Since blog entries post in reverse order, you'll want to scroll down a bit to catch the start of the vacation blog posts. They also tend to be long so you may want to grab a snack before you start reading.
Currently Reading:The Radioactive Redhead by John Zakour & Lawrence Ganem
We're all dog people regardless of whether or not we actually like dogs. I was reading about this the other night at work. Things were slow so to pass the time I grabbed one of the dog books from the rack and started reading. Sometimes you come across useful tips on how to clean specific breeds. I picked up the pomeranian book because those guys are just SUPER cute and in the intro chapter they had a little history about dogs in general and poms in particular.
The first thing they wanted to emphasize is that all dogs are decendants of the original UBER dog, the gray wolf. Somewhere along the way these wolves started hanging out with us and we taught them things. I know, it's hard to imagine how gray wolves managed to be bred down to the size and shape of a pug, but that's the story.
The other thing they emphasized is the give and take between humans and dogs. We learned how to hunt as a group from them, they learned how get along as a group from us. Thank God we didn't pick up butt sniffing eh? :-) In the end, people sort of took the place of the head-dog and when you bring dogs into your family, they naturally assume you're the head dog unless you teach them otherwise.
This got me thinking, on the way home, about all the other dog-like behaviors that occur in everyday life, especially in social situations. You watch how dogs interact and how people interact and you'll see a LOT of things in common.
Take "marking territory" for example. You've seen male dogs do this I'm sure. They define their territory by peeing; just a little squirt here and there to let everyone know that they're in Fido's domain. I see people do that at work all the time, though not with pee. You wander from your department a little too close to someone ELSE'S department and you'll hear the growling. If you REALLY want to get them barking, go over and help one of THEIR customers without getting permission. And if there's money involved, sales, commissions, etc., territory marking is even MORE important.
You also see all the dominance games. Male or female dogs will sometimes "mount" other dogs as a sign of dominance. So if you see Rex try that with Rover in the park, that doesn't mean they're gay. It just means that Rex wants to be the head dog. People do the same thing, usually with words. I run into this a lot at the store because I'm the new dog in the pack. The less dominant dogs, usually female, generally welcome me with open arms. They're happy to have the extra help and we all work together just fine. There are others though that really want to make sure everyone understands who has control over the territory and so they sometimes interject little remarks to remind everyone just who is in charge. And while this may work for dogs and for some people, it generally doesn't work well on me.
Keep in mind that I don't hear very well. Someone who makes a comment under their breath with the intention of maintaining their status, I'm probably not even going to hear it and will thus ignore it completely. Their little growl or snap backfires. Other dogs see that I'm not so easily brought down, my status goes up. It's even better when people get REALLY growly and raise their voice. See, in that situation, I actually hear them but the whole act of talking louder does nothing to me except enable me to understand what's being said. So if someone barks a question at me I generally just stand there and calmly answer it. It's happened a few times already and the person doing the barking is usually pretty thrown by my response. They just don't understand why I'm not backing down like the other dogs.
This week we had people coming in from the Corporate offices in San Diego. They come through once or twice a year and most of the people in the store go nuts preparing for it. It's the time of year when we have to clean all those spots we almost NEVER clean otherwise because no one is EVER going to see them. There are two groups of people who DON'T freak out though: the kids who just don't care about the job, and the guys like me who were never all that impressed by someone's title. Let's face it, these people that work at the corporate office, they're just normal people with office jobs. My brother-in-law has a job like that. When CC and I go to her office party, there's a whole house full of people like that. Yes, they're corporate, but so what? They're still dogs, just like the rest of us :-)
One of the best places to see dog behavior is at the mall. Talk about your classic dog situations. You've got the whole hunting experience right there in the food court :-) You want to see females being protective of the pups? It's right there by the Disney Store. Males barking and growling for position? Head for the arcade. You get the idea.
Hell as bitchy as people get these days, I sometimes think we learned more from the dogs than they did from us :-)
Currently Reading:The Radioactive Redhead by John Zakour & Lawrence Ganem
Well, CC's on the road again. This time she's in Dallas. She'll be there until Friday, then back here, then back to Dallas then here again, then there again. This will be going on over the next month or so. It's going to take a bit of adjustment for all of us. Obviously I'll have to handle everything around the house for a while but the dogs will also have to adjust. There won't be anyone to walk them at dinner time 4 days a week. I'll be working. Let's hope they can hold it until I get back :-)
I got another tip today! This time it came from a couple visiting from Virginia. Two pugs. It was pretty cool actually. Pugs don't take that long to wash so we don't really charge that much. Still got a tip anyway. Got to love that. Paid for my lunch with plenty to spare :-)
All things considered it wasn't too bad this weekend. Yeah, CC left for her Dallas trip. Yeah it's been raining almost continuously since I woke up. Yeah I'm a little sore from washing several large dogs today. Wait, did I just say it wasn't too bad this weekend? :-) I suppose that compared to what happened to OTHER people it wasn't too bad :-)
Oh, I did get a surprise visit from my sister at work today. She heard about CC's green card and wants to take us out. Of course with CC on the road and my sister's husband ALSO on the road we're going to have to juggle things a little bit and find the overlap. Right now we're looking at lunch on Saturday. Everyone has that free so far :-)
Yes, I know, the blog entries have been a little boring lately. Cut me a little slack though. It's the middle of winter. Even when we have free time there just isn't that much to do. I suppose I could tell a bunch of work stories but to be honest, those are pretty dull too. Is anyone REALLY interested in hearing about how I washed a large pit bull this afternoon? Probably not.
It's a little slow right now but it'll pick up. It always picks up :-)
Just Finished Reading:I, Claudius by Robert Graves
Well, here we are at the end of another week, which for me means the start of another work week. So long as I have this schedule, you won't hear me chanting about how much I love Fridays. :-)
Nothing much to report I'm afraid. I pretty much spent all of Wednesday just resting up. Had some foot cramps and a few sore muscles but nothing serious.
Thursday I ran around a bit. CC's going to Dallas on Sunday so she wanted me to see if I could find a map for her. Unfortunately the book store didn't have anything even remotely helpful; nothing on Dallas in particular and only 4 books on Texas in general. She'll have to pick up a map when she gets there.
I browsed a bit at the video store and stopped in to pick up a few things at Walmart. New shoes for work, a few shirts, that sort of thing. See? Pretty boring stuff.
And now it's back to work in a few hours. Maybe something worth blogging will come up over the weekend. Who knows, maybe I'll even find out who screwed up the washer on Tuesday.
If anything happens, you can rest assured I'll post it here :-)
I suppose just about everything we do at the salon would be considered wet work. As a part of our dress code we're not supposed to wear good shirts. Why? Because good shirts would be ruined from all the water and soap and squirming dogs. But Tuesday night I found myself saddled with a little bit more than usual.
At about 6, I started cleaning up in the back of the salon, back where the big tubs are. We only had one customer the whole day and that was well before I got to work. We did have someone come in for a self-wash (where the customer does the work but uses our tub, shampoo, towels, etc.) and because of that I decided to do a load of laundry so there would be plenty of towels for the morning shift. I gathered them all up, put them in and got that started while I cleaned up everything else.
Half an hour later, I walked out into the grooming area and there was near a half-inch of water on the floor. It had been raining all day so my first thought was that it was some sort of huge leak but there weren't any wet spots on the ceiling. Then I thought maybe the hair trap for the washer had clogged up and the water backed up but there was almost no water in the back by the washer. It was almost entirely limited to the front section where the grooming is done. I found the manager and told him that we were turning into a water park, showed him what was going on and then started cleaning things up.
His main concern was that it was a plumbing leak from one of the bathrooms or maybe something from the aquatics section so he and a few others checked out those possibilities then decided that it had to be coming from somewhere back in the salon. I'd gotten about half of the water cleaned up using the shop-vac and our huge turbo dryer but he told me to stop while he called a plumber. I wanted to keep cleaning, figuring that I'd have to do it eventually anyway, no sense in putting it off.
The plumber showed up around 7:30 and had a look around. Turns out it wasn't a leak at all but either something did on purpose, being mean, or by accident, being stupid. In a normal washer hook-up you've got a little box in the wall behind the washer. Two lines come out of that, one for hot water and one for cold. A third line runs from the washer back into the box into the drain. At the salon it's set up a little different. Our drain line goes through a hair trap to prevent major clogs and that is installed off to the side in a little cabinet. From there it passes into the normal drain further along. In the box behind the washer where the normal drain would be there is just a hole. If you shine a light down there you can see that there clearly is no pipe. You see the drywall from the grooming area.
Someone moved the washer's drain line from the pipe that runs to the hair trap to the hole between the water lines. Now, it's easy to see how that can happen by accident. Somehow the line gets bumped out of the pipe (I have no idea how that would happen but let's say it does). Someone sees the drain line not connected and decides to be helpful and put it back. Not knowing how our plumbing is configured, the person puts the drain line into the hole between the water lines which is how it works in just about every home out there. Yes, it's a stupid mistake but it's an honest one right?
Of course, it's just as easy to see it being done on purpose. Someone gets pissed off at work and knows how our plumbing works. They go back into the wash area, move the line to the hole knowing full well that no one is going to notice the change until the washer is run and drains. Then BAM, the whole grooming area floods.
Personally I didn't think this is the sort of thing someone would do on purpose but the manager that night told me about an earlier incident, well before I started working there. The store sells crickets to feed to reptiles. In the back, they have an entire little breeding area just for crickets, both to sell and to feed the reptiles that WE sell. Obviously crickets have to drink so they had these crystals that they would mix with water to form a gel. Somehow the crickets drank from that. I don't know much about bugs.
Anyway, they had a disgruntled employee. Said employee got the jar of crystals and took it back into the salon, back where we do the washing. They then opened up our hair traps and filled them with those crystals so that when the bathers started washing dogs, the crystals turned into gel and clogged up all the water lines. Now, if someone is crazy enough to do THAT, it's not really that difficult to imagine someone moving the drain lines.
The good news is that since it happened during my shift, it was pretty clear that I wasn't the one who did it. It created a HUGE mess right in the middle of my shift and I'd have to clean it up. In fact, I probably wouldn't have run the wash at all that night so this whole thing would have been discovered by the morning crew on Wednesday (that self-wash guy who used up all the towels saved me a whole mess of stress).
While I was cleaning up, I couldn't help but wonder what had happened. Was it an accident? Did someone do it on purpose? And who was responsible? I haven't noticed anyone who seemed mad enough to pull something like that. I suppose I'll never know unless someone admits making the mistakea and even then I won't find out until at LEAST Friday, when I go back to work.
I'll keep you posted :-)
My dog did the oddest and coolest thing today. I was peeling potatoes for dinner and the dogs, as usual, were hanging around hoping I'd drop something. Instead, just for fun, I tossed some potato peel to them both. Jack ate his down, reluctantly and Katya ate hers as well and was hoping for some more. Nothing unusual there. She does stuff like that all the time. So, I tossed her another piece. THIS time, she didn't just wolf it down like the first. She actually inspected it a little bit, then held it down with one paw and started nibbling at it. I wasn't sure what she was doing at first but then she stood up and asked for another piece. That's when I saw that she'd actually attempted to PEEL the potato sliver that I gave her. She'd eaten out as much potato as she could and left the peel.
Sometimes she learns things like this and it's just creepy. Cool, but creepy :-)
The dog wash business is a little bit like the car wash business, especially when it comes to rainy days. Ever see a busy car wash when it was raining outside? Dog wash, same thing.
Yesterday was one of those rainy days so things were very slow. I glanced at the log when I got to work and we'd only had 4 dogs come through the place all day. Makes sense though. Who wants to pay to get their dog washed when it's going to be muddy for a few days? This same storm will give us plenty of business over the weekend I bet. Muddy dogs will need to be cleaned.
Even worse, the store had gotten a heads up that they might get a visitor on Tuesday. District manager I think. I remember what it was like at Kmart when that would happen and it seems to be a universal in the retail industry. When you have a VIP coming in, you clean the store from top to bottom, just in case. You clean places you KNOW they're not going to look. Doesn't matter. You clean it just in case. That's how we spent Monday. We cleaned everything and that didn't leave us much for Tuesday.
There was some entertainment though. First up was the finch that successfully managed an escape attempt. On the plus side, finches aren't all that smart so it never left the store. On the minus side, there are a LOT of places that a finch can hang out to avoid capture.
While we were watching out for the finch, a group came in wanting to buy a hamster. This provided us with the night's dose of irony. The hamster in question was removed from it's cage and handed to the customers who took turns holding it. The sales person (not me, I wash dogs not sell rodents) said, "The good thing about this particular breed is that they do NOT bite." So naturally it bit :-) My guess as to what happened is that whoever was holding it squeezed a little TOO tight. Those guys don't bite but they do have a survival instinct too. If they feel like they're going to be squished, they'll bite to get free.
In the middle of all this excitement our missing finch came swooping down from somewhere and landed right on a customer's head. No, I'm not kidding, it landed in her hair. We had her moving slowly towards the bird enclosure but, alas, the finch caught on to what we were doing and took off before she got inside the door.
After selling a kennel and doing some general cleaning to finish off the salon area for the night, I finally decided to nab that escaped bird once and for all. I got the net and the chase began. Along the way I ran into the assistant manager who told me with certainty that I would NEVER catch that bird. Should have bet on it.
In all the hunt for the bird only took about half an hour. Finches have no endurance so your best bet to catch one is to just follow it around until it gets too tired to move fast. That's what I did. Caught that little guy with a move he'd have easily dodged earlier.
And now, another glorious two days off for me. Tonight, CC and I are eating out again; Indian, again :-)
Yesterday I had my first biter. Well actually it was the first biter to actually make contact. Most biters are just trying to scare you. They take a little snap at you, aiming to miss, letting you know that they mean business. Obviously a dog as small as a shih tzu wouldn't be stupid enough to deliberately take a bite out of me, right? :-)
This particular one didn't like people messing with its ears. There's nothing too unusual about that. There are a lot of dogs out there that don't like people messing with their ears. So, there I am, trying to clean out his ears and he takes a shot and catches my thumb. Then he looks up at me trying to be all tough and I hold my hand out in front of him and say, "Well go ahead, bite it again. Go on, do it!" So naturally he did.
He looked pretty confused by all of this and the second bite wasn't nearly as hard as the first one (which wasn't very hard when you get right down to it). He had a look on his face like he regretted biting as soon as his mouth pulled away. I just looked down at him and waited until he was done and went on with the wash.
He didn't make any attempt to bite me after that :-)
I got my first, official customer this morning. I'm going to be the exclusive washer of her dog, Lady.
She came into the salon yesterday asking about getting her dog washed. She'd called a few other places and they wanted to keep the dog for 6 hours. That's way too long. 6 hours is a full work shift in most salons. It shouldn't ever take you that long to get a dog washed.
Anyway, she came to our place and asked about it. Of course, we always try to get the dogs done and out as soon as possible. Better for the dog, better for us, better for the dog's owners. Everyone wins. The woman asked what day of the week would be best to get a fast turn-around and she was told that Sunday is usually one of our slower days but during the week it's not too bad either. She made an appointment for first thing Sunday morning which is the start of my shift.
The woman comes in with this REALLY sweet golden retriever. Very well-behaved, very nice dog. It was the first time the two of them were going to be apart for any real length of time so both dog and owner were a little nervous at first. But me, well I love dogs so Lady took to me right away and I took very good care of her. Had her cleaned, dried and brushed in under an hour (which isn't really that big of a deal because there weren't any other dogs in so she got my full attention).
The woman came back from her breakfast (she was meeting family for breakfast) a few hours later and Lady was waiting for her. She was SO happy (both of them). Well the woman decided that since Lady was happy and I did such a good job with her that she would always bring Lady in when I was working. Asked for my hours and everything and I was happy to give them to her. I'll be seeing more of Lady down the line. I'm her official bather :-)
You might not think there are many fringe benefits to being a dog washer and for the most part you'd be right. I come home at the end of a shift covered in dog hair, usually wet and sometimes smelling like dog pee. But there is one cool thing that we get. We get free dog washes (provided we do them ourselves). Oh, I know what you're thinking, that's not much of a benefit, but just hang on a minute and let me explain.
I had CC bring in our two dogs this afternoon so I could give them a good bath. Here's where the benefits start adding up. First off, I get to use the big tubs. The simple fact that I'm washing in a big tub and NOT in my bathtub at home is a HUGE benefit. To clean up the big tubs at work, you just hose them down really, then collect the hair. At home you can't just hose off the bathroom right?
Second benefit, I get to use any of the shampoos and stuff. So rather than the cheap stuff that we use for a basic wash, my dogs can get the ultra-luxurious milk bath or the hardcore flea and tick bath or, in our case, the very-good-for-their-skin medicated bath. The medicated bath cuts down on pet dander. It doesn't smell all that great but I also get to use the conditioner, which DOES smell great.
What was pretty funny was using the big blow dryer on my dogs. They've both got pretty long fur so if you're from the South you know what happens to long hair under a blow dryer: you get BIG HAIR! If you're a dog, you get all poofy! They were pretty cute actually, all fluffed up. I didn't leave them that way for long though. Put them both in the dryer so when CC took them home they were mostly dry already. She brushed them out here at the apartment. I'd have done that at work too but we had a bit of a rush. I went to lunch and while I was out we had 3 more dogs as walk-ins.
So now I've got two very soft, very good-smelling, clean doggies and I didn't have to pay anything for it. Is that a big deal? Actually, yes. If I'd gone into the salon as a regular customer bringing in these two dogs for the works (which is what they got) it would have cost around 90 dollars.
See what I mean about it being a fringe benefit? :-)
Well, yesterday I finished my first day off after working 6 days in a row and I must say that it was mostly a failure. How can one fail at having a day off? Simple: do too much work.
At least half of what I do every day at work is cleaning up. I'm not talking about the actual dog washing, I'm talking about cleaning up the tub, the walls, the floors, all the places where the dog hair flies when the dogs shake. So, what do I do with my first little bit of free time yesterday morning after breakfast? Why, I tidy up the living room of course
Oh but it doesn't stop there; no it sure doesn't. I continued to use my free time yesterday to gather up the trash and take it out, to tidy up the dining room and even a little bit of cleaning in the bedroom. In fact, the only place I DIDN'T clean was the bathroom. This on my day off? That's not healthy.
I got a little better as the day went on. CC and I went out to lunch :-) We went over to Bombay House again. She had the buffet, I had chicken tikka. That stuff was FANTASTIC! We're going to have to add them to our regular list of places to eat. I thought it was a bit funny though, all of our current "places to eat" are Asian. We've got a Japanese place for sushi, a Chinese place, two actually, and now Indian. I think we've got that part of the globe covered. Now we need to work on Europe :-)
After lunch, I dropped CC off at her office then I browsed the book store for a little while and came home. Didn't do much of anything for the rest of the day. See? I got the hang of it :-)
Isn't this just the way it happens? I took the job at the pet store last week, partly because, let's face it, they were the only ones who called me back after putting in an application. I just figured all the other places I applied to weren't interested . . . until last night.
CC and I were sitting on the sofa, watching TV, nothing special, when the phone rings. It's Barnes & Noble wanting me to come in for an interview. Oh MAN! That was really my first choice, to work in a book store. But what can I say? I took the Petco job already and it would bge REALLY rude to pack up and jump ship after a week or two, especially since there isn't anything wrong with the Petco job.
Granted, you could always say that they were just calling me in for an INTERVIEW. I didn't have the actual job, but I know how retail places work. They don't usually call you back in for an interview if they aren't already pretty sure they want to hire you. I probably could have had that job. Ah well. I told the woman on the phone that I'd taken another job already but if things didn't work out, I'd put in another application.
Well, at least I'm in demand. That's pretty good for the ego :-)
Just Finished Reading:Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss
Tonight I'll finish up my first week as a professional dog washer. Hmm, somehow that doesn't sound quite as impressive as, say, professional airline pilot. No matter. Here are a few things I've learned over the past week . . .
It's not the size of the dog that matters. What matters is how hard they can shake water out of their fur.
The shampoo may be "tearless" but it certainly is not TASTELESS.
No matter how dry you THINK the dog is, they've always got one more shower's worth of water in their fur . . . especially if you've already cleaned your glasses.
Most people think dogs with long fur are a pain because they get hair everywhere. But dogs with shorter fur that also shed are worse. Long dog hair is soft and easily removed with something sticky or perhaps a lint brush. Short dog hair actually sticks through the weave of your clothes and takes forever to shake loose.
Small dogs are a whole lot more growly and bitchy than big dogs. They also tend to bite more often too.
Very few dogs like having their nails clipped. They don't like having their teeth brushed either.
Many people who walk or jog for exercise carry a stick or some stones in case a dog comes after them. But if you really want to chase off a dog you should carry a hair dryer. The dogs that aren't afraid of the noise the hair dryer makes will run if you point it at their face and ears.
Always remember, there's still one muscle left in your body that hasn't been hurt yet. No matter how sore you are, you can still make it just a little bit worse, especially if your next customer brings in something big.
You will always get a big, shedding dog right after you've swept the floor and rinsed out the tub.
So there you have it, the lessons I've learned so far from working as a professional dog washer. There are more, of course, but I really shouldn't make them public. Some are just gross and the others are really just stuff that applies to our store.
Just one more day 'til the weekend for me :-) Then I get two days of glorious rest and relaxation :-)