25 Jan


My illustrious pet-sitting career began as quite the lark. I’d been working as a veterinary technician for over seven years when I met a vet who seemed quite similar to myself. He enjoyed heavy metal, drinking beer and adult cartoons. We had so much in common! So when it came time for he and his wife to take a trip for their wedding anniversary I was the logical contender to stay at his house and watch his pets. No problem, I told him, piece of cake. I’d been over to his house before, had met all of these wonderful companion animals and thought I’d enjoy a week of watching his high def flat screen TV, drinking beer and hanging with his pack. As this job would teach me, nothing is ever quite what it seems when you are taking care of someone else’s pets.
One thing of note: he had ten pets, three dogs and seven cats. He’d brought two dogs and three cats to the marriage, his wife one dog and four cats. They got on famously, of that I must assure you; there was no problem regarding the dogs taking after the cats, but it meant the house was quite full. He told me that if he took on one more pet he’d have to apply for a kennel license.
The invaluable lesson I was to learn was that animals, like children, acted differently when someone else was in charge. My veterinarian buddy was the alpha-male of the house and his pets knew and respected that. I’ve never been an alpha anything. Houseplants don’t listen to me, much less cats and dogs. When I took over they perceived me as an easy mark.
The first sign of this was when I had dinner. I was making a frozen pizza and suddenly the twelve by fourteen space was filled with the lot of them, vying for room on the counters. Eerily, it reminded me of the movie ‘The Birds’. They just perched there, looking like a ravenous flock of vultures. I admit my efforts to shoo them were half-hearted at best; like I said, I’m not a very dominating presence. I tried to scare some loitering eight-year-old kids out of a store I worked at once and they laughed at me. And that was after I pulled the baseball bat out from under the counter and began swinging it around like a lunatic. So these guys were no different. When my meal was ready I found myself hiding in the bathroom, eating on the toilet. Outside the door I imagined I could hear their bellies rumbling, their chops slavering drool. Kitty paws appeared under the door, looking for any scrap that may fall within reach. Throughout my entire stay that was how I took my meals, hiding in one room or another. Now, when I’d hung-out with my buddy this had never happened, and it wasn’t because he yelled at them. Silently, they simply obeyed.
The next bit of business I must attribute to my own lack of awareness. Just that week I’d decided to quit smoking, so my head wasn’t quite where it should have been. I was trying to counteract the nicotine urges by drinking a lot of caffeine during the day and a lot of beer at night. Not a very brilliant idea, I have to tell you, as this made me crave cigarettes even more. I admit I was a bit on edge.
Plopped on the couch in a spot I’d claimed as my own, I sat watching Futurama DVD’s while sipping cold bottles of Grolsch. Since I was doing this for free food and beer (no actual money) I was making myself quite at home. Rest assured that these critters were getting their walks and meals and medications; I enjoyed these frothy beverages only after their care had been tended to. So it was that I vaguely noticed when one of the dogs brought forth the granddaddy of all chew bones, a rawhide monstrosity in the shape of a candy cane nearly two feet in length. To this day I have no idea what I was thinking (besides “God I want a cigarette, God I want a cigarette!”) as I let the three dogs have at it with reckless abandon. And have at they did; they devoured nearly all of it by the time I was ready for bed. I feel very irresponsible about this now because I really should have known better, and am very lucky that nothing worse than what happened transpired.
I awoke to take a pee around three in the morning and for some reason decided to look in on the dogs. Entering the living room where they had their beds, I stepped into a large pile (barefoot, of course) of something warm and chunky. Quickly backing away, I landed in another pile, and then another, and another as I made my way to the wall light switch. Once I could see I saw that the shag rug was covered in mound after mound of rawhide-laden puke. Seriously, it was fucking everywhere. My first reaction was to get mad (nicotine withdrawal is, truly, a bitch) and after yelling and cussing for a bit I decided I might as well get to it. This barf wasn’t going to clean itself up. The dogs watched me from their respective beds, not a one of them with a look of guilt in their eyes. And why should they? I was the idiot who let them eat the whole thing in the first place. In retrospect what I was grateful for later was that none of them got any stuck in their throat. Those rawhide chews can be quite nasty in that way. But, at the time, all I saw was the gallons and gallons of puke I had to clean up. It took me almost two hours.
My third lesson would later become advice I’d repeat to myself ad nauseum for future jobs, when pet-sitting became my primary occupation: no matter what instructions an owner imparts upon you about how they do something (or how their pet reacts to something) do it how you would do it, not how they would. For example: whenever an owner told me how they administered their pet’s medication and I followed suit, it never worked. I had to do it how I was accustomed to doing it or they would spit the pill out. Some told me to cradle their cat like a baby and simply drop the medication down their throat. Some claimed I could offer it like one would a treat. These methods never worked. Instead I had to use an industry standard ‘pillgun’ to get those suckers down.
So, in this case, my good friend told me his dogs were fine off-leash, that they were trained to always come when they were called. Once again I cannot emphasize enough: people’s pets will always do something else when someone different is in charge.
On one of our mid-morning strolls I decided to allow the boys (the dogs were all males) a little room to stretch their legs, so I unclipped them from their collars. Big mistake. At once they ran in three different directions, disappearing quickly. I spent the next hour running through the neighborhood, screaming my voice raw, in a state of semi-hysteria. When I at last corralled them I was so relieved I gave them all treats (instead of a reprimand) and vowed never to repeat that experience again.
And so the job went and the week passed and my friend returned. I told him everything, of course, and he had a good laugh. He told me he’d thought the dogs wouldn’t be able to get at the giant rawhide but wasn’t surprised at their cunning. He also marveled that they ran away when I turned them loose. His wife found it hilarious that I was forced to take my meals in the bathroom. We cracked three beers and toasted their continued good health and safe return. Sipping my beer, I had no idea that this would later be something I’d embark upon professionally, and be quite successful at it to boot. If you’d told me then I probably would have laughed in your face, judging by how badly I did on one of my first go-rounds. Well, the ability to have time to write necessitates many things, and sometimes we’ll do almost anything for it. That’s what it was for me, that’s why I wound up here. In the end it panned out and I wrote ‘The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World’, a rather lengthy tome I am quite proud of. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened had I gone down the other path and continued to grind away at the normal nine to five. Who knows?
For questions regarding my prices, my availability and just how much puke it takes to fill a five-gallon bucket (hint: five gallons) give me a call. Operators are standing by.


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