Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kitsune: The Dog, The Myth, The Legend

I thought, in lieu of anything else to post right now, that I'd fill everyone in on how Kitsune got his name.

I read someone's blog where they posted thoughts about how Shiba owners who name their dogs Japanese names annoy them.  Because most of us on this continent aren't Japanese, and aren't fluent in Japanese.  I'm not sure how it makes sense that if you're any other race but Japanese you can't name your Japanese dog a Japanese name, but whatev.  It's an opinion.  My opinion is:  Just because I'm American doesn't mean I can't appreciate something that isn't.  (I like vodka, too, but I'm not Russian.)  Lots of people ask me how I came about Kitsune's name, and on the street when he's pulling me one direction and they're going another, I usually only have time for the seriously abridged, "It means 'fox' in Japanese," tossed over my shoulder.  There's a bit more to the story (and the word) than that.

Kitsune didn't come home with a name.  He didn't even get a name in the first 24 hours.  We bandied about names.  I thought about naming him Red XIII, after a favorite Final Fantasy VII character.  That one got a lot of consideration.  Red XIII had feline and canine characteristics, like a Shiba.  He's Shiba colored.  And I just really, really like him.  But what do you call a dog whose name is Red XIII?  Red?  That didn't click with me as a dog name.  Certainly "Thirteen" isn't right.  I tried to make it work for me and it just wouldn't.  In theory, it's a kick ass Shiba name.  When it actually comes out of your mouth, it's awkward no matter how you break it down.

Fenris was another name I thought about, but I had already known a dog named Fenris.  I would have thought about that dog every time I called my dog, and that, to me, is just not right.

The day after Kitsune came home, I was sitting at the computer chatting via IM about my new puppy to a friend of mine, Kenn.  Kenn is Japanese American.  I asked his opinion on names.

His opinion?  "That's a Japanese dog.  He needs a Japanese name."

Well, okay great, Kenn, but I don't know very much Japanese, and I'm not going to name my dog "konnichiwa."

I had sent Kenn a picture of the little bat-eared puppy, and Kenn said, "Name him Kitsune.  He looks like a fox."

Kitsune seemed right, and from that moment on, Kitsune was his name.

So really, you could say Kenn named my dog.  (Thanks, Kenn!)

As far as I am concerned, the name Kitsune in relation to my dog goes far beyond any resemblance to a red, bushy-tailed, clever and secretive mammal.

Kitsune, in Japanese legends, are kami, little messenger spirits that take the shape of foxes.  Like fox spirits in other cultures (notably the Native American), the kitsune are mercurial tricksters, seeking to teach us valuable lessons through their pranks.  (That's all kinds of my dog.)  Kitusne have their own code of ethics, which does not necessarily agree with or even oppose our own morality.  However, if you offend a Kitsune, especially within this code of ethics, they become quite disruptive.  If you follow their code of ethics, they are extremely polite, kind, and helpful.  Again, that sounds like every Shiba I've ever known.  Once someone has earned a kitsune's loyalty and trust (and you must earn it, it is not given freely), that loyalty will last through the most severe trials, and sometimes through several family generations.

Kitsune absolutely will not accept being forced into something they do not want.  (I'll have to take a video of Kitsune with a Gentle Leader on.  Biggest.  Tantrum.  Ever.)

The more I read about the Kitsune in Japanese culture, the more it fit my dog.  Now we just refer to him as our little chaos spirit.

In the five years since Kenn named my dog Kitsune, I've discovered that Kitsune is a very popular name for Shibas and Akitas, both here in the US and in Japan.  My best friend in high school had an Akita, the first one I had known, and her registered name was Kitsune Kasai, although being a Japanese import, it was printed in Japanese characters and no one knew what it said until many years after her passing.  They just called her Foxy. I didn't even know her real name was Kitsune until about a month ago.  Jen at Inu Baka has a Kitsune.

You probably already know of a kitsune without knowing that it's even a kitsune from video games, anime, and other things that have migrated from Japan into our pop culture:

Tails of Sonic The Hedgehog fame
Shippo from the anime InuYasha
Pokemon: Vulpix
Keaton from Legend of Zelda
Ninetails of Okami (Highly recommend this game, btw)
Magic The Gathering Kamigawa block featured many "kitsune" cards, including the rare Eight-and-a-Half-Tails:

My next Shiba will keep the Kitsune theme.  Now that I know about them, I find myself fascinated with them.  I am the person watching something random on TV who shouts, "That's a kitsune!" when I see any fox like creature with more than one tail.  I acquired every Magic the Gathering kitsune card and have them hanging, as a set, on my wall.  (I am Uber Geek Nerd Girl.)

And now that you know about Kitsune, I will leave you with this beautiful clip from Sunhine Through The Rain, by Akira Kurosawa.  Poetry on Film.

When it rains and the sun is shining, the kitsune have their wedding processions.  The next time the sun shines through the rain in your area, stay inside, so that you do not accidentally see a kitsune wedding procession.  They don't like it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Loyalty of Dogs

Dog loyalty comes in many forms.  Knowing when you've had a bad day and doing something wacky or special to lift you up.  A stand-offish dog like my Kitsune suddenly deciding, when you're sick in bed and feel like crap, to have a cuddle session.  Getting you over your Demon Days.  Stealing the neighbor's newspaper when yours is missing (true story).  Defending the home and the loved people in it.

I've seen a lot of doggy devotion, but I've never seen a dog devoted enough to sit for hours at a window, waiting, watching.  Until Kitsune.

The windows at our old apartment were not conducive to dogs peering through them.  There were only two that faced the parking lot, one was so drafty it had to be constantly covered in plastic sheeting and a quilt, the other had trees and bushes blocking any view.

Kitsune still knew when someone was coming home, we realized this very early on.

At this apartment, there are floor to ceiling windows all over the place.  Kitsune can stand with all four feet on the ground and look out of any of them.  He can keep an eye on his Groundhog Hunting Grounds and the parking lot almost simultaneously with a quick sprint through the living room.

It wasn't long after we'd moved that I noticed, if I left the house when my SO was home and Kitsune was roaming, he was sitting at my son's bedroom window watching me leave, and he would still be sitting there when I came back.  I started to wonder if he was sitting there the entire time I was away.  I noticed that he would do the same thing when my SO left and I was at home with Kitsune.

One night my SO had to get up in the middle of the night to pick a friend up from the airport.  I watched Kitsune get up when my SO got up.  My SO left.  Kitsune sat down by the bedroom window and looked out of it.  He sat there the entire three hours without moving.  I tried to draw his attention away from his vigil, but he wouldn't have it.  If I called his name, he only turned the ear closest to me in my direction.  A couple of times, I thought he would leave the window when the cats were horsing around just outside the bedroom door in the hall, but the most he did was turn his head to look, longingly, at the action.  For Kitsune, that's true restraint.

My Sainted Labrador never did anything like this.  He was happy to see people when they came home.  He smiled, and grunted, and shoved favorite plush toys in the arrival's direction.  He never mounted a vigil and refused to leave it, though.  Not for me, not for anybody.  It's as if I have my own personal Hachiko in Kitsune.

The Disney movie Eight Below is a true story, with one major and (to me) glaring misrepresentation:  The dogs left behind by researchers were not Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes.  They were **Akitas and Karafuto-ken, another Japanese spitz breed.  The original film is called Nankyoku Monogatari.  It was released in the US as Antarctica.  I will warn you now:  It is much harder to watch, emotionally, than the Disney version.  After being left to fend for themselves for a year in conditions no other dog could survive in, Taro and Jiro greeted their handler with "wild enthusiasm."  Although it is pure conjecture on my part, I'd be willing to bet that the few moments not given over to survival, one or the other of them was watching.  Waiting.  Scenting and staring in the direction that they had last seen their beloved person.

What's so special about a dog waiting at a train station every day, or watching at a window without moving for food, water, or cat ruckus for a favored person to return?

It's the idea that loyalty of that magnitude can exist on earth.  It is hope for the human race, if a dog is capable of that, how much more potential exists in you, or me, or anyone.  Everyone.

The Samurai trained with spitz breeds to learn the true meanings of loyalty and bravery from them.  In this, as in many things, the ancient Japanese wisdom is right on the money.  Observing a dog is one of the only ways to experience that type of devotion and loyalty, but with few exceptions, the Japanese spitz breeds raise the bar.

This morning, I had to drop my SO off at his job, and sit at the bus stop with my son.  When I got home from these errands, which took about 25 minutes, I pulled into my parking space and looked up to see a foxy face staring out of my son's bedroom window.

He had been sitting there with his nose practically touching the glass for long enough that his breath had fogged up a space almost two feet long and a foot high on the window, requiring him to crane his neck to try and peer over or around it.  I wanted to get a picture to post for you, but in order to get a clear picture I would have had to open the car door and get closer to the window, and the second I open the car door Kitsune leaves his post and begins yodeling at the front door.

Domo arigato, Shiba-sensei.  I have the best teacher.

**I have read two sources that say the dogs were Akitas.  One reference to the story in Dog Man says they were Akitas.  Wikipedia says the dogs were Karafuto.  So I will leave it at that they were both, because they probably were.  Working sled dog teams tend to be comprised of many breeds, purebred and mixes of different northern dogs to get the best traits.  With your survival dependent on your sled dogs going into harsh conditions, it's not about a dog's pedigree or breed but only about if they can endure the weather and do the job.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Downside of The Job

I know you thought, "This must be about euthanasia," or, "I know.. expelling anal glands."

No.  It's none of that.

Although, once I am more involved with the euthanasia aspect of things, it might change.

So far, the worst part of the job is.. Well, remember how I told you about people not recognizing me when they come into the clinic?  Yeah.  That's not terrible, in fact, it's rather amusing.

What's really terrible is when I see favorite pup-customers from the store, who LOVED seeing me as much as I loved seeing them, and then they see me at the clinic and cringe and cower.

That's truly terrible.

I don't know if they honestly don't recognize me, or if the fear of the clinic is enough to override any joyful reunion.

But it's heartbreaking, it really is.

It happened to me today.  There is a very sweet little lady who is a regular at the store with her two Australian Shepherds.  I love her Australian Shepherds.  They are gorgeous, gentle, polite awesome dogs.  Today I went up to the front desk to take up a file, and I saw the lady sitting there with one of her Aussies, Peek.

I came out to say hello and Peek just about climbed straight up and over her owner to get away from me.

Wait a minute.  This isn't my sweet, loving friend.  Peek is always happy to see me, Peek always wants to give me her paw while she licks my face.  Not at the clinic.  At the clinic, Peek would rather I did not touch her.

:( :( :(  Sad panda.

The lady and I got Peek re-situated on the floor, and Peek did allow me to pet her and say hello, but not with any of the enthusiasm I was accustomed to getting at the store.  In fact, allow was about all there was to it.  She didn't try to escape, but sat frozen with fear while I petted her.  When I gave up on getting her to thaw, I said goodbye and walked back to my job.  I glanced back at my friends once, before I went through the door.  Peek sat, plastered to her owner's legs, staring at me with this look on her face that was halfway between, "OMG, I just dodged a bullet," and "But wait.. where are you going?"

I was pleased that with five minutes left on my shift, Peek's file hadn't come back yet and thus, I didn't have to do any terrible things to her or hold her while terrible things were done, making an irreparable breach in our relationship.

I went to clock out and came back to use the bathroom when a co-worker stopped me and said, "Hey, can I get you to get a temp for me?"  Sure, no problem.

I opened the door to exam room 2, and there sat Peek.


Immediately I hated myself for what I was about to do.

Strangely enough, Peek seemed much more at ease with me in the exam room than she did in the waiting area.  Before sticking glass things in her butt, I went to say hello again, and she gave me her paw and licked my face, just once, but enough to let me know she didn't hate me.

Sweet girl.

And in fact, she did not seem to mind me sticking the thermometer in the out door.

Still, that first reaction was a horrible feeling.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I saw Ringo today.

Not as happy as I could have been with the person who purchased him.

First of all, he has the stupidest name in the history of stupid names.  His name is Puggles.  Puggles the Puggle.  He is only one, yet his name is a pluralized version of his type.  WTF is that.  "What a beautfiul Lab, what's his name?"  "Labs."  Who DOES that?  At least give it a little thought.  Puggsie, Pugsley, Puggers.. SOMETHING.  Naming your Puggle Puggles, at that point, you might as well just call him Dogs.

Anyway, gripes about names aside.  This is a lady who wanted a pocket dog.  She wants a dress-up doll, something that is going to stay Tiny and Cute.  One of the first questions she asked me, after I weighed him and brought him back in the room was, "Twelve pounds?!  How much bigger is he going to GET?"

Well.  He is only 14 weeks old.  He's got a WHOLE YEAR of growing left to do.  He is a Pug and Beagle mix.  Pugs are short and heavy.  Beagles weigh a little bit more and have more leg.  If I'd have to guess, I'd guess he's going to be between 14 and 16 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 35 and 40 pounds.  If I was a betting gal, I'd put my money more on the 40 pound mark, because he's always been a hefty pup.

She didn't seem very pleased when I told her this.  She looked like she was about the say something about it and then changed her mind.

She didn't think he was drinking enough.  He wasn't dehydrated.  Telling her that as long as he's not dehydrated, he's drinking enough was not a satisfactory answer for her.  I'm not sure what she wanted to hear, but that wasn't it.

Then she went off on a tangent about the store.  Not that the store had done anything wrong, it was just a bunch of hearsay that she took as truth.

"Now I want him THOROUGHLY checked out, because my friends told me that all their puppies are Amish puppies and Amish puppies all got something wrong."

Because, you know, we're in the habit of half-assing examinations unless you specify.  So that irritated me.

I opened up her paperwork from the store, looked at the breeder's name and said, "His breeder's name is Robert Johnston.  I can't guarantee it, but that doesn't sound very Amish to me."

She looked surprised.  "It actually says his breeder's name?"

Yes.  Right on the paperwork someone went over every word of with you, that you clearly didn't pay any attention to.

I checked his ringworm.  There was no sign of where it had been, so I was pleased about that.

He was so happy to see me that he sat at my feet and bayed at me the entire time I was trying to talk to his new owner, which made it hard to hear anything.  Actually, he wasn't that bad, it was her yelling, "Puggles!  Puggles!  Puggles!" in baby-talk voice ineffectively over top of him that made it hard to communicate with her.

She wanted to know exactly how long it was going to take to house train him, and was not satisfied with the answer that it depends on the individual dog and that dog's individual home, how much time can be spent with the dog, etc.

She was all alarmed about his breathing, and seemed upset when I told her, "Yeah.  That's because he's part Pug.  It's nothing to be concerned about unless it causes him distress or interferes with life."  She looked at me like I was crazy.  I said, "I bet he snores, too."  "Yes!  He does!  And you're saying that's not a problem?"  No.  It's just him.  If you're freaked out by noisy breathing, why'd you get a Pug mix?

Then she expressed concern over his play biting.  I tried to explain to her how to not play with him roughly, not to get him into a situation that he didn't understand how to walk away from, or get him overexcited when hands are present, and redirection onto appropriate objects, but she brushed that aside with a, "Well that ain't gone work, I got two kids."

Okay, so how about you train your kids how to deal with the dog?  You are a parent, yes?  Are you or are you not in the position of authority here?  So instead of taking pains to work with your dog, you're going to just allow your kids to make him a nuisance, and then, let me guess, get rid of him.

While I had him on the table, he was mouthing my hand.  He wasn't putting ANY kind of pressure on, just using his mouth to try and maneuver my hand.  She watched that for a minute and then said, "And that don't hurt you?"  "No, not really.  He's not actually biting, he's just mouthing."  "Well it hurt when he do it to me."  Well maybe you're a sissy.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cody: My First Favorite Patient.

Friday night, I went to bring in a new dog visit client.  The dog was a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix.  Border Collies as a breed have a very special place in my heart.  I was immediately smitten with this gentleman, who had the length of leg and stub tail of an Aussie, but the coat texture, head and coloring of a Border Collie,  except for a little merle-y swatch around one pastern, which I suppose could have come from either breed.

His name is Cody.

He had no known age, no known vaccination history.  He had once belonged to his new caretaker's grandmother's neighbors, who moved out in the middle of the night, abandoning their dog in the fenced-in backyard with no food or water.  The grandmother noticed that the dog had no food or water and threw edible things over the fence for him, tried to let him drink from her garden hose stuck between the chain-links.  She didn't realize until a few days later that the people were no longer in residence.  She called her son, and they broke him out of his home/prison and her son took him home.  They fed him, and brushed him, and bathed him, and called their vet to make an appointment to get him checked out.

Which is where I met him.

Cody was an absolute angel the entire time we poked, prodded, lifted lips, and squeezed delicate underbellies.  He sat as still as a statue while blood was drawn, and I set up the 3DX snap test.

The entire time I was in the exam room with him, I just kept thinking, "Who could possibly have decided to abandon this gem?"  Truly, Cody is better than a gem.  If I had a choice between Cody and a diamond, I'd pick Cody every time, hands down.  I found myself really despising the people who had left him, without food, water or shelter, on some of the coldest days so far this season.  It's one thing to feel you are forced to give up your dog.  It's quite another to just leave the dog to starve or dehydrate in a fenced-in yard.

While Dr. S was talking to his new owner, Cody walked around the exam room spending a little time with each of us in turn.  His owner, then me, then Dr. S, and back to his owner to start the rotation over again.  He had the happiest look on his face, as though being at that place, at that time, is just exactly what he always wanted and couldn't ask for more.

Dr. S was also very taken with Cody.  I was in the act of offering Cody a biscuit when Dr. S spoke to him, and instead of taking the biscuit from me, Cody went over to Dr. S and jumped up - not in the pushy demanding way some dogs have that almost knocks you over, but very gently.  It was more as though he was standing on his hind legs to look into your face better and just happened to have his paws resting lightly on you for balance.  Dr. S was just tickled.  "Look at that!  He's being offered food by a beautiful girl and instead he comes to see me.  That doesn't happen very often, I'll tell ya."  He grinned at Cody and said, "I like you.  I really do."

The visit was about to end on a happy note when I went out to check the results of the 3DX in time to hear Dr. W ask, "So, who's heartworm positive?"


Cody's 3DX was the only heartworm test running.

Why.  Why why why.  I know a heartworm positive result is no longer a death sentence for a dog, but still, can't the dog catch a damn break?  His clear Aussie/Collie features puts him out of the running for treatment with ivermectin.

At least he has a home that recognizes how special he is now, and is willing to care for him the way he, and every dog, deserves.

On the way to work the next morning, I heard The Cave playing on the radio.  It reminded me of Cody, and I almost cried.

<3 Cody

Monday, November 22, 2010


An interesting phenomenon:  People who knew me at the store do not recognize me at the clinic.  I'm not sure why.  I wear my hair the exact same way.  I wore scrubs at the store.  Nothing has changed about me.  The only thing that is different is the setting.  Yet people can have an entire conversation with me before I gently remind them of who I am, and only then does the dawning look cross their faces.

It's sort of amusing.

Saturday afternoon I had a client who purchased a female Boxer/GSD mix from the store a couple of months ago.

I remember her distinctly because a really pushy, demanding, condescending yet clueless girl had purchased her, and returned her about 48 hours later saying, "The German Shepherd makes her so so sweet, but the Boxer makes her vicious."  Clearly, the recent Sour Patch Kids commercials did a number on this chick's thought processes.  I wasn't there when the girl returned the puppy, but I did hear about it from quite a few people, and the transaction ended with Pushy, Demanding, Condescending Clueless Girl calling SaintTawny a bitch and stalking out of the store.  (It was something along the lines of she demanded a full refund because, "We should have warned her that Boxers are vicious dogs."  Well they aren't, so why would we, but nice try on that one.)

I was very pleased when a Down To Earth, Thoughtful, Sensible couple purchased her about a week later.  The guy wanted a running buddy, his fiancee just wanted a puppy.  They were undecided for a little while between her and her brother.  Her brother was much more dominant, mouthy, and rough.  I cautioned them that sometimes how the puppies act in the store isn't always how they act when you get them home, especially if they are rooming with a domineering cage-mate.  Sometimes what seems to be a very mild, calm dog turns into a rampaging hellion when you get them away from a dominant sibling.  They decided on her, and purchased her.

I hadn't seen them back in the store since, so I was very happy to see them at the clinic on Saturday, and to see that she was being very well taken care of.  The Guy told me they had just gotten back from a two and a half mile run in a local park before coming to the clinic, something they did every few days.  I praised The Guy for it, telling him that many behavior problems in dogs could be avoided if they just got more exercise.  When I knelt down to greet her, she immediately bathed my face, and I commented on it.  He said something about having been concerned when they had purchased her because her brother was really rough and, "you know, sometimes how they act in the store and how they act when you get them home are completely different."

I laughed.

"Yes, I know," I told him.  "I remember telling you the exact same thing the day you bought her."  The Look of Comprehension came over his face and he said, "Wait.  You worked at the pet store."  "Sure did."  "You were the one who handed her to us the first time we ever got her out!"  "Yep, it was me."  When his fiancee arrived (she came in after I had already brought them into the exam room, just as Dr. S, the other veterinarian, came in to check her out), he said, "Honey, honey, this is the girl who sold Moxy to us!"

This is the type of thing that makes me feel like the last five years of my life were not spent doing something completely worthless.  I know that the dogs were well taken care of when I worked there, but not knowing if they were well taken care of (and knowing without a doubt that some of them were not) after purchase always weighed heavily on my mind.  Seeing Moxy and her caretakers in the clinic and how much she is cherished and what a delight she is to be around is just refreshing to see.  On so many levels.

Here's to another puppy store success story:  Moxy, whose Boxer half did not, as it turns out, make her vicious at all.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What About The Ones That Don't Sell?

I look at my stats and I keep seeing a particular phrase come up in my search key words.

What do they do with the dogs that don't sell in a pet store?

This must be a question on everyone's minds, because I got asked that a lot by customers at the store.

"What do you do with them if they're here too long?"

About two years into my stint as a pet store employee I got thoroughly fed up with the question and answered, "Too long for what?  They don't have expiration dates stamped on them."

Some people honestly believe that pet stores just dump unsold puppies at the SPCA, apparently.  I'm not sure why they would think that.  I got the impression from most people who asked that they weren't honestly concerned for the welfare of the puppies, they were hinting for a chance at a free dog.  It doesn't work that way.  If you want a free puppy there are lots of "oops" litters that happen every 6-7 months.  Just keep the word out that you're looking for one and you'll find one, promise.  (Free dogs tend to not be very free, though, once you factor in all the vet work they need.  Just a word of caution.)  The owner didn't pay hundreds of dollars for this puppy just to turn around and give him away because someone doesn't buy him immediately.  (If that were the case, every employee at the store would probably have a bazillion dogs.)

So what does happen to the ones that don't sell in a pet store?

They all sell, eventually.  It's just a matter of when.  When a puppy has been there for a long time, this is what happens:

The puppy gets a name.

The pet store employees typically get super attached to the puppy.  The pet store employees bug the hell out of the owner thirty times a day that, "Really, we need a store dog."

The pet store employees keep the puppy out of the cage as much as possible because s/he's been in the damn kennel long enough.

You can usually find the puppy within minutes of opening or closing running loose in the store, chasing employees and playing with expensive dog toys that "just came out of the packaging" or developed some other mysterious defect that prevents it from being sold.

In my case, I'd start to train them, a la Beretta.  A trained dog is a draw, they're more likely to get a home if they know at least some manners and can demonstrate a willingness to please people.

So that's what happens when puppies are at pet stores for a long time.  They don't take them out back and shoot them, they don't send them back to the breeder, they don't send them to the SPCA, and they don't give them away free to the first person who asks.

Keep in mind:  Even with a two to three hundred dollar mark-up on the puppies, they don't make much money on them (unless they have an outrageous mark-up, which apparently some stores do).  They're making money on the supplies they sell with the puppy.  So while ideally they would like to see a high turn-over of puppies (and usually do), the money lost on a puppy who has been there for more than three weeks will be made up for to at least breaking even point when the puppy finally does sell.

The New Guy

Okay, so week 1 at the clinic is winding to a close.

I am loving every minute of it.

Monday I worked 9-3 and I learned how to run a fecal floatation and 3DX snap test.  I also got to peer through the microscope at some Giardia, which my super scientific mind found really spiffy.  (My dad used to keep me amused for hours with a microscope and some creek water.)  I've seen pictures in text books and such, but actually seeing it there on the slide with my own eyes was a trip.  Being me, I talked to it.  Dr. W found it and told me to go look, I looked and said, "Why hello there, Giardia."  Now they know I'm crazy.  I outed myself early.

It's interesting being The New Guy.  Being in an environment that allows me to learn was one of the biggest draws of this job for me, and yet not knowing the routines and feeling incompetent bugs the shit out of me.  I was doing the fecals and 3DX snaps by myself on the first day, but I had to holler half-jokingly "I WANNA DO IT BY MYSELF, GAWD!"  at someone before they stopped acting like I'd have to see it done 10 times first.  Maybe having to show someone ten times first is typical for them.  But I wanna do it by myself.  Gawd.  I spent the first two days shadowing people and observing what goes on.  Then Wednesday morning, I just thought, "Well screw it.  I'm never going to do it if I don't just start grabbing files and going," so I did.  I grabbed the file on one of the first annual dog visits that came back, opened it, read the file, called the owner and patient in, did what needed to be done and then took the file back for Dr. W.  When I told one of the girls that I had been shadowing my first day, her eyes got huge and she said, "Man.  It took me weeks to start calling people in.  You've only been here for.. what, this is your third day?"

So far I haven't really gotten any feedback from anyone.  I like feedback.  I tried to get feedback out of Dr. W and she only told me, "Don't smoke."  I have no idea if I'm moving too fast for their comfort, if I'm showing a good level of interest and initiative, or if I'm just going through orientation the way they wish everyone did so they have no comment.

One of the drawbacks of feeling comfortable with doing things early on is that people tend to start giving you more and more challenges, which is great, but in a medical setting can be scary.  Yesterday I went to hold a dog for one of the girls while she put in a heparin catheter prior to a dental cleaning, and she was talking to me as if I'd be doing it the next time.  K, I don't wanna do that yet.  That's kind of important.  You have to stick them right the first time or you don't get another chance and then what.  Up a creek, that's what.  There was a joke Monday morning that by the end of the week I'd be on my own and have to draw blood by myself, and everyone around me laughed like it was super funny, but I'm actually okay with that.  I think I can draw blood by myself as long as I have someone who can actually hold a dog still for me.  I'm not trying to put IV catheters in yet, though.

Randomness:  I like coming home smelling like the antiseptic clinic smell.

More Randomness:  It's interesting that at the store, my allergies bugged the crap out of me constantly.  At the clinic, not so much, even though my nose is usually inches from strange dogs and cats who are stress shedding like mad, and I'm fairly allergic to cats.  So far I've had one sneeze.  Knock on wood.

Have I seen dogs from the store?  Yes, I have, and some cats.  Most of which I recognize.  I saw a ruby Poochon who was there a month ago almost causing drama between two people who both wanted her worse than they've wanted anything before in their lives.  She's doing well, but more wired than a Shiba and that's saying something.  I saw a customer and her Maltese that I sold to her a year and a half ago who were favorite regulars of mine.  I was happy to see her.  She was in to have his anal glands expressed and I told her she'd have to bring him to see me at the clinic from now on.  I saw a Beagle/Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mix that we had at the store months ago.  She was so tiny when she came to the store people kept thinking she was a Chihuahua (with those Beagle/Spaniel ears, she didn't look anything like a Chihuahua to me, but I guess the only thing that matters to some people is size.)  She's much bigger now, but still a very small dog, and just as sweet as she can be.  She was only there for a vaccination, and the entire time she was too concerned with licking me in the face to even notice someone sticking pointy things in her haunch.  I found myself wondering if they remember who I am.

Every time we get a new puppy visit from the store, I check to see if it's Ringo.

I keep my mental fingers crossed that when someone buys him, they aren't the people who decide to skip the free visit and just go directly to some other vet.  Or none at all.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Last Day

Today was my last day.

Everything I did today, I did it thinking The Last.

This is The Last Time I will drive down this road to work.
This is The Last Time I will sit outside for 20 minutes before anyone gets there to let me in.
This is The Last Time I will clock in here.

I went back and looked over my puppies.  The Poochon who has been there seemingly forever and is still cheerful and bouncy and happy.  She reminds me of a giggly elementary school girl with perfect titian curls.  The Puggle who has been there for a month having a small patch of ringworm on his left hind hock treated.  Calling him "Ringworm" evolved into calling him Ringo, and he would howl and bay and get my attention and then act like a fool trying to bite his own tail while watching me from the corner of his eye.  He is always watching me.  Sometimes I would turn around to catch him watching me with his head cocked to the side and his ears up as if seriously trying to figure out what I was up to, and why I did what I do.  Despite my dislike for the designer dog craze, I have nothing against the dogs themselves, and I have to admit, Puggles are cute, and full of personality.  Ringo was the last one who got to me.  I found myself, while watching his antics, wondering how he'd get along with Kitsune and reminding myself repeatedly that my SO can barely handle the yodels and howls of Kitsune, let alone adding to that another yodeling, howling, braying vocal hound.

I didn't want to stay in the kennel today.  I found myself wandering out all the time, to talk to co-workers that I know I will miss sorely.

I packed up the stuff I was taking with me:  A coffee cup I kept forgetting to take home.  My CD book.  My Plumb's Veterinary Drug Handbook.  I left my giant radio/CD player because when it was at my house I never used it anyway, and the kennel can sometimes be hard to take without music.  The puppies like music.  I also left my Merck's Veterinary Manual for SaintTawny and the couple of other people who would actually want to use it.  But mostly for SaintTawny.

I was hugged, and told that nobody would ever be able to do my job as well as I did it.

I was given a new journal (I have a teensy bit of an obsession with blank books) and told that my leaving was creating a void that no one else could ever fully fill.  (Tears!)

I was kissed, and told that I have made someone proud.

The boss man, who rarely can say something serious, lifted me off my feet in a huge bear hug and said, "I'll miss you, kid."

I didn't cry, but I came close.

My Facebook status is currently:
K9Trainer is officially no longer a pet store employee.  Thank you, pet store, for all the opportunities, the friendship, and the memories.  Past and present employees, if you can read this, its because I <3 you guys like family.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kitsune & The Vacuum: A Love/Hate Relationship

Kitsune seems to hate the vacuum cleaner.

Every time I get it out, he slinks around the perimeter of the room with his ears askance, and every once in awhile he darts in to make a quick attack.

He actually does attack the vacuum cleaner.  He makes a high pitched half-bark, and dives in to bite it, right on the brush side, which can't feel very good (and is probably at least partly responsible for the fact that my vacuum cleaner brush spinners no longer spin very well).  I've tried to keep him from this hobby of trying to destroy the vacuum cleaner, which is why he slinks around the perimeter of rooms before he sneaks in his attacks.  He knows he's not supposed to do it.  It's as if he can't help himself.  I know now what the prelude to attacking the vacuum looks like, and when I see him even look like he's going to start, I tell him, "No!" and he trots off, only to circle back and try to sneak in again in another minute.

When the vacuum is off, and no one is touching it, he leaves it alone.  I know it's not necessarily the noise it makes that bothers him, because I've turned it off and pushed it aimlessly around as though I was still vacuuming with it, and he still darts up and tries to bite it.  So I'm at a loss, but something about the vacuum being pushed around on the floor makes my dog want to kill it.  I've already thought of and discounted the possibility that he's having fun playing a game.  He looks too agitated to be having fun.

Now, here's where things get interesting.

If I take the hose out, to use it, Kitsune wants me to vacuum him with it.

But he still wants to bite it periodically.  Just so it knows he still hates it.

I'll take the hose off and Kitsune will immediately come begging for a good vacuuming (which is great when he's shedding), and I'll start rubbing him down with the hose.  But he wiggles and squirms and leans into me while I'm doing it, so he gets stuck to it a lot.  He does not like that, and this is when he usually bites it.  He'll make a high-pitched noise that is almost, but not quite, a Shiba Scream, bite the vacuum hose, and then immediately do something stupid like stick his face on it, or lean his neck into it.  Thus the cycle starts over again.

Interestingly enough, although I'm holding and directing the vacuum cleaner hose, he never tries to bite me.  Only the vacuum cleaner.  It's evil, and must be ended, but it feels oh, so good.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This afternoon, I was hanging around outside of the kennel because my dishwasher is finally getting replaced, and I didn't want to get into the middle of something only to have to abandon it half-finished when they brought the new one in.

Since I didn't have anything better to do, I was being register person for a few hours, while trying to let the manager on duty do the things that only she knows how to do, like ordering and inventory n'stuff.

Instead, she ended up doing my job and helping someone at the puppy window.

I heard her say, "Well, I don't know if it'll go through, but I'll try to charge one penny on it and see.  If it works I'll just give you a penny and if it doesn't, well then we know."

She comes up to the register with this CareCredit credit card.  She says, "Do you know what this is?"
"Yeah," I said.  "It's a credit card for health care expenses."  It pretty much says so clearly on the card.

"It's not going to work here."  It wasn't a question.  She knew full well it wasn't going to work.

"No, I seriously doubt it.  What is she trying to use it for?"

"She wants to buy the Pomeranian."

Seriously?  With a health care card?  People are getting desperate when they're trying to use their health care cards to buy puppies.

She tried anyway.  Just in case.

It didn't go through.

Since no one was at the register, I walked back with the manager to see how this lady was going to take the fact that her health care card could not be used to obtain puppies.

She went from exceedingly cheerful to exceedingly sour instantly, dragging her granddaughter or whoever the young girl with her was out of the puppy room with her snapping, "Well I guess we'll just leave, then," at the manager as though she had something to do with the fact that her health care card could not be used anywhere but, oh, say, a doctor's office or pharmacy.

I can't wait to not have to deal with that sort of nonsense.  You have no idea.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Devil Dog

A long time ago, my stepfather owned many gas stations, a heating oil business, a lumberyard and a hardware store.

He also owned a big lot on the outside of town where he kept his delivery trucks (lumber and oil) and had a large shop.  This shop was part woodworking shop, part garage for fixing the many vehicles he owned for the businesses.

This big lot had a ten foot high chain link fence around it with barbed wire at the top, but still determined people could get in.  He had a lot of expensive stuff on that lot.

One day, he went to the SPCA and told them, "I want the meanest son of a bitch you have here."  He's not a man who minces words.

Back then, I don't think the SPCA had as many regulations or rules about what they adopted out to who.  If a man wanted the meanest son of a bitch they had, well that was his lookout, clearly he knew what he was getting into.

The dog they brought him was a male German Shepherd who really was about the meanest son of a bitch my stepfather had ever seen.  Ask and you shall receive.  This German Shepherd was on his last day, slated for euthanasia first thing on the morrow.

So, my stepfather adopted him, and took him to live at "the yard" as we called it.

He was christened The Devil Dog.  Actually, he earned it.

I'm not sure what it is about saving a dog who's time is running out, but they know it.  Somehow, they always do.  The Devil Dog didn't start out having any sort of relationship with my stepfather beyond a "You leave me alone and I'll leave you alone," sort of agreement.  By all accounts, this was a much better relationship than he'd had with anyone else who had ever tried to work with him.  If you want my opinion, I think it was the combination of my stepfather being the person who took him out of the SPCA, and the fact that at the yard he had as much room to run as he wanted, and could do it whenever he wanted.  He had a dog door into the heated shop, where he had a bed and food and water.  Other than my stepfather, nobody went on that lot.  Devil didn't have to answer to anybody about anything, ever, he just had to live up to his reputation as the meanest damn dog anyone had ever seen if somebody tried to go over, under, or through that fence.

And he did that job, admirably.  After Devil came to live at the yard, very few people tried to go over, under, or through that fence, and the few who did had nasty looking mug shots and probably lived in fear of German Shepherds from that moment forward.

Devil could have gotten out of the yard if he'd wanted to.  It wouldn't have been any job at all for him to dig  a small hole under that fence and be gone.  He never did.

Who knows what his history was, what ordeals he went through that took him from a puppy to the dog who earned the moniker "The Devil Dog" (which is always, still to this day, spoken in our house in capital letters). Whatever his history was, he wasn't a stupid dog.  He knew he had it good at the yard.  He was safe from all scary unknown people.  They were on one side of a fence, he was on the other, and I really think he preferred it that way.  He got fed every day and had warm place to sleep and nobody to bother him.  Life was good.

The Devil Dog was the scariest of all yard dogs, because unlike most territorial dogs, Devil wouldn't patrol the yard and bark at people who came near the fence.  Unless you had had a run-in with him before or worked for my stepfather, you'd never know he was there.  He was quiet.  He gave no warnings to intruders of what was about to happen to them.  Most of the people who tried to break into the yard afterward said, "If I had known there was a dog there.."  But they didn't, and they never saw or heard him coming until it was too late.  Word must have gotten around though, because by the time the Devil was too old to live up to his name, nobody dared go into that yard.

My stepfather never made any attempts to train Devil.  The only things Devil needed to know (don't bite my stepfather or anyone with my stepfather and don't eliminate in the shop) he could sort out for himself.  Once given control over his own life, Devil was an amazingly docile animal.  In the yard, he had enough room to retreat away from anyone he didn't feel like interacting with, and as long as someone didn't try to force him to interact with them when he didn't want to, nobody was in danger of being mauled.  My stepfather made it clear to anyone he took into the yard with him, don't touch that dog and he won't touch you.  You've been warned.

I was about 7 years old before I first met Devil, who was five or six at the time.  My stepfather was making me bookshelves for my room, and we went to the shop every evening so he could work on them.  Devil usually stayed out of the shop when other people were in it, and I was dying to see the notorious Devil Dog.  He stayed out of seeing range.  The bookshelves for my room were massive, and took many trips to accomplish.  On one of them, I was coming down with some illness, I was very tired, and I decided to go lay down in the empty dog bed.  I didn't know where Devil was and I wasn't concerned about it, because he had kept himself out of sight every other time I had been there.

I fell asleep in the dog bed for I don't know how long.  It was one of the nice big overstuffed round LL Bean variety.  I came awake to people excitedly talking, and the first sentence that made sense to me was my stepfather saying to my mother, "Gretchen I wouldn't do that if I were you."  Then I heard growling, and I opened my eyes.  When my stepfather saw me open my eyes, he said, "You lie still.  You stay right there and don't move."

Devil was in the bed with me.

My stepfather made my mother retreat to the other side of the shop with him.  As soon as they were both about ten feet away, Devil relaxed and put his head down.  My stepfather poured food into his bowl and called him, but he didn't get up.  It took a few times of my stepfather rattling kibbles around in his pan and yelling, "Devil!  Let's go," before he finally got up and left the bed, and I could get up too.

From that time on, Devil wasn't wary about me.  We weren't friends, exactly, but he was more at ease with me than with any one else except my stepfather.  I'm not sure what happened that night.  I really don't think Devil took it into his head in ten or twenty minutes or however long he'd been there to protect me from all comers, even my mother and the man he respected.  He didn't even know me.  I think he just decided that I, as a kid and not an adult, wasn't a threat (especially not asleep), and wanted to lie in his bed so he did.  When my mother realized it and went to wake me up, he growled at her because that was his bed, and she shouldn't be reaching down in his direction.

It scared the bejeezus out of me though.

By the time that German Shepherd was an old Devil, my stepfather had gone from describing him as the meanest son of a bitch in town to the best damn dog he'd ever had, status that Devil kept for ten years until my Sainted Labrador.  My stepfather never set out to get a German Shepherd.  If the SPCA workers had brought out a Heinz 57 mix as the meanest dog in the place at the time, he'd have taken that dog just as well.  It just turned out that way.

Devil eventually had to be put down at 13, when his hips gave out and he could no longer get up on his own.

Some people might think that Devil Dog had a pitiful existence just because he was a yard dog, and not a house pet, having limited human contact even though it was daily.

I think Devil would never have made a pet, he would have killed somebody or been killed by somebody eventually if someone had tried to force him into it.  Maybe if he had gone to a different home as a puppy, things might have been different.  Who can say.  All I know is that he was happy being his own master of his own house in his own yard and having nobody to answer to and nobody making demands on him.  He got fed at the same times every day, rain, snow or shine, and he could depend on it being the same person.  That's all Devil really cared about.  If he wanted human contact, he certainly could have received it, but until he was a much older dog, he never sought attention or affection, even from my stepfather.

When he got very old, and nobody expected him to do the job he was originally obtained for anymore, it was talked of bringing Devil to the house in town to live with us for the remainder of his days.  I was all for it, but the adults (my mom and my stepfather) after careful consideration, decided to leave him as he was.  Not because they were afraid of him or what he might do, he was fairly feeble at that point, and I was a teenager and not a child who might do something stupid around a dog without thinking.  It was just decided that he simply wouldn't like it.  He was old, and used to just being master of his own days.  We honestly didn't know if he was technically house trained or if when given the choice he just preferred peeing outside in the grass to peeing on the concrete floor of the shop.  All angles of the scheme were looked at and debated, and the final conclusion was that Devil in a new home around people day and night, deprived of the freedom of choice he had enjoyed for the last 11 or so years would emotionally upset him more than making him that little bit more physically comfortable could justify.

He could have been killed by lethal injection at the age of two, instead he lived to the ripe old age of 13.
He could have died with people knowing only that he was vicious, instead we gave him the space and freedom to show us that he could be noble, dignified and loyal.  We gave him a job that fit him and an environment in which he could be himself and free reign to do that job.

He could have died as a number and been a statistic, mourned by nobody, with nobody remembering him fondly today.  Instead, he will never be forgotten by my family, and we all remember him with laughter and joy.

In memory of The Devil Dog:  We're all grateful for the time we had with you and the work you did for us.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Ones Who Get To Me Part 4: Beretta

Once upon a time, there was a black German Shepherd puppy who came to our store.  She was a little shy, and had a case of diarrhea that would not clear up, in part because of a tricky stomach, in part because of a parasite.

I was on a kick of naming dogs after guns at the time (I find I often name in themes, though I don't realize it sometimes), and looking at her perfectly erect ears and pointy snout, she just looked like a Beretta to me.  I think the main reason I named her Beretta is because, like a gun, she was only going to reflect the spirit of the person handling her.  She was just a smidge timid, just enough to be worrisome.  Handle her the wrong way, and that timidness, coupled with a GSD's natural tendency to be wary of strangers and highly reactive, would make her just as dangerous as a loaded gun with the safety off.  With the right person and a dose of confidence building, she would be only dangerous to people who thoroughly deserved it.

I started working with her on that confidence issue while she wasn't for sale due to the diarrhea issues.  She was a gem.  Eager to please, it was a snap to teach her anything.  She was smart, she was beautiful, and she wanted to be worked with.  She got "sit" in a day, and after that I started the "treat any time they so much as glance at you" to teach her that keeping her attention on me got her great things.

She recalled with precision, heeled perfectly around the store, and very quickly decided that the toys belonged in the puppy room and not anywhere else.  Should a toy find it's way out of the puppy room, she would pick it up and put it back in the puppy room.

I really wanted Beretta to be my dog.  Really, really.  She had that special something that made her stand out from other dogs, that certain spark.  It's extreme intelligence coupled with plain common sense and something else that's an undefinable quality you know when you've been around dogs long enough.  She was just full of possibilities.  She could be anything, excel at anything.  She could have been the world's best police dog - the kind that has an "off" switch not many police dogs have anymore - who could throw her heart and soul into the job when she was working and go home and be a regular old, let-the-kids-lounge-on-her dog when she wasn't.  She could have been a superb search and rescue dog, a seeing-eye dog, a therapy dog - anything, and she would have been the absolute best at it.  I have not worked with a dog like that since my Sainted Labrador passed away.  She reminded me a lot of the Bay dog.  Same soul, same heart, different expression of it all.

One day after she had been put up for sale, I noticed people loitering outside the kennel so I went out to ask if anyone needed help.  Everyone declined my help, but I went to stand back by the desk anyway, because no matter what people say, they always have questions.

Two big burly guys were looking at Beretta, and I heard one say to the other, "Well if you ever want them to be good guard dogs you have to make them mean."

That was my worst fear for Beretta come true in an instant.  I felt my heart drop through the floor.  They asked me a few questions about her, and I told them she was a good dog, very easy to train, loved absolutely everybody, and had a horrific problem that was likely to cost a lot of money to fix.

Which was a blatant lie.  She didn't have any health problems since her giardia had cleared up.  They expressed regret, quickly lost interest, and left the store.

The entire time this was going on, two ladies had been standing a few feet away, quietly.  After the two men left, one approached me and said, "I couldn't help but overhear what you said to those men about the black German Shepherd, and I had a few questions of my own."

I smiled at her.  "The health issue I made up.  I heard him say something about making dogs mean and I didn't want him to have her," I told her.  Something about this lady made me decide, almost unconsciously, to be open and honest with her.  I think then and there we became friends when she smiled and said she'd overheard the same thing and been worried about Beretta.  She asked how I knew she was easy to work with and gentle, and I told her everything about Beretta.  Then she asked if they could take her out and play with her, and I said sure.

"Just know, she takes a minute to warm up to people.  That's a GSD trait, they're not supposed to be mean, but they are supposed to be aloof with strangers.  She'll open up to you in a few."

Beretta came out, and predictably didn't really want anything to do with the two nice ladies who had shown an interest in her.  She didn't shy away from them, she was just intent on me, what I might be doing, what I might ask of her, what I might want to play with.  They tried to call her and she looked at them and stood her ground, but didn't go until I told her it was okay.  I told them how she had learned by herself to clean up the toys, and to show them, I took one of the toys from the puppy room and dropped it on the ground.  Instantly, Beretta stopped what she was doing and stared at me with this reproachful look that said, "Of all people, YOU ought to know better."  She heaved a sigh, trotted over, picked the toy up, and put it back in the puppy room.  Everyone laughed.

The lady explained to me that they weren't looking for a dog for themselves, they were looking for a dog for her mother.  Her mother had cancer, was undergoing chemotherapy, having a tough time, had within the last year been divorced and had to put her beloved Golden Retriever to sleep.  She needed a new dog, someone to give her a reason to get out of bed and out of the house and do things, but considering her illness, not a dog that was going to be rambunctious or rough.

Beretta was playful, but not extremely hyper, and she was never rough in play.  Always gentle.  I was thrilled.  This sounded like a perfect match.  The daughter thought so, too.  They put Beretta on hold while they went to get her mom so she could meet Beretta.  Beretta would, after all, be her dog.

Mom came and met Beretta.  I showed off everything she knew already.  I explained how I felt about her - that she could be anything, do anything.  She was smart enough to judge a situation and react accordingly, a quality many GSDs no longer have.  Mom said she was happy to hear that, as she had an interest in doing search and rescue work.  Perfect!  Yes, I often felt Beretta would be a great search and rescue dog, and I've been involved in search and rescue myself and could put her in contact with the right people.

After about two hours spent talking with me, talking to and observing Beretta, they decided to get her.  I was thrilled.  I was so happy I cried, really.  I cried because Beretta was leaving, and also because I couldn't have dreamed up a better home for her if I had set my mind to it.  This was all just meant to be.  This lady was gentle, had the right ideas about training dogs (no Cesar Milan for Beretta), wanted to give Beretta and herself a job like search and rescue for both their sakes.  She was just what Beretta needed and Beretta was just what she needed.

While they were filling out the paperwork and we were going over warranties, I noticed the street name on the address and it was really familiar but I didn't give it any thought at the time.

We got Beretta outfitted with everything she needed, including her favorite toy, the training treats that didn't upset her stomach, a Gentle Leader, the works.

I helped them out to the car.  Beretta was confused when she hopped up into the car and the door shut without me in it.  I could see the wheels turning in her head when she realized that I wasn't coming with her, and it really broke my heart.  In fact, I'm tearing up just remembering that expression on her face.  I stood there in the parking lot and smoked a cigarette and cried a few tears and thought to myself, at least she's safe now.  I had a premonition that at some point, Beretta was going to save that lady's life.  I don't know how I know, but sometimes, as wonky as it sounds, I know things like that.

While I was standing there, a thought suddenly struck me.  The street name.  The street name sounded familiar because it was in the same apartment complex I lived in.  I ran inside to double check on the paperwork.  Yes!  Yes it was!  Beretta just went to a home I could literally see from my balcony.

There is a power at work in the universe greater than ourselves, and it didn't just hand me this once-in-a-lifetime dog to yank her away from me forever.  Things happen for a reason.

A week later, I saw the lady walking Beretta while I was taking out some trash.  I have to admit, having done the paperwork with them, I knew the exact address and had been keeping an eye out for them, but I wasn't about to be creepy enough to go knock on the door to see how Beretta was doing, though I longed to.  Besides, Beretta had been very attached to me.  She needed time to get used to the fact that she was not my dog.

Seeing them on the street, however, I went up and said hi.  Beretta was happy to see me.  We talked about Beretta and how she was settling in.  She asked me, "Why did you name her Beretta?"  I tried to explain as best I could.  I asked, "And what name is she known by now?"  The lady smiled at me.  "Her name is still Beretta.  It suits her.  I couldn't change it."

That's when I knew, this was meant to happen.  Without a doubt.

I still see Beretta frequently.  She has grown into a beautiful lady, quiet and dignified, and everything a GSD should be.  Intuitive and intelligent, she is perfectly behaved and knows what is called for in all situations.  Within two weeks of being in her new home, her person had to move the alarm clock in the bedroom onto a high bookshelf or Beretta would hit the snooze button repeatedly and it wouldn't wake her up.

Beretta is in search and rescue training now, and as I always knew she would, enjoys and excels at it.

I am proud of her, and proud of the part I played in her life.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pet Store Thieves

People steal the dumbest stuff.  I'm sure it happens at every retail location, the employees never cease to be amazed by the ridiculous items people will put themselves at risk over.  In a pet store, it's usually really really dumb stuff.  Silent dog whistles that cost 1.99.  Little cans of fish food.  Multi-colored catnip scented ping-pong balls.  Really?  Seriously?  Most of the thefts from our store are items under five dollars and completely unnecessary.  Sometimes we get the people who open packs of spot-on flea control (not the expensive stuff, that stuff is kept in the office) which I can understand, but not agree with.  Your dog's got fleas and you got no money, well.  I'd rather think someone was stealing for the good of their animal than stealing just to steal.  Of course if you walk into the clinic at the SPCA and say, "Hey, I only have five dollars and my dog's got fleas really bad," they'd probably give you a single dose of Frontline that they usually sell for 8 dollars for the five you have on you.  They're awesome like that.

Every once in awhile, we get the person who decides, for whatever reason, to steal an animal.

In our store, we have cameras everywhere.  Literally, everywhere, except in the kennel, which is one of the reasons why we don't let people use our bathroom.  It's in the kennel.  Where there are syringes, prescription meds, and no cameras.  No, sorry, you cannot use our bathroom.  (People can get really belligerent about this, too, by the way.)  I know petty criminals usually aren't the sharpest tools in the shed, but you'd think they'd look up and see the cameras everywhere and think, "Hm.  Maybe this isn't a great idea."  I mean, they're even protected under the little black domes so you can't see which direction they're pointed.

Still, people do it.

The first time an animal got stolen when I worked there, it was a Maltese puppy.  About four years ago.  I wasn't working at the time.  (It seems like I'm almost NEVER working when an animal gets stolen.  I'm not sure why this is.)

We take EVERYONE'S state issued ID before we let them handle a puppy.  No ifs, ands or buts.  No, I don't want your Bank of America ID card.  I don't want your community college ID card.  I want the one that the state gave you.

This guy gave up his ID, took the Maltese puppy, waited around for things to get busy and then walked out with it.  Dumbass.  State trooper showed up, took the ID, ran the guy through the system and found out this guy had JUST gotten out of prison a week prior.  Whereupon he immediately goes out and commits a felony.  Way to go, justice system.  Recidivism, for the win.

What I can't understand is why steal the most expensive dog in the store when the ONLY reason it's expensive is because it is a purebred dog that can be registered?  You can't re-sell it for that amount, because you don't have the paperwork proving it is what you say it is since you frickin' stole it.  So what is the point?  You could have gone and gotten a free puppy out of the paper.  I dunno.

So they go to the guy's house and the dog (predictably) isn't there.  Due to some loophole in our local laws, apparently the cops can't do anything about animal thieves unless the animal is physically in the person's presence while the cops are also physically in the person's presence.  Guess how often that happens.

This guy got arrested on other charges (big surprise) and locked up again, but we never got the Maltese puppy back or even heard a peep about whatever happened to him.

Last Christmas Eve, while running errands that included doing last minute shopping for my little boy, I stopped by the store to pick up a paycheck I'd neglected to pick up.  Meaning to only be a second, I leave my SO sitting in the car.  It never fails, though, that when I'm in a rush and I know he's going to be irritated if I'm not quick, the store gets busy with needy customers who want every employee's attention and I end up standing around for 15 minutes until someone who can open the safe for me has dealt with them all.

While I was milling around waiting for someone to open the safe to get my paycheck this Christmas Eve, I meandered past the small animal petters.

Less than five minutes later, another employee went walking past the small animal petters and noticing one empty, asked, "Did we sell a ferret?"

I said, "No.  It was there two minutes ago, I just saw it, and nobody has been at the register."

They checked all the day's paperwork just in case.  No ferret sales slip.

The owner then runs up to check the footage on the cameras, and we see a young girl, maybe 20 years old, with a guy, bend over and pick up the ferret out of the petter, put it under her shirt, and proceed to walk out of the store.

Well Merry effin' Christmas.

The girl who was at the register said she went to high school with the girl who walked out with the ferret, but can't remember her name.  She is promptly dispatched to go home and get her yearbook so she can find out who this girl is.

I get my paycheck and feel like an ass wishing the owner a Merry Christmas right after 150.00 dollars gets yanked right out from under him, and then I leave.  When I get back out to the car, I expect to get an earful from my SO who has been sitting there now for closer to half an hour than the five minutes I promised.  I immediately launch into an explanation:  It got busy, then someone stole a ferret..

"Was it a girl with brown hair tied up sort of sloppy?"


"Here, I wrote down her license plate number," and he hands me a piece of paper on which was written '2007 orange Mustang GTO,' and a number.

"OMG, are you serious!  This is great!  Holy shit!  OMG!  What made you write that down?!"  This was the best Christmas present I could ever think of giving the boss man.

"Well, she came out of the store with something moving under her shirt, and she was just looking shady, so.. I mean I felt stupid after I wrote it down, but I figured I wasn't doing anything anyway, so I might as well.  If it turned out to be nothing, then it was nothing."

It was definitely NOT nothing.  I ran back into the store waving the piece of paper and yelling, now feeling like a million dollars when I tell the boss man, "Here, cheer up, Merry Christmas for real this time," and hand him the paper.  Talk about mood swings.

The police were called, the information, including her name which the part-time girl at the register got, were given them, and they headed over to her house where they found her and a ferret.  Score.

I've always wondered what this girl's parents felt like when they got the cop knock on their door on Christmas Eve.

Whatever they felt like, her dad did the unthinkable and just came in and paid the boss man for the ferret.  I couldn't believe it when I heard that.  My mom would have let me face the consequences of what I'd done if I ever had pulled some dumb shit like that.  What has happened to parenting?

She didn't get arrested, but our store has it's own justice.  Anytime someone steals something, we take the clearest still frame of them actually in the act, along with others of the face and profile if we can, print them out, and stick them up on our Wall of Shame.  Yes, we have a Wall of Shame.  It's actually called that, with big bubble cut-out letters above the posters of stupid people stealing dumb stuff.  The girl who prints these things out comes up with unflattering nick names for the people if we don't ever find out their real names (The Pig Lady, The Muzzle Bandit, The Test Tube Baby), and we post them all over the store in prominent places for a few months before they get retired to take their place on The Wall.  It might not deter them from stealing in another store, but they sure as hell don't come back in ours once they hear we have their picture posted all over the place.  Also, anyone who might know them now knows that they are thieves.  The way I explain it to people is this:  If we can't trust them in our store, you probably can't trust them in your house, either.

This girl got her spot on the Wall of Shame, although since she was caught that day, we didn't have to wall paper the store in her mug in the hopes that someone who knew her would give us information.  About a month later, she heard through some friends who saw her picture that she was on the Wall of Shame and had the temerity to call up and raise hell about it, because, "I PAID for the ferret!"  Yeah, sweetcheeks, AFTER you got caught.  The fact remains that you stole it, and had no intention of paying for it if the cops hadn't come looking for you.  Don't want the humiliation of your sorority sisters finding out you steal shit?  Here's an idea:  Don't steal.

On June 23rd, SaintTawny took an ID from a girl who wanted to see a tiny blue Chihuahua puppy we had at the store.  There was already someone in the puppy room with a dog, so the girl loitered around in front of the kennel with the puppy in her arms.  SaintTawny got called away from the immediate area to deal with a customer's questions, and the girl with the Chihuahua puppy went around the corner into the dog food aisle, put the puppy in her purse, and walked out of the store.

As soon as I heard, I knew exactly who it was.

This girl had been coming into the store since the day we got the dog, wanting to see the puppy every day.  Every day it was in the middle of the afternoon, when we are slow customer-wise, and when I was working, so I always took her ID and dealt with her.  The first time she saw the puppy, she immediately stuck out in my mind because she had a lot of tattoos and a piercing right under her lip, but the ID she gave me was an Emergency Vehicle Operator's license.  Typically, emergency responders, even the volunteers, are discouraged from having numerous piercings and visible tattoos because it can make people uncomfortable.  Then I figured, eh, she probably takes it out when she's working.  A co-worker at the store is an EMT, and she covers all her tattoos with makeup or clothing and puts a clear place-holder in her tongue piercing when she's working.  But I had stood there and looked at it and looked at her for a long enough pause that she smiled at me and said, "It's real.  It's an Emergency Vehicle Operator's license."  I know what an EVO license looks like, I know a lot of first responders.  I just felt this niggling feeling that something was off.  An EVO license really has no pertinent information on it.  It's literally a picture, a name, and the name of the firehouse or emergency unit that the person works for and that's it.  Nobody had ever given me one as an ID to see a puppy before;  even cops don't pull shit like that when they're not working.  But it is a state issued ID, so I felt stuck by our own rule.  I just said, "Yeah, I know," and gave her the puppy, but I decided to stick around until she was done.

Like I said, this happened every day for a week and a half.  I never really talked to her, that niggling sense that she wasn't right just wouldn't leave me, and in fact increased the more she tried to engage me in conversation, which she did more and more every time she came in.  She practically told me her life story with absolutely no encouragement on my part, I answered her with a forced smile and a monosyllable every time.  She lived right behind the store, she told me.  (I used to live there, too, it's NOT a nice neighborhood.) She usually didn't like little dogs, she has a Boxer.  She really loved this dog, she really wanted this dog, but she didn't have a thousand dollars.  She repeated this over and over the last few times I saw her.  "I LOVE this dog.  I HAVE to have this dog.  But I don't have a thousand dollars."  It irritated me even more.  It was like she was waiting for me to say, "Oh, well in that case, I'll let you have her for.." and name a lower price. After she would leave, though, I would get busy and forget all about her until the next time I saw her.

So on that Thursday morning when I came in and heard the blue Chihuahua got stolen, she was the first person that popped into my head.  The girl who told me said she had given a fake ID to SaintTawny, but when I saw the ID I said, "No, that's real.  That's a real ID.  I've been taking it from her for a week to see the same dog she stole.  That has to be her real name on the ID, call the cops."  The boss man didn't believe me until the EMT co-worker came in for her shift later that afternoon and confirmed that it is, actually, a real state issued ID.  Then, finally, the police were called.

The cops tracked her down, where she gave them a story about how that ID had been stolen from her.  The dog (predictably again) was not in evidence at her residence.  She had also covered all her tattoos with makeup and taken her piercings out the day she stole the dog, so the pictures from our cameras didn't show them, and she had them all visible when the police talked to her.  She had also cut off her mid-back length hair and dyed it an unnatural shade of red, probably within hours of the theft.

I remembered what had happened with the Maltese, which was, in effect, a lot of nothing.  I was not about to let that happen with that sweet little Chihuahua puppy who loved everyone and was a happy cheerful little soul.  I immediately made up a Facebook post with the girl's name included and all pertinent information and sent it out.  I'm not kidding when I say I know a lot of first responders, I come from a very small rural town where the most exciting place to be on any given night was the firehouse.  My high school Bio II class literally emptied every time the town's fire whistle blew.  First responders all tend to run in the same circles, and everyone's theoretically separated by only six degrees right?  Somebody knew this girl.  She had friends, family.  Somebody somewhere knows who she is, and that she suddenly came into the possession of a blue Chihuahua puppy.

Sure enough, within minutes of sending it out, a friend of mine from high school sent me a Facebook chat message.  He knew this girl.  She had been recently married, so her last name was now different.  He gave me the new last name, and we used it on the posters we put up around the store, which included a color copy of the ID with her picture on it.

I Googled her and found her myspace page, which hadn't been updated in months, but had other pictures of her with various hair colors and styles.

Someone else saw the posters in the store and called the store anonymously to tell us that she kept the puppy at her neighbor's house because the police kept randomly showing up at her house.

I kept urging the boss man to tell the guy to tell the tip to the police directly, but the guy didn't want to deal with the police.  So make an anonymous tip via text message, or even on the Internet from the local library if you're that paranoid, I argued.  The boss man wouldn't press the guy though, because he was afraid of scaring him off.

Over the weeks, the guy kept calling the store to keep us up-to-date on what she was doing.  He claimed to be her brother-in-law, and said that he hated her and wanted to see her arrested for stealing the dog.  One week he called and told us that her husband was getting upset that she still had the dog, and was making her get rid of the puppy.  Another week he told us she was trying to sell the puppy for a thousand dollars but she was being super shady about it, not letting anyone who was interested in buying the puppy see the dog before she had the money.  This made me fear very much for the puppy's well being.  Another time he called and said she was going to give herself away because she kept bragging to everyone about how she stole it, and how slick she was claiming that the ID had been stolen and dying her hair.

One evening, the store got a phone call from an agitated woman who told the manager, "If you want your dog, you better come here right now and ID it, because I have it."  I'm not sure of all the details on this bit of drama, but apparently the neighbor who had been keeping the puppy found out that it was stolen and had a fit, as well she should because she could be charged, too.  An argument between the neighbor and the girl who stole the dog ensued in which the police were called, and she called the store trying to give the dog back.  The inventory manager wouldn't let the general manager run out into a bad neighborhood on this errand by herself, so she had to wait for the boss man to get to the store, and when they finally showed up where the girl said she would be, the puppy wasn't there.  A police officer was there, taking the neighbor's statement that she had been keeping the dog, not knowing it was stolen, and that right before the officer showed up, the dog thief sent her husband out, who had a physical fight with the neighbor, got his hands on the dog, and ran off somewhere with her.

We had a dry spell for awhile.  No tips coming in at all.  And the dog thief got wise to the fact that she could be googled and made her myspace profile private, so we couldn't check it every day to see if people she knew made any comments about the theft on her page.

We had two posters about the theft on each of the front doors, and one morning when I came in, I noticed that they were gone.  I was dismayed.  Don't give up on it, I thought.  Don't.  Then I noticed that the corners of the papers were still taped to the doors, like someone had just ripped them off.  Nobody who worked for us would have done that.  As soon as I got in the store, I went to the general manager and asked her, "Did you take the posters off of the door?"  "No."  "Well someone did, because they aren't there anymore."  We gave each other significant looks.  Hmm.  The general manager printed up two more, taped them to each of the front doors, and questioned all the employees about it.

The posters on the doors kept disappearing, and then finally we heard back from our mystery tipper, who called up to tell us that the dog thief's husband was the person ripping them off of the doors.

The general manager promptly printed up about 12 posters, and literally plastered the front doors with them. It was the funniest thing I'd ever seen.  When I pulled up that morning I laughed out loud, a good belly laugh. I thought, Yeah, try to rip all those down without someone noticing you, asshole.  The husband apparently got the message, because the posters remained unmolested afterward.

Of course, customers noticed.  It's hard not to notice the front door of the pet store plastered in the same poster.  For some reason, people kept thinking it was some sort of a joke.  Customers kept asking, "Is this for real?"  No, we get bored and make stuff up like that just to make you ask questions.  Yes it's for real.  Some people who didn't even know the dog thief were offended on her behalf.  "That's not right.  You shouldn't do that."  Well, she shouldn't be stealing dogs.  One offended customer said, "And what if the police see that?"  Um, the officer handling the case already saw them.  He laughed, and said, "Nice posters." So that's what, if the police see that.  Mostly people were just astounded that someone would willingly hand us a state issued ID and then run out with a dog.

Things went on that way for about a month when one day, in the middle of August, one of our regular customers finally got fed up with the state of things.  "Why don't the police just GO over there and GET the dog back?"  He asked.  Good question.  We don't have an answer for you.  "Tell me where she lives, I'll go get it," he said.  So they did.  And fifteen minutes later, he came back with the puppy.

True.  Story.

I couldn't believe it when I heard it either (I was on vacation at the time), but it is entirely true.  He went to her door and banged on it yelling, "GIVE ME MY DOG BACK!" until she did.  Who knew it was that simple?  Here we were trying to do things in cooperation with the police and getting no place fast, and this guy just goes over there and demands the dog and gets her.  Go figure.  According to him, she did put up a bit of resistance, first.  He said he could hear the dog barking in the apartment when he started banging on the door, and after awhile she claimed she didn't have the dog, to which he replied, "BULLSHIT, I HEAR IT IN THERE BARKING!"  She said, "That's not your dog, that's MY dog, that's my Boxer!"  He laughed and said, "LADY, I KNOW WHAT A BOXER SOUNDS LIKE AND THAT AIN'T IT, GIVE ME BACK MY DOG!"  Eventually she unlocked the deadbolt on the door, put the dog down on the floor in front of him, closed the door, and locked it again.  Knowing him, he probably told her he'd stand out there all day and night beating on her door until she gave the dog back, and knowing him he probably would have.  What was she going to do about it, call the police with the dog barking her head off in the background?  Hardly.

When I saw the puppy for the first time, I was absolutely shocked by the condition she was in.  Her fur was coarse, dull and rough, she had scabs all over her, and she was scrawny.  When she came back she was so covered in fleas, and her hair had been bitten off so short from chewing at them, that you could see the fleas just crawling on her.  Ugh.  Poor baby.  A dose of Capstar, a flea bath, ear mite treatment, a couple of wormings and back to a high quality diet.  All this, and the dog thief had been bragging to her acquaintances that she had stolen the dog to "save" her.  If that's your idea of saving dogs, please never do it again.  Leave them all well enough alone, very few dogs would benefit from that version of rescue.

I named her Felony in honor of her ordeal.  Her original price when she was stolen had been 997.00, which is actually three dollars short of a felony charge, lucky for the little dog thief, who was promptly arrested after the statement of the guy who got the dog back from her.  The police officer called us to tell us she had been arrested, and, he added, "She was not very nice to deal with."  I don't know what he was expecting.  I guess you get all kinds as a cop.

Felony stayed with me for about a month before she was fit to be seen again by customers, at which point she was purchased by a woman who had wanted to buy her before she was stolen.  Happy ending for everyone.

I hope this victory encourages them to aggressively pursue the next person who steals a dog, which they hadn't before.  All other cases ended with nobody getting arrested and never getting the dog back, so it took a LOT of encouragement and amateur sleuthing to keep them from a sense of absolute hopelessness about the situation.

It's back to stupid stuff being stolen for now.

Felony, high alert, checks out who's coming through the kennel door.

Felony liked to put all her treasures in bed with her.

Still a happy little soul, she may have been neglected, but
thankfully didn't seem to have been physically abused.

Felony's cage card.  This one was printed out as a price drop
the night she was stolen, and was never used.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Revolving Door Puppy

.. or, as my co-worker says, Rent-A-Dog.

We had a lot of foot traffic in the store today because of the elections.  There is a major polling place at the library next door.

Around 11:00ish this morning, a sweet looking blond girl appeared at the puppy window.  She's looking for a puppy.  She and her boyfriend want to get a puppy.  Her boyfriend has constraints, though.

"No Beagles, no Beagle mixes.  No Pugs, no Pug mixes.  No big dogs.  Nothing that's hyper.  Nothing that sheds.  Nothing with long hair, or a lot of hair."

For some reason (I'm a little bit autistic, I mis-read social cues all the time) I think she's saying this with a slight tongue-in-cheek tone, so I laughingly reply, "I guess he really doesn't want you to get a dog," thinking she'll be right there with me on the joke.  I mean, clearly, he doesn't, that's just ruled out almost everything I can think of off the top of my head.

She looked at me with this expression of bewilderment and said, in a hurt tone, "But he does.  He loves dogs."

Except the ones that like to move, shed, or have hair.  Or are otherwise dogs in any way shape or form.  So, really, he loves all theoretical dogs.  Virtual realty dogs.  Maybe he was thinking of Nintendogs when he said she could get a puppy.

Her brother, who is there with her, asks me about the Puggle, and she quickly interjects, "No, he won't like that, that's part Pug, right?  Yeah, Pugs do that snorting thing when they breathe, he doesn't like that.  And he said no Beagles.  They bark a lot."

I said, "Well, at least he knows what he can and can't deal with."  I like that in a person who is looking for dogs. No, I respect that in a person who is looking for a dog.  She shoots me another bewildered look, and says, this time slightly defensively, "He can deal with it.  He just.. doesn't like it."

Instead, she asks about the Chigle (we don't make this stuff up folks, they come in with those names).  A Chigle is part Chihuahua, part Beagle.  I fight the urge to point out that He said "No Beagles," and just focus on the fact that the Chigle is rather hyper.  "Really, they're all hyper," I tell her.  "They're puppies.  Puppies have a lot of energy."  She knows that.  She didn't have the Chigle in the puppy room for more than 2 minutes before she gave him back to me saying, "Yeah, we're looking for something with a little less energy."

She ends up playing with six different dogs in the puppy room.  The Pekingese would fit the low energy qualification, but they have the pushed in faces and shedding and a lot of hair that He doesn't like.  The Maltese fits the no shedding rule, but Maltese have very long hair that requires maintenance, and He doesn't want that.  One by one, every puppy in the kennel fails to bear up under His standards.  If the puppy doesn't shed, that's because it grows very long hair.  He said no long hair.  If it isn't a Pug or a Beagle mix, it's a terrier, and terriers are too hyper.  If it it doesn't have very long hair and it's not a Pug or a Beagle mix, it sheds.  He said no shedding.  She really wants the Chihuahua, but he is not for sale right now.  She laughs about how she only really wants it because she can't have it.  I thought she was joking.

I was on the verge of suggesting that perhaps she look into retired racing Greyhound adoption when another couple came up and asked to see the Chigle.  I glanced at her when I took the other girl's ID, and I saw the chagrined expression that crossed her face.

As soon as the other lady had the Chigle in the puppy room, she decided that she wanted that puppy.  Because now, of course, there's a chance that she can't have that puppy.  Maybe the other couple will decide to buy him.

She's not going to let that happen.  A minute and a half goes by and then she informs me, "I want to buy that dog." 

Now I'm starting to feel sorry for Him, whoever He is.  He clearly stated what he did not want, and here she is about to do the exact opposite.

We get all the paperwork filled out.  She cuts me off in the middle of the reconsideration policy, telling me, "That's not going to happen," meaning they won't be bringing him back because they changed their minds.

I hate it when people do that.  They are always, without fail, the ones who end up returning a dog.

As soon as they go out the door with the puppy, I turn to the general manager and say, "That dog is coming back.  If he's not back by close tonight, I'd be surprised."

Two hours later, the boss man informs me, "I think I see that dog you just sold coming back."  
"Yeah.  I knew that was going to happen."

He said no Beagles, no Beagle mixes.  He made it pretty clear, I thought, considering how clearly I got the message.

As the girl stands at the counter, eyes brimming with unshed tears, she clutches the puppy to her chest and whispers to him.  A man standing in line behind her wants to know why she's bringing the dog back, if she wants it so much.  "My boyfriend said I can't have it," she said.  "So?  Get rid of him and keep the dog," the woman with the man standing behind her says.  At this point, the tears that have been threatening actually spill over, and she whimpers, "But he pays the rent and all the bills.."

I'm not sure what they said to her after that, but she sobbed at them, "He SCREAMED at me!  He's never SCREAMED at me before!"

That shut them up.

Meanwhile, I was thinking, man.  Your boyfriend sounds like a huge dick.  It was a pretty dick move to show up with a Beagle mix when he made it clear he did want Beagles in any way, shape or form, but there are more adult ways to deal with the situation other than screaming.

Of course, the way she was, maybe he couldn't get it through to her any other way.