Posts Tagged ‘Robyn Michaels. microbusiness’

The Newest Scam: Pretrained Puppies

September 20, 2019

My Saluki as a young dog.Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows.His breeder trained him—& didn’t charge for the training!

Anyone working in service in the pet industry knows…’the fancy ‘ is dying. there are fewer and fewer ETHICAL HOBBY BREEDERS, BREEDING FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THEIR BREEDS.  Often, you have to be on a waiting list  if you want a puppy.  Thus, what is happening is that our clientswho had previously  chosen and owned purebred dogs are buying—-for way too much money—mixed breed ‘designer’ dogs (meaning a mix of 2 breeds) or, trusting  very well produced websites that claim they work with ‘reputable ‘ breeders & will choose a dog for you…without ever meeting you—just what you tell them in an email or on the phone

When I worked in Africa,  the country I was in was, essentially, a dictatorship.  it was a single party system.  One day, the ‘life president’ gave a speech, and of course,the next day it was reported in the  (state owned) newspaper how well-received the speech was to the crowd in the stadium.  I was talking  about it with my co-workers, and they said, “Well Robyn, notice there are no photos of the crowds in the stands.”   You had to read between the lines.

I bring this up because some clients, very nice people, older, no kids, recently bought a dog from a website:  They had had two Miniature Schnauzers in a row. The last one had kidney failure (not uncommon in the breed, possibly genetic…), but they kept him alive  for years. They spent a lot of money on veterinary care & there was no doubt they loved him.

I knew that ultimately, they would want to get another Schnauzer puppy, but we got out of touch.  I thought they might call me for a referral to a breeder, but the fact is that not only are local breeders  getting old and no longer breeding, one of the most well known breeders in the country, Joan Huber, who really bred some outstanding dogs, got shut down for  cropping her own dogs ears.  She was arrogant, and invited the wrong people to work for her.  She essentially was a commercial breeder.  However, that’s how it is now. If you want a Miniature Schnauzer that looks and acts like a Miniature Schnauzer, you could have done a lot worse than Blythewood, her kennel. You could have gotten a dog from the so-caled ‘reputable breeders’ that Snake River buys from to resell. How do I know?  Go to their website.  I’ve worked with really reputable breeders for years. so many different bloodlines—and these people have studied their breeds.  You  go to a dog show, and  all  the Miniature Schnauzers are. 13.5 inch dogs —extremely uniform in size—salt and pepper color (sometimes solid black, or black & silver).  & that is the breed.

So, how is it the  Snake River dogs are  parti-colored, liver colored, and even blue eyed?  Well, my client says he got papers, and they are AKC.  & his veterinarian  told him the AKC wouldn’t accept the registration if they weren’t purebred. Huh?  The reason so many dog clubs and truly ethical hobby breeders are taking their stud books back is because the AKC doesn’t enforce their studbooks.   they wil register a camel if you have the papers & submit the fees. They do not sue breeders who breed  mixes and claim they are purebreds. There is no way a purebred Miniature Schanuzer could be liver colored, parti-colored. or have blue eyes unless another breed was in the mix. The odds of  so many  of these livestock/commercial breeders having dogs of these off colors with blue eyes is about a billion to one.

We’re seeing Bulldogs, Pit Bulls, and Pomeranians  with these colors, including merling.  Breeds that for decades (keep in mind, these breeds have been breeding ‘true’ for between 100 and 200 years)—‘rare’, and ‘exotic’ colors. These dogs, no matter what the ‘papers’ say—are not purebred dogs. Those registration papers are only as honest as the breeders.

So, what these sellers do, as you will see from the  website, is buy puppies and ‘train’ them for you.  As we were discussing…aside from housebreaking, leash training, and possibly the ‘sit’, what can these  women be  training for….$6000?

Last year, a client asked us how much we would charge for  housebreaking a puppy. I had no idea. I said $200. What an idiot I am!

Go  back to the Snake Rive website. These women are very good with prose. Still, if you don’t know Schnauzers, you’d think these women have integrity.

I pointed out to my client.  While I am happy they love their puppy,  these women are not honest. They are excellent marketers. They are…Christians (we are Jewish). They believe, I am totally sure…that because Jesus Christ is their savior, they are imperfect people, and even if they lie and cheat people, as long as they ask Jesus for forgeiveness, they will go to Heaven.

They consider those of us with our own ‘moral compass’ to be heathens and a threat.  I sure hope I am a threat.  I am just not as good at ripping people off.


book review: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” by Chris Kenry

June 29, 2019

I found this book in a neighborhood book bin.  The main  character, raised  upper middle class,  was the ‘boy toy’of an older gay man who was killed in a freak accident. Suddenly Jack is destitute. His college major was art history.  He never had a plan.  Meanwhile, due to self-indulgence, he got himself into massive credit card debt.  He had no idea what to do, but  because of a gay friend, he, by chance, met  Ray. He also had to apply for public aid, but since he  was not a good waiter,and could brely manage ‘custoner serive’,  he  signed up for an entrepreneurship program .  One thing led to another, and he  found he and Ray were into what we’d euphemistically call the ‘escort’ business.

I  found this book (published in 2001:,  very funny and well written.  I’d suggest it to anyone with an open mind who  might be interested in starting a business.  They guys do get caught…but they couldn’t ber nailed on tax evasion!

Book Review: The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, by Farahad Zama

December 9, 2017

I  live in a culturally mixed community, and have many friends who are either from  the Middle East and India, or their parents are.  If you’ve seen the movies, “Meet the Patels,”  or “The Big Sick,”  you know that  parents are heavily involved in choosing mates for their children. Their parents did it for them, it worked, and ‘love matches’—that is, children finding their own spouses, is strongly discouraged.  Marriage is not so much about love as  maintaining communities. Obviously, it  does happen that people meet  and fall in love, and  that’s why there are ….stories.

This delightful, charming book is about a re8ired man who decides to start a match making  service, and  the nuances involved in helping people find partners.  It might help to know something about the caste system in  India, but Zama  describes this  well enough that you get  a good idea  of what people consider, and how they go about finding partners.

This is a great story.  Zama is not overly wordy, and the story is tight.  He describes his characters well.  The Ali family, Muslims, hire Aruna, a Hindu girl, to assist with office work.  She is supporting her parents and younger sister because her father’s  pension got screwed up and he can’t work because his health is poor (this is so very typical in  India).  Aruna is educated, and was supposed to marry, but her dowry was used to pay her father’s medical bills. This  dowry issue is still very much a fact in India.   As a subplot, the Alis’ have 1 son, who is an activist,  and this distresses his parents.  The dialogue is very  interesting, and  you get a better understanding of  how life in modern India is for educated people.

For  people who want a  nice read, who are considering a trip to India,  I’d  recommend  going on Amazon and searching for this book.

New Year, New Challenges…

January 2, 2015
Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki,  on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki, on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

What an interesting year it has been for me.  Mixed bag.  The week of Thanksgiving, I lost my very dear friend Janie Wondergem to lung cancer.  Then, the week before Christmas, Jerry Schinberg, who founded the  first grooming contest in the country, died.  These people are my contemporaries.   Were it not for Jerry, i would neve have met Romaine Michelle—the  top groomer in the country for years. Gives one pause, as they say.

If it’s at all possible, I learned last year to be more skeptical about any job offer.  I have blogged ( about a year and a half ago…) that I quit working for Pet Care Plus because the owner, Jennifer Stavrianos was not only NOT AT ALL ENGAGED IN DOG CARE AT HER DOG CARE BUSINESS, but she hated the environment of  this business so much she refused to believe anything her managers were telling her, and wouldn’t vheck anything out herelf.  (This is not uncommon  with  pet stores and dog daycare/boarding businesses….more and more, they are being operated by business people with no interest in having a relationship with a dog, the fancy , animal husbandry, or animal welfare).   Because she didn’t like the way  the Force dryer looked (it looks like a vacuum cleaner, which, basically, it is), she put it up in the ceiling where I could not turn it on 1 switch at a time and let it power up, but had to  turn it on by a wall switch–  not how it was designed to be used.  She did this because her  ‘fenemy’ and competitor had done it—but she didn’t ask how the competitor had done it, or why.  She refused to believe it was unsafe, and that  it was blowing fuses even over night.  My roommate, a forensic  engineer, who investigates fires and explosions, told me to bring my personal effects home because there was going to be a fire.   The dogs were alone at night. Nobody was on site.  By the time anyone  would hear a smoke alarm, the dogs would all be asphyxiated.   Just for the record, I would never board my  pet at a facility where there was not somebody on site 24 hours.  However, this is very common, You  can’t just assume  that people who operate  pet service businesses really love pets enough to have integrity.  I quit, she hired 2 people to replace me, one whom she fired for being  clueless, the other quit because she wasn’t making enough money.    She  asked me to return—full time 6 months later (she cultivated me for about  two months).  I was working else where making  triple the money, but the commute was  three hours. I had negotiated  for a 5% raise in my commission and a parking place.  She then ‘forgot’ to tell her management staff  of these details, creating a lot of friction.   She never gave me  a written agreement.

She appointed an assistant manager to be a business manager, and to oversee the build out of a new facility, someone with less than a year  experience at her job, and no actual kennel experience at any other  pet business.     A contractor joked that she didn’t  know what  B was paid to do, and compared her to  George Costanza on Seingelf.  By the time  Stavrianos finally took me to see the build out, all the infrastructure issues were behind finished walls. I told her that her architect ripped her off.   He just manipulated a CAD design.  it was the same design—right down to many of the wall colors, I had seen at another facility I had worked in!  That angered her.  Her newly hired general manager (by now, it was July)  who had no pet industry service  experience, just retail, agreed with me,  and Stavrianos told him not only to find excuses to suspend me, but  to build a case to fire me,  and that she intended to fire all staff after the New Year.  Why?  Who knows, as she  didn’t know any of the procedures that were involved in  boarding dogs in her own kennel.  She had never taught any staff. All her staff  was originally’ inherited ‘ from another business, and they  trained other employees.   Illinois is a  fire at will state.  Technically, she doesn’t need an excuse. I told my  manager we were losing our organizational memory. Stavrianos found out about this because, although I had sent the email to the manager, she decided, after hiring him in July, to request he take a 50% pay cut in October. He quit, she intercepted the email I sent to him, and decided I had created a hostile work environment.  It might have been a coincidence that her customer service manager quit a week before, then the manager.  So , since Illinois is a fire at will state, it was my word against hers, and  we are still fighting over whether I am entitled to unemployment compensation. The manager  who quit knew that  Stavrianos was having  some sort of neurological problems because  she kept forgetting conversations  that there were witnesses too, as well as written phone texts she had sent!

I have been offered  several jobs, but  when  doing the test dogs, I was learning that most  businesses offering me job were owned by people who  are new to the industry, and really didn’t care if an employee could make a living wage.   They really didn’t have enough business to hire me even part time, and were in denial. They are destined to get people right out of grooming school who can only shave dogs.   One still owes me $200 (Bella’s in Bolingbrook—I have a case with the ill. Dept of labor).  It’s sad that the industry is really facing a decline, but  all industries go through cycles.  I mean, video rental (Blockbuster) lasted  about 20 years, then Netflix came along, then  even Netflix started offering streaming, and there are no more blacksmiths.

I am lucky that I have enough income coming in from other sources that I don’t have to take just any job, and  can manage to piece an income together.  I also have the free time now to be a court advocate for animals in the court system, and possibly be of service to other nonprofit groups, and possibly do more consulting.  I am optimistic.

A bummer lurks on the horizon in the fact that my old Whippet, Bebop, whom I got  from  Whippet Rescue before there was WRAP, is now 15.  He had an episode  of vestibular disease, as well as a benign but rapidly  growing tumor.  He had the tumor for over a year, and it finally got larger than his head and burst.  We didn’t take it off when it was small because  I didn’t want him to go through the trauma of surgery, and we both thought he’d die first.  The  veterinarians were able to remove it, and his quality of life is better, but he is having cognitive issues.  He is now blind, deaf, and  very stiff.  Glucosamine chondroitin helps, but the Sam-e did not.  He has become  incontinent, but my roommate is quite helpful, and loves the little guy.  In fact, Bebop had come to live with me and Dazzle (now gone 2 years) just a few months before  Kunihiro arrived.  It would be much easier if it weren’t so cold.  I absolutely must put his coat on him.  He’s still eating, and if he hears anyone going to the kitchen, he will trot across the apartment to see if there is a dish on the floor.  It is what it is. Every day is a gift. As long as he is still eating, and seems to have some cognition,he has a right to his life.  Sometimes, it seems to others who don’t know your dog that your dog looks awful or in pain, but you know your own dog.

I’ve had tenants  break a lease unexpectedly when  one  lost a job. This is always a pain in the neck, and I had to replace the clothes dryer and a ceiling fan. When I got the  credit card bills, I looked at the amounts owed, and exclaimed, “What did I buy?” Kunihiro laughed and said he often feels the same way.

Berbop on Santa's lap, with Dash

Berbop on Santa’s lap, with Dash

My real indulgence has been dog training. Dash is much different than Bebop. Bebop, while very brave,  was a tough guy, and I never felt he was perfected enough to  compete in obedience with (although he probably was…I just couldn’t find a class that offered AKC novice ).  Dash got his Canine Good citizenship in ’13, and  his  Junior Courser title this past Spring, and  in early November ’14, got his Beginner Novice and Rally Novice titles at the same trial!  I was very pleased.  The thing is, he doesn’t own the venue for any performance, and is very well-behaved at dog  shows and obedience trials.  He believes he owned all the  concrete from my house to about a mile around it, and gives every dog the stink eye (if it isn’t another sight hound) and is crazy reactive.  he will  just go berserk, then sit and look at me for  two seconds, and resume being crazy,m sit, look at me, resume—you get the picture. . Sort of embarrassing, but that just means I have to keep him under control and remind him acting the tough guy fool is inappropriate.

Are we making progress on the humane issues that I think are important?  Hard to say.  I had a nice chat with Beverly Isla, who may or may not edit it for a webcast.  One thing I always do is remind people  there are  small  things they can do that have a big impact.  I subscribe to a feed, Flagging Animal Sales on Craigslist, which has over 5600 members.  It used to be that  four or five different isps could get a post flagged off, but now it seems it is taking more than 10.  We just have to get more people flagging. In any case, there is an American Bulldog breeder—a backyard breeder, very arrogant, who has litter after litter and posts  on Craigslist to sell. Seems that one of us called the guy, paid him a visit, found out he lived in the city limits of Waukegan, Illinois , was running this as a business, and the police confiscated his litter.  Hope the word spreads.  The  backyard breeders and mini puppy mills have libeled  and harassed me and my employers, and I am sure most of the dogs in animal shelters come from these types of breeders—as there is a lot of evidence they are coming neither from commercial puppy mills nor hobby breeders. If we could pass a law in Illinois mandating the microchipping of every  dog and cat, we could find out more about who is  abandoning  pets people get bored with (nobody who loves a pet  is moving into housing that doesn’t allow pets. That’s an excuse. Nor is anyone getting a job).We just have to make it crystal clear to everyone breeding for fun and profit that they are responsible. They should be funding the animal shelters—not me.

Family issues—I will be glogging n a few weeks about the  dynamics among my sisters, etc.  Amusing and aggravating at the same time…but my  parents raised us to be contentious.

I thank my long term subscribers to this blog.  You need to know that my blogs on prong collars and housebreaking difficult dogs are the most  clicked dog blogs, and the  blog on the Murdoch map of Africa is a close 3rd.  The one I did on fake animal rescues is getting read more and more.  Social media is helping get the word out that there is a community that  won’t allow inventors in the pet industry and  unethical breeders set the tone.

The $100 title

October 3, 2014
Dash,  doing what he does best:  being adorable!

Dash, doing what he does best: being adorable!

If you aren’t  a  performance dog fancier, this will seem just stupid.  However, if you are interested in purebred dogs and performance events,  and why we do what we do, read on.  I put a Junior Courser title on my whippet, Dash (Plumbreek’s I’m Goin’ Out tonight, CGC, now JC….& QC).

I took off 1 day of work, went  to Crown Point, Indiana, for the Windchasers Lure Coursing Club’s  two AKC trials….and  we got the title.

I hadn’t coursed a dog in over 10 years, as my Saluki, Dazzle (Ch. Scenario’s Razzle “Dazzle”, JC) got disqualified for playful interference just about a month after he got his JC, having proved he could run clean with another dog. This was in the ASFA days. The AKC had not yet thought of doing  sighthound field trials to make money—having put so many hobby breeders out of the  fancy by bending over backwards to make the puppy mills viable.

In any case, I guess enough  dogs were being entered that  either would not run clean, or the AKC thought  giving a title for a dog just being on the lure would entice more people to keep showing up…and we will.  I had been afraid that Dash would not measure in, but the wicket touched the ground both days.  The rules are that no dog with breed standard disqualifications are allowed to compete.  I had measured Dash myself, and he was barely under 22″.

Next we got  our Qualified Courser title, and the points after that.  As I recall, a dog has to  get at least  one first place or  two second place finishes to become a Field Champion. They are still being judged on  enthusiasm,  endurance, speed, agility, and follow.

It was really great being with other sighthound fanciers.  They helped  us practice our ‘stand for examination’ exercise for obedience (we are  going for an obedience title, too), and many  fanciers recognized Dash as being one of Linda Larsen’s breeding.  We saw a few Whippets  who looked like  Bebop’s breeding—from Donna Kelley.  It was definitely a major in Borzoi as well as Deerhounds, but I think there was only 1 Irish Wolfhound,  a couple of Greyhounds, a few Ridgebacks  3 Afghans…. No IGs,  no Pharoahs , Ibizen, Basenji, or Podengos (which, to me, look like terriers). No Silken Winhounds, no  Inca Orchids.

Gas  cost me about $60, the  room was $37m and 2 meals out were less than $20.

Who benefited?  Well, it is another feather in the cap of Linda Larsen .  I learned some new training methods.  Is anyone going to make any money  off of this?  The club, I hope, but frankly, if a  hobby breeder breaks even, she’s lucky.  Dash—indeed—all the dogs—had fun. That’s why we are out there.

1/2 Million Ain’t What it Used to be

July 10, 2014
Balloons over Cappadocia

Balloons over Cappadocia



My parents set a really good example for me…but that was the culture they came from.  They  decided to NOT have kids until they were financially secure…meaning they    owned a house & weren’t subject  to a landlord’s whims, and if something happened to my father—the bread winner,  he had life insurance to take care of us kids.  It was middle class values.

I am afraid that, due to the news media and journalists looking for a sob story, the conventional wisdom is now that the rest of the community has to make up for  a  parent’s bad decisions.

I understand the average American citizen carries a balance on their credit card.  I also understand that the average American who  graduated college has college debt—but that only about 25% of adults have  college degrees.  I also understand that  since 2008, when the economy imploded, a lot of people were living to close to the edge of financial calamity and have not recovered.

I am clearly not rich.  I still  shop for clothes at thrift stores, and do all sorts of stuff to economize.  I didn’t think of myself as having assets, but  as I’ve been planning for retirement, I have been proved wrong.

If I retire at 65, will I have enough money to last me if I live to be 100?  Most people don’t  live to be 100, but I’ve had relatives live into their 90’s.  My father turns 88 in a few weeks and is still going strong.

In trying to protect capital from market losses, I started thinking about what *I would do to manage this.  Also,  as I was drafting this, a friend sent me a Zillow link that  showed the estimated valuation of my house.

It wasn’t luck that allowed me to accumulate:  it was pragmatic choices, and learning from my parents.  Sure, I made some choices I really regret (buying a business based on optimism, when I was set to retire at a very young age), but mostly I did ok:

1.  I did not incur college debt.  None. Zero.   I paid cash. In fact, I got an assistantship to grad school:  they PAID me to go.  I have written about this before, but my niece  got her associate’s degree from a community college, and finished her B.A. at a state school.  Her debt was for law school, but she crafted a career and is doing phenomenally well—BECAUSE SHE PLANNED.  Unless you  go to an Ivy League School, or a school kn0wn for a particular program (Johns Hopkins for public health, or Georgetown for International Development), your network or alumni association will be marginal in helping you get a job.  It’s stupid to incur over $20,000 in debt if you aren’t absolutely sure there is a shortage of employees in your field. Majoring in education, or business, or  liberal arts is plain stupid these days.

2. I didn’t have kids.  When you don’t take birth control as seriously as I did, you are gambling with being poor—and the odds are not in your favor.  You are expecting your community to  help you out, and the  politicians generally pay themselves too much money to be bothered with the likes of you—& why should they—or anyone—have to support YOUR PERSONAL CHOICE?  If you do some research about how people live, you will find a few enclaves in the world (Singapore, and even Kuala Lumpur come to mind) where even the poor live  more of a middle class lifestyle.  That is because of cultural sensibilities and the  people in power.  But most of the world’s poor live without running water.   Yet YOU want to have cable TV, a smart phone, and designer clothes?&  cigarettes and beer …& kids?

3.  That’s another thing.  When you CHOOSE to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol…you are  saying you have more than enough money to  waste.  You do not look mature or sophisticated. You look stupid. that’s a fact.  This is not the 1950’s.  We  know these addictions cause health problems, It’s not loke the information is a secret.

4.  I bought my first house in what would be considered a slum area.  Funny thing, there was no ‘minority’ population, but the housing stock was old.  It cost me $24,000, with $2000 down.  I started building equity.  There was a lot wrong with that house—but the rent did not go up.  I ultimately sold that house, and my current home is worth considerably more.

With the market correction of  2008, this can be done again. Would you forego fast food, cable TV,  cigarettes, going out drinking— to  be stable and start building wealth? You can watch HGTV and learn a lot about looking at a neighborhood, and  ‘feeling out’ a property.  You are not  going to make an old, broken  down house livable on $20,000, but you might  with $50,000–especially if the plumbing and electrical infrastructure are ok.

4.  I chose to live with roommates. Yes, finding people you are compatible with is a serious issues.  I have lived with drunks and other who could not get their lives together.  I  contracted with a school that catered to foreigners  wishing to learn English in the USA.  I took several people from that school, and ultimately  got my current  roommate (12 years and counting) this way—to save money.

5.  I made a point to budget and save money. …and invest money.  Of course, I learned this from my mother.  She didn’t know investing however.  I was lucky one of my friends wanted to start an investment club.  They can be found.  You will learn together.  These days, you can get Money  or Kiplinger’s magazine, do really good research on Google finance, and open a Scottrade account (there are lots of discount brokers).  I also ’round up’ when I  deduct a check (or debit) from my checking account. I always have a cushion  of money I don’t even count on as there.

6.  In times of no employment or slow business, I find other ways to earn money.  I did over night pet sitting for years for a very reputable company.  I collect cans  on the street when I am out walking the dogs, I  find books, furniture, and clothing to resell. Some of my friends do baby sitting, tutoring, proof reading.

7.  I delay gratification. I have a list of ‘wants’, but  I only buy when I find something that’s a good value, and if I’ve met my savings goals.

I think these are all common sense ideas.  But if all your friends are idiots with no goals, who ridicule your  ideas, plans, and way of life, you will be  brought down.  Think about it.  Nobody is going to save your ass but you.  & what is $500,000?  Over  35 years….or 420 months…that’s $1190 per month (or roughly $297 per week).  Can YOU live on that?


Is Social Security a Ponzi Scheme?

January 24, 2014

Well,  I  guess, if you consider the way the system works is that we take resources from  one group of people to  enrich another group of people, it is. Since most employees pay in, and not all who pay in live long enough to collect, it could be.    Should this be an issue?  It’s not like it’s a secret that it works on actuarial tables.

We are an urban society.  People no longer live on farms where they grow their own food, or with extended families.  We age and get to a point where we can not work.  In an ideal world, we would have all learned to budget and save money for a  future when we could not work.    We all would have made enough money  working at jobs top do so. We would not have had more children than we could support. We would have made enough to save for retirement.    We could have relied on our living expenses not rising—especuially land rents. Most of us have  learned that we should have  at least  six months of living expenses saved up  for an emergency.  Currently, many of our federally elected officials, not necessarily numerate themselves, who also get  pensions (  have decided that it is more important to give military foreign aid  to foreign dictators, as well has support a bloated military budget (I do not begrudge soldiers, but  their paraphernalia  and ‘research’), than it is  to fund social security and medicare. Also, while they are complaining about the costs of all this–particularly medicare and medicaid, they do nothing to stop waste and fraud.

When  the Social Security system was initiated during the depression of the 1930’s,  urbanization  had started, and  many old people were losing their farms and  familial support networks.  Most people would NOT  save for retirement if not forced, nor could they make informed investment decisions.  We still are reluctant to even inform ourselves about budgeting, planning, and investing, and more reluctant to delay gratification.  I  continue to be shocked by people under  40 smoking cigarettes, and  people who carry a balance on their credit cards and can’t tell you what they bought.

Now, we hear from the media that the system is unsustainable.   A media controlled by old white men!  The issues are  that our population is not growing—we are not a population pyramid in this country, with many young people.  We are a population column.  At least that’s what they try to have us believe!  It’s too expensive to raise  more than  two kids for most couples.  In fact, most of the urban  world, better educated than  rural people, are choosing to  have smaller families.   The idea that the population is not growing to freed into Social Security is not  the problem, however—just an interesting and  goofy way of framing it.

The problem is that not all wages are subject to Social Security taxes.  The system is  never updated with the cost of living and inflation rxcept for pay-outs.   Were all income taxed, including capital gains, we’d be in fantastic shape.  In fact, if we didn’t allow the politicians to spend out tax dollars on military foreign aid, subsidies to  corporations, including farms, and wars—then claim we have a deficit—we’d be in phenomenal shape.  Also, since we are funding the system with inflated dollars, and salaries are more inflated than they were  when the system started,  were the system equitable,  there would be a huge surplus.  The irony is that the blowhards in Congress—who  do not pay into the system  once they are elected—but  get DEFINED PENSIONS, are telling us what to believe.  Chutzpah!

There is  one more issue: the many  dimwits with no skills, no entrepreneurial mindset, who’ve reached  almost old age, or  have spawned dimwit kids, who go on SSI.  Nobody counted on so many people gaming the system.  The fact of the matter is that if we didn’t pay these people to watch TV, drink,  smoke, and live on junk food, they’d be criminals—robbing us, or we wouldn’t be able to walk dow  a city sidewalk for the beggars.  It’s almost that way in my neighborhood now.    That’s why we have a welfare system–to prevent more of them from being  drains and endangering our lives. Some are good at gaming the system, and get physicians to cooperate. The rest become thugs.

Don’t let them get away with calling Social Security an entitlement.  If Congress can manage to  tax the interest your ‘earnings’ on a  savings account that is now  paying interest of .01%, they can manage to  make all wages/income subject to Social Security.

Joan the Bitch

January 17, 2014
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’.

I left my parents home about a month after I turned 18…& went to live with my boyfriend (later, briefly, my husband) up in Milwaukee, where he was going to school.  I think our rent was $150 a month, & split 5 ways, that meant I didn’t have to earn that much. I found a job at a ‘mom & pop’  grooming shop that really didn’t have that much business. A friend saw an ad in the Milwaukee Sentinel & suggested I call.

The job was way across town, on Appleton Ave. just south of Capitol Dr.  I lived on the east side, near the university.   I had to take 2—sometimes 3 buses to get there—8 miles from where I lived.  The guy who answered the phone  told me just to come in on Tuesday.

The shop was in a modern  stand alone building that looked like it might possibly  have been a house at  one time.  They had a very nice retail area, and  the grooming area was also extremely nice.  It’s something, to this day—forty years later—that I base my  ideas on. They were also hiring another groomer .We both  (Betty, the other hire)  and I sat down at  grooming tables.  Shortly after  9,  a skinny  bottle blond walked in the back door with 2 Boston terriers in her arms.  She seemed friendly enough. She asked us some questions about our experience grooming, and told us she would show us how she wanted us to groom, keep records, and clean up.

Joan  Fredericksen was a very good groomer.  She had  learned, originally, on her Poodle, and since she really wanted to do things right, she joined the Waukesha Kennel Club  and learned from club members how to groom the various breeds.  I learned so much from her. I learned how to really style  the terriers, l how to  budget my time, and how to run a business.

As time went on, the truth came out as to why she had to hire  2 new groomers.  She had been raising Boston Terriers, and they are a difficult breed to  breed.  They  do not breed or whelp themselves, and they come out mismarked (the breed standard is very clear about them having a white blaze  on their faces,  the rest being dark,and the  white socks), and this color thing in addition to  general conformation, and needing C sections.  She was showing dogs  on Saturdays and Sundays and was still not  getting majors ( critical number of points to make a dog a champion), but she would not let her groomers, who were showing Poodles and Miniature Schnauzers, have Saturdays off. They were showing dogs on Sundays only, and their dogs were becoming champions.

There were other issues as well:  groomers having to take turns coming in late on Fridays and working  1 to 9 AND THEN  having to come in before 9 on Saturday morning;  Not getting 50% for the grooms but  40  to 45%.    Having to stay until 5:00 p.m. even if they were finished grooming by 1:00 p.m. and had kids at home.  So, they quit en masse and decided to  just groom in their homes. Joan had a melt down and disappeared. Her husband, Jerry did not  own the shop (he sold typewriters and adding machines—this was 1972), but her income was significant. So, he ran an ad in the paper,and  told me to come in.  Nobody was more surprised than  Jerry was when Joan showed up.

Joan taught us about styling,  scissoring,  managing our time, and keeping records, and marketing.  She was also  a self-proclaimed bitch.  She and the  groomers who quit  had a truce.  They had to. Milwaukee is a very small  place if you are a dog person.  Good thing I was young, however.  I couldn’t do the commute today.  In any case, Betty left, and another girl  joined us, and he  ultimately became an award winning groomer. So did I.

I also learned about a different  ‘culture’.  I came from a Jewish community, and  very few  people with kids got divorced.  I never heard of anyone having an affair.    The Fredericksens were Catholics, and  did everything to needle each other.  Also, we got all the gossip from the kennel club, as Joan’s friends would stop in.  I couldn’t believe my ears!  Joan joked about being Joan the Bitch!  At first, I was horrified.  Yet  she was someone to emulate in her  courage and integrity.  She didn’t care  who knew.  She  just had a traditional way of being a boss that didn’t particularly work for groomers.

Yes, I learned a lot, and  after about a year, Joan  took her kids on a vacation to Arizona and decided she wanted to move out there. She came back to  sell her house and told Jerry to sell the business.  I wanted to buy it, but my father  told me they didn’t have adequate business records for him to lend me money.  I was there 5 days a week. I could see what the business was taking in, and I knew what the bills were.  No matter. It looked like my co-w0rker would buy it, but  some people who showed dogs came in with a better offer, and  they ran the business for a few years.  I have no idea who owns it now, but it is still in business:  Jo-Kor’s Klippette.

As a groomer, I often find business owners  looking for a groomer with ‘no drama’.  I’ve worked in many other places since then. There was no drama at Jo-Kor’s Klippette because Joan ran a good business, was fair (for the most part), and was a groomer herself.I think that’s very important. she would not ask us to do anything she would not do herself.   Very little dematting, rarely did we have a troublesome dog.

I worked at  a place about  20 years ago where  1 of the groomers was very immature. She’d show up late, bring her kids (a grooming shop can be a very dangerous place), and then you’d ask if anyone had to use the tub, as you were about to bathe a dog, she wouldn’t say anything, but would make a dash to the tub. She’d take a cage dryer off  a dog without asking you if you needed it.  I’ve worked at several places where the owner said they were very busy, but  when you came to work, her groomer with seniority had ‘dibs’ on as many dogs as she wanted, and you might get 2 dogs to groom. Not a living wage, yet that other groomer was complaining about how overworked she was &  she needed help. Sure she did—she didn’t want to give up any commissions.

I’ve worked in places where they didn’t brush dogs out thoroughly, or bathed them in cold water, or  just stuck a cage dryer on a dog and ‘forgot ‘ to check it.

I have just left a  business (their main service was  dog daycare and boarding) that  barely had any grooming business when I started.  The groomer had just ‘disappeared’ as  we tend to do, and the owner was frantic.  I came in, and the grooming room was actually a storage area with a 60 watt  bulb.  I told the owner that  she needed more  shadow free lighting.  The owner actually said to me, “Well, this was good enough for Sara!”  I answered, “Sara walked out. I am telling you what I need to do a good job.”

It turned out she had virtually no contact information for any of her ‘grooming clients’, so, I consented to working for her  3 days a week until we rebuilt the business.  I  told her she needed a form for contact information for every grooming client—as she  had for her kennel dogs.  She actually asked me why.  I told her we were going to send out reminders to get people to come in regularly. I also told her we needed another dryer. She didn’t want to spend the money.  She told me to buy a dryer,and, if I stayed with her for  6 months, she’d reimburse me.

She decided to  do Groupons  and Living Social Discounts. Suddenly, I was not getting full commissions…& it went down hill from there.  We were not  totally busy 3 full days a week.  We got a lot of new clients who  didn’t show up, didn’t  stay loyal (they were coming  from miles away for the discount), and she hired a GROOMING MANAGER TO MANAGE ME AND  UPGRADE THE ROOM, send out reminders, and order supplies.  This manager  did not do anything she was paid to do.

I  saw great potential  at this business, but I had to get other work.  I learned a lot from other groomers. Seems my situation was not unique.  More and more businesses were  being owned by non-groomers.  So many would not buy or repair equipment. They wanted  us to use ineffective products, and wouldn’t pay for good stuff.    They  were hiring groomers right out of school and thought that if a dog looked fluffy it was well groomed.

Joan was sort of a mentor to me.  Because of her, I know what all the terriers are supposed to look like, and how to correct faults.  I know how to look at a mixed breed dog now, too, and know that not every dog needs a clipper taken to it.  How do you explain that to  a business owner sho has never groomed, shown, or trained a dog herself?  I have no idea.

Busy week doing consulting..on dog grooming!

May 24, 2013

Nella Poodle 002 (Small)Yes—consulting on dog grooming.  This time of year in Chicago ( meaning from  about Easter until just after  July 4) is very busy for dog grooming, and  everyone is trying to add staff.  If you’ve read my past blog posts on looking for a job in the industry, you know that  most  of the shop owners  don’t  ‘do the numbers’.

I am now in a different position than I’ve  been in before.  I can work part-time and pick & choose  where I work.  I   now work part-time for a very experienced groomer  several days a week, and that gives me a base, and I’ve been all over the north side of Chicago in the past few weeks.

I had been interested in providing job shadowing, and have signed on with .  We will see how it goes.   I am also networking with others to provide  services.  I am absolutely shocked at how many people want to enter this industry, and think that if they just open a business, it will come.  I had to tell one of the people I contract with that , in the past, I had over  40 once a week clients with very long-haired dogs. As those dogs  expired, those owners didn’t replace those long haired dogs with other high maintenance  breeds. They now have  Bostons & Frenchies   You can  bathe one of those in your laundry tub.  The business owner I  was talking to didn’t have a clue. She really doesn’t know that some breeds are more popular than others.  Worse, she  feels that since she  has a  college degree, she is too good to do  physical labor. Even worse,  her  social media is non-existent.  I think she is going to lose her business.  Half  a million dollars  just  disintegrated because she really didn’t know  what she was doing, she blames it on more competition.  It’s part of the problem, but not all of it.

Over the years, several people have told me they have wanted to open grooming businesses in certain locations because they’ve seen a lot of people  with dogs.  To me, that is not a business plan. it’s like saying you see a lot of fat people , so  you want to  open a bakery.  people have just enough capital to get themselves into real trouble.  I feel it is a matter of integrity to warn  people who have a fantasy notion of being in a pet industry  service business that  they have to cost it out, step by step, and not think  that all these people they see walking their dogs  even have their dogs groomed, or  are unhappy with  the people grooming them.  Dog daycare may be an option, and in some locations, possibly retail, but  they have to be prepared to lose a lot of cash before they make any, and marketing  will be a constant activity.  But more; these  businesses are generally too marginal to support  an owner who does not ad value.   if you  don’t have experience training dogs, or working with animal shelters, or  showing dogs, you really can’t  advise people who have pets what is  best for their dog.  when you are in business,  pet owners tend to see you as an expert.  It’s a matter of integrity to not tell people  the wrong thing.  If you really love dogs, that is.

Fewer hobby breeders are breeding dogs. They just can’t handle the expense. That leaves the puppy mills.  All the designer dogs : the Morkies, Shipoos, Doodles, Chiweenies—come from irresponsible people breeding dogs as livestock, as do most Boston Terriers and French Bulldogs.  I won’t even go into  where pit Bulls come from.  Most of these dogs have e painful, life  shortening genetic defects.  Most dog groomers are now trained  by grooming schools, who  are not concerned with styling, but teaching people to not injure dogs.The independent dog groomers are going to go the way of the video store.  Maybe not next year, but soon.


You Can’t Help Some People (Pet Care Industry, in particular.)

April 18, 2013

puli side (Small)Wow.  I am amazed at how many hits  my post on quitting my job got, but my post the week before on choosing a dog boarding  or day care facility got none (except for subscribers).  So, in  looking for a new ‘job’ this week…

I came a cross an animal hospital that needed a groomer, but  had gotten atrocious reviews  for their boarding facility.  How sad when an animal hospital employs veterinarians and  kennel staff who don’t really love animals.  You can tell by the detail of the reviews that these are not competitors, but  very sad dog owners.

A full service kennel that employs my  former boss ( who everyone has acknowledge has an anger management problem)— felt he  should have some say in whether I get hired at a different location, even though he has not been able to keep a groomer for more than a year.  They wonder why they can’t get an honest , reliable dog groomer to work for them. As a dog trainer  who had run-ins with my former boss said to me, “You do not want to work for a business like that.”

I have also spoken with my  old employer’s major competitor/frenemy, who is now totally mobile and does not have anyone grooming at her kennel. My  most recent employer  sort of modeled her build out on her frenemy’s.  However, when I went to visit the  business, I was amazed at how nice the  build-out was. It was really done by someone who  planned to work in her own business, and no expense was spared—-whereas the place I was working, … it looks nice, but is not functional.  The strangest thing happened. I went to pick up my check, and  my old ‘boss’, told me I was late  for my interview at her frenemy’s business. I denied an appointment, partly to spare her feelings, and  told her I was exploring different options—and she actually followed me over to her frenemy’s under the guise of  doing something else. & had a key to the building!  I thought she had a key to her frenemy’s business, as she was buzzed in immediately, twice!   I really can’t have my old boss coming over and harassing me whenever she is bored!

I have been working  part time at another day care business.  I like the woman who owns the daycare, but she is not dog knowledgeable, and doesn’t think treating dogs with respect is important.  I went up to the daycare room to get a dog  for grooming, & the 3  guys she had with them were  NOT playing with the dogs or interacting with them, and one had a spray bottle in his hands.  The only time you should have a spray bottle is if dogs are fighting.  Intimidating dogs  by spraying them  in the face is unethical and scary.  I saw dogs plastered against the walls, they were  so scared.   This does not make for a pleasant experience for the dogs.They go home tired, but not because they are playing all day.

I answered an ad from  the ever popular idealistic woman with no experience in the pet industry(she has never trained or groomed a dog, worked in this type of business, worked for an animal hospital or shelter) who thinks she has to hire 4 groomers  and a dog bather  before she has even done her build-out because…based on air…she is sure she will be busier than any grooming shop around.  She also does not ‘believe’ in cages.   A free for all.   I had another friend. Romaine Michelle,  respond to this woman several weeks ago, and, apparently  Romaine,  also with over 40 years experience, was as honest about  business prospects as I was, because idealist told me she got a very bad vibe from her, and she was getting a bad vibe from me,  Why?  Because we asked:

1.Where she got her equipment;

2.Who advised her on the build out;

3.Did she have a client base?

4. How a groomer was going to get paid if there was no business;

5. Why she thought she needed more than 1 groomer and a bather if  she had no client base.

Friends who have no business experience constantly ask me why I don’t open another  dog grooming business.  Here’s why:

1.  You need to find a location not only where there  aren’t many similar businesses around, but  is zoned  appropriately;

2.You need at least $5000 for equipment, and at least $5000 more for build out, and at least $5000 more  to sustain you until you build a client base.  the utility companies and the landlord don’t give credit;

3.Any blip in the economy, or more than 3 days of straight  rain will destroy your business.

How much capital do you want to risk?   Mutual funds are enough of a gamble for me.  This  woman who wanted to open a dog grooming business…even though she was not a groomer, was offended that I would not tell her everything she needed to do and that I was trying to discourage her (from spending all the money she had).  She had a decent location…and that was IT. Nothing else. I’ve ‘helped’ too many people who then went on to hire another groomer. No, thanks.

The  nice thing is, not many groomers are entering the profession.  They are good enough to work for a non-dog groomer, who really doesn’t know the difference, but  people who really care about their dogs know the difference.

Several people have asked Romaine Michelle,  who was on the original GroomTeam USA, and is a noted grooming contest winner and grooming contest judge,  and I why we don’t teach. We try, but people won’t make the commitment to learning…and you can’t teach talent.