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Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the kennel
Not a creature was stirring, save one wiggy spaniel.
The leashes were hung in the office with care,
Waiting for owners to return from afar.

The dogs were sacked out after a day full of play,
Stretched out in their runs and dreaming away.
My Lab and my pit bull following my lead,
We headed upstairs for some much deserved sleep.

When out on the curb there arose a commotion,
The kennel erupted– a bark-fueled explosion.
Down the stairwell I flew, and tried to begin
The impossible job of quieting the din.

Then unlocking the door and peering outside,
I struggled to take in a startling sight.
What to my eyes did appear through the storm,
But a sled and eight dogs parked in our loading zone.

Said I to the musher, “Please pardon me, sir,
You can’t leave that rig here, it’s creating a stir!
Besides, there’s two inches of snow on the ground.
Your sled will get towed, your dogs sent to the pound!”

He shook his head sadly and spat with a frown,
“Each damn year it gets harder to park in this town.
I’m beginning to think your Mayor makes laws
For no other reason than to fuck with Old Claus!”


Just over two months ago, I accepted an invitation to participate in SPARK Chicago’s pilot season of apprenticeships. No, it’s not a reality show. It’s a real life mentoring program, focused on encouraging middle school students in underserved neighborhoods to stay in school.

SPARK matches each student in the program with a professional in his or her chosen field of interest for an eight-week internship of sorts. The student visits the workplace for two hours once-a-week, learning what it actually takes to, say, be a lawyer, or an architect, or, in my case, a dog trainer. I did my best to keep it on the down-low that one doesn’t actually need a college diploma to train a dog, but also stressed the importance of education both generally and specifically, as it relates to training and caring for animals intelligently and running a business.

Over the course of the two-month apprenticeship, teacher and student are expected to work together on a final project for presentation at Discovery Night at the student’s school. Below is the final project that I and dog training apprentice Tatoiniya Alcorn from Dodge Renaissance Academy put together over the weeks she spent learning and assisting at See Spot Run.


My thanks to Mila, the American Bull Terrier who stars in the above video, and to Rue the Rottweiler puppy, who accompanied Tatoiniya on stage at Dodge Renaissance Academy, and helped her demonstrate a little bit of her newly acquired knowledge.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2011.

I opted against my umpteenth tetanus last night in the ER, figuring the hail stone that carved a v-shaped gash in my scalp was unlikely to be carrying the anaerobic bacteria. Plus I’m reasonably certain I got one around three years ago, following a redirected bite to the thigh from of a high-strung pit mix boarding at our kennel.

Here is a brief video of the very impressive hail storm, which lasted a good 20 minutes, took out two skylights and the windshields of all three of the vehicles in our outdoor lot, and damaged our roof extensively.

Luckily, no dogs were outside when the storm hit. And I only needed four stitches.

Below is a little of the damage inflicted. In hindsight, I’m glad we didn’t buy that new Element we were looking at a few months back.


Honda hood

No, but I do own this joint. By the way, nice coat.

We open the door here on Saturday mornings at 7:45 AM. Basic Obedience class starts promptly at 8:00 AM. My crack staff spotted this bad boy outside the kennel right before opening time, so took matters into their own hands and took him off the street for the day.

I am told he wasn’t hard to catch, although a little timid. I didn’t get a bad vibe off him later on when I stepped inside the run with a cot. A little fearful, possibly new to life outside his yard.

I’ll keep an eye out for signs in the neighborhood and see about having him checked for a chip. I’m thinking pit/rott mix, personally. Maybe around a year-plus old or so. His legs and feet are pretty thick.

If no chip and no signs, then I may be looking for takers.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2011.

Venturing outside the kennel Wednesday, I discovered that the snow had been distributed somewhat unevenly among the vehicles parked along our street. This one got more than its fair share in my estimation.

Luckily, its owner was equipped with a good shovel, and the patience of Job.

Gotta love the weather. Keeps you on your toes.

I understand we’re to expect more snow today, something on the order of 6 to 8 inches along with wind gusts up to 55 mph. I’m okay with that, but then, I don’t need to go anywhere.

My only complaint is that I finally wore through both knees of my trusty Carhartt overalls. I meant to order a new pair earlier in the season, but no matter. It is a minor glitch. Could be worse.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2011.

I first met Ed Szablewski in 1998, while apprenticing at K9 University. He and I worked some morning shifts together. One night, someone tossed a beagle puppy over the fence of K9 U’s exercise yard. Ed named it Moses and took it home. He’s currently got a 16-year-old Great Dane mix that keeps on ticking. Anyhow, good dog man.

After we all left K9 U, Ed went back to work for Orkin. I’m sure the pay was better, but Ed always seemed a little wistful about his days working in the kennel.

This afternoon he showed up at See Spot Run with a big grin…and a little dog–a beagle mix in fact–named Odie.

Ed slipped me his card, which reads

Ed Szablewski

Bed Bug Dog Handler


I am told that Odie, trained by Bill Whitstine of the Florida Canine Academy, is never wrong. All I know is that the chances of All Being Right With The World are currently a good deal higher, now that Ed and Odie are partners.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2010.

I knew if I waited long enough, the two summers I spent in art school would eventually pay off. (They probably paid off at the time, come to think of it, in arrogance, affectation, and invitations to performance art clubs.)

Anyhow, my latent creative skills lately came in handy while designing new signage for the old factory building that houses our kennel.

Thanks to KMorgan Photography for the great shots of Atlas and Bella Mae. And thanks to real-life artist (and senior staff member) Keith Herzik for the action shot of Emmie.

Oh, and thanks to Sign*A*Rama (shouldn’t that be Sign*O*Rama?) for taking my mad stack of barter dollars in exchange for some kickin’ new signs.

Above are the images that will be used for the series of double-sided banners across the second story. And below is a proof of the old-school aluminum letters that will project from the building’s face, just above the door.

NOTE: When in need of communicating one’s design concept to the person with the software to make it happen, nothing beats the drawing on a napkin for crystal clarity. You may find discussions of proportions and orientations (even exact measurements and precisely cropped images) elucidating, but not everyone is like you. Words like vertical, horizontal, boarderless, 3×6, and cropped-to-fit, may or may not mean the same thing to you as to the average sign designer. But the drawing on a napkin? Works every time.

Just ask the folks over at Alpine Outfitters, who now offer a new ADJUSTABLE Urban Trail Harness

for use with multiple dogs and for people who are uncomfortable with precise measuring.

That’s what I’m talking about. People uncomfortable with precise measuring. More on the subject of that particular demographic in a future post.

As for the new signs, they should be up within the next couple weeks, thus officially ending See Spot Run’s status as kennel incognito.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2010.

[UPDATE: After writing a letter informing ACS of the bad advice contained in their adoption packet, their head trainer has pledged to review and update all existing material.]

Astoundingly poor advice on canine socialization, courtesy of Chicago’s Anti-Cruelty Society:

A normal greeting for dogs is to stand rigidly still while they sniff each other…. The hair, or hackles, on their backs may go up, the dogs may stand on tip-toe and they may mount each other. Again, this is all perfectly normal and should be allowed….

Expect some growling, pushing around and minor fights. Some fights look and sound ferocious, but allow them to continue. It is all normal and natural. This is how dogs settle their differences. Unless you see “blood and guts”, do not interfere.

…In the case of a severe fight, try to separate them by pulling each dog off balance by its hind legs…. Put each dog in a separate area for the next few hours, or days, and try it again once things have calmed down.

Yes, by all means, try again. After all, practice makes perfect!

The above gems may be found within The Anti-Cruelty Society’s mind-boggling handout titled Introducing a Dog to a Dog. It came my way via a new client, whose newly adopted dog in fact disagrees rather vehemently with the notion that growling, posturing, mounting, and minor skirmishes should be allowed to go on unchecked.

Coincidentally, this dog was also never assessed for dog-aggression prior to being adopted. Granted, aggression doesn’t seem to much alarm the good folks at Anti-Cruelty, but you’d think they’d give it a whirl anyhow, just to see what happens. After all, worst case scenario, they’d see some “blood and guts”, break up a few fights, and try again.

Or something.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2010.

Living along a near vacant industrial corridor has its perks. Check out what we found on our walk the other morning.

I’m guessing they fell off a ComEd truck, but who’s to say, really?

ComEd doesn’t seem too hot to retrieve them, either, so looking for suggestions that do not involve one day being arrested. So far I’m stuck at paperweight.


spot-check: to sample or investigate quickly or at random

My Thought Exactly

"There's facts about dogs, and there's opinions about them. The dogs have the facts, and the humans have the opinions." --J. Allen Boone

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© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ruth Crisler and Spot Check with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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