Have Opposable Thumbs, Can Operate Can Opener

Puppy Dog Eyes
“Outside of a Dog…” by Soggydan Benenovitch (2007) CC BY 2.0, via Flickr https://farm1.staticflickr.com/199/465878311_42af0629eb_s.jpg

This pet sitting hobby of mine is becoming a thing. Since my parents’ last dog went to the happy hunting grounds* a few years ago, the house has been free of pee stains and doggie fluffies, but has been seriously deficient in dog snuggles. The parents have declared there SHALL BE NO MORE DOGS, which is fair, because they would have the bulk of care responsibilities. Still, a girl needs to get some “fur therapy” somewhere. Hence: The Pet Sitting.

I have a diverse portfolio of animal care experiences, ranging from the invertebrate to the reptilian, from fluffy dinosaurs to fluffy mammals. I have finessed finicky worm-friends, vitamin-powder-coated confused live crickets for a discerning gecko palate, and defrosted frozen mice for cuddly corn snakes (yes, they really do like to snuggle, but not while eating.) I have mucked out barns with mama and baby goats, and shattered tenacious chicken poopsicles with a blow of my shovel. I have catered to cats (“Yes, my human slave!”) and canines (“I don’t know you, but I love you!”) I have even taken care of some aquatic acquaintances of the fishy and amphibian varieties.

Recent critter care adventures have mostly been of the doggie sort. It’s amazing to come to the door and be greeted with the boundless enthusiasm of dogs and small children. (Does marvels for one’s self-esteem.) Also, the documented stress-relieving properties of dog petting are legion. In dog care, my principal advantages as a substitute human are that I have opposable thumbs and can work the can opener and/or tricky snap-on lid on the container of doggie kibbles. I also use my manual dexterity to operate the aerosol dispenser on the cheez whiz can (to take with dog pills), and pick up poop into baggies on walks. In return, my furry charges are usually happy to sit with me (or near me) on the sofa to bask in companionable bliss.

The humans belonging to one of my recent clients, a toy poodle, also asked me to also feed their fish while they were away. I envisioned sprinkling some flaked food into a goldfish tank. When I actually went to meet the fish (who have their own fishy kingdom in the basement), I was startled to realize the human had eight tanks of fish! Luckily, the fish did not need much more than their food cubes (frozen bloodworms in packages that suspiciously resembled Dorot frozen herbs) every other day. (I also think the fish didn’t know about the dog and dog only suspected about the presence of the fish in the house.)

While I still don’t see pet sitting becoming my ultimate career destination (Or in the words of another client’s humans, “Speaking for your mother,” the human said, “Don’t.”) it is an excellent way to play with dogs and play Goldilocks in other people’s houses (with permission, of course.) The venture capital market thinks that dogsitting may be the next big thing.

I was trying to think of a name for my imaginary pet sitting business: Responsible Substitute Human. Look, Cheez Whiz Lady! Dog & Child Approved. Batsheva’s Multi-Species Services. (But they all lack that “ring” of respectability.)

One of my favorite books growing up was James Herriot’s Dog Stories, a collection of stories about dogs from a Yorkshire England country veterinarian. In addition to the exotic setting of 1950’s rural England, I loved the obvious affection Herriot had for his furry subjects. One the stories I particularly liked was about Tricky Woo, the obese Pekingese, for whom Herriot stages a diet and exercise intervention. James Herriot takes Tricky Woo away from the cakes and treats of his doting human, and takes him home with him, to eat normal dog food and run around. Not that I plan on staging any interventions – the dogs I have cared for have all had pretty strict diets and/or exercise programs in place.

In my Shmita Adventures, I will take all opportunities for dog snuggles that come my way. I just can’t resist those puppy dog eyes.

Tangents for this post:

*The Happy Hunting Grounds is a euphemism for doggie death I learned from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Books. The reference is to the passing of Jack of the faithful brindle bulldog, who trotted underneath the family covered wagon on the Ingalls family’s various migrations out West. I think it must be akin to the ancient Greek Elysian Fields, but for dogs.

Fuzz Therapy with Calvin and Hobbes.

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