The surprising thing about having kids is the ridiculous things you will do to make them happy. When my oldest was about 4, we decided that every kid deserves a dog so we acquired a beautiful golden retriever. He was the cutest little puff ball with these ginormous feet.

Over the years he, of course, got much bigger and because of his great personality was certainly a part of the family. My daughter and I would take him for walks and to the park to play fetch. One time when he was about a year old or so I let my daughter hold the leash while we were walking. He saw a squirrel and took off after it. I know it's kind of mean but I remember as soon as the end of the leash hit my daughter launched two feet in the air horizontal so her feet were up in the air where her head was.

It was devastating for her, but once I knew she was OK, I had the hardest time not laughing. He would smile when he met new people, which really made them nervous especially pizza delivery guys or mailmen. He would let us hug him when we cried or just be there for whatever we needed as a family. About two years ago he started having organs fail and they ran all sorts of tests but couldn't pinpoint what was wrong. He pretty quickly passed away. This was very devastating to my two daughters.

He had been a part of the family as long as either of them could remember. One day several months later, my daughters convinced me we needed another dog so we loaded up in the car and adopted a sweet little black lab. She on the other hand is like my youngest daughter and is just as ornery as she can be. I wonder if animals take the temperament of the ones they grow up with. My oldest daughter is sweet and loyal and tenacious just like our golden was and my youngest is fearless but will get into and try almost anything.


A few months went by and everybody got accustomed to each other when my little sister called and said her barn cat had kittens and wanted to know if we wanted one. My 7-year-old couldn't resist so we got a kitten. I made the mistake of not getting her fixed or rather I just kept meaning to do it and time got away from me so of course she ended up pregnant and had a litter of kittens. Out of the six, my daughters wouldn't let me get rid of four of them. If you are a parent of little girls you will understand how hard it is to say no to those little precious faces when the bottom lip comes out and they just melt your heart. Needless to say I am now in the middle of a cat-tastrophy with five cats, two daughters and a dog.

I think it is the responsibility of small business owners to give as much back to the community as they can. We support a local charity here in town called Colorful Closets. They provide outfits to children in need and organize and distribute tenderly used and new clothing for children and adolescents throughout the Amarillo area. They seek to fill this need for those in our area while also ministering to them with the hope of spreading the love of Christ. With that in mind, this month we are doing a seats and feets drive for socks and underwear. We ask anybody who would to bring new socks and underwear in any size to either our Paramount or 34th and Bell locations. Thanks in advance for helping us support this cause.

Dry cleaning is an unusual business. I think there are few people who dream of being a dry cleaner growing up or at least it wasn't something I had thought about. I graduated from Amarillo High in 1999 and immediately joined the Army, got married and had a kid. My plan was to be career military mostly because my grandfather had been a career officer.

My wife and I were immediately stationed at a little post in Germany, where we spent the next four years --- or at least she did. I was sent to Kosavo, Bulgaria, and finally as a part of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Needless to say when my initial five years was up we realized I had only been around for about six months of our then 4-year-old daughter's life.

So I didn't reenlist and instead we went to college. Then in 2010 I had the opportunity to go to Afghanistan and instruct the special forces on how to be soldiers and set up supply lines. It was an interesting time we lived on small forward operating bases and often times on Afghan bases. After four years or so, we decided it was time for me to come home. We wanted to achieve the dream of owning our own business, which is how we ended up becoming dry cleaners.
The first year was absolutely hectic. We had to learn everything involved from scratch with very little experience.

Luckily enough the first one we bought was just a small cleaners and it gave us the opportunity to learn every position from pressing suits and suit pants to blue jeans and men's shirts. We also had to learn the difference between man-made materials such as spandex and natural materials such as cotton.

Each material and even what weave is used to make the garment makes a difference on how it should be processed from the way it is cleaned to the way it is pressed. Several years and lots of experience later we can tell nearly everything we need to know just from the feel and look of a garment. If you have any questions I can address feel free to send them through the contact information we list at the end of my column each week.

David Koen is an Amarillo native who owns Doche Cleaners and is an active member of the Dry Cleaning and Laundry Institute. Learn more at dochecleanersamarillo.com

I was a part of the invasion force into Iraq in 2003. You will never understand the might of the U.S. military until you see it lined up at a border about to take over another country. I stood on top of my Humvee and looking as far as the eye could see in every direction were military vehicles and soldiers. We advanced across the country all the way to Tikret and then back down to Baghdad. After taking over the airport and the city, we were tasked with finding and retraining Iraqi police in a suburb of Baghdad.

This was an interesting time because Iraqi police like many other parts of the world do not work at night and will not investigate a crime without monetary incentive from the victims or their families. Needless to say trying to get them to operate like a western police force was difficult.

Thankfully since that time, my daily interactions with people are much more pleasant and as a dry cleaner I get to know each one of my customers and how their lives are and what their preferences are such as starch level or whether they want their blue jeans washed or dry cleaned.

We have some of the best customers, especially when they pull an interesting prank on us. We have a customer who came in and picked up one of his orders. While he was in the shop, he asked what we would charge to clean his chicken suit. This is not a question we get asked every day, as I'm sure you can imagine, so we quoted him a price we thought was fair. He agreed and said he would bring it in next time. The next time he came in we asked about the chicken suit. He advised us that a friend of his had borrowed it and ruined it. Our employees are thought it would be funny to attach some feathers to the outside of his order bag as a memorial to the destroyed chicken suit. A few weeks later the owner received this email from our website dochecleanersamarillo.com:

"Good afternoon!

A few weeks ago I dropped off a handmade comforter to be cleaned. I had forgotten to ask if you could repair a small rip in the material when I dropped it off. Due to this rip, it appears that a large number of feathers flew out of the comforter as it was being cleaned. Normally, this would not be a big deal to me, but these feathers were plucked from exotic western Peruvian peacocks. The feathers are highly valuable due to their many rainbow colors, water resistance, as well as their gentle touch. My hope is that you did not throw these feathers away and that I will be able to stuff them back into the comforter. Please give me a call and let me know if this option will fly with you.

Sincerely,
Rooster Eggelston"


This, of course, turned into hours of the owner looking through all of the recent comforter orders to find a Rooster Eggelston which, from the name, we should have surmised this was a prank.

Several days later the aforementioned customer came in with a new order and asked if we had received an unusual email, which he had sent. Touche, customer, touche.

David Koen as an Amarillo native who owns Doche Cleaders and is an active member of the Dry Cleaning and Laundry Institute. Learn more at dochecleanersamarillo.com