Friday, October 29, 2010

Guest Blogger Tawny: The ones who get to me.

Hello! I'm Tawny, college student and kitten manager at the pet store. I've worked there for about two and a half years, and I've been the kitten manager for almost 6 months at the time of this writing. I've had my fair share of "omg I want this critter D:"s but as a dorm-dweller, this is forbidden. I'm partial to cats and german shepherds, and find myself easily becoming attached to those that stay with us a while. For the most part once the critter in question has found a home, I can look back and assure myself that there will be others more special at a more appropriate time. I still think I should have grabbed Fes (Pronounced Fez) though. I don't know where I would have kept him, but it might have been worth the trouble.

This is the way the kitten chain works in our store: Somebody's cat had kittens about 8 weeks ago, they call me. I have a series of questions I ask before they bring them in for an inspection. When were they born, indoors or out, how many, have they seen a vet, had any vaccines or wormings, are they eating hard food, using the litter box, do they have any diarrhea or discharge from the nose or eyes. I won't take them if they were born outdoors, are younger than 7 weeks (I prefer 8, but most people can't wait to get rid of them) or I'm unhappy with the answer to any of my other questions. If their answers are satisfactory, they can arrange a time when I'm working to bring them in for me to look at. Ears, eyes, nose, mouth, capillary refill, evidence of parasites or diarrhea. All good? Alright, I'll take them, give them a worming and a 3-in-1 vaccine, flea bathe and sell them, provided I don't find a reason why they shouldn't be sold in the time it takes to make space for them out front.

Occasionally, someone will almost completely circumvent this process. A vet in the area called and told me they have five cats, about four months old, with their first few vaccines and wormings done already including rabies. I took them to the local SPCA to get fixed, and then put them out for sale immediately. The two girls sold quickly, and two of the boys. Every time I came in I expected an empty cage, and every time there was a cheery male tabby rubbing against the bars. I would take him out and set him on one of the display cat trees and he would play peek-a-boo, or chase a string through an obstacle course of scratching posts. If I got called away to the register, I could set him on the counter without worrying about him taking off, or put him under the counter and he would just chill there.

He was in our largest kitten cage, about chest height, an arm's length deep and twice as wide with two shelves to climb on. But he was a reasonably sized cat, and so I would take him out sometimes and just let him loose in the kennel to hide and lounge and tease puppies. I'm convinced that he was a clinic cat for at least a little while, because the puppies yapping and growling at him never phased him. Even when there were no bars separating the puppies from him, and they were prancing around and barking and nudging him, they couldn't scare him. I was also told that he was a great mouser. I wish I had been there to see it. One of the other employees was cleaning a hamster cage, and one of them got loose. I'm told that they took Fes out and he chased the hamster out of hiding, allowing another worker to grab the hamster and put him back safely. This may sound cruel to the hamster, but the other alternative was finding him dead or dying in a trap. Fes saved that hamster's life, even if that's not what he thought he was doing.

One day not too long after the hamster incident, I got a text saying "Fes is going home". I didn't get to meet them, but I was assured that it was a good family. I still miss him, and I wish Boss Man would have agreed to let us keep him as a store cat. Wherever he is, I'm sure he's made himself quite comfortable as long as there's food around for him.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Ones Who Get To Me Part 3: Saxon

I love the big dogs.  I always have.  When I say "big dogs" I'm not talking Rottweiler big.  I'm talking the biggest of the big, the Irish Wolfhounds and the Great Danes.

Out of 25 kennels in the store, only three of those are big kennels, and one of those three is not very tall and so has to be reserved for either heavy dogs that are long (Bassets and the like) or groups of smaller dogs.

We had never gotten any true giant breeds in the store before, so it was a shock to me when the owner and General Manager went to THE OTHER store and brought back a Great Dane puppy.

He was six weeks old when he came to the store, which is 3 weeks younger than we usually get puppies.  Still, he was as big as most 9 week-old Labradors.

He was a mis-marked black with white paws and what would be called a white "snip" on his muzzle in the horse world.  I was happy to see that his ears were intact.

I dropped down next to him and said to him, "In a different time, you would have made a fierce Saxon warrior." From that moment on I called him Saxon.

Saxon @ 6 weeks gives great (Dane) kisses.

Almost immediately after his vet check, Saxon sold to a man whose wife wanted a smaller dog.  A much, much smaller dog:  She was thinking Yorkie.  From what I hear, he pretty much gave her a verbal middle finger and said, "I don't care what you want, I'm getting him anyway," and away went Saxon.

A week and a half later, the man returned him.  I forget what excuse he gave, but what it basically boiled down to was that he quickly discovered that when your wife is the one home all day and she wasn't on board with the idea of getting the dog, you have messes to clean when you finally do get home from work because she refuses to do anything with the dog.  And Great Danes make Great Messes.

Oh, yeah, and he had kennel cough.  A pretty nasty case, as it turned out.

Saxon @ 9 weeks:  Regular walks, doctor's orders.

Saxon was not for sale for two weeks while this bout of kennel cough that would not respond to medications cleared up.  He was almost 11 weeks old when he finally went up for sale again.  He was also much bigger.  As per Dr. W's instructions, he went out for walks twice a day (but usually more because he was a store favorite and everyone loved having Saxon out).

Soon, someone else bought Saxon.  (And renamed him Hendrix, ugh.  Sometimes the names people replaced my wonderful, unique names with pained me.)  Three days later, they also returned him.  When I saw the manager coming through the back door hauling Saxon over her shoulder (she's not a very big lady), I was dismayed.  "Why?!"  I exclaimed.  She gave me a dark look and said, "Because he's vicious and a danger to people," she told me in a sarcastic tone.

What?  My Saxon?  Vicious and a danger to people?  WTF?  No.  No way.  "Is she still here," I asked, meaning the lady who had purchased him.  Yes, she was, so I walked out of the kennel, determined to get the story directly from her.  

What she told me:  She had taken him to her vet, and when the vet picked him up and put him on the examination table, he snapped at the vet, so the vet told her that he was vicious and going to be dangerous when he got larger and that she should return him.  Which she promptly did.

He had never been aggressive to anyone at her house.  He had never been aggressive to me, or Dr. W when she looked at him.  Yes, the lady admitted in a disbelieving tone, there was a possibility he only did it because he was scared or stressed, but if the vet said he was vicious, then.. 

(This is why I think that unless a vet has a degree in animal behavioral science, they should probably not make fantastic claims using theatrical wording like "vicious.")

I puzzled over Saxon in the back for a few minutes.  "What is all this vicious nonsense about, then?"  I asked him.  He didn't know.  He didn't care.  He was just happy to be home.  He sat on the floor and cocked his head at me.  I messed with him a bit, doing things to try and provoke an aggressive response.  Nothing.  Huh.  Oh well.  Stupid vet.

Saxon went up for sale.  Third time's a charm, right?

But I started getting text messages from various employees at the store saying things like, "Saxon growled at me today," or "Saxon snapped at me when I had him out last night."

I couldn't figure it out.  Most of the time, the snapping seemed really unprovoked.  I tried time and time again to get an aggressive reaction out of him, and I didn't get anything, at all.  I would give him a pig ear, let him settle down and get really into it, and then sneak up behind him and abruptly snatch it away.  It was like taking candy from a baby (actually that's exactly what it was).  He would just look at me with this morose expression on his face like, "Why'd you go and do that for?"  And that's it.  Or, I would give him his breakfast and then stick my hands in it, play with the kibble, put my hands in his mouth while he was trying to eat, and push him by the head away from the food, in general things to him that most dogs, even the good-natured ones, would not put up with very well.

Nothing.  He'd eat around my fingers in his bowl, lick my fingers when I put them in his mouth while he was eating, or just sit down if I pushed his head and give me the pitiful morose look.

Every time I got no response I would sit back on my heels and ponder him for a moment.  What the hell is going on?  SaintTawny says he growled, then he growled, there's no misunderstanding.  Anybody else I could brush off with, "He was probably just playing."  Granted, dogs do not react to all people the same way, but.. I couldn't believe a dog this good natured turned into a monster as soon as I clocked out at night.

Eventually I narrowed it down to he only really got growly aggressive when he was played roughly with.  I tested it out by doing it myself, and then having the owner, who is a guy, do it.  Sure enough, he passed the pig ear snatch with flying colors, but when push came to shove, literally, in rough play, he growled.  A serious growl.

In the back of my head there was something about what the lady said to me that bothered me like a mental hangnail but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was.  

In the meantime, I laid down a new law:  No playing rough with Saxon.

Of course, customers don't give a shit what you tell them and will proceed to do the opposite of everything you just asked them not to do just to prove they can or something, so shortly thereafter the new law was amended to:  Saxon can only come out for customers on a leash, with an employee attached to the other end of it.  That way if he growled, we could correct him, and someone was standing there watching the customer interact with him the entire time and could correct them should they start to want to rough house.

It wasn't very long after that when on one of our walks, I happened to look down and realize that strewn in the grass was a bunch of broken glass.  It was too late to direct Saxon around it, so instead I went to pick him up and lift him over it entirely.  Since he was walking, I sort of grabbed him more towards the back end at an odd angle.

He growled a growl that started very seriously but quickly became a squeal and whipped his head around toward me.  He did not snap.  He didn't even put his head on me, just turned quickly in the direction of my hands.

And suddenly it hit me, that mental hangnail of how the puzzle piece of the vet putting Saxon on the table fit into the growling problem all clicked into place.  Ah ha!  Saxon growls because he's in pain.  His legs hurt him.  Since the first time he growled at the vet who picked him up to put him on an exam table, his legs have been hurting him.

Poor baby!

Dr. W was scheduled to stop by the store and look over a new group of puppies that night, and I couldn't wait for her to get there and confirm or deny my suspicions.  I did burst through the back door of the store yelling, "GUYS!  GUYS!  SAXON'S LEGS HURT!"  

When Dr. W got there, I asked her, "Could you take a look at Saxon?  I think his legs have been hurting him."

After she was done everything else, we got out Saxon.  I held his front end while she started feeling around his back end.  Immediately, he tensed up, and she looked up quickly and nodded.  "Yeah.  Yeah, he's really tender in here.  All along these long bones, did you feel him get really tense?"  As she kept feeling around his legs, he started to squirm, and then growl, and then the growl again dwindled into a squeal.

All four legs, in the long bones, Saxon was painful.  Basically, growing pains.  He was growing so fast his legs hurt.  He got a prescription for Rimadyl, keep up the daily walks and exercise, and add glucosamine and chondroitin to his food.

Not too many days later, a really distasteful customer bought Saxon.  This guy is a terror.  He walks around in the store loudly cursing at his kids (the oldest of whom is probably 7) and his wife, who loudly curses back at him.  F-bombs reverberate through the store when they are in it.  He wanted Saxon.  In the worst, worst way.  I did not want him to have Saxon, in the worst, worst way.  I tried to scare him off of Saxon by explaining to him that he did not like to be rough housed with because his legs hurt him, and that if his kids played rough with Saxon, Saxon would snap at them.  No dice.  He purchased Saxon when I was not at work, and I was very upset.  I contemplated texting Dr W and asking her to tell the guy to bring him back.  Before I could get anywhere with that, the guy returned Saxon.  Reason?  "He bit three of my kids.  They weren't even doing nothing!"  Uh-huh.  Sure.

He returned the Rimadyl with Saxon.  None of the pills were missing, meaning they didn't give him any of his pain meds the entire time they had him.  Jerks.  (I still hate that man and hide when I know he's in the store.)

I started to get the feeling that Saxon thought the store was home, and he couldn't figure out why he kept having to go with these weird, strange people every once in awhile.

Back to our old walking routine.  I loved my walks with Saxon.  Saxon loved his walks, too.  We would walk down to the grocery store, hang around there for a few minutes, and then walk back up the entire shopping center to the store.  We were stopped a lot by people who just wanted to see the giant puppy.  It was great socialization for him.

Saxon loved to wedge himself between my feet to lay down.
Here we are taking a small break on a walk.

Towards the end, lots of people wanted Saxon.  He was purchased by a man who had a Newfoundland and was used to working with large dogs.  I was happy with that owner for Saxon.

Saxon's cage card.  A tradition of mine to keep the cage
cards of the ones who get to me, when I can.

When he sold, I kept his cage card, which is a tradition of mine.  I try to keep them when I can, and I stash them in a super secret special place.  If I'm not there when the puppy gets sold, chances are the cage card gets thrown away, because this was something I did just for me, that no one else knows about.

I will never see another black Great Dane without thinking about my Saxon.

It's Official: My Days Are Numbered

Official Announcement:

My days at the pet store are numbered.  I gave my notice to the boss man yesterday:  I got hired at Dr. W's clinic and I start on the 15th of November.

I'm at once saddened and excited.  A major chapter of my life is coming to a close, but a new one will begin immediately after.

My reasons for leaving are many, but the main reason is that I do not, nor will I ever have the opportunity to, learn anything new there.  I am the go-to person for just about any question relating to mammals or birds in the store that nobody else can answer.  There is no one who can answer the questions that I have, except Dr. W, and she's probably tired of me blowing up her cell phone.

The night of my working interview at Dr. W's clinic, I learned two new things.  I was only there for four hours.

It is time for me to move on to bigger and (hopefully) better things.

What does that mean for the blog?

I've been mulling this over in my head since I got the interview at Dr. W's clinic.  I wasn't quite sure what to do about it.  There are a lot of dog blogs, this one is special because as far as I know, it's the only one of it's kind.  Nobody else shares the details of what it's like to work in a pet store that sells animals unless they're a grudge-holding disgruntled ex-employee on the warpath.

Working at Dr. W's, I'll still see the pups from the store (and the people who buy them), just from a different angle.  I'll probably be able to answer questions for you like, "Why did you purchase a pet store puppy," without sounding uber creepy.

I decided to ask SaintTawny, who also works there, to help blog.  I'll still do product reviews, current news, current outbreaks of animal-related illnesses, food recalls, and post some of the more memorable stories I have from my store days.  I'll also be gaining new stories of pet store puppy purchasers and what they do once they get to the vet (those who bother to go at all).  SaintTawny can keep us up-to-date on what's going on store-side.

The blog will be changing, but not ending, for now.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pet Store Warranty Explained

I'm going to post up our warranty, that goes with each and every dog.  I'm sure readers have wondered, I'm actually surprised that a few of you haven't asked yet!  The exact wording that is written on our warranties will be in bold, my explanations and reasoning will be underneath that in normal text.

Although we are not by law required to, we have found that is in our best interest to go over this warranty with each customer buying a dog, and read it to them, word-for-word, and explain it.  Because if not, nobody would ever read it and then when a problem arose they'd be all pissed at us for their ignorance.  This is why it takes me about 45 minutes to sell a dog.  Let me state right now:  Even though we do this, half the customers pay no attention, or interrupt us in the middle of a sentence to ask things like, "Do you have collars with rhinestones on them?"  and these are invariably the ones who end up pissed off because they didn't know about some part of our warranty.  I'm seriously considering starting to ask people, "Do you have any questions?  If you do, do NOT sign this paper until they are answered to your satisfaction."  But you know what?  Even still there would be people feigning outrage that they were never told something, because everyone who returns a dog thinks there should be an exception made for them so they can get a full refund, regardless of what legal document they signed and why.  I'll post another blog about the stories people make up to try and get a full refund and the consequences later.

OUR STORE extends the following Limited Warranties to the buyer (or designated owner) named below:

We had to put that warranties are not transferable after having several nasty problems with people who got the dog from someone who got the dog from someone who got the dog from someone who got the dog from us.  In a few of these instances, the dog they were trying to get reimbursement for wasn't the dog listed on the papers.  Dunno if lines got crossed somewhere in the multiple owners, or if the people thought they were being really slick and were going to get money for a problem in a dog they got from who knows where.  In another couple of instances, the warranties had expired YEARS before, but the people who currently had the dog figured that since THEY'D only had the dog for a few weeks, they should still be reimbursed.  Um, lol whut?  No.

These Limited Warranties apply only to puppy #________ described below:


________                        _______________                        
SEX                                WHELPING DATE                      

MICROCHIP # (if available)


SIRE'S REGISTRATION NUMBER                        


DAM'S REGISTRATION NUMBER                         

BREEDER'S NAME                                            


Obvious reasons as stated above with people trying to obtain money for dogs that were not purchased from us.

To qualify for these Limited Warranties, you must have your puppy examined by a licensed veterinarian within 14 days of purchase.

You must also keep the puppy under the regular and continued care of a licensed veterinarian for the full term of these Limited Warranties.

It is unbelievable how many people buy puppies and NEVER TAKE THEM TO A VET.   Seriously.  Once I had someone call me and ask for their dog's shot history because they lost it and they were going to board the dog while they were on vacation.  The boarding kennel, naturally, wanted proof of vaccinations.  I said, "Okay, how long ago did you buy your puppy," thinking like, oh, I dunno, two weeks ago.  Three weeks ago, maybe.  "Two years ago."  Err.  "You do realize that those vaccinations are no longer valid?  The dog should have been vaccinated yearly, and needs proof of rabies which only a veterinarian can administer.  The records we have aren't going to do you any good."  They promptly started freaking out because they were supposed to leave the next day.

(To digress for a moment, this is what really kills me when people start the holier than thou "I want to rescue this dog!" shit when they're in the store.  Because most of them "rescue" a dog from our store only to neglect the care of it as previously stated.  Really?  Before you come at me like that, make sure the dogs currently under your care are up to date on all their shots and a see a vet every week.  Oh, they aren't and they don't?  Then go rescue your own dogs, twit.)


(I call this the "Reconsideration Policy" because I think the term "Return Policy" is misleading.  There is more than one reason to return a dog to our store and they do not all have the same repercussions as this.)

The staff of [the store I work for] recognizes that even after careful consideration, unforeseen circumstances may arise that prevents you from fulfilling the obligation of a new puppy.  In consideration of our concern for both you and the puppy, if the puppy is unsuitable to your situation, in a non-health related issue, you may return the puppy to [the store I work for].  Be advised, there is a service charge of $50.00 for the first day and an additional $25.00 per day up to 14 days.  (No return for non-health related issues after 14 days.)

  • [The store I work for] reserves the right to refuse the refund of any puppy under this policy.
  • All refunds are subject to manager approval.
  • [The store I work for] may require a health certificate from a licensed veterinarian before any refund is given.

We've had this policy in place since I started working at the store six years ago.  This copy of warranties was updated two years ago (I think).  Before that, there was no service charge for returning a puppy to the store just 'cause someone changed their minds.  People returned dogs like they were clothes.  With reasons like, "Well we decided we don't like this one.  We want to exchange it for another one."  Finally it got to the point where the employees who had to deal with this dumb crap all the time were fed up.  I mean, for real.  Let's make people think just a little teensy bit before they just start snatching up dogs.  It really sucks for a puppy when someones had it for two weeks, it grows considerably larger than it was when they purchased it, and then it gets passed over time and time again in favor of younger dogs.  (This does happen.)  So if someone returns a dog at 14 days, we're going to make sure we keep some of that money so that when we discount it due to it's age or size or both, we didn't just completely take that loss up the butt because the original purchaser didn't think it through enough.  Same thing with the health certificate.  They'd take a perfectly healthy dog, bring it back two weeks later, and 10 days after that it starts coughing.  Great.  Now it's going to not be for sale for 7-10 days.  Thanks guys.


[The store I work for] does not cover ANY emergency vet bills or normal puppy maintenance.

Insert Dr. W's practice name, address, and telephone number here.

Your puppy must be seen by this veterinarian within 14 days of purchase or your warranties are void.  Your office visit fee will be waived and prescription medications prescribed at that time will be covered by [The store I work for] for the puppy purchased only.  

If, within the 14 day warranty period, your puppy has any physical problems which makes it a poor health risk upon diagnosis, you may return the puppy to [the store I work for] for a refund.  You must bring a signed statement from the veterinarian indicating the date of the diagnosis, and the reason s/he believes the puppy to be a poor health risk.  This statement must include a description of the symptoms supporting the opinion.  

Since it is your intention to return the puppy for a refund or credit, your veterinarian should NOT provide further immunizations or treatments for the puppy.  Rest assured that all necessary care will be provided after consultation with our veterinarian upon the puppy's return to [the store I work for].

Okay.  The reason it says that the dog must be seen by Dr. W or the warranties are void are mostly just to get people to go at all, but also because it is easier on us.  The dog has already been seen by Dr. W once.  She has her notes on that dog at her office, and can refer to them before she sees the dog.  Also, since we have a running tab with them for all the meds and supplies I use in the kennel, it's a lot easier for them to just charge us for the medications they send home with puppies should they need them.  It's a real pain in the ass to deal with everyone else.  We'll do it, don't get me wrong, but it's a pain in the ass.  People routinely bring in just their payment receipt with grand totals when they should be bringing itemized statements so we can see what it is exactly that we're paying for, and some vets just like to make things as big a pain in the ass as possible for us because we sell dogs and they hate us.  I have actually heard customers tell us that the vet they took their new puppy to told them that I didn't really give the dog the vaccinations I said I did, because we're a pet store, and "pet stores do things like that."  I dunno if they really believe that or if they said it just to make someone pay for something that had already been done, but either way it pisses me off.  Dr. W knows that I give the dogs their shots, and she knows that I know what I'm doing.

I always tell people, by all means, take the dog to whatever vet you feel comfortable with and trust.  I don't want anyone to feel like we're just in cahoots with Dr. W and she's not going to disclose problems or something.  That's not the way it is, but I feel like that statement makes it seem that way.  So yes, take the dog to whatever vet you want.  Just make sure you take it to see Dr. W first.  The office visit is waived, and all meds the dog might need at that time they just walk out with, no expense out of pocket.  Why wouldn't you?

If any vet, be it Dr. W or whatever vet they decided to take the puppy to afterwards, is of the opinion that the puppy is a poor health risk for whatever reason, they can bring the dog back and receive a full refund.  We just want a statement from that vet saying why they think the dog is a poor health risk.  I don't think that's unreasonable.  Generally if Dr W discovers something at her clinic after purchase, she'll just pick up the phone and call us, and that's fine.  We're not pretentious asshats about it.  But if it's any other vet, yes we'd like to know that an actual veterinarian thinks the dog is a risk, and why.

We prefer that the dog not receive vaccinations if it's going to be returned because, again, it just makes things simpler.  Just bring the dog back.  I'll give it the vaccinations it needs.  And yes, we do really treat the dogs at our store, on site.  If the problem is not treatable, we have Dr. W check it out if she hasn't already, and then we put the dog back up for sale, with all problems disclosed, at a very discounted price, as is, no warranty no return.  No matter what it is, we do not send the dog back to the breeder, so forget every horror story you've ever heard about dogs with horrible defects being killed by breeders.  Maybe some stores do that.  We do not.  We've sold dogs with some pretty serious fully disclosed problems before.  (A Dachshund puppy with hydrocephalus comes to mind.)  No matter what the problem is, somebody somewhere is willing to put the extra care and/or money into a special needs puppy.

As for not covering emergency care, we can do all illness related critical care at the store, so we tell people that we'd prefer the dog to come back to us.  Anything else, such as emergency care because a dog chewed on an electrical cord, or got hit by a car, or what have you.. no, of course we're not going to cover that.  Why would we?

Limited Six Month Warranty Against Hereditary Defects

If, within six months of purchase date, the puppy is diagnosed by a veterinarian as having a debilitating hereditary defect that in his/her opinion prevents the puppy from serving as a companion animal, [the store I work for] will provide you with one of the following options:

  1. You may keep the puppy and have a STORE CREDIT.
  2. You may keep the puppy and have ONE HALF-REFUND.
  3. You may return the puppy and have a FULL REFUND FOR THE PRICE OF THE PUPPY.

To make a claim under this provision, bring a signed statement from your veterinarian including the date of the diagnosis, the nature of the defect, the statement that the defect is hereditary in nature and the reasons why the defect will prevent the dog from being a companion animal.  In all instances, you will be required to return all registration documents and warranties for the puppy.  At the opinion of [the store I work for] you may also be required to secure a second veterinarian's opinion at our expense.  In some instances, we may require you to return the puppy.

The puppies in our store are not show quality.  They are not breeding quality.  They are not guaranteed for these purposes.  But unless we specify "prevents the puppy from being a companion animal" people would be trying to return 7 month old dogs to the store because the testicles that they knew couldn't be palpated won't drop and the dog can't be used for breeding purposes.  Or for some other idiotic reason, like the dog has skin tags on it's lips and it grosses the owner out (true story).

The first two options are to keep the puppy because really, that's what most people want.  Six months go by, you get attached to the puppy, you don't want to bring it back.  Okay, MOST people don't want to bring it back.  They just want some kind of compensation, and most people are fine with a refund.  Our owner isn't a jerk, either.  As long as we get the paperwork proving that someone isn't just trying to take us for a ride, they'll usually get more than one half of the dog's price.

Honestly, I don't know why it says in some instances, we may require someone to return a puppy.  I've never seen it happen.  I can't think of any reason why we would.

The second veterinarian's opinion would be Dr. W's.  Dr. W is a good vet.  There have been plenty of times when people returned dogs saying their vet wanted some hundreds of dollars worth of testing for somesuch and she takes one look at the thing and goes, "Oh.  It's so-and-so.  No big deal."  Since some vets do just seem to be intent on using the "store bought dogs have expensive health issues" angle to get people to pay for things, we want our vet to see it, too.  If it's no big deal, it's win all around.  If it's big deal, then at least we know it's legit.

The following terms and conditions apply to these Limited Warranties:

A.  [The store I work for] provides puppies solely for the purpose of a companion (pet) animal.  There is no warranty expressed or implied that you will ever be able to use this puppy for showing or breeding purposes.  You should NOT purchase a puppy from [the store I work for] if either of these uses are a condition of your purchase.

Pretty self-explanatory, I think.  Most people seem to be under the haughty impression that the only reason we have this condition is because we don't want anyone else selling puppies.

B.  [The store I work for] does not guarantee the temperament of our puppies.

Temperament is a combination of nature and nurture.  Once they leave the store, we have no control over factors that may influence their condition such as how they're treated.  There has been ONE case in which a puppy seemed to me to be dangerously unstable at a very early age.  We sold that puppy fully disclosing that the dog was showing unusually aggressive behavior for such a young age, and we would not be held responsible, since this fact was disclosed up front, should the dog hurt anyone.  I couldn't believe this guy was honestly going to take that dog with two small (as in 5 years and younger) girls.  Honestly, this is the ONE dog I could say was just born with issues.  The elevator didn't go all the way to the top floor.  It's rare, but it happens.

C.  [The store I work for] is not responsible for the transfer of any contagious illnesses to any other pet or person in your home.  You are responsible for what you bring into your home.  It is always advisable that you quarantine and monitor any animal before introducing it to your existing pets.

This one seems very reasonable to me.  If a dog is exposed to something contagious, like kennel cough, two days prior to arriving at the store, kennel cough has a 5-10 day incubation period.  It comes in, and it's sick already, but it isn't showing any signs or symptoms.  A day later, Dr. W looks at it and says it's good for sale.  Still not showing signs or symptoms.  That night, someone buys it.  Still not showing any signs or symptoms.  Three days later, that dog is coughing and has a nasal discharge.  Sorry, but I can't be held responsible for the other 3 dogs in the household becoming ill with something I didn't even know the dog had.  That's a risk people have to be willing to take, not only bringing pet store animals into a home, but ANY animal.  Be it a dog from a private breeder or a kitten found in a parking lot or a rescue animal.  Shit is contagious, has an incubation period, people can't possibly know.  Some dogs can be asymptomatic carriers of things, and be ill and contagious themselves without showing any symptoms.  It happens.  When explaining this part to people, I always stress heavily the importance of keeping the new puppy away from any existing dogs until it is cleared at the 14 day visit.  Usually, by that time, anything that is contagious will be evident.

D.  The warranties concerning health, life and condition are limited as expressed.  [The store I work for] is not responsible for any payments of veterinarian's fees for examination, drugs, x-rays, laboratory testing or any other treatment unless approved by [the store I work for] in writing prior to those services being performed.  

We cover a lot of crap under our 14 day warranty.  As stated before, if Dr. W thinks a dog needs x-rays and the puppy is still under the 14 day warranty period, she just picks up the phone and calls us.  It's taken care of.  We're not sticklers for making people have a piece of paper unless we think they're trying to screw us.  This one is mostly just making sure that people can't come back and demand payment for things that are part of routine pet maintenance.  (It's happened.)  These things are a part of owning a dog.  If it's not a part of our 14 day warranty, and you need x-rays to determine if something is hereditary defect for that warranty, have the vet give us a call.  Chances are they're going to cover it.  If not, then you are on your own with it.  Sometimes, we still get screwed and end up paying for things that aren't our fault.  Just the nature of the business I guess.  I'm reminded of a time recently when a lady purchased a puppy that started coughing during the 14 day warranty period.  Nothing cleared it up.  The dog continued to cough, the lady was pissed at us, and eventually, well after the 14 day warranty period had ended, Dr. W gives us a call to see if we will pay for x-rays that she thinks are necessary to really see what's going on.  The owner called me and another manager up to the office to hear our opinions.  We both said that he should not offer to pay for x-rays unless the owner offered to reimburse us should the problem turn out to be not our fault.  I put it to him this way:  If you don't pay for the x-rays, chances are she's just not going to have them done, and the problem is just going to be unresolved the way it is, with you paying for medications that may or may not work indefinitely.  But what if you do pay for the x-ray and find out that the dog has a collapsed trachea from them yanking it around on a leash or something?  Is she going to pay you back?  Probably not, unless you make it clear up front that's how it is.
He paid for the x-rays without any conditions, and it turns out the dog had swallowed a stick that was caught in the esophagus.  Not our fault.  (And now my question is, do you think that lady admitted to everyone she bad mouthed us to that her problem wasn't our fault?  I'm thinking no.)

E.  Due to the high incidence of these defects, [the store I work for] does not cover (before or after sale):
  • Cherry eye
  • Undescended testicles
  • Umbilical hernias
  • Heart murmur, grade II or less
  • Luxating Patella, grade II or less 

This part of the warranty I'm ambivalent about.  I think we should cover cherry eye and luxating patellas, even if only through Dr. W's clinic.  Undescended testicles, well.  The dog shouldn't be bred anyway.  What does it need testicles for?  I could see maybe if the cost of removing them, which should be done, is greater than the cost of a normal neuter surgery, we pay the difference.  That makes sense to me.  Heart murmurs of grade II or less aren't usually a problem.  My dog has a grade II heart murmur.  I have an irregular irregular heartbeat that doesn't bother me in the least.  Umbilical hernias, again, not usually a big deal.  It's the inguinal ones that are a big deal.  All these things are disclosed at the time of sale.  If the person is iffy about buying the dog because it has an umbilical hernia, they're aware of it and don't have to buy the dog.  It's not like we hide anything and then point and laugh after the first vet visit.  I've even put dogs on temporary, verbal holds for people while they go home and consult their vet about the issues.  I'm a big "Don't just take my word for it," person.

F.  [The store I work for] does not guarantee Hypoglycemia.*  We recommend you do not purchase a Small breed if you are not equipped for the challenge.  
*See Hypoglycemia Care Sheet

Completely aside from what it means, I hate the wording of that.  It makes it sound like the dog is supposed to have hypoglycemia.  I wish it said something more along the lines of, "We do not issue refunds because of hypoglycemia," or something.  Oh well.  I didn't write the thing.

Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar.  Toy breeds are incredibly prone to this problem.  If they're too exited and they don't eat, they get hypoglycemia.  If they're stressed and don't eat, they get hypoglycemia.  If someone carries them around all day in a purse and doesn't give them the chance to eat, they get hypoglycemia.  It's completely and totally based on how much and how often the dog is eating, and that is entirely out of our control once the dog leaves the store.  I'm not going to let a dog that isn't eating go home with someone.  But if it is eating, and has been eating fine for me, they take it home, and then they try to bring it back hypoglycemic, hey.  This is not our fault.  They were warned.  Repeatedly.  In the warranty, with our Hypoglycemia FAQ & Troubleshooting sheet that is in every warranty regardless of breed, and by the fact that under the vet notes, of any dog under 10 pounds, I write how much the dog weighed at the time of Dr. W's exam and the words, "MONITOR EATING - WATCH FOR HYPOGLYCEMIA."

If you can't be there to make sure the dog is eating 3-4 small meals spaced frequently throughout the day, or if you can't syringe feed a dog that won't eat, don't buy a toy breed.  It's that simple.

That being said, when people DO make a dog hypoglycemic after purchase, we're not going to just leave them hanging on their own.  We're not going to give a refund, but if they bring it back, we'll syringe feed it Nutri-Cal and Karo syrup and Pedialyte and whatever else it needs to bounce back.  And we tell everyone who leaves with a tiny puppy this, and that they should NOT wait to see if the problem resolves, because they can very quickly just fade out and die from hypoglycemia.

G.  You qualify for a refund or a credit for another puppy only for the reason and the manner stated herein.

You do not get a refund if you allow your dog to get by a car, killed by another dog or animal, or cause harm to it in any other way.

H.  If you are eligible for and select a refund under these warranties, [the store I work for] will refund your puppy's purchase price by company check within 14 days after receipt of all documentation substantiating your claim.

Or in layman's terms, we do not go by your word alone.  If we feel someone is trying to screw us over, we will need x-rays and other proof that the problem actually exists before we're forking over the money.

This written agreement is the entire agreement between myself and [the store I work for] concerning the health, condition, development, use or loss of the puppy purchased today.  I will not rely on any oral statements contrary to this written agreement unless they are included in writing.  I have read and completely understand these warranties, including the General Terms and Conditions, all of which I accept.

We had to add this after people would try to pull the, "But the girl TOLD me," BS.  Well it doesn't matter what anyone TOLD you, you signed your name to this piece of paper that says otherwise.  People STILL try that BS, despite the fact that everyone who is authorized to sell a puppy knows that you HAVE to read that last bit OUT LOUD to the customer.

On the back of all this, there is a an immunization, worming and other care record.  I hand write all the shots I give the dogs, the dates the shots were administered, all the wormings I give the dogs, the solution I used and the dates I administered them.  I also write in every other chemical I use on or put in the dogs, including flea preventative, just in case.  All information is important to vets.  After hearing the "pet stores don't REALLY give those shots, they just say they do," crap, I also started peeling the stickers off of the vaccine vials and sticking them to the outside of the envelope that these warranties come in, with the dates written above them. Hopefully that shuts them up.

Under the vaccine and worming history, there is a space for the customer to initial next to bold text that says:
Continuation of this immunization and worming program is essential to this puppy's health and the responsibility of the new owner.

Other Veterinary Care
This initial program of protection and treatment was designed and administered in consultation with [the clinic Dr. W works for].  We have counselled your client about the need for continuing a program of veterinary care, to both fulfill their responsibility as a pet owner and to validate this warranty.  
While every effort is made to see that no puppy leaves [the store that I work for] showing clinical symptoms of illness, your examination may uncover a problem that was not yet evident to our veterinarian, staff, or the customer prior to sale.  Should this situation arise, we would appreciate your call before treatment in order to determine whether a refund or replacement is a more satisfactory alternative for the client and the puppy.

And then there is a space for Dr. W's findings at her initial examination of the puppy.

This is there because:

1.  It's true.  Liver shunts and some other problems may not be evident to me, the staff, the customer or Dr. W at her initial exam.

2.  Before anyone makes any major decisions regarding that dog, we'd like to be informed.  There have been circumstances where people do not take the dog to Dr. W, go to a different vet, discover a problem, and ELECT (the key word here is ELECT) to put the dog to sleep despite the fact that the condition is correctable. And then they come with hands stretched out and voices raised to demand compensation.

Nobody could imagine how much it pissed me off the first time that happened while I was the kennel manager.  I really wanted to hurt that woman.  And of course when she made the first phone call after the fact, her statement to us was that the dog HAD to put put down.  I was the one who threw a fit and demanded that the owner contact the veterinarian who euthanized the dog.  Good thing I did, too, but I started to shake when they informed me, "No, she didn't HAVE to put the dog down, she ELECTED to.  She could have elected for treatment instead, it was offered as a viable option."

She probably didn't bring the warranty information with the health record to that veterinarian at all, now when I'm sitting here thinking about it.  At the time I sat in silence for a few minutes while I struggled with the urge to shout at the woman at the other vet's office, "WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST CALL US."

Really.  We would have issued her a complete refund for the dog and had him treated at Dr. W's.  But she had to kill him, instead.  Because, you know, if she didn't want to bother treating him, certainly no one else might want to.

Those are our warranties.  I don't know about any other store's warranties.  I do know that other stores seem to have pricing 500+ dollars more than our average for puppies, which boggles my mind.  But that's another blog post.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Dishwasher & My Toe: Both Busted.

Sunday morning I get into work and cheerfully awaiting me is a massive pile of dirty kennel dishes and litter pans that I have been picking at all week.  They'd been accumulating faster than I could pick at them, however, and this mountain of dirty dishes was the result.  I resolved then and there to take care of that before I left for the day.

When I opened the dishwasher to load it, I discovered that someone had already loaded it.  Even filled it with detergent.  It appeared that they forgot to start it.  So I turned the dial to start and the washer started making normal dishwasher noises.  Happy!  

When it stopped, I opened the dishwasher and found it in the same state it had been in half an hour before.  What the hell?  Same detergent slopped down the inside.  Same dirt encrusted to the dishes.  I refused to believe that something might be wrong with the dishwasher, and so I removed a few things (it was packed pretty tight in there, not tight enough to impede washing, but it's a decrepit dishwasher) and run it again.

No dice.  The damn thing has finally given up the mechanical ghost.  The irony of all this is that just a few days before I had jokingly asked the owner, "Hey, when are you going to get a new dishwasher at your house so I can have your old one?"  (This is how it happens at the store that I work for.  Things get recycled from the owner's house.)  At the time there was nothing wrong with it except that the racks weren't attached to the wheels that they roll out on very well, causing them to fall off frequently.  It was minorly annoying, but that's it.  

Now I have the distinct feeling that he thinks I sabotaged the dishwasher.  I swear I didn't.  It worked fine Friday afternoon when I left.

Where does the toe come in?

Well it's funny that you wonder.

Kitsune has a Nylabone toy that he has had for years.  It is a fairly large, annealed nylon ring.  He loves that thing.  It's his favorite thing in the history of ever.  I've never known a dog that messed with a regular Nylabone past the first five minutes of receiving one, except for Kitsune and that damn ring.  I got him one the night I brought him home, and he has had one ever since.  He doesn't play with it constantly, but every couple of days he digs through his toy basket, pulls it out, and gnaws on it, tosses it around, flips it over his head and acts like a fool, and then forgets about it in the middle of the floor. 

Where I inevitably step on it.

Anyone who has a dog who loves Nylabones knows how much this hurts.  It hurts like a bitch.  

Every time I step on it, I curse and think, "I should really get him a new one of those."  I think this ring is now on year 2 and a half or so.  Every time I'm at the store and I look at the Nylabone rings, I think, "But he really loves the one he has now, and he's broken it in so wonderfully."  Half of the purpose of the Nylabones is that they make this rough surface once they've been good and chewed that really scrapes gunk off of a dog's teeth like nothing else.  Forget your Pedigree Dentabones and Dentastix and Denta-whatevers.  They can't hold a candle to a nicely chewed Nylabone.

That rough surface is also what hurts so damn much when you step on one.

Tonight, I did not step on it.  I stubbed my big toe on it.  I was wearing only socks, and it hurt a good deal.  I immediately sat down on the couch and started to massage my toe, when a bright red crimson dot appeared on my sock.


I took my sock off and inspected the giant chunk of meat the Nylabone had dislodged from my toe.  I haven't stubbed my toe that badly since I was a kid and ran around with no shoes or socks on all the time.  I doused it in peroxide.  Rinsed it.  Doused it.  Rinsed it.  Took pictures to share.  Rinsed it.  Applied pressure, bacitracin and a band-aid, and now I am praying that the nasty bacteria both in my dog's mouth and in my shoes will not give me cellulitis.  (Something similar happened to the SO about 5 years ago and he did get cellulitis.)

I maimed myself on a dog toy.  It was pretty epic.  Not many people can pull that off.

It feels great!

The Nylabone.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Friendly Note To Animal Welfare/Rights Advocates

For all those who think that coming into a pet store and causing a scene is a good way to advocate against pet stores selling animals:

Please refrain from coming in at all.  By all means, use every logical and reason based method at your disposal to pursue your goal and further your cause.

But making a spectacle of yourself, in a store staffed by people who for the most part agree with you, is doing your cause and therefore the animals a bigger disservice than not coming in at all.

The comments from other customers once you end your tirade and leave all tend more toward indignation against you to sympathy for us, the evil, ogre pet store employees.  Yes, you drew attention to yourself.  Unfortunately it is the wrong kind.  The only message impressed upon people who witness someone raving like a lunatic in need of sedation about anything is:  Those people are crazy.  The next person who approaches them with the same ideas, even if presented in a calm, rational manner, are more likely to be brushed off because of your display.

Just stop.  Think.  Please.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Best Bomb Detector Is A Dog

It took six years and 19 billion (yes, check that, billion with a b) dollars for the United States government to "discover" what they already knew:  that the best bomb detection unit is a dog.

Only the Pentagon could pull that off.

With all their fancy military equipment, they still only find about 50% of IEDs planted in the Middle East.  

When soldiers work with a dog, that number increases to a whopping 80%.

They've tried metal detectors, radio jammers, drones and infrared cameras on spy planes to try and detect IEDs planted by insurgents in Afghanistan, but none of that comes close to what a dog's nose can do.

Is anyone really surprised?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Man Gets Shot By Police Because Neighbor Wanted to Train His Dogs

In a wild deviation from the recent news of police killing what they believed were volatile dogs, yesterday police in Gallway, Ohio shot a volatile man who was enraged because his neighbor tried to train his dogs.

Danny Nelson had two Boxers that his neighbor Jeffery Roberts claims were "out of control."  Roberts says Nelson allowed his dogs to bark at all hours of the night.  Roberts decided to take matters into his own hands and try training the two Boxers to quiet down using a dog whistle.

According to Roberts, Mr. Nelson came outside and caught him in the act, asking him, "What the [expletive] are you, The Dog Whisperer now?"

Six hours later, Mr. Nelson showed up at Roberts' house with a shotgun, wearing a ski mask.  Roberts called the police.  When the police showed up, Nelson was making his way back to his own home, but when deputies commanded him to drop the weapon, he instead pointed it at them.  So they shot him.  (Don't point guns at police kiddos.  They WILL shoot you before you have a chance to shoot them.)  At least three of the shots hit him in the torso.  Nelson is currently in critical condition at an area hospital.

Some neighbors claim that Roberts is the cause of all the strife.  Roberts says many of them agree with him that the dogs are a noisy nuisance, and that he is aware that many of the neighbors think that he is the problem and not Nelson.  But, he says, showing up on his doorstep at 1 a.m. in a mask and carrying a shotgun is not an appropriate response.  "I didn't expect this guy, because of a little dog whistle, to come over here wanting to shoot me.  To go to those extremes over a dog, c'mon.  I don't want to see anybody shot, but I don't want to be threatened.  Kind of crazy.  All this over a dog," he said.

Nelson didn't get shot because of his dogs.  He got shot because he pointed a shotgun at police officers.  That's what happens when you point a gun at police officers.  They shoot you.  I think most people know this even on a subconscious level.  I mean, their guns aren't there for looks.

I can't imagine what would possess a man to get a weapon, don a mask, and go over to his neighbor's house in the middle of the night.  This, from someone who knows firsthand how angry you can get when your neighbor tries to train your dog.  News sources say the man had undergone brain surgery, and one has to wonder if his impulse control was somehow compromised by the surgery or whatever prompted the surgery.

One neighbor said that Nelson is a nice guy.  "A guy can only take so much," said the man, who opted for anonymity to stay out of the fray.

The shotgun was a tad extreme of a response to someone who was messing with your dogs.  I'd really like to know what made him decide to point the shotgun at police officers instead of just putting it down when they asked him to.  Hopefully he lives to be able to tell us.

Dear Valued Pet Store Customer

Dear Valued Pet Store Customer:

The puppies are not asleep in their food or water bowls.  They are sleeping in very large plastic crocks that I put in their cages specifically for them to sleep in.  I know it looks funny.  It is not a cause for alarm.  Before you have hysterics, ask yourself what the water bottles are for if not water, and why there is a much smaller, more appropriately sized bowl with food in it if not for food?

I would love to be able to give all my puppies beds and blankies, the lack of which causes you so much outrage. Unfortunately, these are puppies.  Puppies chew everything, swallow anything, and have an undeveloped gag reflex.  I would rather cause you outrage than placate you and put my puppies in harm's way.  The big bowls cannot wrap around necks and strangle, nor can large pieces be chewed off and cause intestinal obstruction or choking.  I know you understand.

I put a toy and a cow hoof in every kennel.  Sometimes toys are pooped on and require cleaning.  While a soiled toy is in the washer, the puppies still have a hoof to play with.  I understand that thinking of a puppy in a cage with no stimulation is distressing, but ask yourself why I would give some dogs toys and not others?

Sometimes, with extremely small dogs especially, I will house two in one kennel.  This is to lower stress, and thus the liklihood of hypoglycemia.  Puppies play roughly with each other.  Unless one of them is screaming, chances are they are okay.  The one that seems to be the "bully" right now will be the "victim" in another few minutes, wait and see before you start banging on the glass and screeching for help, practically causing me to have a heart attack.  I know it can look scary to people who are not used to watching dogs play, but this is how puppies learn to be better adults.  I wish they could all have cage-mates to learn bite inhibitions and other useful lessons from.  Please remember, this is my job and it is my job for a reason.  I do know what is play and what is serious aggression.  If I am concerned, I will separate dogs.

While we're on the subject of puppies housed together, let me assure you that a male and a female puppy in the same kennel is not going to result in more puppies, any more than a male and female toddler is going to result in infants.  These puppies are, on average, only ten weeks old.  Their little boy and little girl parts just aren't up to that task yet.  Yes, they may mount each other.  It has nothing to do with reproduction and everything to do with establishing a pecking order.  If you're really observant, you may realize that's the female mounting the male, anyway.  No, she's not "confused," she knows exactly what she's doing, you're the only confused party here.

Yes, they all will grow.  They're only ten weeks old, remember.  They are all going to get bigger than they are right now.

The date on the cage cards is their birthday, not the day they arrived at the store.  We (thankfully) are not in the habit of buying hours-old puppies.

They do not have "all" their shots.  They are up-to-date on their shots.  There is a difference.  The former implies that no more vaccinating needs to be done, and that is not true.  Puppies are babies and just like babies they need a series of vaccinations to be fully immune to anything.  We keep them current in a vaccination schedule.  They will need more after purchase, including their rabies at six months, and a rabies booster at a year.  Purchasing a puppy that is up-to-date on vaccinations does not mean it never needs any more.

Please don't tap or bang on the glass.  No, it doesn't actually really hurt their ears, but it does annoy the piss out of me.  Just imagine random people continually banging on your office window all day while you're trying to work and you'll understand what I mean.

If, despite hearing my valid reasons backed up with sound logic for doing things the way I do them, you are still not satisfied that my puppies are well cared for, please feel free to call animal control and make a complaint.  You do not have to lie and make up horrible stories to get him to go to the store, he is required by law to investigate every complaint.  I must warn you, he will know if you lie and you will make yourself look like a jackass, because he is here every few days to buy crickets for his reptilian pets and he stops by the kennel for a peek every time.  If, deep down in that secret place in your mind you know that your concerns are unfounded and that you will sound silly making the complaint you want to make unless you lie or otherwise embellish the truth, perhaps you should put the phone down and go find something constructive to do and not waste his time and our taxpayer money.

I know that you feel I am being unreasonably obstinate and unhelpful when I tell you that a Shar Pei/Beagle mix could be anywhere between 20 and 50 pounds as an adult.  Really, I am being very honest with you.  I will not tell you what you want to hear if what you want to hear is not the truth.  You may be annoyed with me now, but you would be really pissed later if I gave in to you now and you bought a dog that ended up being 30 pounds bigger than you expected.  And as long as we're talking about honesty, I honestly have to say that I have the dog's best interest foremost in my mind when I do this, not yours.  Sorry.

Please keep in mind that I am not a veterinarian.  I am honored, truly, that you trust my judgement enough to bring me your pet when he has a gaping bite wound or festering, inflamed and infected ears.  I feel really badly when I have to tell you that, really, there is not much I can do for you except recommend that you see an actual vet.  I do not have the means to treat large wounds in my kennel, and while I do have antibiotics and other prescription medications at my disposal, I am not allowed, by law, to dispense them to you.  It is flattering that you put that level of trust in me and my abilities, and I hate to see any animal in pain.  I really wish I could help you, and I feel an unnecessary sense of guilt by not being able to, so please spare my feelings and your dog and just go see a vet.  Some things just do not have a quick, cheap fix.

When I tell you that Frontline is a better product than a Hartz flea collar, I am not lying to you just to get you to shell out thirty more dollars.  I don't make commission.  If I just wanted you to spend a lot of money, I'd tell you the flea collar is the best thing for you and then watch you spend more than double the price of the Frontline on shampoos, carpet powders, premise sprays and foggers after the crappy collar didn't do it's office.

I am not trying to ruin your fun by insisting that you wait until another customer is out of the puppy room before you play with a puppy.  Yes, I know that you played with one on the floor "the other day," but that day was Saturday.  Today is Tuesday, and our back door is open to admit the deliveries we are expecting.  That door leads directly to a busy road mainly used by tractor trailers making deliveries to us and other stores.  The guys who deliver our supplies are harried, and usually not paying much attention to where they are going with their electric powered pallet jacks carrying 1,500 pounds of dog food.  I just think it's safer to wait until the puppy room is free, don't you?

I know you are aware that appropriately sized toys are important, because you just made a snide remark about the cow hoof as big as the Chihuahua's head.  That's actually okay.  She can't get anything stuck in it, she can't break big pieces off of it and choke, and she actually relishes the challenge it presents her.  Watch and see.

Neither I nor any of the other employees are perfect.  Mistakes happen.  But so far none of the employees has deliberately in one fell swoop caused death or serious damage to a puppy in our care through maliciousness, neglect, or sheer igorance.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of customers, who have dropped puppies and tried not to let anyone know, let them fall off the bench that is marked with the "ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NO PUPPIES ALLOWED ON THE BENCH" sign and tried to give them back before anyone realized what had happened or how hurt they were, or stolen dogs.  Which is why we have to hold your ID while you're holding our puppy.  I'm sorry if you left your ID at home, but I cannot make an exception for you without undermining the entire policy.  Carrying your ID with you at all times is a good idea, just in case.  You never know who might ask for it, or when.

If I seem annoyed and you haven't even opened your mouth yet, please keep in mind that it's not you.  It was probably the person I had to explain all this to three minutes before you got here.  I promise not to take it out on you if you promise not to jump to crazy and blatantly incorrect conclusions.

Thank you, 

Your friendly pet store employee

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rabies Report October 2010

According to the stats at ProMED (the program for monitoring emerging diseases, LOVE IT), our current rabies stats are as follows:

[1] Rabies vaccine scam - Oklahoma
[2] Feline - North Carolina
[3] Raccoon, canine - North Carolina**
[4] Feline - North Carolina
[5] Feline, with human exposure - Georgia
[6] Skunk, canine, raccoon, feline, human exposure - Georgia
[7] Feline, with human exposure - Florida
[8] Canine (fox), with human exposure - Florida
[9] Skunk, with canine exposure - New York**
[10] Bat, with canine exposure - Texas
[11] Canine (coyote with dog exposure) - Michigan

All my OK readers, please make sure that your animals are up-to-date with rabies vaccines from a properly licensed veterinarian.  Vaccine scams involving fake rabies vaccines have cost lives abroad, very recently.

**In these cases marked with red asterisks, dogs who were not up-to-date with rabies vaccinations were killed or died as a result.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Product Review: Sammy Snacks Snackers

We just got the Sammy Snacks line of products at our store.  It's the first I've heard of it, but since I work in a pet store, I get what I need from my store and rarely venture into others, so it might be something everyone else is aware of already.

Sammy Snacks has a food line and a treat line, and it's the treat I'm reviewing.  The treats are called Snackers and are meant for people to be able to share with their dogs.

Being me, I've tried things that weren't meant for people to be able to share with dogs, just to see.  I know I'm not the only one although most people look at me funny when I admit this.  (I'm not gonna lie.  I eat dog food.  If it's good enough for my dog, it ought to be good enough for me.)

We got six varieties of Snackers at the store.  Carob Chip, Blueberry, Peanut Butter, Cheddar, Cranberry, and Pumpkin.  Only five are listed on the website, so I'm thinking Pumpkin must be a seasonal variety.  I bought one bag each of Pumpkin, Blueberry, and Carob Chip.

I tasted the Blueberry Snackers first.  They weren't disgusting, but they weren't OMG-I-have-to-have-more great, either.  I definitely thought dogs would like them more than people, and I was sort of disappointed.  It's not the flavor, it's the texture.  Although they don't have the meat and bone meal that gives Milk Bones and other cheaper biscuits that gritty texture, it's still a very dry, crunchy texture.  This is probably due to the rice flour used to make it.  Using rice instead of wheat gives it an odd texture, but makes the Snackers wheat and gluten free, for people or dogs who can't have wheat or gluten.

Next I tried the Pumpkin, and I did not like them.  The taste with the texture was just too much.  I love blueberry, so I can forgive the Blueberry Snackers the texture in favor of the taste.  Not so with the Pumpkin.  I sort of wish they hadn't just used pumpkin.  Pumpkin spice would have been nice.  More like pumpkin pie or ginger snaps than just a squash flavored crunchy ball.

The last I tried was the Carob Chip, and wow.  We've gone through almost an entire bag.  Everyone in the house loves them.  The flavor reminded me of something but it took a few days for me to put my finger on it.  As I sat last night munching some out of the bag while watching a movie (yes, the SO and I were eating dog biscuits out of the bag while the disconcerted dog practically turned himself inside out trying to remind us he was there), it suddenly came to me.  Cookie Crisp.  They taste like Cookie Crisp, the cereal.

Of the two remaining flavors, Peanut Butter seems intriguing (I wonder if it tastes like Peanut Butter Capt'n Crunch?) but I think judging from the other two fruit flavors that I'll leave the Cranberry alone.

One thing to note:  There is an AAFCO guaranteed analysis on the bag, but no nutritional information that most people will find helpful for themselves (IE:  calories from fat, carbs, etc).

The ingredients list for the Carob Chip runs as follows:
White rice flour, rolled oats, carob chips, brown sugar, canola oil, vanilla extract.
The rest of the flavors are pretty much exactly the same, only subtracting the carob chips and adding in it's place blueberries, or pumpkin, or what have you.

I have to recommend these, if only for the novelty factor.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chinese Restaurant Owner Bitten By Dogs

A man delivering Chinese take-out menus was mauled Sunday after he went into a fenced in yard marked with BEWARE OF DOGS signs.

The man was pretty severely bitten by the three dogs, requiring surgery.

One of the dogs has died, presumably of stress (one hopes) after being taken away from their owners by police officers.  I can't figure out why all that was necessary, but maybe it's New York law.  I dunno.

The crux of the story is that apparently the man who ignored the posted Beware of Dog signs is Chinese, and does not read English.  His daughter said, "He doesn't understand the concept of trespassing.  He can't read the sign."  So I guess it's both that he can't understand the concept of not going on someone else's property AND that he can't read English.  Either way, I guess he understands the concept of trespassing now.

If you follow the link to the original story, you find a poll asking who do you think is at fault?  The Chinese man for trespassing, the owners of the dogs for owning vicious animals, or both?

Go vote.  And let me know what you think in the comments.

For my part, I voted that I think the Chinese man is at fault.  If someone has a fence around their property, it's probably because they don't want you in it.  You do not unlatch some one's gated property and go onto it.  Sort of common sense.  Also, there was a sign.  It's a shame he couldn't read it, but.  Sorry, we are in America.  We ought not have to have our Beware of Dogs signs in every language known to man.  He's been here for twenty-six years.  That's long enough to learn English.  His fault, entirely.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mojo & The Corn Cob: A Cautionary Tale

I've been owned by cats for most of my life.  I have never had one that will eat absolutely anything, until Mojo.

Back in June, we had the first of the season's local sweet corn.  Corn on the cob is my son's absolute favorite thing to eat, ever.  While we were eating our corn, Mojo was having raptures twining himself around our legs, standing up on his hind legs to bat at our arms, and generally just trying to get some of what we were eating, which I thought strange.  We don't even eat our corn with any butter on it.  It was just boiled sweet corn, still on the cob, in my SO and son's cases, with a dash of salt.  I remember giving Mojo a look and saying sternly, "Hey what the hell, cat.  I spend all this money so you can have a diet free of cheap fillers like corn and the only thing that really gets you going is corn."  Figures.  I mean, this is Mojo.  After all.

My SO offered him a corn cob to see what he'd do with it and he immediately tried to hork it down.  Really.  Right then and there he was going to gnaw a chunk off and eat it.  Most cats would have licked it or tasted it first, but no.  This is Mojo.  I took it away from him because I could see that he wasn't just interested in the kernels, but the whole damn cob.  The thing must be consumed in it's entirety, apparently.  He followed me around begging for it back.  I mean he whined about it.  This cat has the most wimpy pathetic whine ever for such a ballsy cat.  It really is just silly.  I said, "No, cat.  No eating corn cobs," and I threw them away.

Our trash can is in the pantry, and we keep the pantry door shut so that animals may not rummage in trash, because Kitsune and Mojo most certainly would.  Simon won't eat anything if it's not crunchy, of a neutral temperature, and in kibble form.  Sir Prissy.  But Trash Cat and Trash Dog would probably kill each other over some two-day old coffee grounds mixed with dirty litter from the bird cage or something equally as disgusting.

Disposing of the corn cobs immediately didn't matter, though, because This Is Mojo.  At some point he got to those corn cobs.  Two days later, I'm cleaning out the litter box and I found a gigantic poop that crumbled into chewed up corn cob bits.  Hmm.  Kitsune doesn't poop in the litter box, Prissy Cat won't eat anything that doesn't rattle out of a bag.  One culprit:  Mojo.

I watched him for a day or two to be sure that all corn cob pieces had been, shall we say, evacuated.  All systems were go, so I forgot about it.

About a month later, we had corn on the cob again.  Again, Mojo went crazy while we were eating dinner.  I told my SO, "We have to take the trash out right away because I don't feel like paying for a surgery to remove corn cobs from a cat."

But it didn't matter.

Because This Is Mojo.

Two days later, I wake up and there's vomit on the carpet.  The dog sleeps in his crate.  Of the two cats, Simon is the puker.  If he eats anything chicken or turkey based, he pukes.  If he eats too fast, he pukes.  If he's really upset, he pukes.  If you look at him wrong, he pukes.  Mojo, never.  I'd never seen him so much as gag.  So I assume Simon The Serial Puker has been at it again, grab the enzyme cleaner, and set about cleaning the mess.  As I'm doing that, my son wanders out of his bedroom and announces that the vomit came from Mojo.  I wasn't convinced.  Sometimes my son blames Kitsune for Simon's messes, even when Kitsune has been in his crate.

Later that day, I find more vomit.  I start verbally abusing Simon's anorexia while I clean it up, but Aidyn informs me again that it wasn't Simon, it was Mojo.  Come to think of it, I hadn't seen Mojo all day.  So I ask my son, "Where is Mojo?"  "In my room."  I go look.  Sure enough, there's Mojo, in my son's room, hunched over in that scapula-poking-up-over-spine posture that means Nothing Good.

So I keep an eye on him.  I get him to eat and drink, so I start to think, okay.  Maybe I'm just paranoid.  I am, actually, paranoid of GI obstructions and foreign bodies in animals since my horse died an early death due to sand impaction colic.

A little while later, Mojo projective vomits everything he has just consumed.  Now, I'm concerned.  We had to go to my SO's mother's house for a birthday celebration, but while I'm there I can't stop worrying about Mojo.  Finally, my understanding SO agrees to leave early so that I can check on the cat and decide if he needs to go to the emergency veterinary hospital.  When we get home, I drag Mojo into the bathroom and palpate him.  I'm pretty sure there's something in there that shouldn't be there, but I'm not great at trusting that I know what I'm feeling on palpation.  I'm sure enough that there's something hard in there that I want an x-ray to convince me otherwise.

I pack Mojo up, and away we go 3 minutes down the road to the emergency vet.  Yes, isn't that handy?  Dr. W. had recommended this place to me off-handedly in a conversation once months before, and it's practically right next door.  She said, "If you ever have an emergency, go to this place, it's really nice."  She wasn't kidding.  The place was pretty much empty when I got there, no other emergencies on that Sunday night.  The front door was locked but I could see into the waiting room as I waited for someone to answer the buzzer and it looked nicer than a lot of hotels I've stayed in.  High ceilings, large tasteful European prints hanging on the walls, and a big custom shaped aquarium in the middle of the room.  Off to one side was a counter top with a coffee maker, hot water, and tea bags with all the necessaries of coffee and tea.


A lady came to let me in and asked me what my emergency was.  I said, "Well.  My cat has a GI foreign body obstruction."

She said, "Did your vet call over to say you were coming?"

"Oh, no.. No vet diagnosed it, I just know that's what it is and I live right down the road so here we are."

Judging by her reaction, they aren't used to clients waltzing through the door with a diagnosis.  She sort of stuttered at me, "Ah, oh, um.  Okay.  Well," before she got her pace again and handed me the necessary forms to fill out.

While I sat in the exam room with a silent, sick cat, I fretted about the veterinarian.  Every once in awhile you get the one, usually the one right out of vet school, that strongly resists a caregiver diagnosis, even when they know it's probably right.  I'm sure most people who aren't stupid and yet have no formal education have had the experience.  It's like they're pissed and resentful that they just spent all this money on a degree and you went deprived them of the fun of figuring out what was wrong.  I've had one or two, which isn't bad considering the number of vets I've worked with.  It seems like you get one every 10 years or so.

Luckily enough, I didn't not get that person.  The attending veterinarian was a nice lady with a Russian accent that made me want to beg her to say, "Battlecruiser operational."  She listened to the story and without further ado, said, "Vell okay den, let us get some x-ray and vind out vere tis tink is."

When they took Mojo back for the x-ray, he spitted, snarled and screamed his displeasure at the procedure. I heard him all the way across the clinic, and it's a pretty big place.  I winced.  For the techs, mostly.  When one of them came back in to tell me it would just be a moment, I said, "Sorry.  He's really a nice cat, I swear."  She laughed.

The vet came back in ("Vell.  He tell us vat HE tink of x-ray!") and she popped up the x-ray on a computer screen there in the office.  It was pretty nifty.  It was literally about two minutes.  And she could zoom around and highlight things on the x-ray with the mouse.  I was impressed.  Again.  Sure enough, the x-ray revealed something was in there.  Right where it was going to need surgery to get it out.  I agree that surgery is needed.  The doctor asks me if I want to go back and say goodnight to Mojo before I leave.  I said yes.

They took me back, and there was Mojo, growling at a tech who was talking to him through the bars in his cage, while keeping a very cautious distance.  I came in just in time to hear her say, "Well you ate it."  He growled.  His chart, hanging on the front of the cage, had not one but two neon orange "EXTREME CAUTION" stickers stuck to it.  When Mooj saw me, his growling diminished into his whiny pathetic voice.  I said, "Wow, Moojer.  You get two stickers."  The tech standing there agreed, saying, "Yeah, my cat only gets one and I thought he was bad."  Again I apologized and tried to convince them that he really is a wonderful cat.

Mojo was lucky, he didn't have to have his intestine opened up to get it out, and none of the intestine had suffered any real damage.  It was just small enough for him to poop it out if it could moved past the place it was stuck, so the vet just sort of milked it along to his colon and sewed him back up again.  He came home a day after the surgery, after he had pooped out, guess what?  A piece of corn cob.

Of course.  Because this is Mojo.

He slumped and staggered around the house for the next week.  Being that I am me, I immediately looked up his pain meds in my Plumb's Veterinary Drug Handbook and discovered that its about ten times as potent as morphine.  He was only on .01 mL of the stuff and I still started hearing Comfortably Numb every time I looked at him.

Hello (hello hello) is there anybody in there?

I finally deduced that when preparing the corn, we cut off some ends that looked gnarly.  While we threw out the corn cobs we had eaten from, we had neglected to remove the ends from the sink that we had cut off.  He probably fished them out of the sink strainer and ate at least one.

Lesson learned:  Cats who had to survive by their wits for the first 18-20 weeks of life will eat absolutely ANYTHING.  Once you know they are determined to eat something inedible, you cannot leave even the smallest piece of it in a sink strainer.  What goes in must come out, sometimes via 2,700 dollar surgery.