Monday, February 27, 2006

So Many Dogs, So Little Time; Great Moments in Wasted Time; Miyamoto Musashi School of Martial Dog Washing

Just Finished Reading: Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert

This weekend I finished up my 4 day work week with three days of actual WORK. Can you believe it? I actually had broke a sweat a few times while earning my paycheck :-)

Here's what happened. You may recall from previous blog entries that we've had some weather here the past two weekends. Two weeks ago we had snow. Last week we had ice. Why is that important? Because people tend to stay home when there's snow and ice out like the kind we had. This is Memphis, afterall, not Buffalo.

The result of all this weather was a slight downturn in the number of dogs brought in to be washed and a HUGE upturn in the number of dirty dogs in the area. No one wants to go out, the dog doesn't smell THAT bad, they put it off a week or two. But once it all melts and turns into slush and mud, that leads to a very dirty dog. First sign of good weather on the weekend and that dog goes in for a bath.

Wednesday was an average day. Middle of the week, people are working, they don't want to have to drop the dog off on the way to work. It's slow. Working 8 hours I made about 11 dollars in commissions. Probably washed two dogs, tops. Thursday there was a bit of an increase. Over 8 hours I made just shy of 95 dollars! Now you're talking more like 7 dogs in for JUST a bath plus several others in for a cut that had to be bathed first. Friday, it dips a little. Only 74 dollars. But on Saturday, over 100 dollars in commissions. In fact, we moved over 25 dogs through the salon, of which 7 were mine. The other bather did 7 more so over half were just in for a bath. Of the rest, we had to bathe most of them so the groomers could get them cut in time.

Now, keep in mind a few things. First, when I say "working 8 hours" that really means just the first 4 or 5 for dog washing. I work 1-9 and those last three hours are pretty much devoted to cleaning the place up. Most of the washing work comes in those first two hours, with a little bit left over, dragged out over the second two hours. Thursday was the only night I had dogs in after 7 pm so I did the bulk of my dog washing within the first 3 hours of every shift.

Put that way, you can understand why it might take a little bit out of you :-)


Day 1 of my 3-day weekend was nice and relaxing. CC and I went to the mall. We bought shower gels and picked up credit card applications for the Manila students to examine while in training for their new account (sort of a visual aid for them). We had Chinese from our favorite stall in the food court and we had a great time just browsing stores.

Day 3 of my 3-day weekend will be a mix of housework and general goofing off. I'll get some things done, sure but I intend to spend a decent chunk doing nothing much of note.

Day 2 was just grand achievement in wasted time. Why? Because we had to go down to the Department of Transportation for a drivers' license.

CC now has a green card. She's a legal, resident alien. Before that, she wasn't able to obtain a valid Tennessee license. Instead, what she had was a "driving certificate" that while it was proof that she'd satisfied all the requirements necessary for a license, she wasn't issued one because she wasn't a resident. With me so far?

Since that certificate wasn't a valid form of ID, there are things she wasn't able to do. She couldn't open her own bank account. She couldn't get a credit card. Mostly it's not important but it has been a little frustrating from time to time.

Now she's got the green card so today we spent the day catching up on making all her other "cards" legal. First stop was the Social Security office. She had a Social Security number but it was only good as proof that she could work here legally. In other words, it was a tax ID and nothing more. They had to be given the proper forms and such to make her number more than just the tax ID. That didn't take very long.

We then went over to the DMV where things got a bit messier. We first tried the one closer to the Social Security office. I saw the line outside and just kept on driving. I know how big, actually SMALL that place is inside and given the line OUTSIDE, I knew we'd end up being there all day. Instead, we tried the OTHER location, which is closer to the apartment. We didn't really do much better there. The line wasn't quite as long I don't think, but the wait was probably worse.

The first obstacle we ran into was that they don't take credit cards or debit cards. Why? Hell if I know. Makes no sense at all. If I want to renew my license, I can do that online and pay by credit/debit card. If I need a duplicate license, same thing. Pay by credit/debit card. If I go to the actual DMV and use one of their "automated" computer stations I can pay by credit/debit card. But if you fill out your forms by hand and take them up to the window, you'd better have cash. So while CC waited in line, I made a quick dash to an ATM up the road to make sure we had enough green to cover everything.

The remaining obstacles were pretty much the workers at the place. Four windows open. You can move a lot of people through an office with 4 windows open. Thing of your bank. How many people can they process with just 4 tellers open? a LOT. Take that same situation, move it to the DMV and it slows to a CRAWL. We spent at LEAST 3 hours there, most of which was just waiting for an available window to open up. Add to that the crowded waiting area, no TV, no magazines, no newspapers, you can see why it's a very unhappy place to be.

What I find rather amazing is that in a city this size, there are only 2 offices. That's it. Two. And worse, the waiting has been like this for a LONG time now. This isn't some new problem that's just crept up recently. It's been really bad for a good 4 or 5 years and seems to be getting even worse.

Bottom line, lots of wasted time. On the plus side though, CC is now pretty much legal across the board. All of her numbers should work now and we can move on.

And let us not forget that while I did lose most of my day off, I still have another one tomorrow so I don't really mind :-)


Washing dogs is like combat. You're waging a war against dirt and quite often the dog you're washing is NOT on your side. So, to better prepare one's self for the trials of dog washing, there are a great number of things that must be learned and understood. Because of this, I am no longer going to refer to my methods as the John Woo school of dog washing. What he does in movies is trivial compared to the grand, earthly mechanizations involved in obtaining a clean dog.

I am now a member of the Miyamoto Musashi School of Martial Dog Washing. Musashi was a duelist in 17th century Japan. When he died, he was undefeated. A bit of an eccentric, he spent all of his time studying was to become better at using a sword. He looked for strategies in everything: nature, farming, flower arranging. Everything was focused on being a better swordsman.

The School of Martial Dog Washing is no different. In order to better clean your dog you MUST understand and accept certain truths about dogs, washing, the washing of dogs and the nature of the universe. The school has obtained a great amount of knowledge over the centuries and I will share some of their pearls of wisdom from time to time . . .

--Dogs are creatures of earth. As such, they will attempt to commune with earth as often as possible. They will dig holes. They will roll their bodies over grasses and in patches of dirt. It is in their nature to do this. Know this, for it is the reason there will always be a need for dog washers while dogs walk the earth.
Just a sample of the depth of this study :-)


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Readjusting; 3 Day Weekends; New Vacuum Sucks . . . In A Good Way

Currently Reading: Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert

Well, for those of you who didn't already know, CC has finally returned from her Dallas trip. She and a group from her office went to Dallas to go through the training process for their new client. The idea is that once they've gone through training, they can then adapt that training for their workers in the Philippines. Unfortunately, that meant CC had to be in Dallas for a month and may still have to go to Manila in the future to impliment this training.

Anyway, I've been here by myself for almost a month. Yes, I have the dogs, but dogs, no matter how they behave, are not people. And while CC did manage to make it home twice during the month, she was only here for a day or two and I didn't get to see her nearly as much as I would have liked.

Naturally after being alone for a month, some of my habits shifted and now need to shift back. For example, the first night she was home I actually smacked her twice in the head rolling over. Just thumped my hand down on what was usually an empty pillow (dont' worry, she didn't wake up). Then a third time I rolled over, my hand landed in her hair. For the past month that's meant that a dog was sleeping there so what did I do? I scratched her head, gave it a pat and rolled back over (she didn't feel that either).

You should have SEEN the mountain of laundry we had this weekend. My clothes plus her clothes is usually plenty but neither of us has been doing laundry as regularly as before so we both had larger than normal loads. There was a good 3 foot high pile of it waiting for our attention. On the plus side though, CC's going to do the ironing. Bless her heart, I HATE ironing. So good to have her back :-)

Dishes are now getting used up. With me working and her not home most of the dishes were cereal bowls and spoons. I tended to eat leftovers and that didn't always mean using dishes. If I had a sandwich for lunch/dinner at work it was usually too big so I cut it in half and have the rest later. That doesn't really require a dish.

Anyway we're all much happier having her home. Yes it will take a little time to adjust to sharing the apartment again but it's a whole lot less lonely now. Even the dogs are a little happier. They'll be even happier still when they realize tomorrow that they won't have to wait until 9 at night for their evening walk. :-)


We hired the new bather at the shop and she's been trained. You know what that means? TREE DAY WEEKENDS! That's right, with the new bather on the schedule it means we're going to 4 day work weeks. Let me tell you, 3 day weekends ROCK. Usually at least one full day of the weekend gets eaten up by things you HAVE to do. There are just too many chores that build up through the work week and you never have time to do them except on the weekend. That's pretty normal. That leaves you with just one day for leisure right? Just one day to spend time with the family or see a movie or whatever. Ah, but with a three day weekend, you can have it all :-) One day for chores, one day for family and one day to just goof off and do whatever you want. Got to love that :-)


You will recall from the last post that our vacuum cleaner broke. Learned about that design flaw with the pet hair. What a pain in the butt. Well, not to worry, I went out and got a new vacuum cleaner. Spent quite a bit of time on it in fact. I went through every cleaner in my price range, turned them over and checked the bar to see how well it was capped. I don't want a repeat of what happened with the Dirt Devil.

Saw some really nice machines that were WAY too expensive. Some of these things look so powerful you could use them to vacuum the parking lot. Maybe one day we'll get one like that and not have to worry about replacing it. But for now, back to reality :-)

Picked up a vacuum by Euro Pro. They're the folks who make The Shark, that little rechargable carpet sweeper thing. So far it works great and has some pretty nice features. The handle telescopes which makes it perfect for shorter people like CC and I. You can just adjust the handle to fit you. The canister on it is also easier to empty. It's got a bottom hatch instead of just the usual top opening so all that dust that goes flying everywhere just sinks down into the garbage can instead. And the filters are less likely to clog with pet hair beacuse they've got a mesh screen over them.

In addition to all these nice features, our new machine also came with one of those little Shark carpet sweepers. So it was like getting two for one. We'll use the little one on the floors in the laundry room and bathroom and kitchen and the bigger one on the carpets. So far it's working out great. :-)


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

House Cleaning; Vacuum Sucks; Internet in Super Slow-mo; Schedule Change; Let It Snow!

Currently Reading: Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert

Been doing a bit of house cleaning over the past few days. No, CC's not actually due home until Sunday and no, I'm not forced to start cleaning early because the apartment is that bad. It just needed cleaning and I had the time to do it, that's all :-)

So, in the spirit of house cleaning, I'll be doing a little of that on the blog today with a series of little items all piled up to make one long blog entry :-)


Ran into a little bit of trouble while cleaning the apartment actually. My vacuum cleaner broke. And when I say broke, I mean it REALLY broke. We're not talking about a clogged hose or a broken belt. Ok, granted smoke didn't come pouring out of the thing, but it is pretty seriously broken.

What I discovered was a design flaw in the vacuum. You know the beater brush bar on the bottom? It's the bar that spins around and kicks up dirt to be sucked into the cleaner. Well, Dirt Devil, in their invinite wisdom, didn't really cap the ends very well on this particular model. It's not protected. Protected from what? From anything long and stringy like DOG HAIR!

I'm not making this up, there was so much dog hair clogging the ends of the beater bar that the connector that holds it into place actually melted from the friction. As a result, the bar just kind of rattles around instead of spinning properly. Unfortunately this doesn't fall under the usual warranty stuff. They seem to think that using the vacuum cleaner in this way is MISuse.

So, as I understand it, using a vacuum cleaner to clean the rugs, a vacuum cleaner that says right on the box that it's great for pet hair, using that vacuum cleaner to pick up pet hair is misuse.

I don't think I'll be buying anything from them for a long time :-)


My internet is in Super Slow-mo right now. There's some trouble in the line again and I've got "limited or no connectivity." Called them this morning and they'll send someone out tomorrow to fix it. Last time this happened it was something to do with the line not getting enough power. Probably the same thing. Flip a few switches, change some cable around, good as new. Until then, though, I'm stuck with DIAL UP!

Ok, everybody calm down. Didn't mean to scare you there. Breathe! Relax! It'll be ok tomorrow, I'm sure :-)


I forgot to mention that I've had a schedule change at work. Most of you already know about it because I was so stir crazy on Sunday that I went out visiting people. But for those of you who don't know, our other bather has gone to grooming school so he's now classified as a groomer. We've just hired a new bather (though no one has met her other than the manager) and so the work schedule is being juggled around. I've got Sunday and Monday off, which is nice because now I'll have a day off in common with CC. We can do stuff together again . . . once she gets back from Dallas of course. And now that we have the new bather on staff we'll be going to 4-day work weeks, which is ALSO nice because that means 3 days off :-)

It'll be a little bit frantic at first. People will be getting used to the new hours plus I've got to train the new bather. But in a week or so it'll settle down and there won't be any stress there. Plus, we'll have plenty of staff on hand to handle anything that comes in. That's the thing about working at the pet store. Even the most boring days can turn around without warning. All it takes is one person deciding that their poorly trained Great Dane needs a bath. :-)


We had some snow last week. I meant to take some pictures or something and post them but then I realized that, well, it's just snow. Folks in town saw it first hand. Folks out of town have seen snow before. It's not like we had a blizzard that left everyone stranded like they did on the East Coast. Here we just had 3-4 inches.

Sure was coming down pretty hard there for a while though. People were starting to get worried that it might not stop and we might get burried. We also had about an inch of slush on the roads to go with it and when night fell we were worried it would all freeze up into one HUGE mess.

But that didn't happen. In fact, as snows go it was pretty boring. Looked nice for a little while then it just became annoying. So I left it for the last item on the list :-)


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Good Sports; De-Skunking; The John Woo School of Dog Washing

Currently Reading: Dune: The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

This is a pretty great sports season. Right now, football has just wrapped up with a fairly entertaining Super Bowl (don't get me started on the Geritol half-time show though). Hockey is in full swing, basketball is in full swing and spring training for baseball is right around the corner.

We're also about to start two really great international sports events. Starting Friday and running through the 26th, we have the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. I am totally an Olympics junkie so I'll be cramming in as many hours in front of the TV as I can. I especially like the winter games. I like the skiiing events and the hockey. Figure skating doesn't much thrill me but that fast-paced short-track skating is pretty cool.

And next month, starting March 3 and running through March 20 we have the first World Baseball Classic. This is something they've been trying to get set up for a while now. With all the pro players in the world in baseball, many of them ending up here in the US, there has been a move on to have a REAL World Series. US vs Japan vs Mexico vs whoever else wants to come in. We've taken various baseball teams on tour during spring training. There's always a team that goes over to Japan. But until this year, they've never been able to set up a tournament like this. Usually it's been a matter of conflicting schedules. Other countries wanted to hold the thing smack in the middle of our season. Can't do that. Or they'd try to hold it during someone ELSE'S season. Can't do that either. They finally came to an agreement and it'll be held this March. Not sure how much coverage it's going to get on TV but I'm going to watch as much of it as I can. I'm interested to see how some of these teams do. Quite a few from Latin America are loaded with pro players from the US. But Cuba, for example, we have NO idea what level of baseball they're playing down there. And Japan. We know about the pros that came over to the US but as a team, we only meet them once a year. And let's not forget China, Korea, Taipei, Australia, South Africa, and the others. This should be a really cool event.

Had a de-skunking yesterday. Lady called in asking if she could bring in her dog. It had been skunked. Let me tell you, you may think skunk smells bad when you drive by road kill but that's mild compared to what it smells like when you get a good whiff of it right up close.

The woman showed up and I came to the front of the salon from the back and I got a full nose of that dog right when I walked through the door. Talk about over-powering. That's some serious skunk.

Naturally since I was the bather on duty yesterday, it fell to me to remove the scent. We've got a special de-skunking shampoo that we use. It's good for any odor actually but it's especially good for skunk. The great part about it is that you can use it at full concentration or water it down depending on the smell. What we do is we start at 6 to 1 and make it stronger with each bath. If it doesn't work watered down, make it a little stronger and try again. Pretty simple.

This particular dog got it right between the eyes which is about the worst place a dog can get sprayed. I had the rest of the dog skunk-free after the second wash but the head, that was just not coming out. What makes it so bad is that you can't use it at full concentration on the face. Hurts the eyes you see. So while the dog was MOSTLY skunk-free in the end, the face still smelled a little.

When the woman came to pick up her dog she was THRILLED. She said, "He doesn't stink anymore!" and that I did a fabulous job. Tipped me 5 bucks which was really nice of her. Sort of made up for the fact that I had to inhale skunk for half an hour :-)


Everyone has a dog washing style. Most people follow the standard school of tub washing. It's sort of like washing dishes only the dishes don't shake water and soap on you in the middle.

Me, I'm from the John Woo school of dog washing.

First off, a bit of explaining. John Woo is a Chinese movie director. Made lots of crime movies in Hong Kong with Chow Yun Fat in Hong Kong before he came over to the US. You may have seen Hard Boiled or The Killer. Those two run every now and then on cable. They're very stylish and very violent. They're always filled with lessons about honor and that sort of thing. The hero, whether he's a police man or a crime lord, always follows a strict code of ethics.

The action is very distinct too. In these movies the hero, usually Chow Yun Fat, holds his gun sideways if he's using just ONE gun. Quite often he's got two guns blazing. You're also likely to see the hero do some acrobatic shooting. He'll leap over something while firing off round after round, and then land with a tuck-and-roll that leaves him safely behind something bullet-proof.

That's me washing the big dogs. We've got this one HUGE tub at work that's about 2 feet longer than the other tubs. It's got its own ramp so you don't have to lift the dogs over the side. You can just lead them up and in. What I like to do is use the one hose that's meant to go with that tub plus the extra hose we have that we use for those dogs who refuse to get into ANY tub. It's just a faucet on the wall but it's fairly close to the big tub.

So picture it. There's a HUGE lab in the tub. I've got the one hose going, sideways of course, then I'll reach over and pick up the other one and get some of that two-hose action going. When the dog starts to shake, I'll do my leaping-while-squirting move so that I end up out of range or over by the doorway, ready to duck out before I get drenched.

All I need now are some white doves to release once the dog is washed :-)


Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Price of a Haircut

Just Finished Reading: The Radioactive Redhead by John Zakour & Lawrence Ganem

I got my hair cut today. Nothing fancy, just your typical cut, no shampoo, parted on the side, short, etc. I got to the counter to pay, tipped my hairdresser and it occurred to me: we pay more to have our dogs groomed than we do on ourselves.

You think I'm kidding? Hair for hair it costs more to have your dog's hair cut than your own. I'm not talking about the extremes of course. Forget those guys in Hollywood who charge 200 bucks just to run fingers through your hair. And forget the pampered pooches in New England who don't go to a dog groomer so much as they go to a doggie day spa.

On our price list, to have a small dog washed, JUST washed, nails trimmed, ears cleaned, that's going to run you 20 bucks. If you want a sanitary trim, which means shave the belly, trim the butt hair and the hair on the feet, that's an extra 5 dollars. So we're talking 25 bucks to have your yorkie trimmed. And it goes up from there. The bigger the dog, the more complicated the cut, the higher the price.

I suppose you could argue that you can do people hair faster than dog hair. I was in and out of the chair today in 15 minutes, maybe 20. To do a dog, full bath and dry, we're talking maybe 45 to an hour. But on the other hand, the dog won't say stupid things or hit on you, but people tend to tip a hairdresser more often than a dog groomer and there's very little chance that, as a hairdresser, you'll be bitten by a client.

Still, it's kinda funny when you think about it. I can get my hair cut for 12 bucks but if I want to get either of the dogs done, prices start at $30.