Saturday, June 14, 2014

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Glenn K. Currie

Sometimes love is defined by the sacrifices we are willing to make for others. I feel that myself in seeing the willingness of friends and family to put up with me and my mood swings as I go through radiation therapy.

It is also apparent in the love we have for our pets and the things we will go through to make their lives a little better and also to allow us to maintain our sanity as we deal with their issues.

I wrote Smelly Dog Story (Granite Grumblings: Life in the “Live Free or Die” State, 2011)  a few years ago when we had a miniature poodle given to us. I hope you have some fun with this little story.

Glenn K. Currie


Smelly Dog Story


My recent experiences have led me to believe that the range of specialist care in our community leaves much to be desired. In particular I am referring to the areas of dermatology and cardiac, ophthalmologic and psychiatric expertise. The result has been to create a situation where the patients have to travel miles for special care and where the loved ones are subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. I am, of course, referring to the level of specialist care for the dogs of our fair city.

Let me give you just one example of how onerous this situation can be for dog owners and their little friends.

A few years ago we acquired custody of an old dog. He came to us via my mother-in-law, who greatly loves him, but is not currently in a position to care for him. This dog, a miniature poodle named Cromwell, is of gentle, friendly and lovable disposition, but I fear, limited intelligence. (Perhaps an unfair observation based on his willingness to eat rocks and pistachio nut shells).

He is, as I have said, an old dog currently in his sixteenth year, and he shares many of the problems familiar to humans of a comparable age. One particularly troubling issue that he had, however, was that he really stunk. I am not talking about your ordinary wet dog, skunk encounter or rolling in doodoo smell. We were looking at melt the furniture, burn the clothing type odor.

We tried everything. We used doggie-sized odor eaters, sprayed him with Febreze and hung little bottles of Renuzit around his neck. We bathed him in shampoo that smelled like tropical fruit, until it got on him and then gave off the odor of five-day-old flounder. We knew it was getting bad when two Jehovah’s Witnesses nearly passed out just standing at our front door. (Interestingly, we haven’t had any more visits from this group.)

Finally one of the general practitioners in town, while wearing a mask, suggested we take him to a doggie dermatologist in Hanover. This was my first realization that such specialists existed, but you can imagine my disappointment to find that she was an hour away.

In desperation we decided to make the trip. We loaded Crom into the car and began the loooong journey. In the first five minutes we realized we needed gas, and Susanne and I raced to see who would get out first to refuel the car and thus enjoy the relatively wholesome odor of gas fumes for a few minutes. I won, but she is still bitter.

Once we were on our way, it became apparent that although the temperature was twenty-two degrees, we would be making the trip with the windows and the sunroof open. Several passing cars slowed and stared at the sight of two humans hanging their heads out the windows while the dog sat at quiet attention in the back seat. (Cromwell would have joined us, I am sure, except that his back legs are no longer strong enough to support him getting up to the window.)

In Hanover, the doggie dermatologist gave him antibiotics, a special vegetable diet (yum!), and more different shampoos. She also suggested we see a doggie ophthalmologist in Boston and a doggie psychiatrist somewhere in Connecticut (I think). I suggested we leave the dog with her for observation, but she just gave me one of those little smiles that said, “don’t even go there”.

We (barely) survived the trip back and the dog’s odor has gradually returned to the more normal level of “meadow muffin ripe”.

My point in relating all of this is that because we don’t have these specialists available in Concord, Susanne and I were forced to make a very perilous trip to Hanover, during which we could have passed out at any moment, endangering ourselves, our pet and other drivers.

I am sure other pet owners have faced similar daunting experiences. We need to have these services available locally. I can tell you from personal experience that there is a pressing need for doggie psychiatrists, and an hour is too far to drive when green fumes start emanating from your pet.

I call on dog owners of the city to unite and demand these services for our community.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

As the world has become more and more computer savvy, there seems to have been a major decline in people skills. Nobody has the time to be a real person when there is so much going on in the world behind our smart phones.

But it isn’t just the fact that most of us no longer have the time to get to know our neighbors or even our fellow workers. Businesses no longer have the time to know their customers. The pressure to accomplish all of our needs on the internet has become overwhelming. Social Security checks must be deposited electronically, and taxes paid the same way. Good luck ever talking with a real person as we fall into the deep well of resolving business issues with a major corporation.

I wrote the following piece a few years ago but, if anything, the problem has gotten worse. Good luck in Searching for Customer Service (Granite Grumblings: Life in the Live Free or Die State,  2011, Snap Screen Press).

Glenn K. Currie


Searching for Customer Service

New Hampshire used to be a plain-speaking, down-to-earth place where we did business with a nod and a handshake. We sorted out our customer service problems directly. If we had a question, needed to change an address or wanted to discuss an issue, we picked up the phone and talked to a real live New Hampshire person. Life was simple.

The demise of customer service really occurred when some evil geniuses invented the “decision tree” automatic answering systems. These systems suddenly provided both corporate America and government bureaucracies with an unlimited number of degrees of separation from the customer. They found that extensive use of these devices almost completely eliminated any real communication with the customer. For many of these companies, the systems have allowed them to replace their customer service departments with a well-trained cockatoo, and reassign critical human resources to such pressing issues as developing new bonus plans and redesigning forms.

Installing these systems has resulted in dramatically reducing customer complaints. This has been accomplished by initiating a diabolically clever war of attrition with the consumer. The first assault is to task the caller with fifty or sixty button-pushing decisions. Hardly anyone over sixty is going to even remember why they called after being put through eight decision trees. This immediately eliminates many of the callers who don’t have enough spare time to actually proceed through this jungle.

Unfortunately, I was faced with an issue that could only be resolved directly, and I was forced to continue through this maze. The next step in the process was to be told that I would be allowed to speak to a real person in “x” number of minutes. I learned after the first couple of tries to multiply this number by six. A word of caution to novices: if the first waiting time they give you is more that ten minutes, that is their secret code for  “we have gone home for the night”. Do not try to outwait them in this circumstance because the phone is automatically programmed to disconnect you after eight minutes. Their final ploy while you are waiting is to assault you with a carefully selected assortment of brain-numbing music, designed to turn you into a vegetable. This will leave you on an IQ level with whomever you finally speak to. 

I survived this test by just leaving the phone off the hook on my desk until I heard a voice. When I finally reached a live person, I explained that I was calling to have the phone company disconnect a phone that was in the name of my recently deceased father. I was told in broken English that they would only speak to my father regarding this issue, and then they hung up. Accepting this challenge in the true New Hampshire spirit, I redialed, went through the whole process again and then told them I was my father and I needed to cancel my phone because I was dead.

They were fine with that. Given the waiting periods involved with these systems, it probably happens to them all the time.