not respected and could easily be replaced, and they are desperate  for groomers. So are many  places.  Seems many groomers have the same attitude that I have.  I rest my case.