Tag Archives: dog sitting

Brave Dog

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Reggie was a big dog–part German Shepherd and, judging by the black spots on his tongue, part Chow–but he was a gentle beast. He was calm, hardly barked, didn’t jump. He did what he was told and was an all-around good dog sitting client.

Reggie’s great joy in life was going on walks. Most of the day he lounged around the house on one of his beds or in the sunshine in the side yard, but when it was time for our morning or evening walk, he got super excited. He’d do a sort of prancing dance with his front paws while looking at me with a glimmer of excitement in his otherwise placid brown eyes.

On our first walk together, I discovered the yards of the neighborhood were populated with barking, snarling, growling dogs who foamed at the mouth and leaped onto the fences keeping them in their yards and out of the streets. Reggie did nothing to engage these neighbor dogs. He didn’t bark or growl at them or try to move into their territory. If he pulled on the leash, it was to go to the opposite side of the street and away from the neighbor dogs. If he made any noises, they were more whimpers than barks. The other dogs seemed to distress him more than antagonize him.

One day I asked The Man if he and his dog Jerico wanted to go on a morning walk with me and Reggie. They did, so we took off together through the neighborhood.

Jerico is a good dog, but he’s not calm, and he’s not quiet. Part beagle, Jerico is a talker, a barker, a howler. He’s got a lot to say. He also pulls against his leash and zigzags back and forth in front of the person walking him.

Reggie was super excited to be out on a walk with his friend. There was a lot of prance dancing on Reggie’s part, and a lot of tangled leashes caused by the two dogs running around and cutting in front of and behind each other.

Jerico is not timid. Apparently, he’s not afraid to take on any dog who wants to fight. When we came upon the first group of barking, snarling, growling neighbor dogs, Jerico didn’t back down in the least. He certainly didn’t slink off to the opposite of the street and whimper. No way! Jerico joined the barking chorus, and he would have been right up on the fence engaging with the captives had The Man not held him back. I’ve known Jerico for a while, so his behavior didn’t surprise me.

It was Reggie who surprised me. Gone was the whimpering, timid dog I’d been walking for the last week. In his place was a brave, bold dog. Reggie didn’t try to run to the far side of the street. Instead, he stayed next to Jerico and even barked a little while looking over at the neighbor dogs.

I don’t know if Reggie was showing off for Jerico, showing Jerico that he too could be bold. Maybe he felt as if Jerico had his back, thus making it safe for him to be brave. I wish I understood what dogs think. In any case, Reggie was a whole new dog while his friend Jerico was by his side.

 

Plans

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When I was traveling with Mr. Carolina, I’d sometimes ask him about his plans. Whenever I’d utter the word plans, he’d throw back his head and laugh uproariously. Mr. Carolina knew we can plan all day long, but the Universe does what it wants when it wants and our schemes mean nothing.

These were my plans for 2017:

Attend the RTR

Spend a few weeks in the Arizona desert

House and dog sit in MegaBabylon

Work on writing my second book

Spend a few more weeks in the Arizona desert

House and dog sit again for the same woman in MegaBabylon

Work some more on my second book

Get paid to score student responses to standardized tests

Head to California to spend my summer working as a camp host and a parking lot attendant

Those plans were supposed to get me through the middle of October 2017.

I made it to the RTR, but after that, the Universe had other ideas for me.

At the RTR I hit it off with a very nice man (who has a very nice dog companion). We up and decided to go to New Mexico together, where we both came down with terrible colds. I still managed to do two readings from my book, Confessions of a Work Camper. I sold ten copies of the book, as well as some jewelry and shiny rocks. Life was good, even though the man and I were sick.

I had a lovely birthday in New Mexico. The man and I soaked in hot mineral water, then joined two more friends in the park for ice cream and pie. It was a wonderful day.

The next day I was scheduled to leave New Mexico and head back to MegaBabylon for my house and dog sitting engagement. Saying good-bye to the man was bittersweet, but I’d decided to travel back to New Mexico to see him again between my two house sitting gigs. He’s a carpenter by trade and had offered to transform wasted space in my van into storage space. I was going to borrow power tools from my host family and work with the man on a van project. I was excited about the project and excited about seeing the man again.

When I got into the van that morning, there were no messages on my phone. I looked out of my side-view mirror and watched the man watch me as I drove away. I listened to Old Crow Medicine Show sing “Wagon Wheel” and tried not to feel sad. I’d known this day would come. I’d known all aspects of life are fleeting. I’d known all we have is the present moment, and I’d done my best to enjoy each moment I’d had with him to the fullest. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t already miss him.

Before I got on the interstate, I had to stop at Wal-Mart. I was still sick, and the sickness had settled in my lungs as a cough. The coughing had kept me up the night before, so I really wanted to be able to take a big swig of cough syrup when I arrived at the free camping area I’d decided on as my stopover. I thought my best move was to get some cough syrup before I left town.

When I stopped the van, I checked my phone, as is my habit. The screen showed a notification saying I had three messages. Three messages? What was up with that?

I went to my messages and saw they were all from the woman I was supposed to house and dog sit for starting the next day. She said she’d hurt her back and was just leaving the hospital. She’d had to cancel her trip. She didn’t need me until April.

I was reeling. What to do? Head back to MegaBabylon anyway? Stay and spend more time with the man? Something else I hadn’t even yet imagined?

It took me a couple of days and a couple of long conversations with the man to figure things out, but I made some decisions. I could tell you my plans, but what’s the point? The Universe is going to send me wherever it wants me to be.

 

 

More on House and Pet Sitting

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To read about how I find house and pet sitting jobs, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/23/how-do-you-find-houses-to-sit/.

I have more thoughts on house and pet sitting to share before I move on to other subjects, but the previous post on the topic was already quite long, so I decided to make this a two part-er.

As I already said, most of my house and pet sitting jobs have been for friends or for the friends of friends. I recommend to folks who want to house and pet sit: share your desire for this kind of work with all of your friends. I haven’t always been able to find the kinds of gigs I wanted where I wanted them and when I wanted them, but often friends did help me get jobs when I needed them.

If I were willing to travel more to get to house/petting sitting jobs, I would get a lot more of them. I suspect people who want to travel and do this kind of work could see the country (and probably other countries) this way. I have a sort of route I do through the West, and don’t want to drive to Austin, TX (for example) to spend a couple of weeks there taking care of someone’s dog. In my House Sit America profile, I am shown as available in only three states because I currently have no desire to drive all over the U.S.

When I responded to the Craigslist ad for my first dog sitting job, I obviously didn’t have any pet sitting references to offer. Instead, I offered contact info for people in the area who knew me well, such as the friend whose guest bedroom I was occupying. (Now I can’t remember if the woman who hired me asked for references or if she even contacted anyone to ask about me.) Once I had some experience under my belt, I was able to offer previous employers as references. However, since most of my jobs came through my friend network, I was already vouched for.

Money has always been a touchy subject for me. Maybe that’s because I grew up in the South. In any case, I often have a difficult time bringing up financial issues. When I took the dog sitting job I found on Craigslist, I didn’t even know I was getting paid! (Read more about that experience here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/01/southern-gothic-declining-gentility-edifice/.)

Often, I don’t charge for my house and pet sitting services. Many times, I’ve felt it’s a favor to me to have a place to stay, especially times when I was living in the van and it was cold out or I didn’t have access to a shower. When I was living in my friends’ guestroom, I felt as if walking their dog while they were away for Christmas was the least I could do. In such situations, I felt as if I were participating in mutual aid, and I didn’t ask for money.

Other times when I house or pet sat for folks I knew had money but weren’t rich, I did ask for a small daily payment. In situations with multiple pets, pets that need medication, and/or long, bumpy drives over dirt road(s) to get to the house in question, I’m more likely to ask for some money to compensate for my extra effort. Houses offering desirable amenities (WiFi, the Food Network, the History Channel, bathtubs) are more likely to get free sitting from me.

House Sitters America recommends using a house sitting agreement. The company’s website says,

…using an agreement can prevent potential problems and misunderstandings. Both parties can state what is expected and organize the terms of the house sit, and then sign it.

However, I’ve never used such an agreement, maybe because most of my jobs have come through my friend network. When I mentioned a written agreement to the woman I’ll be sitting for through her ad on House Sitters America, she wasn’t interested.

So I think that’s everything I know about house and pet sitting. Feel free to ask questions or tell about your house and pet sitting experiences in the comments.

Dead Plant, Blue Sky

Here’s another photo I took near one of the houses I sat .

Southern Gothic Declining Gentility Edifice

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One of the jobs I found on Craigslist while I was in Austin during December 2012 was a house and dog sitting gig. The woman looking for the sitter was very upfront in her ad that whoever stayed at her house had to be ok with sharing the bed with her dog. I was at a point in my life where I couldn’t be too picky, so I took the job. I wrote about the house and the job while I was there.

This place where I am house sitting is weird. And kind of creepy. And messy. There is a heap of recycling (I think) in the corner of the kitchen. It’s a bunch of newspapers literally thrown haphazardly into a corner. There are old fashioned, creepy-as-fuck baby dolls under glass.

The refrigerator is full of rotting food. I am not speaking in metaphor or hyperbole. The refrigerator is full and a good portion of the food in it is rotting. (One of the disgusting items in the refrigerator was a whole pie covered in a fuzzy growth. Who lets a whole pie go bad? Sacrilege!) Usually I would be excited to dig through someone’s leftovers and eat what would go bad before their return. This refrigerator simply scares me. I dare not open a takeout box for fear that what is in that box will try to eat me! (The homeowner told me she would clean the refrigerator before she left so I would have room to put food in there. She did not. I tentatively moved some things so I could get my stuff in.)

I’m in some Southern Gothic declining gentility edifice.

I’ve already had a talk with the ghost(s) that I’m sure are here. I told it/them not to haunt me. I explained that if it/they have haunting to do, C. (who owns the house) is the woman to haunt, that I’m just here temporarily and they should keep it down so I can sleep. Not that I’ve had one good night’s sleep since I’ve been to Austin, but I didn’t tell the ghost(s) that.

The lady I am house sitting for didn’t tell me until I had already agreed to sit and came out here to pick up keys that I have to give the dog half a pill twice a day so she (the dog) won’t pee in her sleep. Seems to me a potential dog sitter should know the dog is half incontinent and in need of pills before s/he agrees to take the job. Luckily, the dog eats up the pill in a blob of peanut butter, but still! (The dog also woke me repeatedly each night so I could let her out into the backyard. Was she peeing or just checking out the scene? I don’t know. It was dark, and I couldn’t see what she was doing out there. I didn’t want to take the chance that she actually needed to pee and by not letting her out, I was setting myself up to mop up dog urine.)

Here’s another crazy thing that happened. C. hadn’t mentioned money, so I figured she figured my payment was getting a free place to stay. I hadn’t brought up money either. Yesterday when I came over, as I was about to leave, she said she would leave “half” on the table, would a check be ok, or did I prefer cash?  I said cash and told her I don’t have a bank account. I was pretty excited that I would be getting some money (especially since now the dog is getting pills and oh, there’s a cat to feed too). Well, when I got here this evening and looked on the table, there was NO MONEY. Weird. Weird. Weird!

When C. returned to Austin, she did pay me, and she hired me to clean her house and cook for her. We had the following exchange one day when I was working at her house.

C. told me that she is only the second owner of her house. It was built in 1932, and the first owner (a woman) DIED in the back bedroom (C.’s bedroom, where I slept with the dog while house sitting) in the 80s. I fucking knew there was a ghost in the house! I felt it! Not that it did anything. I think my little preemptive speech took the wind out of its ghostly sails. Anyway, I asked C. if she believes in ghosts. (She is a psychologist, so I would not have been surprised if she had said no.) She said, “Probably.” I asked if she ever thought there was a ghost in the house and she said no, but maybe there was a guardian angel. I didn’t tell her that I felt some kind of presence there, and I didn’t tell her I did a little out loud talking about how I was not there to be haunted.