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In another photo, dating back to the '70s, seven dogs lounge in various positions around Fabricant's living room. "I just lived with them," she says of the dogs she rescued. "I never had to train them. They all just behaved." Her last two dogs, a German shepherd and a border collie, passed away in early March of this year. They were, respectively, 17 and 21 years old.
"My son died last August," Fabricant confides. "Shot in the head."
"Wow," I say, stunned. "It's really been a year of loss for you."
"Yeah. But losing the dogs was the worst of it. My son, he was in the Hell's Angels. You live by the sword, you die by the sword."
By that logic, one could deem dogs more worth defending than humans in general, and dog trainers in particular. "You could walk out in the street right now and say you're a dog trainer and start getting business. And no one would say you can't. You see trainers using these metal choke chains who don't know how to use them. These trainers - these idiots - they yank the hell out of the dog, and they end up with severe, irreparable throat damage." But the public is to blame, too: "People think a trainer's word is gospel," says Fabricant. "They forget that 90 percent of them are just in it for the money."
Steve Mendelsohn has a T-shirt that says, "The only thing two dog trainers can agree on is what the third dog trainer's doing wrong." Margolis' mentor, Captain Haggerty, says it a little differently: "If one guy trains dogs on top of the Empire State Building between 1 and 1:30 in the afternoon, then he'll say that's the only place to train dogs. Let me say the following: Matthew Margolis is not a god. I don't agree with everything he says. But he's extremely successful, and people hate him for that."
With all the controversy over Margolis' business dealings, there's scarcely time for anyone to discuss whether he can train a dog. Mendelsohn and Herstik say his training techniques are from the '50s, that his "love, praise and affection" training is in reality based on heavy-handed correction. Dan Tambourine of Training With Tambourine, which offers in-home and in-kennel training as well as weekly obedience classes at Urban Dog, says that Margolis' disdain for food rewards amounts to abuse. "Most 'traditional' trainers," says Tambourine - who refers frequently to the behavioral studies of B.F. Skinner - "profess to be caring, loving trainers who don't use punishment, but they're all liars. Not giving a food treat is punishment. Not giving a dog a pet is punishment." Haggerty defends his former student's dog-training abilities, but not even he buys the "love, praise and affection" advertising. "That's the salesman talking, not the dog trainer talking. Margolis uses whatever works."
Whatever works didn't work, however, on Lori Depp's German shepherds, Caesar and Boo, and by the end of her dealings with Margolis, she, too, was writing letters to the Channel 2 Action Team hoping to inspire an expose. The day she sprung the pair from Grace Konosky German Shepherd Rescue, they were out of control. "If I'd have been on skis," she says, "I'd have been to my car in two seconds." After 14 weeks (at $9,700) in Margolis' kennel, they were still out of control. Six months ago, Boo dragged Depp halfway down the block on her back, and if she wants to take either dog to the vet, she has to pay someone to help her load the dogs in the car.
"So if he's such a good trainer," I ask Haggerty, whose huge, bald presence is an icon in the dog world, "how could a dog spend 14 weeks in Margolis' kennel and come home untrained?"
"My initial off-the-top-of-my-head reaction is that the owner is completely spastic, or the dog is a complete outlaw," he says. "I can't believe he would spend 14 weeks with a dog and not train it."
"The truth is that those dogs are beautifully trained," Margolis insists. According to him, it was Depp who failed by not working her dogs at home. "There's only so much a dog trainer can do," he says. "It's like the piano teacher - you can't make the person pra