Archive for June, 2012

Ohio Air Dogs – non-payment for services

June 25, 2012

One of the real joys of owning a small business, scheduling Bud’s seminars, hosting camps and trials, and managing TDAA, is dealing with great dog lovers and agility enthusiasts.

We meet such terrific people in the course of our various activities. They’re a talented and driven group. We love getting to know them better, become part of their lives, assist them in growing their dog-training business.

And then there are the bad apples.

Whenever I hear about a dog training center or dog business owner who fails to live up to his/her financial obligations (read: stiffs seminar presenters for their expenses and fees), my first reaction is always, “What is she thinking? This is such a tiny, tight-knit community! She’s going to ruin her business over an unpaid seminar fee?”

In 13 years Bud and I have experienced an irresponsible dog-business owner twice.

In the first case we received re-payment within a few weeks. The mismanagement that caused the rubber checks led to the rapid demise of the business, and the dog-training community no longer hears from this eastern Ohio business owner.

If you don’t manage to pay your bills you won’t last long in this relationship-based business.

Last October, at a national agility event, we were asked by Renee Roth, an instructor at Ohio Air Dogs, and a teacup agility enthusiast, about the possibility of having Bud do an agility seminar at Ohio Air Dogs in North Royalton, Ohio. It took us a couple of months to schedule the event, and a couple of months to get our required deposit. In the meantime Renee of  Ohio Air Dogs was posting on national agility lists, marketing the seminar.

We began getting vague e-mails from a person who claimed we would have trouble collecting our fee. I asked Renee if this was going to be a problem. “We don’t have any problem paying our bills,” Renee responded. So we figured this was a disgruntled business competitor. I wish we’d been less trusting and paid closer attention.

The seminar took place in late April. It was a healthy, full seminar. Bud was handed a check to cover his fee and expenses on Sunday afternoon. I deposited the check on Monday. On Tuesday, Bud said, “oh yeah, Marie [Goodwin] at Ohio Air Dogs asked that we not deposit that check until Tuesday.”

Of course the check bounced. I felt bad, having deposited the check a day early, and accepted responsibility for the $10 fee charged by our bank.

Since then, while our lives have been occupied with classes and training our dogs, a drama has been running in the background — the first NSF check (and $10 fee charged to us by our bank), 10 e-mails, 2 phone calls, a promise for a replacement check, 10 days of driving to post office looking for check, more phone calls and e-mails, 10 days of a “paypal” promise, a mythical e-check, 10 more days of watching my new paypal account for money that was never going to arrive, more phone calls and e-mails, a promise for a certified check, 10 more days of hearing about how the check was mailed with insufficient postage and driving to the post office looking for the payment.

All the time being barraged with untruths served up so fast that I don’t think Marie Goodwin of Ohio Air Dogs actually allowed them to register as lies before speaking.

For example, when asked why the replacement check or the certified check never arrived at our post office Marie answered, “I stopped payment on those checks!” Well I don’t think that vaporizes them — the envelope should still arrive in the mail — if it ever existed.

One Saturday I sat by the phone for 7 hours waiting for a phone call from Marie’s bank. We were going to do an electronic funds transfer and I asked her to have her bank call me for routing numbers and account numbers. Of course I never got that call.

So, by early June, I recognized I was dealing with a pathological liar who had no intention of ever paying us for anything.

Bud, on the other hand, having spent six weeks on more productive and joyful pursuits, came fresh to the issue and contacted Marie at Ohio Air Dogs and proposed a payment schedule. He asked for one current check to cover the expenses charged to our credit card, and 3 post-dated checks to cover the seminar fee.

Marie at Ohio Air Dogs immediately agreed to this arrangement. We hung up the phone with Bud feeling hopeful and me feeling resigned. (On a sidebar, we asked for checks dated 6/8, 7/1, 8/1, and 9/1. We got checks dated 6/18, 7/18, 8/18, and 9/18.)

Immediately the phone rang. Marie at Ohio Air Dogs said, “Bud, you could really help me out here. I do border collie rescue and have this puppy given to me by the breeder. His sire is xx from England [or Scotland, or whatever, I stopped registering details after the hundredth lie] and he’s got a really nice pedigree. I don’t charge for my rescues, I just try to find them the best homes.”

While I was vigorously shaking my head “NO!!!” Bud agreed to pick up the puppy at the same time as the four checks. There were two reasons I didn’t want this pup from Marie — 1) I tend to forge close bonds to rescue folks from whom I get dogs, and I didn’t trust Marie enough to want to start building that bond,  and  2) we had just adopted Haymitch, gotten Phoenix neutered, ended our weeknight classes, dealing with this debt, and our life was already whirling.

Django entered our lives. We love him, but it’s been hard for me because of the events leading up to his arrival. It’s like having prime rib served to you on a garbage can lid. My attitude was skewed by the presentation. But he’s a sweet pup. (According to Marie, he’s gone from being a left-over pup in her rescue to being a $1000 pup with a line of people waiting to buy him. No explanation as to why she didn’t sell him to one of the people waiting for him and pay her bills.)

Since Django arrived we’ve been barraged with phone calls and e-mails from Marie at Ohio Air Dogs asking for updates on his progress. How much progress can a 10-12-week old pup make? He’s seen our vet for all his shots and I’m trying to get his eyes to stop producing matter.

I finally wrote to Marie saying, “I’m preparing to deposit your first check covering Bud’s expenses. When your check clears we will e-mail an update on Django.” I thought it was a positive move, and a polite effort to let her know she needed to prepare her bank account.

Marie was incensed. I was holding a puppy as ransom and putting conditions on puppy updates. “This puppy was not in any way connected to the money!”  I was surprised on two fronts — 1) Marie at Ohio Air Dogs was disconnecting the puppy from the debt when I really expected her to screw us for the money and claim the puppy was valued at $1700,  and  2) Marie admitted she owed us money!  Of course, the check (for Bud’s expenses) bounced.

So now we have to decide whether it’s worth the effort to try to squeeze blood out of a turnip. I think Ohio Air Dogs is so mismanaged that they won’t actually exist for very long. They’re probably bouncing checks all over northern Ohio.

I’m going to publish this blog. This is going on Facebook as well.

I’ve contacted Ohio Air Dogs’ professional sanctioning organizations (APDT, American Treibball Assn, and Skyhoundz) to lodge a complaint I’m going to keep checking Ohio Air Dogs’ calendar and send a detailed letter to anyone who gets hired to do training at their facility.

We have discontinued phone conversations (which can’t be documented) and flag e-mail correspondence from Marie Goodwin and Renee Roth at Ohio Air Dogs in North Royalton, Ohio.

If you have a relationship with this group, beware. I’m certain Marie Goodwin will be telling everyone she talks to about those horrible Houstons and how we stole a puppy from her. Folks in Ohio, and all across the United States, know Bud and I. You’re all aware of our conscientious dealings with regards to business, seminars, camps, finances, and (especially) dogs.

In this relationship-based community all you have is your reputation. With a bad reputation, and with a history of failing to pay for services rendered, or failing to provide services paid for, small dog-training businesses fail and disappear.

In the meantime here’s your update Marie — Django is doing fine. He’ll be neutered when he turns 6 months old because we don’t breed dogs. He’ll be a fine agility dog because we’re fine dog trainers and he’s a biddable boy. If you ever pay us the $1720 + $10 + $10 you owe us, you’ll get pictures a couple times a year along with regular updates.

2-minute dog trainer – training 2 dogs simultaneously

June 22, 2012

The second check from a local dog-training business has bounced. Bud’s been stiffed for a seminar fee AND all his expenses related to an April 21-22 seminar. The seminar was full and healthy. My blog addressing our frustration with this issue is in the works.

In other news — I realize I’m taking on a lot, adding Haymitch, a little chihuahua / corgi mix to our pack when Phoenix is only 6 months old.

But I have the time, now that we’ve formally closed our training center (we do just camps, seminars, private lessons, and building rentals), and I’ve noticed that my priorities are changing again.

My primary interest is training Phoenix, though Haymitch will probably enter a trial ring several months earlier than Phoenix.

My goal with Phoenix is to develop distance and speed skills which will allow him to move at his natural speed while I move slowly.

My goal with Haymitch is to develop obstacle skills, and confidence skills, which will allow him to attend TDAA trials and have some fun.

The dogs are really on two different training tracks. I’m interested in knowing if any of my readers have experienced this, and how you tracked progress.

2-minute dog trainer – kickin’ into high gear

June 8, 2012

Bud and I have always had multiple dogs. As many as 10 at one time.

As our seniors began passing our pack diminished to three dogs. Then we added Tempest for four, but I had lots of time for training and we were able to travel with the entire pack.

Then we lost Tempest and were back to three dogs, with a gaping hole where Mr.T had been.

Phoenix arrived and bumped us back up to four dogs, and I threw myself into training him and preparing him for travel and trialing.

Last week Margaret Hendershot came through on a request from a year ago. She’s involved with Multiple Breed Rescue here in Ohio and I’d asked her to keep an eye pealed for my next teacup dog.

So wee Haymitch arrived 9 days ago and fit right into the pack. My goals for him aren’t as specific, and he’s a quick study, so I started some training and will be taking it nice and slow. He’s over a year old, seems to be housetrained, is learning his new name and is clingy, so he’s not much of a chore.

But Haymitch bumped us to five dogs, so we now need to return to the days of arranging for a dog-sitter when we travel. I wasn’t too worried though, as Phoenix isn’t old enough for trialing for a year, and Haymitch isn’t going anywhere soon.

However, yesterday, with a flurry of black puppy fuzz, our world exploded around Django, Bud’s new BC puppy.

Django was an unexpected surprise. We weren’t shopping or even looking. And, if we were, he probably wouldn’t have been our choice.

Okay, so here are his positives. He likes food and toys. He gets along great with the other dogs. He grins (which I ADORE). He’s fearless, humble, and lovable.

Here are his negatives. He’s huge. And he’s going to get bigger than any other dog in our pack. His feet, at 12 weeks of age, are bigger than Kory’s, Phoenix’s, or Dash’s feet. They’re all 40-45 pounds. Django is going to be an enormous border collie.  And he’s long-haired. I was just getting to the point where my old canister sweeper was able to keep the balls of hair at bay.

Some folks love all things puppy. I’m more a fan of the adolescent dog. So Django has no power over me.

Did I tell you he grins?? ….. [sigh, as my heart melts]

Now our training has to kick into high gear. We have two dogs who don’t know how to eat with the group. They leave their own bowl to visit others. Just that fact makes for a hectic mealtime.

Mealtime training, for me, may mean that my young dogs eat at separate times.

2-minute dog trainer – environment and attitude

June 6, 2012

Today’s topic is attitude, and I’d like to take aim on the effect stress, pressure, and environment have on attitude.

Let me start by saying I don’t think anyone in our chosen sport of dog agility, or any other activity for that matter, sets out to have a negative attitude and to inflict said negative attitude on others.

At agility trials or classes I want to be a great leader to my dog, a great friend to my trial buddies, a great customer to the trial committee,and a great mentor to my students.

I offer treats to my dogs, I offer to videotape friends’ runs, I offer to work classes, and I tell my students “just come find me if you have any questions!” All with a smile and a happy attitude.

And then the tight schedule starts shoving me around. I’m conflicted between two rings, my dog drops a bar, the gate steward questions why I showed up late-she’s-been-calling-for-me, the volunteer coordinator asks me to bar-set in the other ring while I’m waiting to run my dog, and all that lovely, positive attitude can go up in a puff of smoke.

My attitude affects others, starting with my dog and ending with everyone around me, so I strive to stay upbeat. So does everyone else, and sometimes you can see the strain on their faces from the effort. <g>

It’s not enough to say I’ll work hard to keep that positive attitude. Sometimes I have to put mechanisms in place to maintain it.

First, on trial weekends, I must make sure to get enough sleep and water. If I’m tired or thirsty, outside influences have an opportunity to ruin my day. I get to bed several hours earlier than usual, and set the coffee pot to turn itself on before I awake so I can get my first cup without delay.

Second, whenever possible, I make a flattering or complimentary comment to a friend or student. It doesn’t have to be “you’ve got the best dog ever, and you’re the most amazing agility handler.” Just something little that I notice about them, their dog, or their performance, is often enough to help brighten my attitude (maybe theirs as well).

Third, I attempt to get quiet time. I’ll take my dog for a potty trip and hang out somewhere quiet. I’ll pick up my copy of the premium or running order, and pretend to study it. I’ll study course maps and visualize flow.

Fourth, when I’m working for the trial committee I focus on the job and exist in the moment. If my distraction, fidgeting, clock-watching, or irritation ruin a dog’s performance (or put undue stress on a handler) I feel terrible. And there’s nothing that ruins a happy attitude like guilt.

Fifth, I share with my dog the positive, excited, feelings we practice at each mealtime training session. Even when circumstances influence me to be stressed or upset, my training practice helps me spend 5 minutes being happy.

A positive attitude isn’t something that comes naturally to all of us.

But I have practiced the journey to that happy place often enough that I can easily find my way. I just have to want to make it so, and I do.