Tag Archives: Dogs

Dog-sitting in the Amazon

Last weekend, I witnessed another gruesome attack. Fortunately, I was not the victim this time, but it was still incredibly traumatizing:

On the tail end of a highly successful dog-sitting season, I accepted one final job to start saving for the upcoming opening of Tin Roof Louisville. It was a brief dog-sitting stint — just a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night– but I felt it would give me plenty of pocket change for the indefinite number of cheese quesadillas and Bud Heavy pitchers that would soon plague my bank account.

I arrived at the house around 6:00 last Friday evening ready to romp with the pups. As I put the key in the back door, I heard a rustling in the bushes behind me. I turned around to see a large frog jump out at me from underneath a nearby rock. At first I was startled, but the frog had assumed a fairly non-aggressive stance and so I gave him a slight nod of hello. We made eye contact with each other for a few more seconds, as I thought to myself, “this is awesome.” Surprisingly enough, we’ve never had frogs as pets, so I was eager to spend some quality, one-on-one time with this foreign critter.

Anxious to catch him before he hopped away, I ran in the house, grabbed the dogs and sprinted back outside like an 8-year-old boy scout embarking on a creek walk.

I lead the dogs around the perimeter of the frog as not to disturb him. Once I was certain we were alone, I bent down to offer him a finger of salutation.

I screamed. Sometime between my then and my arrival, a snake had decided my frog would make a much better snack than friend. The snake had the frog’s entire leg in its mouth and was dragging him towards a hole.

For a few seconds, I stood in shock. I’d never seen anything like this before. In fact, I’d never even seen a wild snake before. I didn’t think we had snakes in Louisville. Sure, I’d heard of Garden snakes, but where was the nearby garden? My deductive reasoning lead me to believe that this snake was bad news, probably an escapee or fugitive of some sort, so I scooped up a handful of rocks and began throwing them at the snake’s head.

“STOP IT! STOP IT!!”

It took me less than 10 seconds to launch into a full-on “PROTECT THIS HOUSE” battle with the snake (an instinct of mine that’s served me well in my lengthy dog-sitting career). I threw the rocks as hard as I could, but because I am like an 8-year-old boy scout in more ways than one, my impossibly soft-hitting rocks did not cause the snake much damage.

“Drop him! I said DROP HIM!” I leaped onto a nearby picnic table to initiate an aerial attack. From my lofty perch, I roared and threw any and all nearby objects as hard as my body would allow. I’m almost certain that any neighbors within earshot have reported back to the homeowners that I’d been abusing their dogs.

The snake was completely unbothered by my attempted attack and continued to swallow the frog inch by inch. At that point, I decided I’d better bring in some back-up. I called my mom — the science teacher — who at the time, I figured was as close to a snake handling expert as I’d ever find.

“Mom! I’m here and there’s a SNAKE eating a FROG. I don’t know what to do. Oh my god this is awful. I’ve been throwing rocks at the snake but it won’t let go!”

My mom hates these types of phone calls from me — she gets them more often than you’d think. About once or twice per month, she’ll answer the phone and I’ll immediately launch into a shrieking and crying episode, the subject of which is completely indiscernible. 9 times out of 10, she’ll assume I’ve been in a car accident, but it’s usually something more along the lines of accidentally taking the wrong highway or thinking about germs in a paper-cut.

“JOANNA! Go back inside. I mean it. Stop it. There’s nothing you can do. He’s gone, Jo. The frog is gone.”

“No he’s not! He’s not gone. He’s still alive, he’s looking at me!”

The snake — with the frog’s leg still in his mouth — was pulling the frog backwards into his cave of doom. The frog was clinging to rocks and branches, but he couldn’t grab hold of anything substantial. The whole time, the frog was staring me right in the eyes.

I then realized that I was literally the last thing this frog would ever see. One more glance at me, and he was off to the promise land. My sweaty, roaring face and bulging forehead vein would be the last thing to ever to grace his eyes. I did not feel comfortable with this responsibility, nor with the thought of leaving him with such an unflattering image of me at my worst angle. I hopped down from the picnic table and took a moment to review my appearance. For the frog’s sake, it wasn’t looking good. In a rush to leave the house, I’d thrown on my rattiest pair yoga pants (which, at least were black) and a dirty, homemade tie-dye t-shirt. I put the “rat” in Gym Rat, even though I hadn’t set foot within 5 miles of a gym.

I tried to calm myself down and adopted a more solemn, gentle expression. Out of respect, I brushed the cat hair off my yoga pants and flattened out my wrinkled tee. I rubbed my cheeks to even out my blotchy complexion, but it was pointless — in my unsuccessful attempt at spear-throwing, I’d already sweat off 2 of my 4 layers of bronzer.

“Mom, this is awful.”

“Joanna, I’m serious, stop looking at it. This is what snakes do. They need to eat too, you know? The frog is gone. It’s over. Stop looking at it.”

We argued for a few more minutes after I told her that this is not what snakes do because we only have vegetarian Garden snakes in the East End.

Frustrated with my logic and nervous at the all-to-possible idea of a self-sacrificing rescue stunt, my mom said, “It’s over. It’ll be quick. Go. Back. Inside.”

Resigned, I bid adieu to my poor frog. To my mom’s point, it looked like this was going to be anything but quick, but I wasn’t in the mood to argue. I thought about his wife, his kids, and I hoped they weren’t nearby to witness any of this. I said a little prayer for him and walked back inside.

I then called the homeowner to tell her that I’d arrived, and to briefly touch on the fact that she had a homicidal reptile living in her backyard.

“Hey, I’m here.”

“You’re where?”

“At the house. With the dogs.”

Silence.

“You weren’t supposed to come until tomorrow. You start Saturday, not Friday. We’re still here. I just left to run a few errands.”

“Christ. Well just so you know, there’s a snake eating a frog in your backyard.”

And it is with this story that I announce my semi-retirement from pet-sitting. While I do plan to take on the occasional job here and there, I’ve decided to put an end to traumatizing events such as this and spend more time with Buster in his twilight years of life.

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Walk of Shame

I just landed a 5-week dog-sitting gig. I’m excited to make some money, but I’m beginning to fear that my undergraduate degree was all for nothing. My mom thinks I should open a pet grooming salon or join a “club for people who like animals” (direct quote), and my sister thinks I should be a dog catcher. Clearly they’ve both lost confidence in my undergraduate degree as well. Don’t get me wrong, I love the pup I’m currently babysitting. She’s the only one of my friends who will willingly watch back-to-back episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 on SOAPnet with me. I dog-sat her at the beginning of the summer and when it was too hot to play outside, we’d spend our afternoons gossiping about Brian Austin Green while I groomed her. We’re still not sure how we feel about Donna Martin, but we definitely agree that Dylan is far too emotional to stomach on a daily basis. That, and he looks closer to his 40th birthday than his 18th. I feel the same way about him as I do Dawson from Dawson’s Creek. No one looked that old in my high school, and if they did, they were probably with the DEA.

For blogging purposes, I’ll refer to this pup as Whitney. Whitney is, hands down, my favorite dog to dog-sit (see Wolfsitting for the worst). I honestly did love spending time with Fritz and Hannah (mostly Fritz), especially on the days that they didn’t bring me animal carcasses or rotting hoofs. However, Whitney is remarkably low maintenance when compared to Fritz and Hannah, and I doubt she’ll require the Heimlich as often as my dear mole-eating Fritz.

Whitney is a huge, furry black dog and could easily be mistaken for an enormous teddy bear. She sleeps next to me in bed like a human and we often wake up nose-to-nose. It’s no wonder my allergies are borderline pink-eye material. She tips the scales at about 100 lbs, and while I love big animals, she can sometimes be a little too big for me to handle. The first time I watched her, she dragged me on my back across the hardwood floor because she was excited for her walk. I don’t take her for walks — she takes me for walks. She literally grabs the leash in her mouth and parades me around the neighborhood like I’m some young piece of meat. I feel so used. People point and laugh, or slow down as they drive by and say things like, “Oh, looks like she’s taking you for a walk!” Very clever.

Here I am at a young age taking a cat for a walk. Notice that the cat bears a strong resemblance to Buster. Destiny?

Then, Whitney poops in their lawn, putting an end to all friendly communication. When this happens, I either do one of two options:

Option A: Bend down and make a fuss, pretending to pick it up. Walk away quickly.

Option B: Theatrically pat my pockets in a desperate attempt to locate a spare bag. Obviously I don’t even carry bags. I then look horrified and painfully embarrassed, like this is the one time I forgot bags! How could I! If it feels right, I’ll sometimes look to the heavens in a gesture that says, “why me? why this day!?” I wince and mouth “shoot” (or any variation of the word, depending on the audience), then walk away, throwing a final glance over my shoulder to make sure no witness doubts my sense of regret.

It’s easily the best theatrical performance I’ve seen since Cats, a musical I used to be mildly obsessed with. In fact, I brought in the soundtrack one day for elementary school show-and-tell.

Sometimes I wonder if I had any friends.

Anyways, my mom caught on to my negligence when I brought the pup over to my house. I wanted to take Whitney for a walk, but we needed a change of scenery. That, and I didn’t want her neighbors to catch on to our hit-and-run routine. When my mom saw me walk out of the house sans pooper-scooper, she ran after me like a neighborhood watchman (my sister and I call her “safety captain,” stemming from the time she sat in our driveway and yelled at/chased down everyone who blew through the stop sign next to our house. There may or may not have been a megaphone involved).

“Don’t you dare leave without bags, Joanna!” She was actually mad at me. I finally caved and pocketed about 20 Kroger bags to ensure maximum hand coverage and minimal seepage potential. I would have pocketed a few latex gloves, but I’d used all of them applying my self tanner last Saturday.

Other than that, things have gone smoothly with Whitney. We’ve reached a pretty comfortable place in our relationship, and I’m happy with where things are. A few nights ago, we watched the season premiere of Two and a Half Men together. Neither of us are big fans of Ashton Kutcher, especially now that he looks like a long-haired Al Borland, but I felt it was important that we take part in such a historical television event.

(Part-)time to Shine

I finally caved and applied for a part-time job. 3 months ago, I never would have imagined I’d end up here. My naive optimism coupled with a brief One Tree Hill obsession lead me to believe that shortly after graduation, I’d be a young, hip professional, “doing lunch” downtown, grabbing drinks with coworkers, shopping at Banana Republic, and other sassy things. To be completely honest, I thought I’d have an iPhone by now. Since I can barely score an interview, let alone a decent paycheck, I applied for a part-time job working retail. Obviously I didn’t get it. How embarrassing. I blame it on the fact that I’ve never worked retail before, which is actually quite surprising considering my extensive work history. I’ve worked at a smoothie bar, a sandwich shop (where I wasn’t allowed to use the meat slicer), a tanning bed, a fruit basket company, a salon, a golf course, and a restaurant/bar. In my own defense, most of these were temporary summer positions. The golf course was an awesome job because I got to work with my friend Lauren. We were Beer Cart drivers and cruised around the course all day in golf carts. One afternoon I took a turn too fast, tipped over and cracked the cart window, but other than that things went pretty well.

The fruit basket company made “floral” arrangements out of fresh fruit. Monday through Friday, I’d sit in the kitchen from 9-4 putting grapes on toothpicks and watching soap operas. I didn’t choose to watch 4+ hours of daytime drama, but the older women I worked with loved their soaps and thus forced me to learn everything about them. The characters, the characters’ occupations, the dead characters, the dead characters who came back to life, the boyfriends, the girlfriends, the boyfriends and girlfriends who were actually plotting to kill each other… The list goes on. It was a total mess and I could barely focus on my toothpicking.

At first, things at the fruit shop were pretty uncomfortable. Especially after my father decided to pay me a surprise visit during my first few days of employment. My boss came into the back one day and told me that I had a visitor. I was mildly excited…. until my dad strolled into the kitchen wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Crocs. I couldn’t decide if I was more mortified by his presence or by his footwear. He whipped out his phone and starting taking pictures of me while I washed cantaloupes in the sink. For the record, this is very out of character for my dad — his behavior, not the Crocs. Unfortunately the Crocs are an everyday occurrence, no matter how many times I tell him that they make me nauseous.

Sunday was my time to shine. Sunday I was the delivery driver. I drove one of those huge, white, square delivery vans. I could barely see over the steering wheel. I needed the money, so I never told my boss that I had the navigational skills of toddler. I’ve lived in Louisville for most of my life, but I still don’t know how to get anywhere outside of a 5 mile radius around my house. My dad hates this about me and has threaten to confiscate my keys until I take a “map test” of Louisville roads. He decided to enforce this after I had to have a search party sent for me when I got lost on my way to field hockey camp. What a mess. I couldn’t take the bus with the rest of my team because I had to go to a wedding, so I decided to drive to camp by myself after the wedding. Long story short, I got on the wrong highway…. about 5 times. I ended up in a very strange, remote area and called my dad sobbing and screaming. Since I can’t decipher road signs, I couldn’t really tell him where I was or how I’d gotten there. He was still at the wedding, so he rounded up a couple of friends and sent a search party to come find me. My former tennis coach found me a few hours after my initial departure. I never made it to camp.

Back to the delivery driving. My boss could never understand why it took me so long to complete a round of deliveries, or why the gas tank was inexplicably low when I returned. I remember one time in particular I had to take a basket downtown. I realized I was on the wrong highway when I was about 1/4 of the way to Lexington. I called my dad (crying hysterically, of course) to figure out where I had gone wrong. He just sighed and told me that when I came home from work he would be taking my keys for good.

To make matters worse, I sometimes I had to deliver to some pretty dicey areas. One day in particular, I had a basket going to a woman who lived on a street so questionable that I was sure I’d need to hire a police escort. Our store policy mandated that before making any deliveries, we were to call the recipients to make sure that they would be home to accept the basket. I called the woman and began to explain about the delivery, and I asked her if there was a good time for me to drop off the basket. She said, “No! I’m busy today! I have to go get some juice!” We talked for a minute about juice, and then she gave me a detailed itinerary of all the activities she had planned for the day.

Our relationship took a turn for the worse when we moved on to discussing her personal life. She launched into a full rundown of all her current family issues and started yelling at me about how she and her niece didn’t get along anymore, or something like that. Confused, I listened to her tantrum and tried talk her through it. Things got a little ugly when she decided that I sounded like her niece, so I handed the phone to my boss.

Despite this woman’s obvious insanity, my boss gave me the thumbs-up to continue with the delivery. Terrified, I loaded up the van and made a mental note to do a little research on workers’ comp when/if I returned. When I arrived at her house, I was greeted by a dog who had every intention of chewing off my kneecaps. The dog took one look at me and began throwing itself into the fence surrounding the house. He jumped so high that I feared he’d fly over the top and attach himself to my face. Contracting rabies has never been high on my to-do list, so I kept my distance from the welcome committee and stood in the street.

Finally, the woman emerged from the house. I was incredibly nervous, seeing as she had verbally assaulted me via telephone not even an hour ago. She was wearing cropped yoga pants and flip-flops, so I thought for a moment that we’d be able to bond over our matching wardrobes. Unfortunately, this was not the case. She had not yet recovered from her morning tantrum and immediately began yelling at me again. Since I refused to get within biting distance of her deranged pet, I just stood there in the street, holding the dumb fruit basket in my arms as she screamed at me from her front door.

I couldn’t understand why she was so mad at me when I was bearing gifts. I later figured it out when she told me to go away, that she didn’t want to look at me because I looked like her niece. She said a few more things about me, which I’ve decided to omit as they are a bit inappropriate (but still hilarious). After about 3 minutes of verbal abuse, I realized that I had a decision to make: do I stay and fight for my life? Or do I sprint back to the van and forget the delivery all together? I’ll base my decision to stay on my unfailing dedication and work-ethic (hire me, please).

Growing up with an older sister, I’ve been victim to many a temper tantrum. When my sister hit puberty, she was so moody that my mom actually thought she was doing drugs. Seriously. My mom picked up a pamphlet on teen drug use at CVS one time. I myself used to throw a mean tantrum back in my hormone-crazed middle school days, so I knew that if I waited in the street long enough this woman would eventually tire and simmer down. I was right, and when she had finally exasperated herself and calmed down, she told me I could come in the yard, that her dog wouldn’t hurt me. Yeah. Right. I handed her the basket over the fence and booked it back to my van.

I didn’t make many deliveries after that.

So, here I am: A 22-year-old summa cum laude graduate who can’t even score a part-time job working retail. It looks as if I’ll be staying in my parents’ upstairs office for longer than I had originally anticipated.

Wolfsitting

(moved from previous blog)

Even though Hannah and Fritz bring me deer legs, dead moles and bird talons, they are far from the worst dogs I’ve watched. In fact, despite their poor taste in presents, I’ve very much enjoyed spending time with them.

This is the worst dog-sitting experience I’ve ever had:

Word was quickly spreading of my booming house-sitting career, and I was rapidly gaining popularity among vacationing families. After hearing talk of an East-End Dog Whisperer, a woman looked me up and asked if I could house-sit/dog-sit for her. She said she had two young golden-mix pups and a cat. I was thrilled; what’s not to love about golden retrievers, even if they might be mixed with another questionable breed?

I went over to her house for a meet and greet. When I arrived, she took me to meet the dogs. After I saw them, it was obvious to me that she had lured me in under false pretenses. In all fairness, they were “golden-mixes,” but they were about 10% golden retriever and 90% wolf. Before I could come to terms with the fact that this woman had probably found these “dogs” in the woods behind her house, feeding on domestic cats and toxic waste, they lunged at me.

I instinctively crouched down into the attack position I had been closely studying in the Twilight films. “They’re a little hyper!” she managed, as the dogs leaped on me. “Hyper” is not the word I would have used. The dogs were insane. Utterly insane. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve since developed a drug habit.

They rubbed their werewolf fur all over me, ruining my freshly pressed yoga pants. “They’re still shedding their puppy fur,” she explained. I could see that, but I didn’t think that was the case. It looked like their bodies were rejecting whatever small bit of golden retriever still pulsed through their veins. Their dark, wiry fur was bespeckled with small yellow tufts that poked up from underneath their top coats. The dogs shed the golden tufts all over the house, small reminders of their looming werewolf fate.

The woman then introduced me to the cat, who, I’m pleased to report, was the famous diabetic cat. I was instantly charmed by his woolly coat and beefy physique, and I decided to accept the job solely to protect him from certain death.

And then my job began. I arrived at the house with mace and a freshly strung garlic necklace. The wolves were relentless. The only thing I could do was sequester them in the backyard where they could run off some of their insanity. I couldn’t leave them unsupervised because they used their super-werewolf strength to dig huge holes all over the yard. I assumed these were the beginnings of nests in which they planned to lay their eggs.

I lost all interest in them the day they actually made me throw up:

I prepared my usual weapon: Kongs stuffed with treats and peanut butter, which I would launch like grenades as far from my body as possible. Kongs in hand, I led the dogs to the deck. Their thirst for my blood mixed with peanut butter was so strong that they began to attack. They jumped on me and chased me around and around in circles. Unfortunately, I was suffering from the dizzying aftereffects of the night before. They sensed my weakness and continued to circle me, making me so dizzy that I had no choice but to blindly launch the grenades and stagger to safety. That is when I threw up.

The last thing I will discuss from this experience is the cat. He was a great companion, and we got along fabulously. However, when it came time for his insulin shots, he showered me with dirty looks and slithered around the house trying to evade me. I developed a technique to deal with his resistance: I would slowly approach him, maintaining friendly but firm eye contact. As with Hippogryphs, I had to wait to bend down until he fully accepted my presence (this I learned from Harry Potter).  Needle behind my back, I’d sit next to him and begin to run my fingers through his unkempt mane. At the first sign of a purr, I’d strike.

Just writing about him makes me a little misty-eyed, so I will have to stop here.