Adventures in Pet Sitting
© Copyright 2018 by Terri Rimmer
After pet sitting for years on my own for friends and family I decided to officially try my hand through a local pet service in Sept. 2003.
have since gone on to work for two other pet sitting services since
that time but these are just some of the interesting things that I
experienced before that.
As if I hadn't had enough adventures on my own, I had no idea my new job would involve skinned knees, leash rope burn, jogging after wayward animals, coordinating alarm codes to match my walk around a house, matching personalities to duties, and coaxing jealous furry siblings to at least tolerate one another while the other one ate.
After meeting my new boss at a home for the first of many training sessions, I convinced myself that this was a piece of cake since I'd done pet sitting on my own for many years and couldn't be shocked at much.
I was wrong.
My first client was a couple embarking on their wedding /honeymoon trip whose dogs stayed outside in a kennel at the bottom of a steep hill next to a swimming when the owners weren't home. Every trip there was like the famous slide scene from "Romancing the Stone" when Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas found themselves mud surfing down a slippery mountainside. Once I made the mistake of sitting by the pool with the dogs thinking it'd be relaxing until one of the dogs tried to hump my back.
My next client was a wealthy couple with a dopey huge puppy and a newborn kitten, the latter they'd just gotten before taking off on a trip. Needless to say that dog walked me instead of me walking her and the quest was always on to find out exactly where she went in the rain while in her backyard. This dog, a peanut butter addict, had a penchant for playing with toilet lid covers and tearing her rubber toys to shreds before attempting to seat her large frame in my lap on a regular basis. While I stressed out at first as to how I was going to get this large thing in her indoor kennel nightly, luckily it soon became like second nature as I made a game out of it for her while the frightened kitten looked on from the safety of her bedroom perch. The dog also liked to "assist" me every time I got ready to write my notes by attempting to chew the pen and paper so as to leave her canine autograph.
There was a nearby client who wrote for the local paper and aptly named his dog after a certain journalism award. A computer expert client named his dog after himself linking the first and last names to form an unusual namesake no one could forget. A Cocker Spaniel, this dog was lonely and you weren't allowed to pet her till you took her out the back upon arriving – or else she'd pee in front of you.
An Avon rep who had two indoor cats, one who would like to get out and required medication at the time, became my next client.
"Have you ever pilled a cat?" my boss asked me ahead of time to which I told him I wasn't good at it and he gave me a ten-step set of instructions. I wound up being forced to break the pill up in her food after many attempts to medicate that cat via hand.
At Thanksgiving – the start of the busy period in pet sitting, I got a client who advised me not to walk her Dachshund and rescue Greyhound together because the little dog couldn't keep pace with the big one. The Greyhound had Thunderphobia and I needed to leave a closet door open during a storm or if one was on the way so she could hide. She could also jump the fence and shortly before I came on board the client's neighbor found the dog roaming around a few streets over and brought her back to her thankful owner. Such a lovable dog but hated having her ears touched and became spooked on one walk when I stepped on a smashed plastic water jug by mistake. One extremely cold day I decided to move the heavy plants in from the front porch to the living room for fear they'd freeze. The next morning I was greeted with a dug up huge container of pink posies and piles of soil on the hardwood floor. And one of the dogs had a fascination with the client's makeup sponges as I would find them and often some odd item in different rooms.
One doctor who had cameras all over his property inside and out had a talented dog who could jump in the pool and retrieve tossed sticks, then swim to the side, get out with the stick and go back over and over. The dog would even go under water if need be. His comrade, a Garfield look-alike cat, otherwise known as "The Big E" by my boss, later gained so much weight he had to be lifted up on the counter to eat. The dog also liked retrieving stuffed animals from a guest room and loved to play tug of war with me as the human toy holding the pull toy.
And then there were the two male dogs, cutely named after two famous characters from a popular 1960s TV show. One you had to ignore after feeding him while he ate. The other, liked to try to eat everything he could get his hands on like at Christmas that year when in a flash of red he took his shared holiday stocking outside to eat. Luckily I retrieved it in time but not before it got muddy. Amazingly enough the client lived in an all-white furnished house but the dogs were quarantined to one area at night content with their toys and plush beds. This client, a store owner with a great sense of humor about her pets, was so sweet she gave me cookies at Christmas, a card, and a doggie-shaped door stop.
The most unusual client so far has been a couple who wouldn't let us in the house – not even for the setup meeting with my boss and me. Instead as we shivered in the December wind they introduced me to their aggressive outdoor dog who only took food and water from strangers via sliding it under the fence. The part Chow, part German Shepherd was gorgeous and had the potential to be a well-mannered dog but she was so scared of strangers, using a stick or other instrument became my saving grace when sliding food to her like a prisoner. I couldn't tell you anything about their indoor cat that the client's sister was taking care of – because they wouldn't let us in the house.
One of the most challenging clients had two dogs, a cat, and four fish tanks. The Lab Mix was very playful and liked to try to eat the Sheepdog's food. The Sheepdog, who was blind in his left eye, was scared of the vacuum, and had Marilyn Monroe hair, liked to chase the not-yet-ready for litter box cat around the house. The Lab thought the vacuum was a toy and would try to run away if he ever got out the front door though the owner said both dogs would come home if they got out. The cat had to be picked up to be let in and out because she was scared of the dogs. While I was gone I was instructed to leave the TV on "Animal Planet" only the first day I couldn't find that channel so we settled for Nickelodeon. I wondered if the dogs knew the difference in between me trying to "organize" the desk in the kitchen and trying to figure out who hid the mail where they couldn't eat it.
A former Hawaii resident, another client, had two cats and also wrote for the local paper. The feline Tabby brothers, both indoor cats, would try to get out and one might hide. The client told us they could even open doors. She left me homemade Christmas Cookies at the holidays with a sweet note. On each visit I had to put the miniature manger scenes under the Christmas back together and sweep up pine needles, both a result of what I like to call Kitty Olympics while I was gone.
Soon I was to get a mid-day client, a prissy fluffy white dog who looked like a movie star from the 40s in her finery of pale fur blowing up against a backdrop of the city park while she did "her business" every day at noon. She got a treat before and after her jaunt outside and loved the downtown condo life.
Another mid-afternoon client involved two huge dogs who got walked on nice days, two expensive breed cats, one indoor/outdoor cat, and two birds. I only had to say hi to the birds, nothing more as I meandered my way around the full house, tending to each animal.
I should mention that one of the most bizarre experiences I ever had pet sitting wasn't with one of my former employers at all but happened while sitting for a friend of mine who I had helped out many times previously without incident. She had just added another dog to her dog family and having recently lost one of her cats to illness, still had the cat's brother, Bob. The older dog had grown up with both cats with no problem but the newer dog, full of play, decided at 1 a.m. while I was gone, to indulge in some horrific cat trapping with the older dog's help. When I arrived a few hours later I was greeted with an eerie silence as I pushed open the bedroom door and was almost knocked down by the two "villains." There in one of the spare rooms lay Bob, motionless, lifeless, too still I knew.
"Bob?" I said, knowing there would be no answer.
In shock and sadness I called the 24-hour vet who told me after I'd already wrapped the cat up and put him in a trash bag to place his wrapped body in the freezer and call my friend on her cell phone. My friend asked me to get rid of the cat by putting him in a dumpster so with timidness I put the cat now in a trash bag in the trunk of my car and disposed of him, all the while expecting him to come back to life or something.
At Christmas one year I got the experience of handling a dog's Elizabethan collar – a device that was supposed to come off at night but the dog wasn't having any part of it. The next day I arrived to find the dog took the collar off herself while I was gone, tearing it up in the process.
Then years ago while I was pet sitting for my sister in Florida, her cat disappeared for five days only to be found by my sister upon her return. The cat was sitting casually on a lady's porch, not a care in the world. The lady, who my sister likened to a witch, very creepy, said something along the lines of "I've got my husband buried in the backyard."
With that, my sister gingerly picked up her cat and said, "I'll just be taking her home now. Thank you." That cat took a few days to get back to "normal" after that adventure.
A few years ago I pet sat for a friend of mine who has two dogs, two cats, and fish. The kitten, blind in one eye, thinks she's a dog and the other cat has finally warmed up to the two-year-old little boy. While they were gone on a nine-day trip I thought I contaminated their fish tank after the kitten knocked something into the water before I could stop her. Turns out the kitten likes to mess with the tank regularly, swiping her furry paw into the waters while the alarmed finned creatures swim away.
During that same week I pet sat for two poodles, brothers who left shredded puppy pads in the living room for me one day, had treats all over the house, and were used to daytime talk shows in the mornings and music television at night. Every day they got a homemade peanut butter treat which consisted of the smeared "delicacy" placed on the tip of the Kong and frozen for a later delight.
Then one of my clients moved out of state, sadly for me. She had lost one of her cats to illness. The other liked to sit in this miniature Victorian-style cushioned chair while waiting to be fed.
miss them and will file them in my memory bank along with my other
precious, funny, scary, and newsworthy pet sitting stories to be
revisited often with either a laugh or a smile.
Terri Rimmer has 34 years of journalism experience, having worked for ten newspapers and some magazines. She wrote for associatedcontent.com, later bought out by Yahoo Voices from 2005-2012. Ms. Rimmer published her e-book "MacKenzie's Hope" on booklocker.com under the family heading. It's also listed on adopting.com. On Feb. 11, 2018 her column “51 to 15” was published by Fifty Is The New Fifty.