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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

April 18, 2013

Other People's Problems

By Elizabeth Creith

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I wonder if people who run clothing stores ever have to deal with a situation like this:

"Excuse me, but there's someone out there who is wearing a plaid scarf with a striped sweater! What are you going to do about it?”

As far as I know, the hairdressers next door, who also did facial waxing, were never faced with indignant passers-by demanding they do something about a bad haircut or a unibrow that the passerby had seen outside.

It seems to be the fate of pet store owners, however, to deal with Other People's Problems. Every now and again someone comes in, all a-sputter about someone else's failure to pick up after their dog, and expects us to deal with it.

Pet stores are expected to handle an array of problems
"There's a big pile of you-know-what down by the bank! You should go and pick it up!”

"Ma'am,” we respond, "the plaza manager has a guy who does maintenance and cleanup. You need to call him. Here's his number.”

"But you're a pet store! You should clean that up!”

Never mind that the pile of crap wasn't from our own dog, or that we hadn't sold the dog that left the pile, or that we don't sell dogs at all. In fact, the only way we could possibly be connected to that pile of poop—other than by stepping in it—is that we just might have sold the food it was made of.

When you open a pet store, you acquire other jobs that nobody ever tells you about: cheap vet substitute, animal behaviourist, dog-training expert, and poop picker-upper. Short of a plumber, I imagine pet stores are the only business where random strangers hold you responsible for someone else's crap. Plumbers, I may say, get paid more, and probably get more respect, too.

The other unexpected part of our business is wild-animal rescue. Let a bird hit a window anywhere in a six block radius and sooner or later it arrives on our counter, packed up with a towel in a cardboard box. The mother or father carrying the box is in tears, or near to it, and accompanied by one, two or three children, all solemn-faced and expectant that we can fix anything. It's touching and flattering to be considered so knowledgeable and powerful. It's also annoying.

First, we have quite a few expensive and exotic birds in the store. A sick wild bird could do a lot of damage to us, both financially and emotionally. Second, there's often little that can be done for a bird that has hit a window. You keep it quiet, and it will either quietly die, or quietly revive and begin flying around the room, panicking, pooping and possibly bashing its head against another window, in which case you're back to square one.

Inevitably, Mom and Moppets leave, having tearfully entrusted their find to our care. Inevitably, said bird makes a quick trip out to the back door, where we assess its chances. The ones who are going to revive have usually recovered enough to flutter off before their rescuers make it to the car. The others, if they're badly hurt, we put down.

Later, and also inevitably, Mom or Dad will return and ask about "their” bird. And this is the third reason it's annoying to be the wild-bird healers. We've become filthy liars.

"Oh,” we say, "he recovered nicely. We let him go an hour later and he flew off.”

Why do we do this? Because we hate to have people cry in the store. It's bad for business.  Also, we really don't get paid enough to be grief counsellors.

I'd sooner pick up dog poop, thank you.


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