Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pet sitting is fun!

Jilly and Bailey wait for me to come up the stairs

The past three weeks I have cared for a kitty named, aptly, Sweet Pea. She is the kind of client we all dream about when we decide to go into the pet sitting business.

Every day when I arrived, she’d roll around on the Oriental rug in the entry hall, meowing and asking for a scratch. We’d play with her feathers and balls, and I’d brush her for a few minutes. After cleaning her litter box and giving her fresh water and food, we’d head for the kitchen, where she’d get a teaspoon of yogurt. I’d scatter a few treats around the family room, which she would promptly devour. She’d save her yogurt for after I left.

So many cats hide from me. Others don’t like the intrusion of my visits, watching suspiciously as I tend to their needs. Some warm up after a few days, as they get progressively lonelier in their empty house. Every one is different, and I adapt to their unique personalities.

Bailey and Jilly are two golden retrievers I’m also visiting. Bailey runs for his toy box as I arrive, and presents me with a different un-stuffed animal every time I come in the door. The house is now strewn with fluffy carcasses. We hang around outside. I bring my crossword puzzle in the mornings, sitting on the patio while they plop their heads in my lap. We hike to the bottom of the hill out back and struggle back up together. It’s a beautiful setting, and they are beautiful dogs.

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the stress and responsibility, I forget how nice it is to spend time with the animals, and just enjoy them for who they are. 

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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Small dogs

My guests, Izzy and Charlie
So which are easier to pet sit, big or small dogs? I’ve had potential clients ask me if I charge less for small dogs. HAH! Sometimes I think they are twice as much work!

Small dogs are notoriously harder to housetrain. Small dogs seem less likely to eat their food at one sitting, and less likely to comply with my request to PLEASE go-outside-and-go-potty-so-we-can-go-to-bed… It’s the little ones that get into the wastebaskets and dig up the houseplants. I think people are less comfortable boarding a toy dog at a kennel. Big dogs that are destructive…well, the owners know better than to leave those guys home alone.

I have a sweet little Yorkie, Charlie, staying with me right now. He plays an interesting game. He wants to get up in my lap, and won’t jump up, which his owner told me. I have to pick him up and lift him into my lap. Fine. Except he bounces all around asking me to pick him up, and then when I lean down to get him, he moves away, just out of reach.

I wonder if Charlie is used to being picked up and taken somewhere he doesn’t want to go, like outside or in his crate. He certainly doesn’t think getting picked up is a good thing. So we play the game until I corner him. I could just forget it and leave him on the floor, but he keeps asking to get in the chair with me. A friend once described a condition that is diagnosed in kids: “oppositional defiance disorder” (something all teenagers probably have). Well that sounds like Charlie. If I want him in, he stays out. If I want him out, he stays in.

A diligent retraining effort could fix his recall. I should call him to me, offer lots of positive reinforcement and treats, then let him go away with out doing anything to him. Eventually I could touch him and let him go, then hold him for a second and let him go, and ultimately, pick him and let him go, all reinforced with treats and other positive things. He’s not too motivated by food so the treats need to be something fabulous, like cheese bits or peanut butter. 

It’s hard to do when you are the temporary caregiver, but even one week of work would get him off to a good start. Chances are his owners face the same issues with Charlie.

Next time, Charlie. I’m on to ya.
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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.
Izzy, Charlie, Desi, Blaze and Pepper

Friday, April 1, 2011

R.I.P. Casey

Casey with miniature schnauzer Pepper and her owner, Karla
As I look back through my posts on both of my blogs, I see Casey the Giant Schnauzer featured often. Today I write about him again, but this time with some sad news. My big buddy died this week at 9 years old, from a fast growing tumor in his mouth that made it impossible for him to drink and eat.

I only found out on Saturday that he was ill, when his owner Maria emailed me. I planned to go see him this week. By Tuesday it was too late. I can tell I've been pet sitting for a long time. These days it seems a lot of my canine clients are getting old and passing on. It's a fact of life, but it sure is hard to lose them. It's almost like I've lost my own dog.

I like to look back on the good times, and Casey provided many. People reacted dramatically to him. If I took him for a walk, someone would say, “Nice pony you’ve got there.” People wondered what kind of dog he was, because Giants are fairly rare.

If you approached Maria’s front door, her security screen door blocked your view into the house. But you would be face to face with a huge, suspicious black dog–one that had no intention of letting you in without Maria’s approval. Maria was a wonderful owner. She was dominant without being rough. She knew that a big guard dog breed needs a firm hand, and she trained and socialized him well. She plans to get another Giant Schnauzer in a few months.

I’ll miss the big galoot.

Here’s a post I wrote featuring Casey: The dominance dance
He often appeared in photos, too: What breed should I get? I think I could post 100 pictures.
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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.
Casey with Cowboy, another big guy who stays here 

With Klondike and Makaso 
Playing with Gracie