Thursday, January 14, 2010

Confession #3: Sometimes I lie to the customers. I'll tell the most outrageous lies in order to dissuade someone from buying a puppy if I think, usually based on something they have said to me ("I don't care if he plays rough, I want to make him mean!"), that they do not deserve one of my dogs. Oh, yeah. I will not hesitate to make up a laundry list of scary sounding health issues for a perfectly healthy puppy to scare someone away. I can make a grade I heart murmur sound as if the dog might drop dead from it tomorrow.

Things customers have said to me that led me to lie and make up heinous illnesses in order to save my babies:

"I don't really want another dog, but I want to breed my female and I don't want to keep paying stud fees or giving up puppies."

Well in that case, I feel that you really ought to know. . . This dog has undescended testicles and will need to be neutered.

"I just had to get rid of my dog recently because she wouldn't stop having puppies. So I have to get another one. I can't wait to take her home, she's great!"

Just so you know, the vet says she'll have to have surgery for luxating patellas. Both legs. Probably be about two thousand dollars each. No, we don't cover that. Sorry.

"I just can't do the puppy thing. They pee all over the house and I hate it so I get rid of them. I've tried it three times already and it just doesn't work out for me. But my daughter really wants another one, so. . ."

So I feel obligated to tell you that this puppy has a severe inguinal hernia. That one? That one has bad hips.

It always works. Always. People aren't expecting us to be honest and up front about any potential or pre-existing problem (we are), let alone for us to lie and make one up. But I will. If I think it's in the dog's best interest that they do not go home with someone, you bet. Absolutely. Without remorse.

Earlier in the month, one of my co-workers became infuriated when a woman asked her "how to breed dogs" and then informed her that she wanted to start breeding dogs because she didn't want to get a job.

She was just in again today, asked to see a puppy, and when my co-worker tried to hand the puppy to her, she threw up her hands, backed away and said, "Ew, I don't want to touch it. I don't touch dogs, I don't do dogs." And then proceeded to ask Sarah about breeding them again.

I saw her this time, I know what she looks like, and she's filed away under the "DO NOT SELL TO" section of my brain. Next time she's in here I'm going to lie to her and make it a point to tell her that all our puppies are spayed and neutered before they leave our store.

Does it mean these people won't get a dog? No, of course not. If they're determined, they will get a dog. But it won't be one of mine.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why Can't You Keep My Dogs Alive -OR- He Was Fine Until You Got Him

Kennedy ("Kenny" for short) is a Boston Terrier. He's been with me since 12/16/09. At that time, he was checked and cleared for sale by our veterinarian. A few days later, I noticed a clear nasal discharge. I flipped his tag, put him on Clavamox for 5 days, and at the end of 5 days, the nasal discharge had abated and he went back up for sale. I never heard any coughing, never heard any sneezing, I never saw anything that alarmed me, only the nasal discharge which was concerning but not a huge deal.

On Christmas eve, someone bought him. The day after Christmas, this person returned him saying that their vet (they were supposed to use ours, technically) diagnosed him with pneumonia. They said that he foamed at the mouth, gagged, and threw up a lot.

I did see him throw up a few times. After that he was fine. No gagging, no foaming. No coughing, sneezing, or discharge from the eyes or nose. He was put on Doxycycline and nebulized 4 times a day. We kept him here, in the back of the kennel, with a sweater on and on a heated bed, until our vet once again cleared him for sale. The same people who brought him back were called, because they swear they are very attatched to him, love him, and want him.

They re-purchased him again Monday night. Tuesday right as I was leaving, there is a phone call. People with the Boston. He's throwing up, gagging and foaming at the mouth again.

First reaction? WTF are these people doing to my dog?! He was FINE until they took him. Then the wheels start to turn in my head and I'm looking for what could possibly be different. I get on the phone and start asking questions.

Is he on the same food he was on here? Yes.

Does anyone give him people food, candy, table scraps, potato chips? No, never. (With three kids under the age of 10 vying for his affections and attentions, I sort of doubt that, but I wasn't going to argue the point.)

Does he run around a lot immediately after eating? Yes.

She tells me that he eats and then about five minutes later he throws up, "and it doesn't even look like he's digested it!"

Well no shit lady, it takes a bit longer than 5 minutes for your GI tract to work.

The only things I can think of are:

There is something in their house making him sick. (I've known dogs to have severe allergic reactions to new carpet.)

He's stressed.

Something in their water is doing this to him.

He runs around too much immediately after eating.

When I suggest putting him on bottled water, the lady got a little upset with me. She informs me that, "I am a professional well digger. My well is as deep as you can get it. There is nothing wrong with my water, my water is better than any bottled water you can buy."

Oookay. Chill pill, it was just an idea. I'm just going through everything I can think of that could be different. You can't rule anything out.

I offer to call our vet, explain the situation, get suggestions and call her back. Which I do.

Our vet's response? "I can't explain that unless it's something in the environment, anxiety, or activity related." K. Pretty much what I said.

Before calling her back, I have an idea. Maybe. . . maybe he's just eating too fast. In the kennel, we feed our dogs free choice, meaning there is always food available to them in their bowls. This is because if we didn't, some whack job like yesterday's lady would be throwing a fit and calling the SPCA because s/he thinks we're starving our dogs. I never recommend to new owners that they feed free choice, however, because it's really hard to house break a dog that isn't on a feeding schedule, and you can't know how much they're eating, so you don't know if they go off their food which is one of the first signs of an illness. Also, free choice fed dogs tend to be really obese, because they overeat. Not every dog will overeat (there's an exception to every rule). But most will.

If she put him on a feeding schedule, he might be thinking that he has to eat everything in his bowl super fast before it goes away, and then throwing it up immediately. When I call her back, I explain this to her. She says, "Yeah, that's what my vet said, too, when I called him about it."

So I suggest to her that she leave food available at all times, and see if that helps. She says she has an appointment for Wednesday morning with her vet, and that she will call me afterward to tell me what their vet has to say.

This morning, when I get to work, guess who is waiting for me. Kennedy. He's happy to see me, I pick him up, cuddle him, note that there is no vomit anywhere in his cage or tray, and take him out on the floor for a run to see if I can provoke this foaming and gagging.

Nothing. He trots around the store just as happy as can be. We run, we frolic, we play. No puke. No gags. Not even any excessive salivation. Just a happy little Boston "Terror."

When I go ask what prompted them to bring him back before giving it a little time to see if it was stress or related to his feeding schedule, I was told they said, "He just won't stop throwing up."

Which is amazing because apparently he stopped the second he got back in the store.

They didn't have him for a full 24 hours before this alleged problem started. . . again.

We can only speculate what was going on. I think if it really was stress or anxiety, bringing him back in the store wouldn't make it stop immediately. He would still throw up a few times until he settled back down. But he stopped immediately. One of the kids could have been sneaking him candy or something that wasn't agreeing with him. Kids are known to do that, especially little kids, and these are all girls under the age of 10. If that were the case, their mom would have seen it undigested in the vomit most likely, and there wouldn't be a mystery. I cannot rule out that something in their house or yard just wasn't agreeing with him. But the simplest explanation is the most likely, so either he was eating too fast, or they were just fibbing.

We let them have his sweater. They didn't bring it back with him.

Kenny's records:
Arrived 12/16/09
Vet exam 12/17/09 by Dr. Woode
Weight at that time: 4 pounds.
Exam findings: Ok, large abdomen.
Treatment recommended: None, worm if not done.

My med chart:
12/19/09 Clear nasal discharge - Clavamox 2 times per day 5-7 days.
12/24/09 Sold, no discharge.
12/26/09 Returned for coughing, gagging, vomiting, foaming at the mouth. Diagnosis: Pneumonia by personal vet.

Treatment @ store:
Weigh in AM and PM, record weight.
Doxycycline 2 times per day.
Nebulize at 9 AM, 12, 3 PM, 8 PM.
Give Benebac ever other day.

Vet Exam 12/31/09 By Dr. Woode
Weight at Exam: 6 pounds.
Exam findings: Looking good.
Treatments recommended: Continue doxy 2 more days, continue nebulizer until next exam.

Vet Exam 01/07/10 By Dr. Woode
Comments: Looks good, ready for sale.

Text message convo between myself and Dr. Woode this morning:

Me: Boston came back last night. "He just won't stop throwing up." No vomit in cage overnight, no vomit after eating this morning.

Dr. Woode: Weird. U might see if he vomits when excited or is out of cage to play.

Me: I tried that. Nothing.

Dr. Woode: Never give that puppy back to those people. Bad karma.

I love Dr. Woode.

Kennedy, happily chewing a hoof in one of the critical care cages.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What Are Our Customers On?

Confession #2: I firmly believe that 60% of the people who visit our store are just this side of brain dead.

Let me give you a few examples.

Yesterday I was supervising a couple who were looking at our kittens. The woman says to me, in complete seriousness, "Isn't there something you can feed them or something you can do to them to stop them from growing?"

I said, "No, not so much."

Then the man she was with says, in the oh-god-you're-so-stupid tone, "Honey. They aren't PEOPLE."

My mind was blown by this. The first two thoughts in my head were, "WTF are you feeding people to stunt their growth," and "Jesus I hope you don't have kids." I could just imagine her being handed a little bundle of joy and saying, "Isn't there something I can feed it or do to it to make it stay this size? I always wanted a baby but I hate kids."

Later in the day, we received a job application. I was flipping through it out of curiosity when I got to his previous employment. At his previous job, he states that he "raped the seafood." No kidding. Well, we can't have people like that working here, we have innocent fish in this store. We were so shocked by the word "raped" that it took a minute or two for us to figure out that he had made a very unfortunate spelling mistake with the word "wrapped." All day yesterday I longed to call this guy and say something like, "Hey, you don't know me, I'm just a concerned citizen who wants to let you know that the word "wrapped" is spelled w-r-a-p-p-e-d and the word "raped" should never appear in your job resume. Ever." I was afraid he would be able to figure out what store I worked for and my boss would get in some sort of trouble, though, so I didn't. This poor fellow will just have to continue to tell prospective employers that he raped seafood and wonder why he never gets a call back.

This morning we had a completely irrational woman yelling at us about our kittens. We take unwanted kittens from irresponsible people in the community, give them shots, wormings, and de-flea them, and sell them. The new director of our local SPCA branch wisely decided that we would be doing a bigger service to the community and to them if they spayed and neutered these kittens for us cheaply before they went to the irresponsible homes 50% of them were sure to be going to and created hundreds more unwanted kittens. So last night at 8:00 PM, food and water dishes were removed from the kitten cages for the required fasting prior to surgery.

The reason you fast an animal (or yourself) prior to surgery is because the anesthesia causes nausea. If there is anything in the stomach while the animal is on it's back on the table and it vomits, it will breathe the vomit back in because it is unconcious, aspirate, and very possibly die. Basically, they could drown in their own puke. Lovely, eh?

This lady comes in, pokes around, and finally notices that the kittens have no food or water. And she throws the biggest fit she can throw. She starts hollering and fussing, "WHY don't these POOR babies have FOOD OR WATER?" This while she's standing in front of a sign I made last night that says:

We appreciate your concern for our kittens.
They do not have food or water as per the veterinarian's instructions,
because they have spay and neuter surgeries scheduled for 01/12/10.

Yeah. It's like that. So I point out the sign and I attempt to explain the whole drowning in puke while unconcious thing, in more professional terms. She's not having it. This lady is determined to think that we get our jollies by starving cute little kitties and Jesus himself could not dissuade her from it.
And then, she spouts the final irony. "I DEMAND that you give these babies food and water or I WILL call the SPCA!"

"Ma'am. The SPCA is where they're going to be fixed. THEY told us to not let them have anything to eat or drink." So yeah, have fun with that. I pity the poor SPCA people.

"I do not believe that. They PREVENT cruelty to animals!"

I gave up. There was no point in me trying to explain to her that putting their lives at risk by feeding them was more cruel than following a veterinarian's orders and letting them be hungry a few hours. I just decided to pass the buck by saying, "That's fine. Please, do that, call them. Maybe you'll listen to them." And then I gave her their clinic manager's business card. I'll e-mail her later and apologize.

Sometimes I like to think that there's an informal group out there, like Improv Everywhere, that tries to piss off pet store employees.

I like to think that because it's better than thinking the alternative: That Americans really are as stupid as Europeans believe them to be.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Day In The Life Of. . .

My day starts at about 6:45 AM. Give or take a few snooze button pushes. And let me say for the record that even if I stayed up all night to see the sun rise, I am just not a morning person. Typically, my brain struggles to cling to it's sleep cycle while I stumble through my morning routine at the house. I really start to wake up when I'm taking my Shiba Inu, Kitsune, for his morning bathroom run. I'm a dog talker. I don't whisper to my dogs, I talk to them. I talk to them as though they understand me, and because dogs are so good at listening to the intonations of the human voice and interpreting those intonations, they do. So there I am, at 7:15ish in the morning, talking to my dog (or to any dogless observer, myself) and waking up.

By the time we get back inside, the caffeine has had time to steep in my bloodstream and I can get myself and my son dressed, feed my two perpetually starving cats, check my Pionus parrot, and get out of the door by 7:45.

I have to drop both my son and my boyfriend off at pre-school and work respectively and I get to the store usually around 8:45. Our store opens at 9:00 AM on weekdays and is run by a flock of chronically late people, myself included. Most of us would be, as they say, late to our own funerals. I do not have a key to the door, so I have to wait for one of the other chronically late people to get there and let me in. While I wait, I'm knitting, drinking coffee (ahh coffee, the succulent lifeblood) and listening to NPR.

Once I get in the door, I clock in, exchange pleasantries with my wonderful co-workers (I'm not kidding, we're pretty much one big happy family and I love these people), and make my way back to my kennel.

This is a very special time of day for me. The puppies know the routine, they've seen the store lights come on, they hear us milling about up front. They know me. I can hear them barking, and they are all excited, waiting for me to get back there and speak to them, feed them, and start their day. I love emerging from an aisle to see all their little eager faces peering through the big kennel windows at me. Let me tell you, it's great being able to go to work with puppies every day. They are ALWAYS happy to see me, no matter what is going on in the world. Think about your job for a second. When you get there, is everyone jumping and yelling with joy to see you? Probably not. It must suck.

But this is also when I look for the missing faces. Empty kennels. Before I go in, I stand in front of the kennel windows and take note of who is gone. It's such a bittersweet feeling to see a kennel that was occupied when I left at 5 the day before, now unoccupied. Food bowl hasn't been touched over night. One less happy voice in the morning greeting chorus. The now soulless kennel makes me sad, but I'm happy they're gone. I'm anxious to know where they went. I hate it when they sell and I'm not there. You get a feeling for people. Did they get a good home? Did the employee who sold the dog remember to tell them that he knows the "sit" and "stay" commands already, or that she really loves to retrieve? Am I going to see this one come back in a few days with a lame excuse as to why it wouldn't work out? I could worry about it all day if I let myself, and indeed have lost sleep over the fate of puppies before, but I can't let myself. I'd go crazy.

Instead, I go in the kennel and sing out, "PUPPY PUPPY PUPPIES!" as loud as I can when I hit the door. It's part of my routine and instantly the volume kicks up a notch, intensifies. The puppies love it that I acknowledge and join in their morning vocalizations. I hang up my jacket and the first order of business is to feed the dogs. I mix up their food (Nature's Variety Prairie mixed with one can of wet to entice consumption and help stave off hypoglycemia for the teeny pups) and I go cage by cage, one a time removing bowls, dumping out the food from the night before, and filling with fresh. I speak to each dog while I do this. I check out their cage toys and make sure they are still safe, with no pieces chewed off or major holes. Then I sweep down the kennel run - they spill food all over the floor at night. The terriers do it for the fun of watching the kibbles scatter. Pugs and pug mixes are usually digging for better morsels they think are hiding in the bottom of the bowl. Sometimes in the ruckus of a particularly good game of kill-the-Kong, bowls get dumped. Kibble all over a tile floor is a recipe for disaster, even if it didn't just look terrible to customers I'd sweep it up, because just walking over it makes an oily mess and you're bound to slip and bust your ass. (The voice of experience.)

By this time, the puppies have quieted some. They've been fed and individually spoken to, so the noise becomes less focused and intense and starts being more noise for the sake of making noise, or the noise of play.

This is when I turn the radio on. My musical tastes are eclectic so my puppies may listen to traditional Celtic music on Monday, Alkaline Trio on Tuesday and the Phantom of The Opera soundtrack on Wednesday. I need music for the nitty gritty, getting down to business.


I take every dog out of his or her kennel, put them in a clean kennel, pull everything out of the cage, and set it aside. I have a big tub in the back that I clean in. I set the grate in it, spray it with a bleach/water dilution. I put the tray on the floor and spray it with the bleach/water dilution. Then I go out to the empty kennel and spray it down with the bleach dilution. While the tray and kennel marinate in bleach and water, I go back to the grate and scrub it down. When I'm satisfied there's no more poo on it, I rinse it off and spray it down with Kennel-Sol, a disinfectant that kills just about every germ known to man and smells pleasantly of wintergreen.
Then I scrub the tray. Rinse. I spray trays with Nature's Miracle to help with odor unless I am sanitizing the cage. Wipe down the inside of the kennel with a Kennel-Sol soaked rag. Spray with Kennel-Sol. Then I put it all back together, put the bowl and toys back in, and back in goes the pup. And then I move on to the next one. Depending on how full the kennel is, sometimes I repeat this process twenty-three times before I'm done. By the time I'm done, puppies who had their kennels cleaned first have usually pooped in the meantime, and so I go through and pull all the trays, spray them out again, and give them a fresh coat of Nature's Miracle. So it goes. The poop goes on.

The poop is important, btw. It tells me a lot about the health of the puppy. So I note any unusual poop when I'm pulling trays and cleaning kennels. Soft poop is okay, but not great. Anything less than soft poop and I am not a happy kennel manager. Any puppies with runny poo have their cage tags flipped and are not for sale until things get cleared up. Even if it's just a tricky stomach, it would just be schiesty to sell someone an unhousebroken puppy that's going to make a considerable mess.

After I spray trays, I do meds, update my med chart, and check my shot and worming schedule. I work under the direction of a licensed veterinarian, who examines all of our puppies and is in the store once a week. She's great. And only a text message away! (Many of my texts are to the good doctor.)

The kennel generates an astonishing amount of dirty dishes. After the meds, I take care of those. I fill the dishwasher, and start it, mop the kennel floor, and maybe, depending on the number of puppies in the kennel, break for something to eat.

Usually, though, I just take out the puppies and play with them.

I love my job.

The Shocking Truth

I work in a pet store. We sell supplies, and animals. I'm here to tell you a shocking truth about the pet store I work in. Many of you will not want to believe it. Please prepare yourself.

We do not torture the animals in our store.


What's more, all of my co-workers love animals and deeply care about the welfare of the animals we work with.

This is a blog about what REALLY goes on in a pet store that sells animals. All our trials, tribulations, sufferings and joys I am willing to share with you.

I am the kennel manager at the store. OMG, yes, we're one of THOSE stores. The ones that sell PUPPIES. Horror of horrors.

Well I'm here to tell you that all the brainwashing you've received from PETA. . . it isn't quite the Truth. I am sick to death of people accepting everything animal rights groups push at them for face value, never once questioning the validity of their claims, and condemning innocent people in the process. Literally ignorant people seeing dreaming puppies in my kennel and screaming that my dogs are dying or having seizures. I am mad as all hell about the preconceptions people come in the door with. One day I wondered how I could change it. This is my attempt.

My goal here is to help people become aware of their own preconceptions. If only one person follows my blog and goes in to the next pet store they encounter with a mind free of rubbish and ready to make their own judgement based on what they actually SEE there instead of going off half-cocked based on someone else's judgement clouded by half-truths and propaganda, I will be satisfied.