Have you ever been in a situation where you were really looking forward to a new experience, but when the time came, and you were deep in the thick of it, you realized you were in WAY over your head?
In an attempt to expand my travel horizons, while at the same time saving money, I decided to sign up with trustedhousesitters.com as a pet/house sitter. If you haven’t heard of this awesome service, you should look into it! Pet owners worldwide are looking for verified pet/house sitters who will watch their fur babies while they are on holiday. Meanwhile, you as the pet sitter get free accommodation while you explore a new part of the world.
I love animals, but I’m new to the pet sitting business. So I decided to give it a try on my home turf, first. I took care to make my profile top-notch, and after about a month, I landed my first house sit. A lovely young couple were vacationing in Hawaii over the Christmas holiday, and they needed someone to care for their two dogs, cat, and four chickens! All I had to do was feed the dogs and cat twice a day, walk the dogs twice a day, and feed/water the chickens once about every 3 days. Easy-peasy, right?
The last time I worked this hard over Christmas, I was 16 years old, schlepping questionably-made clothing at my local Kmart for a full 40 hour-week, because my boss knew I had a week off from school, and because he was a Nazi.
But my first house sit….I had a few days off from work…I figured I could get some serious blogging work done with all of this free time away from the distractions at home. In reality I would describe it as going from Little House on the Prairie to Night at the Museum.
I arrive in the evening (the pet parents have already left) to a dark house, an 85-pound puppy sporting the cone of shame, and a growling senior pup who is clearly wary of this new intruder. No worries, first things first.
FEED THEM. Feed ALL of them.
I feed both dogs and the cat at the same time. First rookie mistake. To add fuel to the fire, I have to put anti-inflammatory hip medication in the senior dog’s food….AND anti-biotics into the gargantuan pup’s food because….oh, guess what…gargantuan pup JUST had a bought of diarrhea the DAY BEFORE THEY LEFT FOR HAWAII.
I quickly learned that there was a distinct feeding hierarchy involved. The young dog eats WAY faster than the old dog. After scarfing down an entire bowl in 30 seconds he will promptly move to the old dog’s bowl while the old dog is still slowly chewing her kibble/wet food mix. With medication involved that was a tricky situation. Separate feedings, okay, got it! And yeah, cat’s the same way. If you don’t distract her with her own tasty food bowl first, she WILL eat the dog food, medication and all. NOT GOOD. I will avoid a kitty stomach-pump in my future at all costs.
Walking the Dogs
Y’know that oil and water analogy? The same holds true for a 2-year old full-grown puppy and a 13-year old dog’s walking habits. Saying they don’t beat to the same drum is putting it lightly. If you saw that lady down your street in North Portland walking two dogs with one arm stretched WAY in front and the other WAY behind like she’s trying some new-age yoga warrior 2 position….that’s me. Two months later, my right arm still aches in the cold from pulling too many muscles in an attempt to reign in the young dude, while at the same time dragging the old lady from behind. After that first day, I could barely lift my arms to wash my hair the next morning.
From the first walk the young dude was in control. I thank him profusely for leading me around the neighborhood, or rather, charging into battle as if he were cast in a Game of Thrones scene. He spared no expense in showing me the route, with old girl trailing behind, and damn if that dog didn’t seriously want to go to the dog park.
Every. Single. Time.
For most walks I stood my ground, insisting it was to be just a nice short jaunt around the block, just enough to do their business and get back indoors. Besides, old girl’s hips can’t run marathons like they used to.
On the (very) occasional walks where we did go to the park for some fetch time, I had to take so much gear along, I briefly contemplated hiring a Sherpa to help carry the load.
Chuck-It thrower. Ball. Treat Bag. Poop bags. Extra leash for when one of the dog’s accidentally pees on the first leash at the park. Bottled water for me. Bread crumbs for if we get lost. JK on that last one. But those visits to the dog park sure were fun, playing fetch and seeing the young dude get all worn out. Almost made me want my own dog.
Yeah, not really.
Time to look in on the chickens.
I gingerly approached the chicken coop. Instantly, I had flashbacks of childhood summers at my grandparents’ farm, where my grandmother would make me gather eggs in the chicken house. I was scared to death that the chickens would hack at my hand with their deadly beaks whilst trying to gather their precious eggs. So much so that I dropped a couple of eggs in a feeble attempt to avoid the pecking onslaught. Grandma was not amused.
But these were free-range chickens. Well, free range in a large cage as opposed to little compartments for each chicken. I ducked down to enter the cage, being careful to shoo a particularly pugnacious chicken who looked like she really wanted to bolt, while at the same time dodging any chicken poo, and checked on the water/food situation. There was feed in the bucket, and some water, but both were getting low. Time to fill up! The chicken feed was in the locked shed.
Googling How to Use 20th Century Technology
I hadn’t used a Master Lock since high school. In other words…a looooong time ago. Like, last century ago. They had given me the code, but damn if I couldn’t figure out how many rotations to make, and in which direction. I tried every single different rotation scenario I could think of. Nada. Meanwhile, young pup was behind me saying, “What is WRONG with you, lady? Why are we not inside the shed yet? I seriously need to sniff me some chicken feed!”
Exasperated, I went back inside and YouTubed how to work a damned Master Lock.
OH! Turn the dial an extra rotation AFTER the FIRST letter. OK!
After filling the feed/water, I checked around for eggs. Checked in the corners, and inside the little hen house at the top of the walking ramp. Nothing. Well, it was winter, and the lady of the house did mention that they don’t lay as much in the colder months. Fine.
Kitty was really hungry this morning. I opened my bedroom door and was taken aback when I saw her standing RIGHT THERE looking up at me.
I swear her declaration of woe lasted a full 10 seconds. I followed her downstairs, where she hopped up on the counter and another long howl ensued until she got her little bowl full of kibble. She’s adorable.
Ol’ girl wouldn’t eat much this morning, and her hip pills sat lonely along with the untouched kibble.
Shit. Can’t have her whimpering in discomfort all day.
So I decided to get creative and stick the pills in a dollop of peanut butter. She just looked at the dollop, looked at me, then walked away and plopped back down on her cushion.
Okay, I quietly scooped up the dollop with said pills and smeared it gently, little by little over her mouth. Reluctantly, she licked and swallowed. Repeat. Gulp, down goes the pills! Sheesh, that wasn’t so hard now, was it?
Then I took a photo of everyone and sent it to the parents in Hawaii letting them know what we were all still alive.
It’s been a couple of days, I should just check in on the chickens, even though they said I’d probably just need to fill the chicken feed bucket a couple of times over the 8-day period. As I approached the chicken coop, the little suckers are clucking louder than usual, and three out of the four are right at the door, eager to make their getaway. I manage to shoo them back as I peek into the feed bucket.
Holy crap, they ate an entire bucket in two days?!? I stand there, dumbfounded as they circle me menacingly. Shake it off, soldier! I grab the bucket and go to the shed to fill it. Back at the coop…they’re coming right for me! All four of them are crowding the entrance, their clucks getting more frantic. It was all I could do to toss the bucket in and quickly close the gate. If one of them escaped…I could just see myself chasing chickens around a dog-poop-filled yard, and having to grab them, wings flapping…no way was that going to happen! I’d rather lop of the head off one of those little suckers trying to get the gate closed than have to do THAT with the neighbors looking on, pointing and laughing.
Madly they descended on feed bucket as if it were a human sacrifice. Oy vey. I checked back about an hour later after the feeding frenzy had died down, to check for eggs. Nothing.
WHAT THE HELL, CHICKENS ?!?
You gorge yourselves on chicken feed for days on end, and then you have the audacity to not produce me eggs? Surely you must be constipated by now! Surely you must have an egg so large up your keisters that invasive surgery is needed! Or are you revolting? Because from the looks of this disgusting cage, you sure as hell are molting! Damn chickens.
Young pup and kitty are in fine form today. Man, that cat can hold her own. She does not take crap from no one. Up until now I have tolerated their harmless displays of bitch-slapping, with their little love bites and playful banter. But today they are going full-on at it with a rowdy game of cat and mou….uh…cat and dog. Full-grown pup chasing little kitty around the living room, into the dining room, underneath the table, knocking over chairs. When I catch young pup crouched completely on top of hissing cat with his growling mouth wide open, I intervene, and put him in his kennel for a time out. Can’t have a dead cat on my conscience. I don’t honestly think the dog would do serious harm to her….but yeah, not on my watch.
Today I had errands to run which took practically the whole day. So when I got back, the pups seriously had to go. I applaud old girl and her 13-year old bladder for holding it in for me! It was dark and raining, and I was tired, so no evening walk today, kiddos!
So I let them out in the back yard. Young dude bounded from the back deck, sniffed around some grassy patch, and proceeded to eat his own poop from a previous deposit.
I DID NOT need to see that.
And old girl does not like the rain. I had to drag her from the deck onto the grass so she wouldn’t piss all over the deck. After several minutes of me standing there in the cold rain, waiting for young dude to decide if he needed to do number two, after putting number two in the wrong end, he finally granted my wish. Now, get the hell inside, shit scarfer!
Then I decided to give kitty some more attention and play time with her catnip ball. Hmmm, not in her usual spots. The longer I don’t see her, the more frantic I become. I look under all available furniture in the entire house twice, before I move to the French doors at the back of the house, leading to the back yard. There she is, outside in the rain, forlornly looking inside. As I let her back in, she proceeds to give me her 10-second meow of protest. Sorry, sweetie.
I had to get up early to get back to work. So I dutifully fed everyone, and took the dogs for a quick walk. I gave the cat ten minutes of my undivided attention, which she seemed to appreciate. Then I hugged young pup before putting him in his kennel, and gave old girl an extra-long rubbing of the head.
“Goodbye ol’ girl, it was a pleasure to serve you.” I struggled to swallow the lump in my throat as I walked out the door.