Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Latest

Currently Reading: Birthday by Koji Suzuki

Had a few things happen since the last time I posted. The chow bite, which so many people have asked about, is healing up rather well now. I don't have it bandaged anymore and it doesn't hurt either. No more stiffness or anything like that.

I've also made more progress in the grooming school. Today I managed to do a dog from start to finish without my instructor having to correct anything. Granted it wasn't anything fancy like a poodle cut but it does show progress. I'm also getting much more comfortable in cutting in the "problem areas" all dogs have like under the arms and the neck/chin area. I'm less paranoid about working those spots so the clips are going much faster and coming out smoother.

I had my hearing checked yesterday. Every six months or so I go in. My last visit was to check out the condition of the hearing aids, clean them up, a routine service call. This last one included a hearing test. I am happy to say that my hearing isn't getting worse at an alarming rate. It's drifting south, but it's JUST drifting. It's not falling over a steep cliff.

My last test, I was sitting, on the low end, at about 105 dB. That is, on my worst ear, the volume would need to be set at 105 dB for me to hear certain frequencies. That's about the volume of a lawn mower. Yesterday I tested at 110 dB (power saw) with a difference of only 5 dB over a year's time. That's within an acceptable range of difference. Consider that within the margin of error if you like.

Seasonal allergies are upon us. Poor CC is not doing well this year. We're being dusted with yellow pollen on a daily basis and with no strong rains to knock it out of the air and wash it away, it's all over EVERYTHING. My truck has taken on a greenish tint. For CC that means a whole lot of sneezing and a runny nose. For me, not so much. I'm being spared the worst of it this year so maybe I'm finally getting desensitized.

That's really about it for this week. I'll try to do something more exciting for next time but don't hold your breath. Just the usual stuff is taking up most of my time these days.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Story of Tuesday

Currently Reading: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Now, in all fairness, Tuesday wasn't the worst day I've ever had. In fact, it doesn't even rank in the top 10 of worst days. But I'm pretty sure it qualifies as a bad day though.

It started out with ominous foreboding. I got called into the break room to sit through another in-house video. Everyone has to go through this once in a while. The company you work for has a series of video productions designed to train you to do certain things or point out better ways to handle certain situations. You have to watch them. It's sort of a necessary evil really. The people in the video are always exaggerating everything. If you work in a store and you're supposed to be smiling all the time to greet customers, you can bet that the person in the video is wearing a grin as big as Batman's The Joker.

20 minutes long, this video. That's much longer than the previous ones we've sat through. I kept thinking that there were much better ways I could be spending my time. Worse, I got called in Monday afternoon so I closed the store Monday night and had to open again Tuesday morning. Lost a little bit of sleep along the way so I was already dragging.

Fast-forward to about noon. Things are busy but not hectic. I'm scheduled to go home at 1 when the bather comes in. I'm packing things up because an hour isn't enough time for me to have a dog finished so anything that comes in at that point is shifted to the bather. We get a phone call from said bather who wants to talk to someone about calling in sick for a second day. The groomer on duty takes the call and then calls the salon manager to ask how she should handle things. She turns to me and asks if I could go check on a chow that's been drying and if it's ready, bring it out. Sure, no problem.

I go back to the kennels, open up the cage. I reach in and check the chest, nice and dry. I check the belly, nice and dry. Check the dog's left side, nice and dry, then I reach across to check the right and, well something just didn't add up right. Couldn't quite figure out what that was at first but then it hit me: my arm is in this dog's mouth . . . and it HURTS!

It's one of those situations where, looking back, everything seems like it's in slow motion. I'm reaching over to check the dog, its mouth moves down, opens up and clamps down on my arm. Teeth sink in. Just like that. No growls, no shrinking back. No warning. Just the bite.

Now, I'd LIKE to say I handled this calmly, like in the movies where the hero takes a bullet to the shoulder and shrugs it off. That would be lying of course, but I'd LIKE to say that's how I handled it. Instead I let out a yell that had me sounding a lot like Eric Cartman from South Park. Then I pulled back, the dog let go and I slammed the cage shut with my foot and latched it.

I didn't go nuts after that. I was pretty calm. Got a paper towel to cover it up, told the groomer to call the manager on duty so we could write up the paperwork. Oddly enough, it didn't hurt nearly as much as it should have, which worried me a little bit.

I called CC and had her come over to take me to the emergency room. Did a little paperwork, showed a few people how nasty it looked. Then over to the ER where they pretty much took me right away. Not that I looked all freaky with blood pouring out of me or anything like that. In fact, very little blood at all. Just two big punctures and teeth marks (CC has pictures that she'll post to her blog).

The whole time I kept thinking that it didn't hurt nearly as much as it should. I've had less serious bites by smaller dogs that hurt WAY more than that. Then I figured out what it was. The bottom jaw of the chow hit my elbow. Made it all tingly, like when you smack your elbow on the desk or the corner of a wall. So that's really all I felt, that sort of tingly, almost numb feeling.

It didn't take long to get it cleaned up. We made it home a little early in fact. My arm's sore now, but more like muscle pain than anything else. Nothing some Tylenol can't take care of. And I've got to clean the wound twice a day and take antibiotics. Otherwise, that's about it.

My boss told me this morning I've officially been Christened in the world of dog grooming. I'm now "one of them."

All this drama gives me an excuse to post this music video CC showed me once. I like how it ends and it didn't really go with any of my previous entries . . .

Monday, March 05, 2007

I'm 37 I'm not old; dining out; mardi dogs; grooming school

Currently Reading: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Watch this clip . . .

There, you see? It's official. According to the experts from England (Monty Python) I'm not old. Yes, it's true I'll be 37 on Wednesday but that's not old. Just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page about that :-)

Speaking of birthdays, CC and I went out and had an early birthday dinner last night. You can read all about it over on her site, of course, but I just wanted to stick in a quick note here as well. We went to Texas de Brazil, which is downtown, right next to the Peabody hotel. In fact, it's sort of sandwiched between the hotel and the Peabody Place mall-like shopping center. I say mall-like because really, it's MUCH smaller than I thought it was going to be. CC and I joked that it's smaller than the size of the food court of the Glorietta mall in Manila.

Anyway, GREAT food there at Texas de Brazil. If you've got one in your city, pay it a visit. Or, if you're traveling and happen to be in a city where they have one of these places, go and visit. Yes, it may be considered a bit on the expensive side but hey, every now and then you really should sit down to a very good meal, no matter how much it costs. That's just one of life's simple pleasures.

Saturday, CC and I were out doing a little public relations for work. Over at the municipal park, Germantown was holding it's Mardi Dogs parade. We were supposed to do this last week but it got rained out.

This weekend the weather was much better (though it was a bit windy) and I had agreed to work the table there. Actually it wasn't really WORK. We handed out goodie bags to people who'd come to walk in the parade or just watch it. Inside each bag was a frizbee, a packet of bags to use for picking up dog poo, and lots of coupons for the store and the grooming salon.

We had a good time out there. Quite a few people showed up and almost everyone had a dog with them. It worked out well in that the library (which is on one end of the park) had story hour right before things got started so lots of people came over to see what we were doing. I haven't seen anything in the paper about who won the costume contest but I'm thinking the newspaper has a few other stories that they're ranking just a little more important.

Another week of grooming school has gone by and many dogs have been shaved. I was asked this weekend how much longer I was going to be in grooming school. 11 weeks. That's how long I have.

School is going well. No complaints. We did get a bit busy on Friday for no apparent reason at all. The dogs we washed and clipped weren't at the Mardi Dogs parade nor were there any other major dog events planned for the area. The weather wasn't so bad so maybe folks just decided to get their dogs cleaned up. All I know is that we moved 20 or so dogs through the salon before I left which is unusual for a weekday.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Birthday Plans; Grooming School Update; Baseball Cards

Currently Reading: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

I keep getting two questions lately. The first is what I plan to do for my birthday, which is next Wednesday. Here's what I have planned so far . . . got it? No, seriously, I don't have any plans for my birthday. At some point CC and I, or maybe the family, will go out and have dinner or lunch or something, but that's about it. I was thinking also of maybe taking a trip to the zoo. It's been a while since I've seen the bears.

I also don't know what I WANT for my birthday either so if you were hoping to get some ideas here, sorry. With so many other things going on right now I just really don't have the time to sit down and come up with a gift list. Normally I'd ask for books or movies but there really aren't any out right now that I've just GOT to have. I've still got a large stack of books waiting to be read anyway. My latest addition is a rare Haruki Murakami book called Norwegian Wood. Actually it's a two book version and it's not RARE necessarily. You can still find it in stores. What makes this one a little different is that it's an earlier version with a different translator. As I understand it, there are some subtle changes that make a fairly big difference. We'll see.

The second question I keep getting asked is how grooming school is going. I've managed to survive the first section of the course which is really just the "official" version of what I've been doing for the past year. Most of the work has been memorizing certain terms and phrases used to describe my job. The tricky part comes when what the book says differs from what actually goes on. You must remember, working in a grooming salon is just like working in any sort of service-related industry. You've always got two different versions of how things happen. You'll always have the company's official method of solving problems or completing projects and then you'll have the ACTUAL method that evolves from that and is passed on from employee to employee. It's always important to learn BOTH methods though because while the current employees may be used to doing things a certain way and may insist that it works best for them, that doesn't always mean it's really the best way. You've always got to consider that the company has spent a LONG time developing its training methods and they've stuck with them for a reason.

So where am I now? Well I'm now in part two of the course. It's broken into 3 sections. The first part is all about what I've been doing up until now. The second part is all about how to groom dogs and the third part, which is optional, is all about cats. That cat one takes a LOT longer, mostly because of the 1 year practical experience requirement. You think that sounds like a long time? Honestly, depending on the salon, it may take that long for you to groom enough cats to be considered skilled at it. Most people don't take their cats out to be groomed.

Anyway, where I am now. Now I'm at the very start of shaving and scissoring. This is just the most generic part, the foundation if you prefer. I've been learning how to shave a dog and how to use the scissors to trim up certain parts, like the feet. After I get through this section I'll be working on patterns for specific breeds and so forth. This part will take 11 weeks total so I'll be working at it for a while. Most of the time will be spent getting actual experience grooming dogs though. There's not nearly as much book work.

Had an interesting moment the other day. Monday, while CC and I were grocery shopping, I picked up 5 packs of baseball cards. I've been doing that the past few years. It's fun opening them up and looking for your favorite players. Last year I didn't have much luck. I got several GOOD players, just not my favorites. This year though, I counted myself lucky that I snagged both an Ichiro Suzuki card and a Hideki Matsui card (my favorite players). WELL, in addition to those two cards I also picked up one of these:

That's Derek Jeter, the shortstop for the New York Yankees. Good player, decent guy. Doesn't get into trouble off the field. Hasn't had any freakish weight/muscle gains like a certain player for the San Francisco Giants. He's reliable and doesn't cause major distractions. Here's what I didn't know at the time I first came across this card. As a joke, the guys who work these baseball cards up digitally inserted President Bush in the audience and Mickey Mantle in the dugout. You may have heard about this in the news. What does that mean? Well, it means this ONE baseball card is currently worth more than it cost me to buy all 5 packs. In fact, when the story first broke, this card was actually selling for almost $400. Crazy right? Sure is. The price has dropped down to a more reasonable level at this point but it's still worth quite a bit more than your average cards and it will continue to grow in value over the years as more and more people lose theirs :-)

I also looked up a few other cards I've got sitting in my little baseball card box in the closet. I have a few now that are worth a bit of money. Oh, nothing dramatic. So far nothing worth more than $75 but still, that's pretty good for a baseball card. And remember, like most collectibles, baseball card values go UP not down. The trick is, well there isn't really a trick. It's luck. Unless you've got money to actually INVEST in them, getting baseball cards worth money is all in the luck of the draw. I had a 1 in 10,000 chance of pulling this Derek Jeter card and I did.

The only real problem in all of this is how it hurts the casual collector or the kid just looking for his favorite player's cards. As you can imagine, when this story about the Jeter card broke, boxes of Topps cards flew off the shelves. One guy noted that he'd bought two boxes, each box containing 30 individual packs of cards, just to get one Jeter card. That's 720 cards out of circulation right there. That's two fewer boxes of baseball cards sitting on the shelf at your local store for the kids to buy.

Don't worry too much about that though. Soon Topps will release their second series of cards and you've still got the other companies out there who also produce top-of-the-line cards. So I guess this is really more of an annoyance than anything else.