Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Creepiest Overnight Ever

Overnight pet sitting usually follows a certain formula. A well-to-do middle aged couple seeks out my services to sleep in their beautifully throw pillowed guest bed and binge watch their On Demand because their pet just can't fathom sleeping alone. They stock the kitchen with goodies, to which I reply "Oh thank you but all I need is a cup of coffee in the morning." And they show me how to use the Keurig. Some pet sitters hate spending a night or seven away from home, but I think it's easy money ... Until I get one of these.

An older bachelor requests an "all-nighter" for his dog. He has no idea how to make up a guest room, let alone which room in the house that might be. The couch? Sure, the couch is the guest room. Last Friday I did an overnight for this gentleman, and imagine my surprise when I walked in to find him at home watching tv. He abruptly got up to use the bathroom (?) while I played with his dog. And then he was off to his sleep study and told me there were clean sheets on his bed. Oh, and by the way, he has no idea when he's coming home so sleep with the bedroom door closed or something.

Great. Thanks.

Now, once he's gone I look around and imagine my surprise to see this gem of a coffee table...


I get my classic sculptures confused, is she Greek or Roman? I walk the dog and come back to use the facilities myself. The guest bathroom is most tastefully decorated ...


 You know, in case you forget what your bummy looks like.

Luckily I showered before my overnight, because there's no way I'm taking my clothes off in this man's house. He might have a camera or something! Finally, I flush the toilet and turn around to see that what I used was in fact ...


A piano!

The dog and I went to bed early so we could be sure and be up before this man came home. Luckily, he had a chiming clock that woke me every hour on the hour so there was no chance of oversleeping. The dog and I got up at 5 and promptly after our walk went on a car ride to get me a large coffee. To add insult to injury, Starbucks wasn't open yet. Ok, second choice, nope! Panera was closed as well. Lazy bums. At this point I discovered that the dog, in fact, does not enjoy car rides. So I stuffed treats in his face and emotional eating kept him calm until we arrived at ... I'm so embarrassed ... the chain gas station for my coffee. I hit rock bottom, people. The struggle is real.

The dog and I returned back in time to watch an episode of Walking Dead on demand and just as abruptly as our adventure began, the man came home, used the bathroom, and dismissed me from work. At least I got a little more caught up on my show and he gave me $20 for Christmas. At least the dog must have had fun because the next night after our walk he made a beeline for my Subaru hoping we would get coffee!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DIY Soup 'n Hand

Baby, it's cold outside! At lunchtime it's nice to warm up with a hot bowl of soup. Midday dog walkers, however, rarely get the opportunity to sit down to a hot lunch. That makes it tempting to grab one of these bad boys at the grocery store, a Soup 'n Hand that you can heat in a client's microwave.


Hang on, $1.42 per disposable styrofoam environment destroyer? We can do better than that, I think. Dear readers, I give you the DIY Soup 'n Hand.


I took some yummy pumpkin soup that a client kindly shared with me and poured it into a microwave safe ceramic mug. For your health, try not to microwave plastic containers. Don't know what I mean? Watch the documentary called Bag It.


Boom! Your Soup 'n Hand is ready to go! Way yummier, safer, cheaper, and better for the environment than that processed stuff. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Shopping on Thanksgiving Day


I have a confession to make and it ain't pretty. I'm kind of jealous of the cashiers who have to work on Thanksgiving. Not because they're working -- I'm working, too. I'm jealous because they have a whole campaign of advocates that want them to be with family on Thanksgiving day. All day. I can't log in to Facebook without seeing one of my clients post "I'm not shopping on Thanksgiving because I believe in family!" Oh the irony. The very same people employ a pet sitter to come to their home twice on Thanksgiving day, once at breakfast and --yes!-- once at dinner time, to make sure their cat has one teaspoon of wet food mixed in with the dry food.

There are some huge differences between the cashier and the pet sitter, however. The pet sitter can always say no, risk losing a year round client, and deal with an adult sized temper tantrum. And most pet sitters, when they begin their job, know full well that they are getting into holiday work. Most importantly, we are with animals and not pushy customers.

If the client and the pet sitter both want to be with their families on the holiday, what is the solution? If pets are a part of the family, shouldn't they be loved on Thanksgiving, too?

Here's what I do. I no longer take new clients on holidays. It's not worth the time, energy, and even extra holiday charges to accommodate someone on Thanksgiving who will only call me again at Christmas. This usually means that I pet sit a handful long-standing clients whom I know and love on Thanksgiving day. The rough spot is that they still need me to care for their pets during meal times i.e. breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The clients I turned down are sure to find someone brand new and starting out who needs the money and clientele badly enough to help.

Here's what you can do. Be mindful of your request. Tell your pet sitter to shave a few minutes of the visit and schedule it around their family time. Can your cat just get dry food once that day and skip the one teaspoon of wet food? Can your pet sitter drop by as late as 10 pm on the way to Black Friday midnight madness? Give lots of notice. I ask for holiday reservations by October. Don't be that person who throws a fit because one week before Christmas I can only promise you one visit per day. Tip your pet sitter well. I'm talking like a 20 spot on top of the holiday charge please. Then next year when you call, you'll get a call back!

And finally, please post this as your Facebook status and take the pledge by leaving a comment below:




No? Oh well it was worth a try.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"You must be in such good shape ..."

No, not really.

Aside from "How many dogs can you walk at one time?" the question perpetuated by Hollywood and apparently Manhattan (answer: 3, I live in neither of those places), the second most popular supposition is "You must be in really good shape."

I mean ... Ok I have 8 to 10 visits a day. Some of them, especially in the summer and around the holidays, are cats. No, I don't walk the cats. I scoop their litter and feed them. (That's the third most frequent question. Cue the Scarecrow's musical number).

Other days, yes, it is not uncommon for me to walk 10 miles or more. It depends on which dogs I have, every day is different. If the dog is elderly, stubborn, or a puppy, we're prolly not getting very far. No matter who I'm walking, we need to stop for potty, to smell stuff, and say hello to people and pooches. It's not cardio or anything.

Dog walkers, while we may have lower blood pressure and better tans, still need to exercise. Some of us even struggle with our weight. We like to come home and binge on chips, salsa, and reality television just like you people. For me, personally, I follow a plant based diet and try to jog approximately 8k and hit the yoga mat once a week each. The jogging increases in the spring and fall. If I'm crazy busy at work, then I don't have to beat myself up about not exercising. And, awesomely, I can sometimes turn my last walk of the day into a jog. Why the last walk? Because sweaty dreads itch and I need to get home and shower STAT.

Now, let's all do some sun salutations.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gassy Dog Walker

A defenseless child is involved in this post so names have been changed ...

I recently accommodated a new, last-minute client because on a rare fluke I had a slow weekend. Admittedly, I'm a little out of practice with consultations because I have very little room for newbies right now. But, what the heck, this was an easy one: refill the water, automatic feeder, scoop the litter, pet the friendly cat. Done.

Some of you, dear readers, may have gathered from my blog roll that I follow a plant-based diet. This can sometimes lead to umm ... gastrointestinal happenings. I knew I was taking a big risk, but dang it I was hungry and ate a serving of veggie loaded white bean salad before the consult. It was delicious! It was also a digestive minefield of kale, raw onions, and beans ... I know it was wrong but I ate it.

I arrived at the consult, planning to be in and out in a few minutes. It turns out the client's son with two pretentious name, Jeffrey Thomas, had been waiting all day to meet me. He was the most adorable little 4 year old boy, and I don't even like kids so that's saying something. We all sat on the couch for a while as I pet the cat and assured Jeffrey Thomas that I would feed, love, and play with the cat while he was away.

Then the time came to show me where the food was kept. I stood up and slowly a little something slipped out. It was the silent but deadly variety and I tried to get us all to pick up the pace into the kitchen.

Well, the client noticed. She sniffed the air and said, "Do you smell that? Something doesn't smell too good."

"Oh,"I replied, "my nose is immune to smells by now, being a pet sitter and all," trying desperately to laugh it off.

Sniff sniff. "Jeffrey Thomas!" she exclaimed in a stage whisper. "Did you toot?"

My face was bright red and I silently willed Jeffrey Thomas to fess up.

"No Mama! I would tell you if I had!" What a good boy ...

"Perhaps I stepped in something and didn't notice." I suggested, inspecting my shoes.

"No," she said. "We had a problem recently with a mouse trying to get into our dryer from outside. It died and I constantly smell it. I hope another one hasn't tried the same thing. I'll never get over that smell. Anyway ..."

The consult continued. I got the client. I don't know if they'll call me back again!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Knotty Dog Walker ... Naughty Neighbors

My worst nightmare is getting a pet sitting date or time wrong. It happens. I walk in on people and we scare the living daylights out of each other. They may be coming out of the shower, unpacking their suitcases, or otherwise unguarded. Although that is preferable to missing a scheduled pet sit, I take every precaution possible to prevent such incidents from happening.

Imagine my surprise when my clients appeared to have come home early from their trip to Napa. And as far as I could tell, had dipped in to their souvenirs ...



I wouldn't put such behavior past this particular client, especially since they were celebrating a 50th birthday. But here I was in an eerily silent house wondering, "Are they passed out drunk in one of the bedrooms? Clearly they're in the middle of something ... do I sneak out quietly or scoop the litter?" My heart was pounding and I had no idea what to do.

My mind started to race, and I decided to quickly and quietly take care of the cats and then get the hell out of there. When I went to the garage to toss the litter, I saw a note from the neighbor ...



Oh. My. God! There was a party? No! The dog walker always gets blamed first. Am I the only one with a key? How could this happen? Does insurance cover it? Who was it? The neighborhood kids? The contractors?

I took another look in the back yard. A closer look, now that I knew they weren't home... 






Wait, is that a Ravens scarecrow? They're Steelers fans. WAIT! Is that underwear in the tree? Waaaaiiit ... here comes someone to take a picture of their handiwork.










Nice one guys. The neighbors played a practical joke on my client and I was the unintended victim. Play all you want, but keep the dog walker informed. Or, enjoy playing a joke on two victims instead of one!







Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to Handle a Bite

After five years of dog walking, I got my first on-the-job bite as detailed in my last post. That was a huge lesson for me to learn, so here I'd like to share my newfound wisdom. If it prevents one person from being hurt, and one dog from being misunderstood, then that's good enough for me:

Before the Bite:

  1. If you work with animals, be sure to be up to date on your tetanus shot, once every ten years minimum.
  2. If you're a dog walker, strongly consider not taking animals with a history of aggression.
  3. Keep a first aid kit in your car.
  4. Talk to your vet about the side effects of giving your dog the Lyme Disease vaccination, such as aggression.

Oh S--- I've Been Bit!
  1. Wash the bite with soap and water well and immediately.
  2. Bandage with antibiotic ointment.
  3. If you need medical attention, go to your doctor's office or Urgent Care. Antibiotics may be necessary, especially if it was a cat bite. Don't go to CVS Minute Clinic, they don't treat bites.
  4. Report it to your local Animal Control. I know, it sucks, but it has to be done.
  5. Elevate the wound over heart level to prevent infection.
  6. Go home and drink a beer.
* The Knotty Dog Walker is not a doctor, just someone who was once bitten. If you need medical attention, see a qualified professional. If this is an emergency, call 911 dummy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What Not to do on a Consult

I had a new client consult today, whom I should have screened out. Their previous dog walker dropped them after 6 weeks because the dog growled at her when she reached for a toy. As illustrated in my previous post on Dave & Buster, dog walkers commonly downgrade bad behavior when telling on the animals to reduce the shock value to the humans. I should have thought of that.

I agreed to at least meet the dog. Meanwhile, the humans were doing everything in their power to correct the situation. They had meetings lined up with a trainer, a vet, a behaviorist, and more than one dog walker to check for personality conflicts.

The dog was a little scared, as indicated by some barking and a tail pointing down almost between his legs. He accepted a good rub down and was extremely food motivated, good signs. He was also a mama's boy, constantly looking over to his human to see if this was ok.

We went through his shot records which included a Lyme Disease vaccination. BAD IDEA! I know of another dog who became aggressive after receiving this shot bit a kid. The client realized as we were talking that this behavior didn't start until after the shot.

We went on a short walk, I gave the dog a treat, and everything seemed to be looking up. Before I took off I said, "Oh can I say hello to your cat over there?"

"Of course!" She replied. I tried to walk past the dog happily munching on his treat and BAM! He had my wrist in his mouth. I backed up against the wall (stupid, I should have gone for the door) and he bit my leg two more times.

His mom got him into a room and we assessed the damage. She was very apologetic and helped me get cleaned up. I'm pretty impressed with how well I held it together. I didn't want her to feel bad and still recognized the goodness inside this dog. She got band aids and ointment for my wrist and I kept mum about my leg. I didn't want to cause any more of a scene. I heard a ringing in my ears and saw some stars in the sunny afternoon sky that meant I needed to sit down right now. I decided I could sit down in the car, which I did, and just wanted to get around the corner so I could tend to my leg with my first aid kit.

I made it to the car and, backing out of the curved driveway, I hear a thump. I bump into things all the time with the old Subaru so I figured I might as well keep going. Nope. I landed in a ditch. I tried going forward, after all I have All Wheel Drive. Nope. I had no choice but to get out of the car and reacquaint myself with this person who now has a delinquent dog and an Outback stuck in her yard.

#Winning
Not to worry! The lawn guys down the street called up to us, "We'll be right up to pull you out!" I had to tell on myself and pointed to the wound on my leg. She got the band aids and ointment back out and we cleaned that up,  too. We had to make even more small talk waiting for an excruciating amount of time for the lawn people to weed whack and tidy up the edges. For a moment I'm actually considering being facebook friends with her because she's actually kind of cool.

Finally, the lawn people come up and pull Old Faithful out of the ditch and I gave them $20 for sheer coolness. Yeah, he has a couple of extra beauty marks on him but we were back on the road in one piece. I need an alignment anyway.

Postscript
The Monday morning quarterback in me sees a number of things I did wrong. I have a new policy in place that I do not accept clients with any history of aggression. I stopped by Urgent Care and got a tetanus booster. The doctor says there are no signs of infection. Mindfulness continues to be a skill I hope to cultivate.

The clients surrendered their dog to Animal Control and reported the bite. He will be kept in quarantine for 10 days to ensure he does not have rabies as a precaution. I vouched for his character, though it does not look like he will be adoptable. Please think twice before ever getting the Lyme Disease vaccination for your dog.

Old Faithful has a few spa days scheduled to get a repair and tires for which I've been saving all summer, and an alignment.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dave & Buster Run Away

This is one of those entries where names (obviously) have been changed so I don't lose my job.

I used to walk a dog, Dave, who was allowed to run loose in the neighborhood. The owners never thought anything of it until they adopted Buster, and then all of a sudden the rules changed and they weren't allowed to run. I'm still scratching my dreads over this one.

Walking Dave and Buster was always a trip because Dave often didn't want to leave the comfort of the yard, or sometimes even the house. We would head out on our walk and then, plop, 100+ pounds of Dave wasn't going anywhere. Buster, by default, always did whatever Dave did.

So one spring day when it was pouring rain and I was drenched, several walks into my dripping wet roster before heading off to my second job at the time, I decided to cave. I would let Dave and Buster use the front yard to potty and then we would all head inside for some nice dry fun. That is, if I could even get their lazy butts to leave the house.

I opened the door and didn't even bother with the leashes, thinking I was going to have to tractor pull them outside anyway. Dave looked at me for a brief moment, got a twinkle in his eye and a twitch in his tail, and booked it outside with Buster by his side. In an instant, they were gone.

I immediately started walking our route, cutting through the neighbor's yard on foot. Dave, not the brightest crayon in the box, usually goes for our walk when he runs away. I did our mile long route to no avail.

They hadn't come back home. I waited for them, running at least an hour behind schedule now. Nothing. I got nauseous, sobbed, and dry heaved, knowing the rage I would feel if my dog ran away on someone else's watch. Knowing that I had just let the best job ever run off into the rain because I didn't hook up a damn leash. I had no choice. I had to move on to my next pet sit if there would be enough time for me to come back and look for them before going to my second job.

I started driving to my next pet sit when I saw something in the distance. Two very familiar shapes, one brown and one red, with wagging tails coming clearer between my windshield wipers. I pulled over and two sopping wet, very impressed-with-themselves, dogs checked out my ride.

I opened the passenger door and shouted "BOYS! Get in the car!" Buster looked at Dave to see what the plan was. Dave was considering. I grabbed my box of treats from the back seat and shook it. Buster jumped in. Reluctantly, Dave did the same.

On the way home they wrestled each other for the front passenger seat and made my car stink to high hell. What a wonderful day! They got a romp in the rain, treats, and a car ride. I pretty much had a heart attack.

In moments like this, what do you leave in the note to the client? "Dave and Buster got away from me for a moment, but I got a hold of them and all is well. From now on I won't let them leave so much as the kitchen without a leash on. No one pooped." Wait, let me check my pants. Yeah, no one pooped.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Product Review: mini latch hook dread tool

Loose hair. Eeeew. Some days I come to peace with my loose hair. Other days I cover it up. And still others I won't leave the house until each and every hair is somewhat in place.

For the days on which loose hair is a problem, e.g. date night, I purchased the mini latch hook dread tool also know as a loose hair tool. I've seen the loose hair tools at larger retail sites online, but they were like $10 plus shipping and I wasn't even sure if they would work for me. So I went to Etsy.com and found one for $3.50!

Mine was at an even lower discount as it was "bent" or something but it looked fine to me. Then when it arrived, there were a couple of surprise beads thrown in for free. Nice!


The tool itself is a helpful supplement to my crochet hook arsenal (I know, I know. I crochet hook. Tell my cats I love them and take me to the gallows). It works particularly well on those pesky little hairs that stick out in front of my ears but won't quite tuck behind. I gently push the tool up the length of my dread until it sticks out near the root, wrap the loose hair around it, close the latch, and pull it back through. Then I finish it off with a good crochet hooking. It helps that I used to latch hook when I was a kid. Shut up. That's not funny.

Is this a product for daily use? No. Did I get my $3 worth? Hells yeah!

You can buy yours here:
https://www.etsy.com/listing/160010043/mini-latch-hook-diy-dread-installation?ref=listing-2

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Knotty Dog Walker Drops an Eff Bomb

Today is my day off. Well, kind of. I only have three walks, which during the summer is a day off. Nagging in the back of my head was this one email I had to respond to, ok and two texts, but it's my day off so no big deal.

My day off started with a client calling at 7:25 am to cancel their visit for next week. Why this was so urgent that it needed to happen before coffee, I don't know. Then I went to go walk Mrs. C's dogs and chit chat a bit with her, with this thought of that one email and two texts still in the back of my head. When I got out to walk her dogs, I decided to go ahead and call my dog walking counterpart to get the information I needed so I could at least respond to the texts while walking. It's my day off, I don't want a to-do list.

While on the phone with my counterpart, a car was coming, one dog pooped, and another client was trying to call. All I could do was breathe, stand and wait for call waiting to stop beeping, the car to pass, and the dog to finish. Ok got that done and reiterated what I was trying to tell my counterpart. 
I get off the phone with her, listen to my voicemail, and text back the person who called and the original person I needed to text plus one more which required a quick calculation of how much she owes. The dogs are loving this because they get to stop and sniff pretty much everything.

I get that done and then my counterpart calls back with an answer. Great, things are moving along. I walk the dog back to Mrs. C's and turn the sound off on my phone so we can chat some more.
By the time I get to my next client's house, I have a missed call, voicemail, texts ... everybody wants a walk, a favor, a reschedule, or to know that their dog has pooped. 

I swear to all that is good, everyone must have gotten together and said "Hey, do you know what would be really funny? Let's all need the Knotty Dog Walker the exact second things slow down for her." Insert evil cackling laughs.

Real funny, guys. Hilarious.

Walking the next dog, trying to see if I can reschedule a walk and then finally deciding to turn it down since the person is usually home anyway, another text (I think we're on needy person #6 for those of you keeping count at home) comes in asking for very specific visits this weekend because the cats are on a new diet.

And so, in this quiet respectable neighborhood full of squeaky-clean-hearted elderly folk, I did it. I dropped the eff bomb. Not unlike Ralphie in the Christmas Story.


I covered my mouth and looked up from my phone to see the horrified retired gardener on whom my bomb was dropped. "I'm sorry!" I stammered, "It's my day off and everyone needs me. You know that feeling?"

Apparently she didn't. Either she was hard of hearing or terribly offended because she just looked at me. The Cairn Terrier and I tucked our tails between our legs and hurried along.

When I got back to the conservative Christian client's house, I confessed my sin and told her what her extremely unprofessional dog walker did. This is, of course, the kind of neighborhood in which the rumor of my sailor-talking filthy-mouthed rampage must have gotten to her house and back around the block already. I was just waiting for the DIY curse jar arts crafts project to begin. Or perhaps some pamphlets on how Jesus can love me through my swearing problem.

"Well," she said. "I'm sure she's heard it before and I'll even guess she might have said it once or twice herself. If anyone calls you unprofessional, you just send them to me and I'll set them straight."

Point for team Knotty Dog Walker. And Jesus.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Knotty Dog Walking in the Summer

This one's going to be short because vacation season is in full swing and I'm so busy that my own household only gets 30 minute pet sits! They're coming at me from all angles, boarding, overnights, pet sits ... tons of notice, emergency requests ... So yeah I'm a little unprepared for the blog.

Someone asked me today how hot my head must get walking in the sun. I would say it's about the same as when I had straight hair. And I still utilize the age old pony tail. But for a special treat, I wash my hair in the morning and let it dry in the sun while I walk the pooches. That way I start the day off cool and my dreads dry by the time I'm finished without using the hairdryer.

I've also discovered the thermos sipp. Go buy one right now. I'll wait. This thing keeps your water cold all day even in a piping hot Subarau that sits in the sun for half hours at a time. You know I don't drop $20 on just anything. This is money well spent! But let's not get stupid, be sure to use your Target debit card for free shipping and 5% off.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tips on Tipping Your Dog Walker

Is it ok to tip your dog walker? Yes! Is it expected? Well ... that depends on the dog walker. I have a friend who pet sits part time and she won't take a repeat client if they didn't tip. As a full timer, I don't have that luxury and I've learned never to expect a tip. I can't help it, tip anticipation builds around the holidays or if a known tipper is back on my calendar. (You might want to jot down somewhere how much you gave the dog walker last Christmas. I remember.)

You would think that the really difficult client with the dog that tries to bite you and the cat that pukes on a daily basis would kick in a few extra bucks. That's usually not the case. Rather, I have found that the uber easy, just-let-the-dog-out-and-leave-the-poop-in-the-yard, laid back people with equally laid back pets tend to be the most generous.

Is there such a thing as a bad tip? My dog walker friends say no. I would argue, however, that some rewards I have received could have used a little more thought. Below, please find some of the memorable tips I've received and suggestions for modification.

Tip
$10 "if you would please vacuum the floor on Sunday. But if you don't want to just leave the money and we'll vacuum when we get home."

Better Tip
$10 no strings attached. I'll prolly do a better job anyway to live up to the gift.


Tip
A coupon for a $49 massage for the holidays.

Better Tip
A gift card for a $49 massage for the holidays.

Tip
Food kinda sorta left by where I leave my notes. Wait, is that for me? Did I just eat your snack?

Better Tip
Clearly marked snack, taking into account any food sensitivities your pet sitter may have. It's ok to ask.

Tip
A 6 pack of Shock Top

Better Tip
Can't think of one. How totally awesome to give your dog walker a 6 pack on a sunny Friday afternoon.

You get where I'm going with this. At the end of the day, it truly is the thought that counts. It's so touching when my little old lady clients get out the billfold and hand me a dollar or two extra. If you can't afford to tip and aren't an adorable little old lady, a simple handwritten thank you note goes a long way. I actually keep a collection of them. Bonus points if your kid writes it. Or your dog.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

DIY Cat Dancer Toy

You know the cat dancer toy? Quite literally a wire with bits of cardboard on the end for $2.99. I don't know why, something in the wire motion, but cats love it! It's a very fun toy and I often bring it along on my pet sits, especially when the cats don't have an interactive toy of their own to use. But I just can't get over paying $2.99 for a piece of wire. So here's what I do instead.

Take a wire hanger like the ones the dry cleaners give you. Or if you're old enough to remember a time when you used these to manually unlock your car door because you locked your keys inside. Yeah, one of those!


Take the wire hanger apart ...



Look around the house for a fun attachment. All I had to do was look in my cats' toy box for something we hadn't used in a while. But get creative! Get a piece of cardboard from the recycle bin or a pop top or something. Wrap one of the wire ends around your attachment.



And ... play!



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Oh S---! They're Home.

It's awkward that I have a key to your home. Even after years of pet sitting, the first time I walk into a stranger's house by myself gives me the creeps. I have been known to look for signs of life from the driveway and check my email one more time, often on the front steps, to make sure I'm there on the right day. But we can't plan for when a flight was delayed, there was a typo in the email, or a trip ended early.
 
I recently had a client whom I am convinced came home early from their vacation or at least had someone else check on the cat before my last visit. A spoon that was by the sink was now in it. There was an extra can of cat food missing, which I found empty in the garbage. That's great! Someone broke into the house to feed the cat and locked the door behind them!
 
Or how about the time when I came to a client's house to find a car -- not their car -- in the driveway. They had extended the invitation that I could crash at their place anytime because the house was so big (random). Who else might they have extended that invitation to? It wasn't until I called them that they said their neighbor probably parked there to scare away potential intruders. Or, you know, pet sitters.
 
I imagine someone is huddled up in their bedroom hiding, waiting for the pet sitter to finish scooping the litter so they can have their house back. Should I tip toe around doing the job or loudly announce myself so anyone who's home can do the same. Dear readers, what would you do? I'll still scoop your litter, especially since you paid for it. Just keep me in the loop!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Pink Floyd Room

I have a client with a totally awesome house, all decorated with art and art-ifacts (wah wah) from the 80's. We When we got upstairs she showed me a door that is always kept closed because if anything happened to this room they would be devastated.

With a twinkle in her eye, she asked, "Do you want to see it?"

What? I was a little worried to find out, but that was short-lived.

Dear readers, I give you the Pink Floyd Room:





There are no words ...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

DIY dread band

I love the dread band look. Have you seen these? Very cool.


Except I'm a dog walker and very cool accessories often aren't in the budget. Dear readers, I give you the DIY dread band. I started at the Off Broadway clearance bin where I found cute adidas winter caps for $6 each. What?! I know.



I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut a small hole on top, where the seams meet. Emphasis on "small" because you can always make the hole bigger but not smaller. I did this with three hats total, making each size hole a little different for variety of style.



Some of you crafty people probably know how to sew the seams back up for a cleaner look and to keep little pieces of cotton from occasionally shedding off. Well ... I don't know how to do that but it's a good idea. Please comment if you know how to do that!


And voila! Put the hat on your head, pull your dreads through, and roll out the door. Pat yourself on the back for saving $15.


Incidentally, it's really hard to take a picture of your own head.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Knotty Dog Walker Springs Forward

Last Sunday was daylight savings and we "sprung" -- or some of us were more unceremoniously flung -- forward one hour. Naturally, a friend and a bottle of rum appeared on my doorstep Monday evening to help ease the sting from the fling.

Incidentally, I have a little old lady client first thing every Tuesday morning.

I schedule a half hour to walk her dogs and an hour to talk to her. I have mad respect for Mrs. C. She  nursed her husband at home through Alzheimer's until his untimely end. She is my go-to for grandmotherly advice, whether it was solicited or not. All my grandparents have passed on, so I gratefully borrow someone else's.

I walk her dogs because she is afraid to. She prolly could but there are no sidewalks in her neighborhood, and the community college students cut through, late to class. On top of that, she once had a dog who got of his leash and was hit by a car. The fact that she could recover from that enough to adopt two dogs speaks volumes about how friggin cool this lady is.

So it's Tuesday morning. Head pounding, eyes squinting, and throat like a desert, I dragged my sorry butt out of bed to go walk Mrs. C's dogs. In my hungover stupor, I decided the smartest thing to do was to skip the coffee and drink as much water as I could. Any other day of the week, this would have been a great rehydration plan.

I walked Mrs. C's dogs and the chilly almost-spring air did wonders for my head. Or maybe it was the ibuprofen. We came back to her house, toasty warm and a little dark as she hadn't opened the blinds yet. We took our seats and she began our usual chit chat about her grandson's death metal band, her views on immigration, and the high school play her daughter is directing.

I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. My eyelids got heavy.

I did everything I could to keep from shutting my eyes. I got up, pet the cat, fiddled with the leashes, but it got worse. And then she started talking -- I'm not making this up -- about a biography of Woodrow Wilson. I tried my little heart out to keep my eyes open, so much so that they started to go crossed. But I think President Wilson's biography is where most of us draw the line between wakefulness and sleep.

"Do you drink coffee?" she said. Huh? Me, what? Coffee. Yes! "Would you like a cup?" Oh my gosh angel from heaven yes.

She kindly continued her banter while preparing the Elixir of Life for me. I felt awful. I must have blinked way too long. I made up some stupid story about being dehydrated due to a salty lunch the day prior -- darn those restaurants and their sodium! -- and having skipped my coffee. Mrs. C isn't stupid. She saw straight through me, but politely let it slide.

Tail between my legs, I left to do the rest of my walks completely certain that I will learn many more valuable lessons on my Tuesday morning chit chats with Mrs. C.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to Dispose of a TV

I worked in the nonprofit sector for five years before burning out and turning to professional dog walking. I'm going to rant for a minute but I promise a happy ending. 

One of the things that drove me bananas was donations. At a homeless shelter with very little storage space, we could only take donations that we needed such as new sheets and towels, laundry detergent, and gift cards. Anything else that donors would argue was "perfectly good" -- stained clothing in the wrong sizes, half used hotel shampoo, or  old blankets that may or may not be harboring bed bugs -- got rejected. I tried my little heart out to find matching organizations for these donations.  More often than not, we just had to say "No thank you." Unless it was from a wealthy donor, then we would thank them profusely and throw their junk in the garbage.

Around this time, older "box" televisions were going out of style to be replaced by flat screens. All charities across the board were being bombarded with good, working televisions that no one wanted any more. We would say "No thank you," citing our space issue and donors would become irate arguing that they couldn't believe a charity in need would turn down such a generous gift.

It got to the point that many charities, even Goodwill, would post a policy on their site that "Due to an abundance of donations, we can no longer accept box tv's."

So, what is a bleeding heart tv donor to do? Throw it off a bridge, of course. While walking a German Shepherd the other day, we found this:



Well, that's one way to deal with the problem. 


Personally, I prefer this person's artistic inspiration. It's a donation to all who walk by! Seriously, though, it's pretty cool. And had I not been walking by with a dog who insists on smelling every single blade of grass, I might have missed it.

Let's all take a moment to stop and experience the world around us. Upcycle your junk into art. Contact your local homeless program and ask what donations and volunteers they need, and do it! Even if it's a little more uncomfortable than you were hoping for. Adopt the dog who has to stop and smell every other second. If we don't stop and notice the little and big things around us, the moment is lost.

Oh and I promised a happy ending. The homeless shelter bought a property all of their very own, affording them the opportunity to expand the number of people they serve. And a very kind donor provided a brand new, large flat screen tv. The rest of us can look up our local recycling centers which would be more than happy to direct us to electronics recycling services.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's Been a Long Winter ...

I'm used to walking approximately 9 dogs a day, sometimes in not nice weather, but holy crap this winter was insane. We had multiple snow "events" and days in between of single digit weather. My poor little dreadies must have looked like icicles on my head!

Snow days are fun, especially when the dogs will roll around, dig, and catch snow balls. If I'm lucky, I'll only have dog walks on snow days and all my clients will stay home from work and cancel. Cat sits are usually canceled as well if I leave out extra food and water the night before. Major thanks to the cool people who don't expect me to die on the way to scoop their litter! However, if I have a dog client who is out of town, that dog still relies on me to go outside.

Thankfully I own a Subaru and that thing kicks some major butt in the snow. While other people are spinning their wheels and getting stuck, I pass them ... or pull over and help. I learned this about my car because during our first three snows this year, I had overnight clients.

The first time, I didn't take the forecast seriously and left my overnight to check on my cats. The drive back was treacherous, taking about three times longer than if it weren't snowing. I really should have known better but was worried sick that my cats would go hungry and I wanted some part of my Sunday at home. That was not smart.

I learned from that experience and showed up for my next snowy overnight 5 hours early, at roughly 2 pm. The dog and I did a workout video and got caught up on The Walking Dead thanks to my client's On Demand. Not too shabby! 

By the third snow storm prediction, I had this down to a science. I left my overnight at 5 am to take care of my morning pet sits, check on my cats and grab some food, then went straight back by 10 am. Luckily the only dog walk I had that day was walking distance away. 

My Subaru's thermometer as I left a morning pet sit
Compared to the snow, the record breaking single digit thermometer readings weren't that bad. The little dogs wouldn't walk for long, and many understanding clients told me to cut their time short. The big dogs, however, were ready to rock n' roll. Cold? Who cares! It's time to walk! I wore two base layers, followed by jeans and hoodie, coat, scarf, heated earmuffs, hat, two pairs of gloves, hand and foot warmers. The only thing that was cold was my face. We'll fix that next year ...

The thing that kind of sucks about snow days is not getting reimbursed for your trouble. If I show up for my overnight at 10 am, I don't get paid a single penny more. Meanwhile, I don't charge my canceled clients  because, hey, it's not their fault it snowed. So please show your pet sitter some love when it gets nasty out. A little tip never hurt anyone's feelings. Or, some clients will make me a cup of hot coffee when they're home or will leave a bar of chocolate by my notes. It's the kindness of these people, and the wagging tails of course, that remind me why I even bothered to try.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Knotty Dog Walker's Favorite Shampoo

Shampooing is a big deal. I do it once a week or so and schedule it in advance. I mostly shampoo my scalp, cause ain't nothing getting on the inside of these dreads. But the water trickles down and the dreadies absorb it like a sponge. In the summer I just go outside, palm roll, and thank the sun for drying my hair. When it's not warm and sunny, I spend at least a half hour with my good friend the blow dryer. Then my dreads are frizzy, out of order, and there's loose hair coming out the top. Not cute. I spend the next evening watching tv and coaxing the loose hair back to it's place.

Shampooing is a very big deal. My all time go-to product is Knotty Boy's liquid dread shampoo. I have dry scalp to begin with and have used many other tea tree shampoos but this one is different. I don't know what they did but this stuff tingles like nobody's business. At first I thought it was because my dreads were new and I wasn't used to the different shampoo schedule. Nope. I tried Trader Joe's tea tree tingle on my dreadies and although it was pleasant, it didn't tingle the way this stuff does. It's ridiculous. Anyone passing by will hear me groaning from the shower like in those old Herbal Essences commercials where they ask "Have you had your totally organic experience today?"

Which reminds me, we're boycotting Herbal Essences. Although the product itself appears to be cruelty free, Proctor & Gamble (which owns Herbal Essences) still tests on animals. Knotty Boy, however, is 100% cruelty free.

Everything I have written here is true as far as I know. But full disclosure, I may be receiving a free bar of Knotty Boy soap for expressing my views publicly. And you can, too. Check out their blog for details. Sweet! I love their sandalwood scent!