My weekend with Zoe

Black curly dog with floppy ears
“Rembrandt, autoritratto in costume orientale, 1631-33 ca. 03” by Sailko. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rembrandt,_autoritratto_in_costume_orientale,_1631-33_ca._03.JPG

I was very impressed to find a Wikimedia Commons image of a Rembrandt painting of largish curly haired black dog with floppy ears that bears a passing resemblance to my new canine friend: Zoe.

Zoe’s human contacted me a few weeks ago to determine I would be an responsible dog sitting candidate. I have been a child-wrangler, including watching a child when a parent was out of town.  (I did manage to lose my tobacco hornworm caterpillars in the apartment that weekend, but that is another story.)

I figured this would not be dissimilar, though the last time I officially “dog-sat” was probably about 15 years ago. I guess I passed the tests, which involved making Zoe’s rehydrated wet food and being able to arm and disarm the security system, as well as the most important Zoe sniff-test. (Zoe seemed to approve.)

My goal: To hang out with a fuzzy canine friend on a mini-vacation at someone else’s house. One the things that is kind of exciting about dog sitting is the sensation of being “Goldilocks” in the three Bears’ house. While I tried not to break any furniture, it’s fun to see what others keep in their refrigerators, especially if they’re prone to buying interesting snacks from Trader Joe’s. Zoe’s human oriented me to use of the appropriate WiFi and related systems, as well as a tour of available food (human and dog). To be honest, I have never seen such a varied collection of intriguing (human) junk food in one place! Zoe was communicative about her basic needs (time for food, treats and going into the backyard.) Also, Zoe appeared to be super into snuggling on the couch.

After Zoe’s human left us to fend for ourselves, Zoe and I figured out how to get Netflix to work on the TV. We watched the film Dean Spanley, about a man who discovers his new friend is prone to reminscing about his previous incarnation as a dog when inebriated on fancy Hungarian Tokay wine. I thought it was a very appropriate movie for dogsitting. Well, I watched the movie. Zoe slept on the couch.

Early Saturday morning, I awakened to find Zoe patiently waiting for me to let her out. It had snowed over night, so I put on my boots and grabbed a shovel to clear a path down the flight of steps to the backyard. (There was less than an inch of snow, but Zoe is a senior dog prone to slipping.) Of course, as soon as I let Zoe out, she exhuberantly galumphed down the part of the stairs still covered in snow (luckily, to no ill effect.) After necessities outside were completed, Zoe looked at me expectantly while I rehydrated her dog food, mixed in glucosamine powder, and let it sit to attain the proper consistency. I added some cruchy dry kibbles and Zoe practically inhaled the entire thing in under 2 minutes.

(As I type this, a wet nose has insinuated itself onto my lap, paired with brown puppy-dog eyes at their most beseeching. “Okay, I should really pet you instead of tapping on this strange glowing box.”)

The rest of the day was very peacefully, with our occasional naps/taps on the laptop/watching TV on the couch were punctuated by emerging into the snowy backyard (I kept clearing a path down the steps as bands of light snow moved through the area.) On our outside breaks, it was beautiful to watch the falling snow cling to Zoe’s black fur, and stick to her muzzle as she nosed her way to through the drifts in the backyard.

Inside, I began to notice that all my clothing was my slowly becoming dusted with fine wavy black underfluffies from Zoe’s coat. It reminded me of alpaca or mohair. Years ago, my brother got me a book (as a joke) called Knitting with Dog Hair which had directions for spinning your dog’s shed fur into yarn. I grew up with dogs, yellow Retriever-ish mutts that had very fine fluffy undercoats they would lose in massive clumps. (It’s been years since my parents’ last dog has crossed over the the happy hunting grounds, and since I thought of that book.)

The restful day became evening, when Zoe reminded me it was time for dinner. After repeating the anticipation and snarfling of the doggie meal, we relaxed on the sofa to watch more Netflix. (I haven’t watched this much TV in months! It’s so much more fun when you have dog snoring next to you on the couch.) I found something in the freezer made out of soy protein that approximated chicken strips, which were fairly tasty when dipped in barbecue sauce. (Most texturally suspect food items can be resolved with the addition of barbecue sauce.)

Sunday morning, I realized I needed to dig my car out of the driveway. We had maybe about 4 inches of accumulated snow, which was light and fluffy. Zoe reminded me that feeding her breakfast was my first priority. After clearing off my car, I found a snow shovel and began to shovel my hosts’ driveway. After sitting on the couch the entire day before, I was also grateful for some sustained physical exercise. The temperature is warming slightly and the sun is helping evaporate traces of snow left behind on the shovelled pavement.

As soon as I agreed to dog sit for Zoe, I got another call from a totally unrelated person looking for a dog sitter, to come in twice a day to feed the dog and give her meds this coming week. (I don’t think their refrigerator is as much fun as Zoe’s human’s, though.) Dogsitting is unlikely to be my ultimate vocation, though it is nice to have to opportunity for “fur therapy” without the responsibility of full-time pet ownership.

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