It was language.
Since this profession came about during the years I was living in the Bible Belt, west of the Mississippi and south of of the Appalachian Trail, English was pretty much the spoken language.
Dialects and regional intonations , on their own, can be a burden to one not raised around these here parts. I got my self tongue tied frequently, which left the other person adrift in a land of "what the hell, is she gettin' at"?
This job was vastly different from all others, in that the dogs were not "pets." Definitely not the sharing the couch, in the annual family Christmas photograph and name on bowls and water dishes kind of companions. I can't really explain to you, their place within the family hierarchy, but when I entered the home for first interview, the four dogs occupied kennels, chain link, tall and secured. One entire wall of the entry way was dedicated to their location where they slept and ate.
Outside, there were larger kennels with water bowls, where I was instructed to take them for an hour's exercise three times per day. This job came to me upon recommendation of an area veterinarian as the owners were leaving to meet a dog which was being flown in from overseas.
I remember a Golden Retriever and a smaller terrier, whose names I can not recall. This story is about Baron, a magnificent German, German Shepherd. His breed is not to be confused with the American German Shepherd, which is generally smaller, with a sloped spine towards its hindquarters and has a sweeter disposition.
Instructions were easy enough. Each dog, one at a time, leashed and walked outside to the back yard.
Released for exercise and then re-leashed and put in the outside kennel for the remainder of the visit.
At the end of the hour, reverse with everyone back to their inside kennel.
Watching the owner do it, I thought "easy enough". I accepted the weekend job and taking my mental notes with me, drove home until Friday morning. Days would be long as the drive from my home to theirs was thirty minutes. It was summer, so dawn would come about six o'clock and I would need to be en route by five.
Walking in and remembering where the light switch was, gave me a minute to get organized. First dog was eager to go. Open kennel, leash dog, close kennel, open pocket doors to family room, pass through, open back door, walk dog to lawn and release. After several minutes of his lapping around the cavernous yard, I called him back to the patio, re -leashed him and walked him to the outside kennel about a football stadium length from the pool. Repeat (twice).
It went well; the whole process took about eighty minutes and my confidence surfaced. I wrote a quick note on the pad they left me with emergency contact information. Leaving the owners a journal was part of my business ethics. If anything out of the ordinary occurred, the incident would be documented in the notes and could be taken to vet if required.
All went well until that first evening's visit. First two followed protocol; Baron decided to ignore me. I was fifty something years old, about 140 pounds. Baron was maybe four and weighed the same as me. Trouble was, he had two legs to every one of mine. He ran and darted about the yard with no intention of obeying the list of commands I had been given.
Just a side note, that list was in English and German.
I called the owner and it was suggested that he liked peanut butter on milk bones. Okay. Sweet!
Found the jar and box, dipped the biscuit in the jar and approached Baron. He sat, sniffed and took off in the opposite direction and this game went on for twenty minutes. It was dark, and the neighborhood had gone to bed or so I thought.
I repeated the dipping and offering and he repeated the feigned interest and disappeared from view.
I verbalized every command, approached him, laid a trail of the treats and sat down.
He approached and ate the treat, came closer and rewarded himself again and again until he was within reach. I took his leash in hand and said "Good Boy". Bent down to hook it and he took off.
Okay, now i't almost eleven P. M. and this has to stop. So I say "Baron, setzen." Or at least I think I did.
I repeated it, louder and firmer. No response.
I heard someone call over the fence "Lady, it's pronounced "ZetZen" You're saying "Scheissen".
Which means something entirely different.
Ah, linguistics, the root of all problems between a dog and his sitter.