Monday, February 4, 2019

Size Matters

I want you to understand that when bringing a dog into your home as a permanent companion, you must consider more than what books publish veterinarians advise and shelters hope for.

Let's look closer at the bonding experiences you will encounter. . .

What goes in comes out. Visualize a potter's wheel and the lump of unformed clay. The clay represents what is being served in that favorite doggie's bowl. Now imagine reshaping that lump appropriately into pieces. So size matters.

When purchasing furniture to accommodate your exact measurements,  lumbar support, color scheme and durability, consider the probability that your companion will claim it as his own. You may scoff at my insistence, but I have decades of experience on this subject. If your animal sheds, you're going to have a longer list. Don't be fooled into thinking a big dog can't possibly fit into Grandma's petite antique rocking chair. I have a ninety four pound weimaraner who will easily disprove your theory. Beds a re a challenge for smaller breeds to navigate, but that's why doggie steps were invented.
If you have a man cave with generous size furnishings, you're going to be amazed how adaptable the fine leather sofa is to the dog. Leather, being a little slippery, will allow the paws to dangle just below the seam line. Again, size matters.

Now this is going to be a little personal, but consider it you must. If you are prone to immodesty in your bathroom, I caution you that dogs which stand thirty inches or taller will want to keep you company in there. While the shorter ones (the dachshund comes to mind) may sniff from knees on down, those on the other end of the spectrum will send you shrieking to find your bathrobe. Do you begin to sense a recurring there here?

The up close and personal does not stop with you. Be assured that anyone entering your space will receive the same generous greeting. Girl dogs are not more polite than their male counterparts.

Really big dogs like danes, wolfhounds and mastiffs will counter surf because they can. This talent is not limited to the long legged. . .if you keep chairs around the kitchen island, the little ones (not to be outdone) will manage to jump once for better viewing and then again, once they have targeted their prize, will jump to that final height and not until their curiosity has been sated will they consider the consequences of returning to the floor. Louver doors are no match for those who have a playful nature. Cabinets are not safe either. Laundry baskets, diaper pails and on the floor vegetable bins are irresistible.

Okay, you say, what about obedience training.  I respond "Good luck with that." Read the small print on that adoption agreement. Does it say "genetically bred to enhance your life without the mess"? And anyway, the smells and aromas in those commercial spaces or outdoor arenas where training ensues are vastly different from your personal home environment. Dogs have evolved from the wolf. The wolf hunts, it survives on its ability to smell, identify and conquer. What makes you think your piece of paper (framed and hung on that prominent wall in your home ) guarantees otherwise.

The examples are endless, really; even as far as accessorizing your car, moped, Spyder or bicycle basket. Size matters, personal space (inside and out) matters; yours and theirs. It's a challenge to share what was once yours and yours alone with a pair of twinkling eyes, a wet nose attached to four legs, and a tail. A dog changes everything. Be wise in listening to your heart or do what I do and get one in every size because the only thing where size does not matter is the heartfelt love between you. There is truly no measuring that.


I am just going to put it out there. People are not dogs. Dogs are not people and having shared my life with mine and yours, I realize they are just smarter. Which puts us a little further down on the
food chain.

I must intercede for the feline.  People are not cats. Cats are not people and having shared my life with nine and yours, I realize they are just smarter. Not as smart as the dogs, but none the less, their ranking puts us a little further down on the food chain. 

Take for example our obsession for celebrations.  We have w a a a y too many and add to that the cultural diversity of the human being, the number of excuses to memorialize, pay tribute to, honor, etc. becomes a google digit.

Being a semi-retired pet sitter, I often wonder what the animals think. In this section, I offer
what I believe they must sense about us as a specie.  

Chapter 1 - A Dog's Thanksgiving
Chapter II - A Cat's Birthday party
Chapter III - The Family Dog's 1st Christmas
Chapter IV - Halloween and the Grumpy Cat

A Dog's Thanksgiving

     Dogs celebrate Thanksgiving every single day. They are thankful for the sunrise because that means meal time is coming. They are thankful for mealtime because that leads to tine outdoors. And who would not be thankful for time with nature? Te excitement of activity, the anticipation of weather, and the movement of blades of grass or leaves falling to attract their attention gives cause to celebrate. They are thankful for the occasional walk because the blend of free sniff samples tell them about their neighborhood. They are thankful to come inside again and feel permanence and a sense of belonging. They are thankful for interactions with other animal companions and family through out their day. If they have been with themselves to wait until people come home, they are thankful for the reunion. They are thankful for a touch and a personal greeting that could not be mistaken for any human member. They are thankful for the freedom to follow in and out of every room in their home. They are thankful for sunset because that means that they will be settling into the evening routine with the promise of tomorrow's sunrise.
     Thanksgiving Day will come again next year. The stress of the day will be upon us in another 364 days. We will practice our hospitality (teaching children table manners), grocery shop in duress ( and if it's last minute, have to apologize for the pull apart rolls because there had been a run on crescents), clean house with a grumble (lay out the display towels), and exchange smiles and hugs with family and friends who twill take up the majority of our day off.
     Some of us will be truly thankful. Some of us need the excuse of the holiday to think outside of ourselves and celebrate. I would rather believe that I'm more like my dog. . .

A Cat's Birthday Party

     "Oh boy, look at the new toys!" said the family cat as she stretched her four legs from underneath the warmth of a morning nap. The unraveled spool of grosgrain ribbon was enticingly close and not an immediate concern of the person in the room. 
      Extending her left front paw in that direction, her nail made contact with the ribbed fabric and as she was trawling it ever closer for a look see, the person scolded, "Bad, kitty!" Retrieving the
ribbon from the edge of the table, she went back to measuring the wrapping paper. 
      "How rude", mused the feline and got up to get a better view of the person and her toys.
On the table was a mix of unwrapped boxes, gift bags (some with attached tags), rolls of
patterned paper and sheets of tissue paper to match the colored paper. There was a tape dispenser,
two pairs of scissors- one with a pinking edge, and an assortment of scented marking pens.
     The bounty was almost too much for the curios kitty.  Bounding upward in a silent arch, she landed smack in the middle of the action. "Bad, BAD Kitty," said the person and picked up the
furry detective to return her to the safety of the floor.
      Miffed but determined, the cat took another approach. This one in stages: from floor to chair, from chair to windowsill. Now she had the table top in full, unrestricted view.  She was so excited,
she let out a MEOW and jumped back on the table, being ever so careful to land at one edge so as not to invite another scolding,  That move didn't meet with disapproval, although the person narrowed her eyes to mere slits and pursed her lips.
      Sitting still with the exception of an agitated tail, the cat formed a new strategy. Knowing that whatever was going on would stop eventually, she would wait it out. The person couldn't possibly take all the toys away at once and when the opportunity opened up, whatever was in reach was fair game.
      A timer sounded and as the person left the table, heading to check on the cake in the oven, the cat snatched the shiny paper pompom and quickly took her prize to investigate it under the easy chair.  She knew she would be undisturbed for a little while. Well, it was fun for a minute as the last toss
landed the object in the flower arrangement.  Cats have wonderfully long memories and the last time a flower arrangement was disturbed, there was no catnip for a week.
      The person returned to the table and continued whatever she was doing. In the meantime,
the aroma of sweetness and the possibility of forbidden treats was in the other room. Cat headed there and with her pink nose leading the way, found the stash.  On the tiled kitchen table, lined up in rows and columns, were unfrosted cupcakes.  The icing had been left on the counter, as room temperature was alwaysadvised before frosting. 
      No boxed mixes in this house; everything was homemade. Naturally, a coating of flour was on the countertop, where the batter had been mixed. "Oooh," purred kitty. "Let's make a design!" and with no interruption from the person, a line of paw prints started on the counter and with one bound,
continued all over the table, being careful not to disturb the pattern of unfrosted treats.
      All of a sudden the cat, being thirsty and not wanting to go to the laundry room for water,
found the opened bottle of buttermilk.  Its opening was too small for a paw, but maybe if
she stood really close, she could lick the contents. It worked! She was happily consuming
the droplets of sweat creamery butter from the top when the person returned to check on the cooling
cupcakes and pull the cake from the oven. "BAD, BAD Kitty," said the woman. 
     Jumping across the double sink and landing on top of the refrigerator, kitty just turned her back
and preened. From that high viewpoint, something new caught her attention. Brightly wrapped boxes were neatly arranged on that same table. Pretty bows with jingle bells and curly-q ribbons, open bags with layers of noisy tissue paper and piles of confetti beckoned her.
     Being that the person was busy cleaning up the kitchen, kitty returned to the dining room
where she had even more toys to entertain her. sitting up, she began to swat at the wrapping, removing some of the bows from the packages. The bows fell to the floor and were gathered together into a pile. Stepping back to admire her treasure trove, the cat heard "That's it, into the laundry room with you!" 
      Oh well, it was time for another nap anyway. Some minutes later, the doorbell rang and a parade of people filed through the front door.  Everyone stood and admired the beautifully decorated
table and the pile of presents.  A little boy asked, "And where is the birthday kitty?"  "In time out", said the woman, "but you can go and get her."
     Kitty was placed in her basket which had been moved to a chair at the dining table.  Everyone was served dessert and took turns unwrapping the gifts to give to her.  The bounty included - cat grass,
balls, and feathered twine batons. There were several packets of edible treats and assorted catnip
toys. New dishes and nail clipper rounded out the thoughtful gifts. Kitty was passed from one guest to another and hugged and stroked. The little boy said, "I just love coming to Granny's. She has the best parties ever!"
      The birthday feline was one happy cat!  While she sat in the middle of the torn bits and pieces of paper, ribbons, and handwritten cards, the parade of people filed back out the front door. The woman picked up her companion, gave her a kiss and wished her "many more." Kitty could hardly wait for next year!

The Family Dog's First Christmas

     Through the bars, standing on the cold concrete floor which had been his home for seven years,
the old dog watched as the afternoon's last visitor passed by. He wished he could remember when the last one stopped and talked to him. He couldn't. Of course, with all the barking in neighboring kennels and those lined up across from him, he might not have heard any conversation at all. Backing
up to feel the edge of the makeshift bed, he circled once to the right, sniffed and laid down.
     "Here he is. Are you sure you wouldn't want a younger dog?" asked the volunteer. "Nope, I've been dreaming of this one", answered the crackling male voice. "Okay, he's been here a very long time, may not be social. I'm just making certain your decision is based on all the information we have on him." Smiling and bending down to scratch the head of the dog, the boy, took the rope from his pocket and made a loop. He gently placed the homemade leash over its head and gave it a tug.
"He thinks he's going for a walk. We always walk him before dinner. It's the only exercise he gets,"
said the familiar voice.  "What's his name?" asked the boy, age twelve with hair that was almost the same color as the coat of the dog.  "He doesn't have a legal name," she answered. "Good, I'm gonna call him Sunny, because his eyes are bright."
     The two joined an excited group of children and two adults in the waiting room. With the approval of his mom and dad, the group escorted the new family member to the waiting pick up truck. Sunny jumped in the bed of the dusty black two door, followed by the twelve-year-old, one four-year-old
and her favorite dolly. Two younger children joined the adults in the front seat.
     It was a bouncy trip up the county road which connected the humane society to town. Once they were back to paved roads, Sunny steadied himself between the two children and breathed in everything at once. His ear flaps made him look like he was flying!
     "We're home", squealed the two in the front seat. Sunny stepped down on to unfamiliar
green softness. It was cool, but not the sterile cool of the kennel floors. Children ran circles around him which caused excited barking. "Well, well", said the dad. He DOES have a voice after all. Sounds like a baritone!"
     "It's perfect, just like in my dream", said the official owner. "I'm gonna let him loose and see where he goes." Sunny sat down.
     The sun was setting, the wind was up and the dog's new bed was being warmed by the fire.
"I can't get him to move!" cried the little sister.  "He's gonna freeze stiff", she wailed.
"Maybe he's waiting for his leash," said Dad. "He's used to being tied to people. I will bring him in."
      "Let's sing carols", suggested Mom.  "After all, it's Christmas Eve and if you want Santa to find us,you're going to have to sing your loudest!"
       Sunny joined in and the faces usually grimaced with having to remember the lyrics, burst into hysterical laughter. Sunny's baritone voice could be heard over the combined laughter. He was telling Santa where to find them and not to bring any presents for him because he already had the most wonderful gift of his life - a family of his very own.


Perfect Match

     I don't understand how some people choose their companions and I am fascinated by the similarities between pet and pet owner.  Is the pairing the result of extensive knowledge about a breed or disposition prior to adding pet to human? Is it kismet?
     I suppose the answer is yes.That said, let's investigate further. Just for giggles or validation (if you're sensitive about the subject).
     I have more than a decade of pet sitting experience. In all cases, the animal companion(s) have shared great insight as to what really goes on behind closed doors. You know what's coming...
     It doesn't take any exhaustive research, just quality time with the animal, either engaged in a favorite activity or just spending quiet moments together- no conversation, just observation.
     Cats are a jinx in this study. They give absolutely no clue about their people, aloof at times and manipulative at others. I know. . .I have three at my house.
     As for rats, gerbils, birds, and fish. . .I need further study. I think I understand rats, raised two and would do it again in a heartbeat. Rosie and Whiskers were loving, loyal, and smart. They were the perfect personal companion to my daughter in her formative years. She felt absolutely bonded to those two. Well, bonded to those twelve, as one came pregnant. I must admit, I adored the mischief (proper name of a group)! My daughter was allowed to keep the adult female, the rest were returned to the retailer.
     Gerbils? Had one; named it after my father in law Enough said. John went to live in my daughter;s second grade classroom.
     Birds. . .don't want another. Cockatiels, love birds, parrot and parakeets stayed around for entertainment value, but I grew wary of the constant seed spitting in my hair routine. . .and the parrot didn't like women. The feathers were everywhere and the cats made everybody nervous.
     Let's get to dogs. . .they're the majority of my client's preferred species. The sheer quantity of purebreds and mutts are a delightful array of personalities and when well matched become the family mascot. Now I can't account for households with multiple breeds (of which I confess to reside). For this comparison, let's just stick to one breed per household.
     In my experience, I can tell you that the family dog is the mirror image of his/her owner. Sharing life with a dog allows your inner beauty, compassion and quirkiness to shine; and following are examples of my quiet observations:
     The football coach needed a mascot. The Golden retriever was a show stopper. Energetic, loyal, and read to run those stadium steps. . .
     Of course, I have several clients with beagles...they all have pianos.
     The family living the country life with oodles of back yard was matched with the Great Dane. They had a people couch and a Great Dane sofa. . .you wouldn't find that breed in a studio apartment.
     The young professional couple owned a pair of Shih Tzu. . .His and Hers. Small enough to play dress up (you think I'm KIDDING)? I can show you their costume chest of drawers. . .
     A middle school remedial reading teacher and her Basset/Labrador mix. The dog loved to curl up next to you as long as you read her a story.
     The teacup silky terrier and her mistress were perfect for each other. The only child was a teen age boy and the little dog provided that mother daughter bond. . .you know days together getting hair and nails done. The dog's nails had a little more glitter.
     The chocolate Labrador retriever and her master shared plaques and awards on an office wall. They were hung side by side, equal in their achievements: his for military prowess and his dog for her excellent bloodline and birding skills.
     Those with lap size dogs had lap size quilts and collections of almost completed crochet and knitting projects.
     Another Labrador, a golden this time ,was companion to a retired dual military couple. They were married later in life.  She was the answer to their prayers. They enjoyed fishing and their girl
was happy to tag along and she always rode inside the truck cab.
     Not that my brother was ever a client, but his female golden retriever, was the best conversation starter on campus. Quite a clever chick magnet if you ask me!
     The yorkie poo, energetic and eager to please, awaited reunion, at the end of the day, with her pet parent (a middle school physical education teacher). She kept vigil in the back yard to keep strangers at bay and allow her mistress time for a good nap; very necessary when teaching back to back classes of hormonal pre-teens.
     It's amazing to me that we are supposed to be the epitome of the intelligent species, and yet it takes an animal companion to really define who we are and give purpose to our days. The next time you pass a mirror, take a moment to study your reflection and pause to consider how lucky you were to find your perfect match.

Back Up Plan

 People and their animal companions have extra relationships that families without pets don't have.
Veterinarians, obedience trainers, groomers, and pet sitters make up the pet care industry. Sometimes pet owners need to make alternate arrangements.
      Glory and Sandy were long time clients of another pet sitter.  I was called because she couldn't commit to days the owners needed to be away.  I knew that the dogs would be confused to have another person caring for them. All I could do was my best.
     At the interview, I was sniffed at and ignored. It's challenging to step into another sitter's routine.
The owner tried her best to explain what had ALWAYS been the routine.  Well, that was good to know. I was not the other sitter.  I was me and the dogs would treat me as such - a total stranger.
     The home was in the same neighborhood of another client, so streets were familiar. Walking after dark would be safe for us and I was relieved as managing two big dogs in unfamiliar surroundings
was not what I wanted to do.
     Sandy was well "sand" color and a golden retriever.  Glory was a white Labrador. Neither one would be considered a lap dog, but Sandy didn't understand that.  The family room had a pair of couches facing each other and separated by a long coffee table. The "leg room" was narrow between table and couch.  I don't think the furniture arrangement had been moved - ever.  Some homes are like that because the people are comfortable with the arrangement or the people who hired an interior decorator never questioned the floor plan.
     I soon learned that the dogs had dibs on the couches.  It was perfectly alright for me to sit with them, but stretching out was not possible.  A retriever laying down is four times the width of the same dog in seated posture.  A Labrador is of similar configuration but has more girth.  There's just no people room. I wondered where the other sitter relaxed.  She was much taller than I was.
     There were other rooms to relax in. There was an office which resembled any movie set of a typical British library. The paneling was dark, the leather chairs were masculine and I believe the flooring was a complimentary neutral shade. I didn't feel comfortable in that room. A formal living room with french doors connecting to a patio was available to relax in, but the dogs didn't go in there. It was off limits to the casual house guest which left me guessing it was for cocktail parties.
     A very small eat in kitchen was also downstairs. The rest of the house remains a secret as I never ascended the stairs.
     All I remember, this many years later is that after I fed them, I would go out the kitchen door with them to the tennis court. There we could toss the ball around for some exercise. Walks followed that
activity and we would head to the street directly from the courts.
     I am in favor of symmetry.  The dogs were accustomed to walking TOGETHER. Sandy and Glory
had to teach me that my left hand was to hold both leashes and if one headed off, followed by her companion, I would soon be at the mercy of a combined one hundred pounds of stubborn dogs.
I tried to walk BETWEEN them. Nope, Glory would sit down and wait until I moved to the right. We went walking with curbs and driveways always on my left.  There was no way I was allowing them middle of the street privileges.
     Our first walk was easy.  They showed off.  I took notes,"Sandy on outside, Glory likes to sit down and watch for squirrels. "Sandy can jump on people. Glory barks at bicyclists." I felt ill equipped and that's not like me. I have never been out maneuvered by a dog. But these two were trying their best to train the new gal. I learned the rules and the next couple of days were uneventful.
     Once we got back to their home, everyone relaxed. Well, they relaxed. I washed the dog dishes, hung their leashes back up, wrote a few notes to the owner and left. I was on duty every five to six hours at my leisure. On my second day, I thought to stack the deck and had Milkbone treats in my pockets.  Okay, I cheated. A pet sitter has to have a few tricks up her sleeve. Twice each day, we would walk and by the time I said my final goodbye, my confidence was back.
     I don't really remember anything unusual or anecdotal about the rest of that job except. . . I did stop in a few days later and met the other pet sitter.  Apparently, I had interrupted a nap. She thanked me for filling in and gave me her business card. As she turned to close the front door, I noticed her back was completely covered in dog hair. Looks like the dogs knew how to share after all.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Fifteen Yard Penalty!

     Jake was in the dog world, what Fabio was in mine.  His coat of ruddy soft waves and perfect
layers of feathered back legs made him a vision of the breed standard. He was the soul mate of Coach's family and I had a couple of years employment with them. Coach was the high school football coach. I was the mom of a sophomore center lineman.
     Jake was three or four years old and in primo health when we met. His back yard had been interrupted with a two swing and teeter totter set. Jake needed more exercise than his fenced yard could accommodate. He also needed a team of wranglers to manage him on a simple leash.
     Coach and I reached a compromise. Jake was to wear a body harness for maximum control and I was to teach him how to walk on a leash.
     The retriever is a good natured breed; often the companion of young families. They are overtly friendly and not known for aggressive behavior. He was an easy going fellow. I never had to repeat a command. We adjusted to the new routine after a couple of mis-starts. Once the garage door opened,
seventy plus pounds of enthusiasm darted for the driveway. The rubber on the bottom of my sneakers left a trail on the concrete floor as evidence of my trying to keep him calm.
     A dog will train to the voice and gender of the trainer. If the owner is not the one training the animal, obedience may not come naturally. Thankfully, Jake was already accustom to voice directives and we began our regimen by practicing a handful of basic commands.
      Every couple of houses, we would practice "sit", "lie down", and "come". Introducing the "heel" command confused him. Being on a leash confused him. He was used to his neighborhood and the minimal supervision he had with Coach.
      I didn't see Jake frequently, but when I was hired, we would practice twice each day. He was never allowed in my car so any idea of taking him to an enclosed park, baseball diamond or
other secured area was not an option. We walked the streets of the neighborhood. When we jogged, the narrowness of the sidewalks required us to move to the street as the curbing dipped at each driveway. Sometimes too many cars were parked fender to fender and the rear bumper of the last car seemed to always have a trailer hitch. Leashes can get tangled on them. . . I'm just saying.
     Being a football mom, I was required to know the jargon. I was required to attend all home games and most importantly remain anonymous when seated with all the other football moms. As in any sport, the moms take all the credit. You'd suspect the dads were the rowdy proud ones. Well, I'm here to set the record straight. You don't mess with a football mother.
     Coach and I had a code of mutual respect. I didn't advise him on the strategy of the I formation and he didn't interfere with my efforts to keep Jake safe.
     To keep our exercise times stimulating, I would change directions mid block. Sometimes I would cross the street, other times I would simply reverse which was perfect for the "heel - stay" combination. We never got to the stage where I am supposed to release the leash and allow him
to respond just on verbal instructions. Having witnessed Jake's excitable stage when a cat appeared, I didn't dare separate from him.
     Our calm, predictable routine ended abruptly one afternoon. Rounding the last corner before crossing over, two dogs rushed us. They meant harm; all teeth, all muscle. They just appeared, streaking at high speed from the front of a house. Jake stopped, and then he froze and growled.
We were in a dangerous predicament and I began to scream. The owner rushed toward us, yelling
at the pair. They retreated, but not before Jake crossed the lawn. I got cussed out for trespassing!
What?  Not my fault. Not Jake's fault.
      My companion was trembling and admittedly I was wobbly in the knees. Once we felt safe to continue, I pulled out my phone and dialed Coach. I gave him the address, description of the dogs,
attitude of the dog owner, and that we were fine. I wanted to file a dangerous dog report with the local animal control. Coach asked me not to. He'd confront her.
      Future walks with Jake were always a little tense. I tried my best to forget the experience. Jake had his mind on other things. His calmness was reassuring.
      He learned to "heel".  I learned to forgive.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Fish Tales

       My neighborhood is the "east" subdivision.  There is a "west" one on the other side of the lake.
When we moved in twenty years ago, there was a rumor of an alligator living in the lake.  If I remember it, the casual warning issued us by the realtor was, "just make sure your kids fish from the north bank. Gator doesn't USUALLY cross the midline of the lake." Are you kidding?
      My client needed a quick weekend getaway. I don't remember many of the details, but as I was available and they were within walking distance. I took the job. Their home was lakeside. A cairn terrier, named "Pepper" and his cat, whose name escapes me, would be under my care and supervision for a few days.
      On the afternoon of the interview, I watched as the terrier was let outside and he didn't seem to
be interested in the water. The owner and I sat on the deck and concluded the q and a. She offered me some sweet tea and gave me the key.  Funny, I don't remember asking the client about the reptile.
     The back yard was sloped and only fenced on three sides. Neighboring backyards and those across the lake all had full perimeter fencing. THAT made me nervous!
      Their pets were territorial. The cat had the entire house. Pepper had claim to one easy chair in the family room and a spot on the kitchen floor with a placemat bordered in black paw prints. The scales were balanced because he also had the whole back yard. The master bedroom door was closed and locked, so I never found out who claimed that space. The cat's litter box was in the laundry room and her food bowls were atop the clothes dryer. When I tucked them in, I just said goodnight, made sure the nightlight was on and closed the door.
     Day number one, I was excited to bond with them, but after observing Pepper's non-stop scratching, I picked him up for a closer inspection. Holding Pepper and seated in his easy chair, I found fleas! Checking the cat, I found more fleas! That's fixable. I couldn't find any dog shampoo, so I put the dog in the tub and gave him a long soak in Dawn dish soap. He'd be okay for a couple of days. The cat, however, was totally water repellent. The claws came out, she hissed and I gave in. As evidence, I put a couple of the drowned fleas in a ziplock.
     When the dog went outside, so did his pet sitter. He never went to the water's edge. I stayed close and followed behind him, keeping one eye on the center of the lake. I tried to focus on the south
bank, but the overgrowth would not reveal its secrets. I thought I saw linear movement in the
very hot afternoon of day number two.
     The last day of this job began about thirty minutes past my snooze alarm. I showered, put on scrubs and a light jacket and headed up the street, around the cul-de-sac, and through their garage door. Breakfast had options as there were two leftover canned cat foods in the fridge. I chose fish. I don't think the cat had a preference. I scooped one-third cup of kibble for Pepper and sat down at the table to keep him company. The sprinklers were on, so we waited for the cycle to advance and the two of us went out and stood on the deck. There's a lot to investigate when the lawn is soaking wet, especially when the frogs are frolicking. That little cairn was on a mission to catch the frogs! He was simply outnumbered and gave up the hunt.
     Back inside, my hour's visit was up and I picked up the pet food bowls, washed them and left them to air dry on the counter.  After leaving a quick note as to the morning's activities, I headed out the garage door and pressed the garage keypad. Something in my gut told me to go back inside. The door was locked. Patting my pockets, I found my phone but not the house key. I had two options.
First, call the owner and hope there was a spare key in the garage. Second, call the owner and tell them I called a locksmith.
       I walked home to get my purse and car.  The twenty minutes I was quoted by the dispatcher at A to Z Locksmith turned into an hour. The doorknob was rekeyed and I paid the quoted rate, put the new key on my keyring and went back inside to check on Pepper.  He was visibly agitated and I let him back outside to run off his excess energy.
      That morning didn't go as planned! Thankfully the rest of the day was uneventful. Our last
visit was scheduled for just after dinner. I decided to take Pepper on a long walk, this time past MY house which gave my herd of dogs quite a surprise!
      My client was expected around dinner anyway, so I vacuumed, put the freshly laundered dog towel back in the cabinet and said goodbye. Lights on both their front porch and in the kitchen were switched on. I left Pepper to monitor from the front windowsill and the cat, being the official sentry, curled up and went to sleep in the middle of the hallway.
     I enjoyed working for my neighbor. I recognize her walking Pepper now and again. They prefer to keep across the street from my house. I suspect it is Pepper's choice.
     Maybe the thought of seeing that gator gave me a new appreciation for just letting things be and trust the wisdom of Mother Nature. Mutual respect is the basis of a community. Does a fence keep us in or does it keep us out? Maybe we don't need one. Pepper never thought he did.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Good Ole Boy

     He was seventeen when I met him. His mistress was the relative of two clients.  Being sisters, I expected the women to be similar.  Not even close.  One was redhead and introverted with daughter exhibiting the same social phobia.  The elder was blond with a long career in banking.  My client for the weekend was the middle sister and she was raven-haired and a local celebrity artist, who lived on the Intracoastal Waterway.
     Her dog, Charlie was a white lab. He loved his routine and his people. They loved him too and knowing he would be happiest at home, called their veterinarian for a referral.
     When I received the phone inquiry, I was asked, "Do you do nails?" I replied that I did not offer grooming services and further explained that I scheduled multiple home visits during the day,
     His life was quiet and at the time we met, he was asleep in the middle of the family room.  He woke up long enough to check me out and went right back to his nap. During my first minutes of the interview, she asked me, "Do you mind cleaning up after him? He has lost control and has accidents; especially when he gets up from sleeping." This complication comes with caring for very old dogs like Charlie.  I answered that I didn't mind as long as cleaning supplies were available.
     After the first meal, Charlie wanted to go out. Being somewhat wobbly, we walked together
through the patio, around the corner, through the half swing gate, and onto the lawn. The green
extended right to the shoreline and he headed to the dock like he had done all his life. On the way,
he stopped and looked for the squirrels and was hopeful that they had missed some of the peanuts
under the oak tree.
     I let him off the leash and went back to the patio to grab a handful of dried corn cobs. The previous days supply needed replacing. He waited and stood looking at the water.  I imagined his long memory was his closest friend.  We spent maybe fifteen minutes before heading back inside. Charlie had enough fresh air and was anxious to return to his nap. Being able to stay with him for most of the day allowed me to monitor his activity level.  I was prepared for the inevitable, but he gave no sign of declining health.  He would look up to see if I was there and finding that I had not moved to another part of his house, continued to drift in and out of dreams.
     The few days we were together, that first job\ gave me a new appreciation for the ordinary life.
Charlie loved his routine; it was comfortable. We were a good fit. He was needing an understanding pet sitter. His physical challenges did not define him.  He had integrity and patience. We spoke the same language and it came from the heart.
     He had another full year of predictable days and I had the great privilege to care for him.  He was a gracious mentor; his life lessons stay with me still.
     From the 1895 Poem "Judge Softly" - by Mary T. Lathrap

"Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load."

In this case, paw prints will do.