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.