Posts Tagged ‘pet peeves’

Mental Illness is not a Moral Failing

November 3, 2017

Recently, I’ve been pursued by an anonymous bully.  I have an inkling of who he is, but not where.  Hell, in the modern world, does it matter where he is?  He’s crafty.  He doesn’t have the balls to  call me directly…he calls my  employer and harasses office staff.  He’s done this to me several times, and I’ve been fired for it.  Don’t tell me what is legal or illegal. Women are fearful of men, and will acquiesce.

This guy has posted that I am crazy and mentally ill. His point?  That he is better than me?  Stronger?  More intelligence?  Not sure what his point is.  I think he is probably more mentally ill than I am, but nothing we can do about it.

Being mentally ill doesn’t mean you can’t think. Not all mental illness is schizophrenia or dementia.  I  was taking medication for depression at one time, and a friend said to me, “You know, you might have to take that for the rest of your life.” And I responded, “If I were diabetic, would you say the same thing to me?”

People clearly don’t understand mental illness. Wouldn’t YOU be mentally ill if someone you didn’t know was attacking you, calling your boss telling them to fire you, and  you didn’t know why?  Wouldn’t that cause you stress? Well, stress is also mental illness.

But..it is not a moral failing.   A moral failing is taking an action that you know affects your community in a negative way—and doing it on purpose.  Finding a dog, knowing that someone lost it, and not attempting to find the owner, but deciding you will be a better judge of what a good home is.

Rescuing a dog from an animal shelter and finding out it is a biter, and knowing what it will take to make that dog a pet and not doing what needs to be done, because you are either too lazy or want to spend the money on other things…is a moral failing.   Keeping that dog confined for months—or years, because you aren’t killing it…but not making sure that dog isn’t stressed out every day he lives…is a moral failing.

Breeding a dog that you know had  genetic ‘defects’ that not only affect its quality of life, but will cost a lot of money, when you  don’t have to breed that dog…is a moral failing.

Denying that any of this is important, and running a business that you promote as humane…is a moral failing.

I had written all this months ago, and because I work  in the pet industry, I encounter a lot  of this.  Just recently, many women have come forward and spoken out about being harassed by men.  it’s not all sexual harassment, you see, but it is still all about bullying women.

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When a Rescue isn’t Honest About a Dog…we all Lose

May 11, 2017

A few years ago, I worked at a very unusual kennel.  At least it was, for the time.  The owner, who, due to a consulting career and great network, got the capital for his concept.  It was a 24 hour kennel. Thus, if you got back from being over seas at 2:00 a.m., you could go fetch your dog on the way home from the airport.  All his kennels would be in close proximity to  airports.  But that is neither here nor there.  The other part of this plan was that it was totally indoors, and dogs would be guaranteed at least 6 hours a day out of their suites.  So, they  ‘exercised’ in packs.  The theory was that the space was roomy enough that nobody got territorial.  It generally worked. When it didn’t, it  created a lot of extra work for employees, and some  injuries of both dogs and people.

Only the manager  had hands on dog experience, but she had never worked in a kennel or trained a dog.  This is a problem, these days—-when  people with money want to be in a dog business, but  have never actually communicated with dogs, and have no animal husbandry experience. They have a fantasy idea of how dogs are with each other.

Due to how busy this business was, and just the statistical odds, we were getting  a per centage of dogs that were nonsocial, and had to be kept separate from other dogs, as well as  dogs with clear neurological problems.  One of the managers wanted to consult an animal behaviorist.  My experience with dogs was not good enough, as I was just a dog groomer.  But the manager, who had been a Vet Tech, told her that an animal behaviorist wasn’t going to fix a brain tumor or whatever  was triggering these dogs, and we were in danger.  Yet, the owner was reluctant to turn away any dogs.

It came to pass that we got a dog in, a  Coonhound mix, who clearly wasn’t all there.  We could not get her attention. All she did was pace.  The manager  put her in an office with a glass door, nearer to where we were working, to see if  we could get her calm.  She was across a hallway  from  where I was grooming dogs…but it didn’t appear to me, although we could see each other, that she was paying attention to me.

She came and went several time over a few months (her owner traveled).  One day, I went into a pack of about 20 dogs (in an exercise area) to get a dog to groom.  The Coonhound came right up to me, jumped up, and bit me in the shoulder. Blood actually spurted out!  It didn’t hurt, but it was a bad bite, and I was really shocked.

I went to  the office to tell the managers what happened.  One of them wanted to call the owner.  “Isn’t he on his honeymoon?”  I asked.  He was.  I said, “Don’t  screw up his honeymoon.  He’s going to have to  make a decision when he gets back.”

& the owner did.  He made the right decision, and euthanized the dog.  No training was going to get her out of a neurological problem.  The manager asked me how I felt about that.  “It’s unfortunate, but we can’t save them all. The statistical odds are that some dogs just can’t be pets.”  I told her. “I’m glad you understand that,” she responded.  “I went to a seminar on evaluating dogs in shelters, and  the  person giving it said that when we aren’t truthful about a dog’s temperament, and a child is bitten, not only will this family never trust a rescue, but they may never get another dog,” she went on.  “Or, even worse, they’ll go to a pet store and get a puppy mill dog, ” I  said.

I bring all this up because I work at a commercial boarding kennel, and we make room for rescues who need space for  dogs in their programs.  I see what the rescues do.  Good intentions are not enough.  We have several dogs from a Greyhound Rescue. All the Greyhounds are used to being in kennels, and  very quiet and very friendly. Every weekend they go to an adoption event.  The Pit Bulls? No.  I have no problem with Pit Bulls as a breed. We have  quite a few who come for daycare, and they are  fine with other dogs.  I also volunteer for a  nonprofit that  places dog that are in the court system, due to  owners  being dog fighters, or just every day abuse and neglect, and most of those dogs are fine….but…there are so many Pit Bulls (lots of  low income ‘backyard breeders’).   Many are sold  barely weaned…so they are never socialized to even their litter mates, let alone other dogs, that  we have way too many that will never be good pets—& their group sponsors are in denial about this. They don’t want them killed,but they don’t want these dogs in their homes, either…so they languish…warehoused…in our boarding kennel.  Virtually all are  emotionally stressed from being in an animal shelter, and then, from their  perspective, they are moved to another animal shelter—our kennel, where there is just as much stress of  dogs running by, barking, all the smells, as  there were from the place they came from.  One dog spent 16 years in our kennel.  16 years, because my boss  agreed to keep her. Every time Gracie was out of her  kennel, she was muzzled. Finally, she got too old to attack other dogs.

We currently have 4 that will NEVER be pets.   2 were tied to our doors.  One has neurological problems, and has been in the kennel  a year. She is not spayed, she bites, and because one of the office staff ‘loves’ her (but not enough to take her home), my boss won’t euthanize her.  One  was a puppy…and still is. The rescue  posts her as housebroken.  What a joke!  2 were taken from OPEN ADMISSIONS SHELTERS.  1 is so reactive,  for the  hour or 2 she is out of her crate, she has to be in a kennel run, and  has a barrier in front of her crate so  she can’t  get frantic seeing other dogs. She was posted as  dog friendly on the rescue’s website. When I complained, they took the post down…but nobody has come by to work with her.  Same with the male, and now he will bite anyone. They want to raise $4000 to send him to a ‘special dog rehabilitator’ in another state.

This is not rescue. This is a bunch of psychologically  messed up people hoping for miracles.  I have had many experiences like this in my  40+ year grooming career. A client brings a dog for grooming, and it is a biter and I can’t get near the dog, and the EXCUSE is that the dog was abused.   Dogs are very resilient, and  that is not why they are biting.  Maybe the dog was abused, but that isn’t  my issue:  my issue is that the dog is dangerous, no matter how ‘cute’ it looks, and the neighborhood children (let alone your own!) are in danger.  When I was very  young and inexperienced with dogs, I  thought  this was very sad.  Now, as a more mature person with lots of dog experienced, I am angered by the many people in denial.  If we want our communities to be safe, we can’t be ‘no-kill’.  If you want to be ‘no-kill’ YOU take these dangerous dogs into your own home.  Get liability insurance.  Start desensitizing the dog to whatever is stressing the dog enough to bite. Put yourself at risk.  keep working on the dog until he dies.  Good luck.  Just  don’t  flim flam  us about what a good pet this dog IS.

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.

A Very Sad State of Affairs in the Pet Industry

May 27, 2016

Bred by backyard breeder. This is a Shih Tzu---Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?

I’ve been told I should not ‘name names’ as it is preventing me from getting jobs….but since I am near  retirement…well…if you are in the metro Chicago area and are looking to board your  dog, contact me, first. There are some good kennels, run by dog lovers who’ve bothered to learn about animal behavior (dog behavior, specifically), and train dogs.  Unfortunately, many   dog kennels are  owned or managed by people  who have had management experienced, have owned a pet dog, and know NOTHING about dog behavior or what causes stress or injury. They don’t care to learn, either.

I have a friend, a past co-worker, who  took a job at a facility  on the north side  of Chicago. in fact, the owners, two men who  own a pet dog, and got tired of what they were doing (and had the capital), offered me a grooming job right before I went on vacation…to start upon my return.  While I was gone, they fired a groomer who was about to leave on her own, and immediately hired another ‘groomer’…because they couldn’t wait for me.  Why not? Well, obviously, neither guy  knew how to brush or bathe a dog, so they needed someone’s labor to make money.

I was  a bit disappointed, but not too disappointed.  They really needed more equipment, and I knew they knew nothing about dogs. This always frightens me because they also hire people to work for them who know nothing about dogs.  Yes, that’s right.  These guys, the owners, don’t want to actually  be in the room with the dogs themselves, all day. No, they want to own a ‘dog business’.

So it happened they hired my friend, who does act with integrity, and  she  found that they allowed another employee to put an electronic shock collar  on a dog (maybe more than 1).  Now, if  a person has a pack of dogs, and introduces a new dog to the pack, and  there is a fight, the new dog is not allowed to enter the pack.    That is, people with integrity know this. The people who want to make money  who won’t refuse a dog, apparently shock it.

Not all day care facilities do this.  Many use a water spray bottle (or pistol) to spray a dog  looking funny at another dog.  But face it:  the odds of a fight breaking out when you have more than 3 ‘unrelated’ (meaning living in the same household) dogs together is high.  Of course,an intact dog increases the odds, but  neutering is not a panacea.

So, my friend quit, and it looks like I dodged a bullet.  However, since, again, the  people I work for   just  three days a week don’t have enough work  for me to make a living, I have to keep looking for more work.  What I am finding is a lot of businesses  owned by people who want to own a pet business….and don’t want direct contact with dogs. they don’t want

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

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

to be in a room all day with dogs.
They have never trained a dog and proudly let everyone know how spoiled their own dogs are.  They do not invest in  equipment, and want you to overcome the laws of physics, and they also  don’t want you to form a relationship with THEIR clients.

You shouldn’t choose a pet car business just because the location is convenient, but I guess anyone who thinks their dog gets exercise  just because they pay for ‘dog daycare’ is kidding themselves.  Most dogs go home tired from stress, not from  actual exercise.

I have an acquaintance who is trying to change this:  she offers  training of kennel personnel, and seminars, but this will not solve the problem of people in the pet industry  making money  off pets, but  not caring enough to work directly with them.

Vacations for Animal Lovers

May 13, 2016
Pariah dog sleeping at Ephasus in turkey

Pariah dog sleeping at Ephasus in turkey

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

Reception at Lilongwe SPCA. in Malawi

Reception at Lilongwe SPCA. in Malawi

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

It’s Only Dog Hair

January 1, 2016
The trim is a 'Town and Country'. I wanted to do a classic 'Dutch', but the owner was a retired groomer , herself, and this was what she wanted. Note the balance, that her pants are not 'falling off'.

The trim is a ‘Town and Country’. I wanted to do a classic ‘Dutch’, but the owner was a retired groomer , herself, and this was what she wanted. Note the balance, that her pants are not ‘falling off’.

Saul Bellow wrote a book that  became a best seller, called “The Adventures of Augie March.” It’s about a working class Jewish kid trying to make his way in the world.  He has no education, gets involved with seedy individuals, and tries a lot of jobs. One of the jobs is as a dog bather for dog groomers.  I believe the book takes place in the early part of the last century.  All the dogs were poodles.  He  is ambivalent about the job.

Being a dog groomer, I never forget that part of the book, because I work for a lot of businesses owned by non-dog groomers…or  people who have had any experience in  the pet industry, like ever working in a kennel or assisting a groomer or veterinarian, and they think they are doing me a favor by hiring dog bathers.

Unless I train the bather, what I get is some kid with no  aspirations  to make an actual living, who thinks he loves dogs, but clearly doesn’t like the job task, who slows me down and usually does a half-assed job,  At my most recent job,  due partly to lack of proper equipment, they even  re-matted the dogs while drying them. Why?  Because my managers really didn’t care  whether these guys acted with integrity or not….and they were not brushing out most of the dogs.

I’ve written before about how non-dog groomers, or people whose only experience with dogs was actually in dog grooming school (“because they loved dogs”) are running businesses offering dog grooming, This was the case of one of my most recent jobs.  One of the guys who is a manager actually told me his parents ran a commercial breeding kennel (what we know as a puppy mill).  Yes, he has his own personal dogs whom he adores….but you  have a desensitization when you think it is ok to breed pets as livestock.  The other manager was trained by a very well known groomer, and is a very good scissor artist.    However, neither guy has worked in as many places, for as many mentors as I have.  Nor will they get their hands wet.  They are excellent groomers and horrible managers.

So, you couple these excellent groomers/horrible managers, with an investor/owner who really doesn’t have a clue about who has integrity, or that it matters, and you get….a real communication disconnect about what is needed to  make the business run efficiently, and why integrity matters.

I came on because the managers  got married and went on a vacation, leaving no experienced groomer, but a lot of work.  Had they really cared, they would have done this in January or February, when business  is slow (lots of people don’t get their dogs groomed in the winter—cold is the excuse…), not September, but no matter.  The investor owner pleaded with me, I came on part-time, saw they had full time, told the owner that there would be a lot of complaints as the managers LEFT NO GROOMING INSTRUCTIONS ON ANY CLIENTS, and his  other groomer was too inexperienced.

We muddled through. The guys returned, and suddenly, the efficiencies I had instituted so we could get through the day were  ignored.  Matted dogs were, again, being sent for bathing, and, and WE were expected to demat these dogs (even though, when the owner hired me, he told me the dogs would be brushed out for me).  Dogs were not towel dried properly, and so they stayed wet forever.  But more, I was being treated like…a necessary evil.  The guys  didn’t work with us.  One ‘managed’ the front, the other would come in late &  be constantly taking breaks to talk on his cell phone, or go out for a smoke or whatever.

I come in at  8:00 a.m., ready to start work immediately, and I  generally work until we are finished.  One is constantly warning  me to NOT cut any hair on the face before the dog is bathed, and not cut off any hair on the legs.  They do not clean ears. They forget to clip toenails, they  decided that because too many dogs are   frantic and  scraping their nails on the tub grates of the drying table (frantic—yes…now why would that be?), we are to cut nails after the bath.  If we get blood on the dog, we will rewash it.

I was being paid a decent hourly wage, but not great. No tips, I was not allowed to  interact with clients.  We were demating too many long-haired dogs.  I told both the owner and the manager that we should be telling people, the interval between groomings is too long and we are stressing out your dog.  That’s tactful, isn’t it?  Nobody is blamed for not brushing their dog. We know it is not a matter of money…it is they just don’t know and nobody has told them.

But they—owner and manager— refuse. THEY are not doing the  work, we are.  Yes, one of the managers will help if  a dog is very  horribly matted, but for the most part, another groomer and I do the work.   It is tedious, and in the end, doesn’t solve the problem. It is not fair to the dog, but nobody but me cares.

The icing on the cake was Christmas week. We had been slow the two weeks before, and I had been taking days off because there wasn’t really enough work, and I knew my co-workers needed the pay.  But X-mas week, we were grooming 30+ dogs a day.

What the manager would do would put the name of the dog on the board, the time in and out, and the ‘instructions’, which, for the most part, was one word:  “Cut”.  Sometimes it would say “long trim”.  On one dog, ‘Joey’, it said ‘E’. E is a long, attachment blade.  It leaves the hair about 2 inches long.  So, I did our regular pattern, and suddenly, Carlos/manager walks into the room (his partner is talking on his cell phone), lots of yelling in Spanish:  “What did YOU do?  You cut off the topknot!  Didn’t you see it was long?” and  what ensued was Carlos telling me the owner wanted a big head, she complained that while he was gone, we made the dog look like a monkey, why didn’t I ask…and all I could think was, You mean, when you left on vacation  and there were no grooming instructions on any dog…? 

You really can’t guilt me when you  make a mistake.  I  am amused, but I don’t feel bad.  And you know what?  The owner  came, picked up the dog, said it looked great, and left. No complaints.

As an aside, this happened to me about  25 years ago. I was working in a shop, and I had instructions to scissor a Cocker Spaniel.  Ugh!  but I got the dog fluff dried and  did it, and my co-workers were telling me how great  the dog looked, and my boss came into the room and yelled, “You made  him a half an inch too short!”  At first, I thought he was joking, but he was  distressed because  he  KNEW the owner would complain.  Now really, do you think any of these owners know how long their dog’s hair is?  But sure enough, she  called (maid picked the dog up, of course…) and  complained.  I told him I thought   it was a good time for me to tell him I was joining Peace Corps and would be leaving in  a month.

What did me in  on my  current job was that, as busy as we were, trying to  be efficient, the manager, not caring,  sent a matted Doodle to be bathed.  The bather knew the dog was felted and should be shaved, but he does what he is told.  It took him over 1/2 hour to dry the dog, and I was wondering what was going on, as I had not  touched the dog before the bath.  He finally finished drying the dog, and I told him to put the dog on my table. The dog was a solid mat.  I looked at  the bather, and he rolled his eyes and said, “I know…”  So, I went to Carlos and said, “I’ll have to take a thinning shears, and I don’t think there will be that much left.  He’s really badly matted.” So, Carlos now  has heard the dog is badly matted from 2 people.  He said, “Just give the dog a sanitary trim, and we’ll brush over the top and send him home.”  I know why he said this.  It’s Christmas, they probably want to take pictures, and don’t want the dog shaved.  So, I do the sanitary and nails, and Carlos comes in  and starts brushing over the top  of this dog.  I  was not going to  do that.  It wouldn’t have done anything.   The dog was matted at the skin.  Brushing was not making the dog look better as it was already fluffed out.  I was thinking  of who all would be ready for me to  finish grooming, as there were  at least five wet dogs  back there, and suddenly Carlos barks, “You are one of the  most annoying people.  I am not paying you to stand around, just leave!”

I almost laughed, but I did smile, I said Ok, and left.  I had been working since  8:00 a.m. and it  was now 2:30.  He knows i don’t waste time, don’t go out for a smoke, don’t stand around.  If there is no dog to work on, I clean the place, as there is always dog hair all over.   Why would I waste time brushing a matted dog over  the top of its mats when it wasn’t going to look any different?  He  knows I don’t stand around or waste time.  But if that’s how it is, that’s how it is.  I  had gotten another  part-time job two weeks before.  I can start later in the morning, I do my own bathing, it’s not a frenzy, I can have a relationship with clients…and I get tips.  This is why  shops have trouble getting talented groomers.

 

Book Review: The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale or Rescue and Redemption, by Jim Gorant

September 4, 2015

I am not a Pit Bull fancier, but  I bathe enough of them to know that, for the most part, they are  good dogs, and make good pets.  I am just not attracted to the breed.  I am attracted to the long-legged, wire coated terriers (particularly Airedales), but I’ve worked with enough  dogs, including a lot of terriers, that I wouldn’t suggest most terriers  to families with small children. that said, I would not suggest  any of the toy breeds, herding breeds,  shiba Inu, or  Afghans or Salukis.  I didn’t really want to learn any more about  this case.

I volunteer as a court  advocate for  an organization  (Safe Humane Chicago) that makes sure  dog fighters, abusers, hoarders and wannabees are prosecuted, and  justice is served.  I, too, thought  all dogs that were used or kept for dog fighting should be euthanized….until I learned that  dogs being kept for evidence were being exercised while they awaited their fates.  More, they were being exercised with other dogs, and  taught basic obedience…and amazingly, over 70% of dogs confiscated are placeable as pets!  Sure , some might try to fight other dogs—but that’s true of dogs (even Whippets…& watch out for the Boston Terriers and French Bulldogs!!!).  Dogs ARE social animals, and even many that are bred  specifically for fighting are wash outs.

A friend gave me this book, and it’s a good read, especially if you want to know how cases are developed, and how to evaluate dogs.  If it weren’t for some of the investigators needing places to put  the live dogs, they  would have all been euthanized.

The first part of the book is about gathering evidence and witnesses..against all odds, because Vick was a local boy who was considered a success, and generous (indeed— as he explained,  he grew up in a culture of violence and dog fighting, and  didn’t think of it as wrong…and if you are outraged by this—and eat animal flesh, YOU are in denial about your own contribution to cruelty).  In fact, after Vick’s conviction, one  of the investigators was fired–essentially for being so good at investigating this case (he was told this).

This is for real:  Wayne Pacelle of  the HSUS claimed—without evaluation—that all the dogs were vicious. He later recanted, but  also claimed Vick understood that this was a terrible crime. To this day, Vick only admits crossing state lines, not what he did was  horrible—but that’s football players….  Yet that is not what happened…partly because they were needed as evidence.The dogs were evaluated by  several experienced dog  trainers ( and how they did this is detailed in the book), and most were saved.
Most of the books is about how rescuers evaluated the dogs, got the dogs, and trained the dogs. This is a great story and should be better known than it is.

This is  a great  book  for anyone interested in dogs, humane care,  anyone who feels there should be a breed ban, and anyone who is a pit Bull fancier.  Along with this, I’d also suggest Malcolm Gladwell’s essay, “Troublemakers.” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/02/06/troublemakers-2

Keep in mind that when a journalist writes a story, s/he  is reporting facts, colored by his/her own cultural background. Also,  the editors do further damage.  Now that we have the internet, we can  get a lot more information, and should not accept every story as truth.  Lots of kids get bitten by dogs.  They get bitten by Pit Bulls because there are a lot of pit bulls….and that is reported more than kids getting bitten by labs, or small dogs.

I am  sort of surprised that Michael Vick still has a career, but obviously, his  football playing skills made so much money for the teams he played for, they overlooked this chapter of his life, as they  tend to  make excuses for much of the bad behavior of players.

In the end. only a few dogs were found to be not ‘dog-friendly’, and  less than 5% were found to be not people safe.  That could be any breed.

Leashed dogs, tethered dogs

April 17, 2015

Dazincoat   I live in  the inner city. What that means is that I live in close proximity to a lot of other people who are not my relatives.  I choose to live this way.  There are a lot of positive aspects to living in a population dense area:  we have  public transportation steps from my  back door.  We have so many restaurants, including ethnic restaurants.  So many resale stores (which  I love), and cultural events: movies, plays, lectures, comedy.

What we also have is…people …who are in denial about how much control they have over their dogs, and how this impacts their neighbors.

I have to admit, I have, at times, been less than considerate.  I have  gone out early in the morning, or to a remote spot in the park, and had my dog harass picnickers, or  other dogs.  I have gotten control of my dogs as quickly as possible, but I knew I was in the wrong and apologized.  Once,  one of my dogs got out of a fenced area and started harassing another dog.  My idiot dog was missing teeth, so he was just harassing and possibly in danger when he did this, but I had put both dogs in a dangerous situation.

You know the response people give when their dog menaces you: “He’s just playing!  He will not bite your dog!”  That’s really not a good response if my dogs are leashed and yours is not. The dynamic of leashed dogs is they–instinctively— protect themselves/the person they are tethered to. They don’t even think. They immediately go into defense mode.  That means YOUR DOG is in danger.  If you can’t get control of your dog, then I have to work harder to control and calm my dog. I am working on it. He  is a dog in training, YOUR DOG is clearly not.

This is the problem with dog ownership in the USA: unless you get your dog  from an ethical hobby breeder, breeding for the betterment of the breed, OR a very well run animal shelter or rescue, your dog  most likely did not come with handling instructions.  You are left to your own devices and common sense, but most people don’t think that deeply about their pets and safety.  Who is to inform them  if these pet owners think what they are doing makes sense?

In Illinois, it is now illegal to tether a dog outside.  Too many dogs  are sitting ducks to  wild animals and uncontrolled dogs. They get  wound up in their lines/ropes/tethers.    I  was surprised this law passed, but it did.

I  recently worked  for a dog grooming business where the owner didn’t have a clue about safety and dog behavior—and her method of restraint was tying up dogs rather than crating the dogs. Why? She  was thinking of a crate as a dog jail rather than as a den.  She really thought she was being more humane.  She could not see—because she had never trained a dog or worked with a dog trainer—-that  she was actually enhancing the stress of dogs coming in for grooming.  Granted, they  didn’t have their owners to  protect, but that’s only part of the stress.

Not only that, but  she promoted harnesses, not just because she didn’t know any better, but because she discounted that people could not control their dogs on harness, and she felt that people didn’t want to restrain dogs.  I  am not sure how this  whole way of thinking—feeling guilty about being in control of your dog—started, but you can’t confuse people with the facts.

I’m not sure how much of a difference knowing about this will make to  most people, but I see that more and more people are  opening dog care businesses without knowing anything about  dog psychology, or dynamics.    This is capitalism.  GDazincoatood luck to us all.

So…it Boils Down to This: Who is a pet

January 15, 2015

 

Bred by backyard breeder. This is a  Shih Tzu---Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?

Bred by backyard breeder. This is a
Shih Tzu—Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?

I have been active in my semi retirement on  trying to address  pet over population and  the view of what is humane,  and one of the things I do is flag animal sales on Craigslist. Bottom line is, the people selling puppies  on CL don’t think they are breeders.   But  it’s not just a Craigslist thing.  The ‘conventional wisdom is that   the backyard breeders don’t think of themselves as ‘breeders’ contributing to pet over population.

In addition,  irresponsible  stories like the feature National Public Radio recently ran on the ‘shortage’ in some area of adoptable dogs, is just appalling.  Granted,  in some  enclaves,  pet owners are more responsible and fewer dogs are dumped, but if you regard the country as a whole,  we will have too many areas where  people are uneducated,and have a totally different mindset about being socially responsible.  Hell, when a well educated (she had a Ph. D.) woman can cart around an unlocked  gun in her purse, and go shopping with a toddler, and think that is perfectly OK…and her community  regards this  accidental shooting by the toddler as  an unavoidable tragedy, we are not on the same page about anything.

This is a sample of a Craigslist post :

“I’m looking to rehome my puppy to a loving family. Jax is a 12 week old Chihuahua/Shih Tzu mix. He loves to snuggle and play and is as cute as can be. He will come with his carrier, jacket, puppy food, food/water bowl, training pads, new harness, leash, and collar. It’s heartbreaking to see him go but I just don’t have time in my schedule to care for this sweet little pup. Asking 370 OBO. Please only contact me if you are very interested as he needs to find a loving home soon. Thank you!”

 

So here we are—a puppy just into the teething stage.  My guess is she went to a pet shop/puppy mill outlet, and bought the pup and all the  junk (harness!  Ugh!!!), and  now is bored with the dog.  & why would this pup need a jacket?  So all the crap alone is probably over $300.  Or did she get the dog for free, had the stuff (or got it  deeply discounted), and is actually a puppy broker?  No matter.  There is way too much of   these idiots  buying and attempting to flip puppies  on Craigslist, as well as the backyard breeders.

Using Malcolm Gladwell’s ideas he  discussed in his book, The Tipping Point, we need respected change agents to address that this behavior is unacceptable. The people these idiots respect are veterinarians.

I have stated that all the activists who are currently railing against breeders—and they include the ethical hobby breeders who DO screen puppy buyers, do refuse to sell, and do take back dogs they sell, are not the problem.  Since the idiots are  dealing with  livestock breeders and brokers that they believe love animals, it is up to us to get to the next professional they will see—the veterinarian—and demand they address genetic issues, breed problems, not  spew out the hybrid vigor bs  regarding the designer dogs,and  promote spay/neuter at a mature age, and  being responsible for the pet.

While I am horrified that so many pet dogs become incontinent  due to  sloppy spay/neuters (which is why  they should really be done by shelter veterinarians who have lots of experience), I am more horrified by the many ‘accidental’ breeders who make excuses &  have convinced themselves they should not be responsible.

How would I address this? Several ways:

1.  pass a state law that mandates that anyone posting puppies, kittens, or rabbits for sale in Illinois (my state) have to  have their  litters individually microchipped before offering them for sale… if they did end up in a shelter, we’d know who to fine (yes—the breeders should have to pay—but pet owners  could have the chip changed to their contact information );

2. This would be enforced by  humane societies being licensed to train  volunteer investigators to contact people posting ads in newspapers and on Craigslist—and informing every licensed veterinarian in the state to make sure their clients  know the law;

3.People would also have to  ‘register’ every litter they bred with the state department of agriculture—pay a $50 fee. this is not a lot of money in relation to what hobby breeders spend on doing genetic testing, and paying for  showing their animals.

I believe that within  two years of such a law being enacted, we cut the number of dumped pets significantly.  I feel this way because most backyard breeders would either do a better job of screening  buyers, or they’d just  say the hell with it and stop breeding.

We would need all the humane societies and rescues on board, and we’d probably have to convince the  hobby breeders who breed for the betterment of their breed, but I don’t think this would be difficult.

 

If Not us, Then Who?

December 12, 2014

 

Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in southern Wisconsin. This is the largest gathering of Maltese fanciers in the country!

Me doing a grooming demonstration for the North Central maltese Rescue annual gathering in southern Wisconsin. This is the largest gathering of Maltese fanciers in the country!

I keep writing about the pet industry being in a sorry state: so lacking in integrity, defending  inhumane  breeders (breeding pets as livestock), selling  useless or  dangerous products.  I know that there are people who agree with me.  How many who agree with me are willing to  do something about it?  How many actually spend time talking with pet owners?

I subscribe to all the free pet industry magazines:  Pet Business, PetAge, and Pet Industry News.  For years I subscribed to  The Gazette (Purebred dogs, the AKC magazine) which I learned so much from, from so many different  fanciers who wrote about  what they were learning about dogs.  Now that it is no longer in print, it is much more difficult to get information about specific breeds of dogs  if you don’t subscribe to all the Facebook feeds.

Keep in mind, that were it not for hobbyists and fanciers, there would be no  grain free dog food industry.  It wasn’t  veterinarians who  promoted  grain free foods, and  most pet store retailers were  bemused by the requests.  It was  hobby breeders suggesting to their puppy buyers, and to people they were meeting at dog training classes  and performance events  talking about  the ear infections and foot licking might be related to corn or wheat sensitivities.

When I was a teenager, I worked briefly for  Afghan Hound breeder Fredric Mark Alderman. He had quick, phenomenal success with the Akaba dogs he got from Lois Boardman. His kennel name was Dynasty. He had a waiting list of people wanting  his dogs, and he had a policy: you want a Dynasty Afghan Hound, but have no experience with the breed, you spend a day grooming with him.  He didn’t want to hear that  you didn’t enjoy brushing or bathing a dog, that you didn’t know the equipment you’d need or how much time it would take up.  If that’s how you felt at the end of an afternoon with him, no harm, no foul…you didn’t get an Afghan.    Not  one other breeder in the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Chicago did what he did.  So many of theirs ended up neglected or abused.  Not the dogs Fred bred.  I knew breeders in other breeds who had similar policies. Arlene Fenney, who bred Bearded Collies in the Chicago area, insisted that all her pet buyers buy a portable grooming table.

A blog I posted a couple of years ago “The Irony of the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier,”  got an enormous amount of attention recently, going  from  possibly 1 viewing a week to well over 200.  I suspect a  fancier  found it, and  then sent the link to other fanciers—but I didn’t get  one comment:  I suspect they all understand why the breed got popular, and then declined in popularity.    I will address more of that in the future.

I am addressing this  topic of information in the pet industry  because of what I am dealing with  now.

I recently worked for a dog business, as many people know, owned by a business woman who thinks she is a dog lover, but who has never trained a dog, nor actually worked cleaning or  observing a playgroup in her own kennel.  She had a vision of how large she wanted her facility to appear, and how much she wanted to make, and, once again, trusted  people who  were taking her money, instead of people who knew dogs. She has asked me to never mention the name of the business in my blog because she claims I say too much negative.  If it weren’t the truth, I wouldn’t spend the time. You can’t make this stuff up.

We have had, in the 3 years since I worked for her, a 98% change in staff.   When we parted,  I had been with her longer than any other employee.  2 others who worked in the kennel had been there almost two years.  They quit within a couple of weeks after I left. With such a high turnover, organizational memory is lost.  So, new staff are constantly  doing new procedures,. reinventing the wheel,  or screwing up and having to address screw ups. The owner moved into what looks like a beautiful building  where the floors are shiny and dangerous to both humans and dogs, many dogs are afraid to walk on it. Temple Grandin addressed this in Animals in Translation, but of course, neither the owner or manager have read anything she’s written. They are business people.  The electricity is  set up in such a way that there is not enough where it is needed, and too much available where it is not.

In any case, as a groomer, who loves dogs, and loves being with the dogs, I  want my clients to be happy with their dogs. Unfortunately, for about a decade, the  pet industry—meaning retail sellers—have been bamboozling people into buying  harnesses for their dogs..and Flexi leashes.  Everyone  pays for a Flexi.  It’s hard enough to control your dogs with a harness and  six foot leash.  Harnesses are designed so the dog will not be restrained when pulling you.  I’ve addressed this before.  In any case, I am trying to get my clients to switch to Martingale collars.  This is what sighthound people  use, and more  and more hobbyists are switching from buckle collars to  Martingales because you really DO get more control—without hurting the dog!

So, I spend a lot of time talking to  my clients about their relationship with their dogs.  And I’ve gotten several good clients to switch to  Martingales over the last several months.  I’ve mentioned this to the owner and the manager.  Blah blah Blah.  Now, there is a nice looking retail space.  What do they sell?   Fancy Dog cookies.  Dog beds (at least 4 dozen in inventory).  Dog coats and toys.  NO  collars. None.  My clients—OUR CLIENTS are going elsewhere for collars.

I showed a client who owns a pet consulting business my MillerForge Curved Slicker brush,  She thought it was  amazing, it is.  I get them from  PetEdge.com.   The business owner  could sell those, too…but she selling dog cookies….or rather, there is a nice display, they are not selling (nor are the dog beds).

I show my clients how to brush their dogs. This is something the breeder (yes, that includes the idiot backyard breeders who constantly post on Craigslist in every city—people who claim they are NOT breeders!) should show them how to do.  If not the breeder—all these shelters and rescues that also want good homes for  the dogs they adopt out, should   address brushing, feeding, a care schedule, what shots will cost in the future—but not a one does.  You bond with your dog  by grooming it.  These people disrespect  hobby breeders—or they throw them in with the lot of puppy mills.  You could not call Fred Alderman irresponsible.  He  was and is not breeding the dogs that wind up in shelters.

Whatever. It is up to groomers to address all these things.  Grooming, nutrition, finding a good veterinarian,  good websites and YouTube videos on dog care—particularly training.  It is up to us to  sell THE FEATURES OF THE EQUIPMENT WE USE.  The sales  clerks and managers at all these pet stores are not going to sell the dog owning public what they need.

The hobby breeders are telling the puppy buyers to return to them for grooming as so few  pet groomers have the experience or talent to groom their breeds.  I can’t blame them.  However, it is those hobby breeders who actually got our pet grooming industry started.  All those designer dogs that the puppy mills and backyard breeders are putting out  won’t keep us afloat for so many reasons, including  being poorly bred and having genetic issues, and the owners  coming to the understanding that  that fluffy fantasy puppy wasn’t as much fun to take care of as they hoped, or was way more expensive than they dreamed (I  went from having Afghan Hounds to Whippets partly because of time commitment,and partly expense).  What am I saying?  We have to  be in touch with and more friendly with hobby breeders breeding for the betterment of their breeds.  We have to join more kennel clubs.  We have to work with the  organizations that say they want permanent homes for all pets.If the business owners really cared, they  would  be more holistic about addressing  dog car to every  dog owner who walked through the dog.  They are not, and it is up to us.