(For other tips on how not to find a job, send me $29.99 and a self-addressed stamped envelope, and then another $29.99, followed by a third and final payment of $29.99.)
But back to The Dog Lady. (That’s not her in the photo; it’s a woman in Montana who knits with dog hair.)
A reader wrote the following to The Dog Lady:
“As a small-business owner, I recently was looking to hire a counter clerk with some technical know-how. I had quite a few applicants, including a woman I was keen to employ. In the second interview, however, she arrived wearing a striking wool vest, which she said she had knitted from the fur of her Bernese mountain dog.
This led to a long discussion of how she collected the sloughed dog fur, sent it away to be spun into yarn and knitted the sweater. It was too much information and kind of disgusted me. I ended up not hiring her and have felt guilty ever since. What’s your take on people who knit their pet? — Amy
The Dog Lady, aka Monica Collins, notes that people who make clothing from the sheddings of their dog may be perceived as eccentric — even though it’s really not that different from clothing made from the harvested fur of sheep.
Dog Lady, who refers to herself in the third person, says she personally ”cannot imagine wearing a garment knit from the hair of her dog.” But she gives the knitter points for inventiveness — even if the dog hair vest might not be included in most “what to wear for a job interview” tipsheets.
And she tells the letter writer: “As a business owner, you are free to hire whom you choose. And in this free country, there are no laws on the books pertaining to those who discriminate against people who wear dog hair couture to the workplace.”
Being an expert on unemployment, if not dogs, and having addressed this issue before, I would add this. Knitting clothing items from dog hair — though a lot of work — isn’t that new or unusual. Wearing them is not really all that freakish.
But given the country’s job situation, it might be best to wait on wearing fashions made from Fido, at least until you get the job, and it’s Bring Your Dog to Work Day.
(Photo: Larry Beckner / Great Falls Tribune)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 8th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advice, animals, applicants, attire, bernese mountain dog, bizarre, cleveland plain dealer, clothing, column, dog, dogs, eccentric, employers, employment, etiquette, fur, hair, how-to, impressions, job seeking, jobs, knit, knitters, knitting, monica collins, pets, proper, seeking, sheddings, sweaters, the dog lady, vests, yarn
I’m as absorbed with taxidermy and its variations as the next guy (unless that next guy is Charles “Speedy” Atkins), especially when it comes to using it to preserve our pets.
I was fascinated enough to make it a chapter in my book, and curious enough to take a peek at “American Stuffers,” Animal Planet’s new series that each week follows people who are getting their pets, to use the common but erroneous nomenclature, “stuffed.”
But do I want to watch it every week? No.
“Stuffers,” I think, falls into the ever-expanding category of shows we watch to see humans behaving bizarrely — so strangely that we, by comparison, feel normal. You know the ones I’m talking about, those that focus on dysfunctional, obsessive, extreme behavior, like hoarding, kiddie beauty pageants, excessive tattooing, or just the travails of being a punk on the shore of New Jersey.
Flipping the remote these days, it sometimes seem as if Jerry Springer is choreographing what’s on every channel.
The Learning Channel, despite its name, has become one of the worst offenders — offering nearly a steady diet of human dysfunction. Animal Planet, despite its name, is getting more that way too.
I’ll admit that I’ve always been drawn to the bizarre behavers among us, but what makes them interesting to me is why they’ve become that way and the ramifications of it. Those aspects, and any context at all, are almost always missing from these shows, be they weekly series or pseudo-documentaries. Rather than advancing knowledge, they simply gawk. They just put the camera on the oddballs, and we learn nothing except what we already knew: People are weird.
Net gain: Zero.
“American Stuffers” centers on a taxidermy shop in Romance, Arkansas — one the show incorrectly describes as the only one of its type — where Daniel Ross freeze dries dead pets for bereaved owners.
Ross is founder and owner of Xtreme Taxidermy, which he operates with assistance from his wife LaDawn and his three sons. There seems a steady, sideshow-like stream of customers, and a steady stream of drama — real and manufactured — as he freeze dries pets and unveils them in their finished poses to their owners.
The show airs Thursdays at 10 p.m.
“While nothing can bring back these animals, Daniel and his artistic team attempt to come as close as science and art can allow,” Animal Planet says on the show’s website. “They recreate the illusion of life, and clients return home with their pets for eternity.”
That science these days allows much more than freeze-drying is shown in my book, “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry.”
But the book also looks at how, through history, our inability to part with our pets has led us down some other strange roads, including stuffing them.
“Stuffing,” in the 1800s, was an apt name for the process. Almost every town had a tanner, who would cater to hunters seeking to memorialize their kills. They would remove the innards and sew up the carcasses, filling them with rags, straw, paper and cotton, then use sticks and brooms to beat the animal into something resembling its original shape.
By the early 20th century, taxidermy had become far more sophisticated. Mounts of the original animal were made of wood, wire and later plastic, and the animals pelt was stretched over it.
Freeze drying, an invention of the 1970s, began being used by some taxidermists by the late 1990s, including one in West Virginia, Perpetual Pet, who was featured in my book. The process involves removing the animal’s organs, posing it in the desired position, freezing it and then putting it in a vacuum chamber that removes all the moisture.
The point, as with Victorian-era pet portraiture (sometimes painted after an animal was deceased), as with modern day “digital photo urns,” and as with the most technologically advanced method of all, cloning, is the same — to keep at least a semblance of a departed animal around.
It was while researching “DOG, INC.” that I came across the story of Charles “Speedy” Atkins, who, though he died in 1928 in Paducah, Kentucky, remained above earth, intact and upright (when leaned against a wall) well into the 1990s.
Atkins was an active 50-year-old bachelor. His nickname was said by some to have stemmed from his work habits at a local tobacco factory, but others maintain it described his way with the ladies. He drowned one day while fishing on the Ohio River.
His body was taken to the black-owned funeral home in Paducah operated by A.Z. Hamock, who, inspired by methods the Egyptians used on mummies, had been experimenting with ways to preserve bodies for longer periods.
Speedy wasn’t stuffed, but he was pumped full of Hamock’s secret long-lasting embalming fluid. Hamock’s motivations were practical: Preserving a body with the fluid would allow him to wait for the families of his clients, usually poor, to raise enough money for the funeral.
No family ever came for Speedy, though. And time didn’t reclaim him either. Hamock died in 1949, taking his secret formula with him. But Speedy Atkins stayed above the ground, pickled and preserved, for the next 66 years, most of which he spent stashed in a closet, though funeral home operators would sometimes put him on display for tourists.
He was finally buried in 1994. It was time, Hamock’s widow, Velma, decided. “Sixty-six years is a long time to be with somebody,” she said in an interview with Jet magazine, which covered the funeral.
“It was all an experiment, but it was a success,” she said. “Speedy’s never been duplicated, he’s the only one that we know of. He’s not stinking, nothing. The amazing thing is he hasn’t lost all of his features. He doesn’t look like a corpse laying up in the casket for 66 years.
“I never saw a dead man bring so much happiness to people.”
(Freeze dried pet photos of Tiny and Cisco, courtesy of Perpetual Pet.)
Posted by jwoestendiek January 25th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: american stuffers, animal planet, animals, arkansas, behavior, bereavement, bizarre, bodies, cadavers, charles atkins, cloning, corpses, customes, daniel ross, death, dog death, dogs, dysfunction, grief, human, kentucky, loss, memorials, memory, paducah, perpetual pet, pet death, pet preservation, pets, preservation, preserving, semblance, speedy, stuffed, stuffers, stuffing, taxidermist, taxidermy, television, xtreme taxidermy
It began in Coos Bay and ended in Gold Beach, and in between it was just plain weird, a day in which everything was slightly off, as if I was in some parallel universe — when actually it was just the coast of southern Oregon.
Like our previous days driving down Oregon’s coast, it was magically beautiful, but dotted in spots with a thick fog that obscured not just the view, but seemingly every human I ran into. Was it just me? You decide.
We left Coos Bay at noon, not sure how far we would drive. We passed through Bandon, a touristy town that seemed normal enough.
Later, seeing Cape Blanco State Park — and remembering that it is supposedly the last place to see the sun set in the 48 contiguous states — we decided to hang around for it, and seek lodgings in the next town, Port Orford.
Before we got there, we crossed a bridge over the Elk River. It was lined with cars — fishermen I assumed. But nobody was fishing. Instead all the people were leaning over the bridge railing, looking down. As it turns out, salmon were spawning, and maybe, when salmon spawn, humans — in some yet to be discovered cycle of nature — get a little strange, too.
I enjoyed a fine breakfast in Port Orford and talked to a man whose dog fell out of his truck.
Jake was his name — the dog, not the man — and he sat stoically in the rain in the bed of a Dodge pickup truck as his owner enjoyed chicken fried steak and eggs.
The dog’s owner was nice enough to recommend a dog friendly motel, so after breakfast I headed there, going up a road that promised, in big letters — really big letters — an ocean view. It wasn’t lying.
At the end of it, I turned right into the Hotel Castaway, I went into the office and attempted to confirm it was dog friendly. A vacuum cleaner was running in the back room, but eventually a man stepped out.
“What kind of dog?” he asked.
“A mutt,” I answered, fearing the breeds that make up Ace — Rottweiler, Akita, Chow and pitbull — might give him the wrong impression.
“A mix of what?” he asked.
“Different breeds,” I answered.
There was a long pause, and then he said, “Smoking?”
I told him a smoking room would be fine, but wasn’t a necessity.
“None of our rooms are smoking,” he said.
Finally, he quoted me a price — $79, which included a dog fee.
Charming as the place was, it was over my limit, so I headed to a second place that had been mentioned at breakfast. The sign on the door said closed, but the door was unlocked, so I stood in the office for five minutes. When no one showed up, I went to another motel, two buildings down. It was closed as well.
Back in the car I noticed another motel, the Port Orford Inn, which has a sign saying “pet friendly.” It also has signs saying “for sale” and “for rent.” It was a run-down looking place, with some of its windows boarded up.
The office was locked tight, so I approached two guys in the parking lot, who were loading their car up for a fishing trip.
“Do they rent rooms here?” I asked.
“Are you a fisherman?” one of them responded.
“No,” I said. “Is that a requirement?”
They explained that the motel was all but abandoned. There was a handyman who watched over it, but he wasn’t around. They stay there when they come to fish, apparently on a help-yourself, semi-squatting basis.
The man on the floor said I could stay with him in his room for $10.
“If you don’t mind kinking it, you could stay here. I could used the ten dollars for beer.”
Not knowing what “kinking it” was, I wasn’t sure whether I would mind it or not. My guess is he meant something similar to roughing it, but – not being sure, and not wanting to make a commitment to kinking it — I begged off, using Ace as an excuse. “Thanks, but you probably don’t want a dog in your room.”
He said that would be no problem, and sweetened the deal by saying the guys who were going out fishing would probably be coming back with some salmon we could eat. As I declined again, a few other people came out of rooms, and it seemed all of them had a strange look in their eyes — vacant and intense at the same time.
We departed and drove back up to Cape Blanco, passing some sheep with blue polka dots, to the very edge of the continent — to watch the sun not set.
After that, we kept heading south, passing through Humbug Mountain State Park, where the rain, fog and darkness, coupled with sheer cliffs, made driving tense.
Reaching Gold Beach, we opted for the Sand Dollar Inn, which proved to be both affordable and dog friendly and promised (but never delivered, at least not by 9 a.m.) a continental breakfast.
Before going into my room, I walked Ace up a road, where we encountered not one, but two black cats. They both crossed our path.
Back at my room, we encountered the man staying in the room next door. He wore shorts and a black t-shirt with a motorcycle on it. He liked standing inches away from the person he was talking to, and he liked to talk. His head was shaved and covered with nicks and his words — though I tried hard to make sense of them — made little. Interspersed with some understandable phrases were allusions to other things, and he frequently lapsed into a stream of consciousness babble.
“Why’d they try to do it, man? Why’d they try to accuse me of rape? Lucky dog with a cloth around his throat. He loves you. Why’d they try and do it man? Forty-seven Harley. Volkswagen bus. Like Bonnie and Clyde. Why’d they try to do it man. I love you, brother. You’re old. I’m old. Why’d they try and do it, man?”
He looked to be in his 40′s and, except for when he took a sip from his can of beer, his monologue was continual, and showed no signs of letting up.
I apologized and told him I had some things I needed to do, but that I’d come out and smoke a cigarette with him later.
Instead, I fell asleep, assured that nothing I could dream would be any weirder than the day had already been.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 18th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, behavior, bizarre, cape blanco, coast, coastal oregon, coos bay, dog, dog friendly, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, fishermen, fishing, gold beach, hells angels, human, lodging, motels, ocean view, oregon, pets, pickup truck, polka dotted sheep, port orford, road trip, salmon, spawning, strange, sunset, tourism, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace
Here’s an odd little story — and one that raises more questions than it answers –out of Chattanooga, where a dog apparently decided to eat a police car.
Police officer Clayton Holmes was sitting in his parked patrol car Sunday night — either to work on reports or to catch speeders on radar (the story seems to say both), when he suddenly felt his vehicle shaking.
He got out to investigate and found a bulldog had chewed two tires and the entire front bumper off the car.
(While cynics will wonder how the dog was able to consume so much of the police car so quickly, and speculate the officer was napping, we would never suggest such a thing.)
When another police car arrived, the dog attacked it, as well as two cars belonging to citizens who were driving by, police say.
Officers used pepper spray and a tazer on the dog, but neither seemed to faze it. Eventually McKamey Animal Center personnel responded to the scene and managed to capture the bulldog (how they did so isn’t described).
They also took into custody two other dogs that they say had managed to get through a fence of a nearby welding shop.
The owner of the dogs, Nancy Emerling, was issued a citation.
(Click for an updated version of this story)
(Photo: Chattanooga Police Department)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 16th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: attacked, attacks, bizarre, bumper, car, chattanooga, chewed, chews, citation, dog, dogs, eats, mckamey animal center, nancy emerling, news, odd, officer, patrol, police, radar, seized, speeders, squad car, taser, taxer, tennessee, tires, vehicle
A California man was treated and released after being shot in the back by his dog.
The unidentified 53-year-old man was hunting in Merced County when he set the safety on his loaded shotgun and put it on the ground while he grabbed his decoy ducks, according to the Fresno Bee.
Merced County sheriff’s officials say the hunter’s black Lab stepped on the loaded shotgun, causing the safety to release and the gun to fire.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 1st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accident, animals, back, bizarre, black lab, california, dog, dogs, ducks, game, hunt, hunter, hunting, lab, labrador retriever, merced, news, pets, sheriff, shoots, shot, shotgun, weird