There are a few things that are horrific to wake up to while pet-sitting:
- Your face being licked. When you're used to living in a pet-free environment, this is a very disconcerting thing to be awoken by.
- The smell of a dog fart. It smells almost exactly the same as the food you mixed earlier (and gagged whilst doing so) only it burns your nose more and you're utterly unprepared for it.
I guess I should give you a little back story. A couple of months ago I was asked by some family friends to pet sit. Being the young, single, broke girl that I am, I jumped at their offer of cash, a home away from home and free reign over the liquor cabinet. (What? You'd have done the same thing.) I was conscious of the "s" at the end of "will you watch our pets" but really had no idea what I had signed myself up for.
You see, Ms. Joyce had conveniently left off the part where they have NINE ANIMALS. Yes, you heard me: I, Aimee Belcher, not only agreed to pet-sit, but managed to keep 6 cats and 3 dogs alive and happy for 5 days. If you ever doubted me, I hope you're eating your words! There were Gizmo and Spatz, the outside cats. (Except Gizmo slept inside at night... and he ate special food.) Then there was Shug (the fat, deaf one), Celie (the shy one), Emma (the friendly one) and Samson (the old, regal one). I'm basically an animal whisperer because Celie (who they warned me I might never see) totally wanted to be my best friend. And as far as the dogs go, there was Barkley, Bailey and Griffin. As I type this I'm totally doubting that his name is Griffin... but I know it was a G and nothing else sounds right so... we'll go with Griffin. All 3 of the dogs were a. big b. medicated and c. ate different food. I lived by the instructions that were left for me, although by the last day I pretty much had it on lock.
You had to section off each of the dogs in their own area before giving them food, then give them the food, then give them the drugs, then they could all hang out together again. But be sure not to let them anywhere near the cats! They were only allowed in the "cat-free zone", which is also where I found myself spending most of my time. Four of the cats ate the same thing, then there was Gizmo with the "special food" and Spatz the outside cat who got more food than all the rest... you gotta have energy to chase down opossums, you know?
Which reminds me, I came FACE TO FACE with an opossum. It. Was. Terrifying. Well, probably the opossum was more scared than me, but when you open the front door of a house nothing can really prepare you for making eye contact with a rabid animal. Not to mention how creepy and disgusting oposums look and are. Ew. Luckily he scurried away immediately... who knows how I would have reacted in the event of a stand-off.
SO ANYWAY, back to the dogs. As I took the job and was being debriefed, they hit me with the one-two punch. Ms. Phyllis buttered me up with a melt-in-you-mouth steak and wine combo just in time for Ms. Joyce to blurt out the sentence "I mean, worst case scenario is that Barkley dies. She could go any day, we're not really sure how she's still alive." Doesn't that just make you feel warm and fuzzy and confident? Here I was, signing off on taking care of NINE ANIMALS, when they tell me sweet Barkley has congestive heart failure and may very well die on my watch. Which brings me back to the third most frightening thing you can wake up to: silence.
You see, Barkley and I were room-mates in the cat-free zone during my stay. She'd usually walk on over to her bed and do her own sleeping thing for the night (save for the snoring and occasional fart) and I would watch some Criminal Minds as I drifted off into a something-less-than-peaceful sleep. However one night I woke up and, in my half-asleep state, heard nothing. NOTHING. I sat up in a dead panic and held my breath and listened. I kicked my feet a little, rustled the pillows, tried to do anything that might cause a potentially dead dog to stir. Nothing. I couldn't hear breathing, I couldn't hear snoring, I couldn't hear anything. I sat there for probably 45 seconds as sweat collected on my brown trying to determine my next move. Do I shake her? That's what I'd do if I thought a person was dead... does the same go for dogs? Should I hold a mirror under her nose? I've seen that on Law & Order... or Cold Case... or one of those shows. What's the protocol here? But just as I was firming up my game plan of shaking then googling, my girl Barkley let out a big ole sigh. Let me tell you... the relief I felt could probably be compared to how it must feel to get a negative on a pregnancy test during your wild college years... or so I imagine.
All in all it was a very successful trip. I decided that I don't hate (all) cats, that I could never be a Vet and that I should probably never own more than 2 animals at a time... nor should I feed them wet food. That stuff is pungent!!
I am sad to say, however, that sweet Barkley passed away a few weeks after my assignment was over. So this post is dedicated to her memory... and the fact that she made it through my stint as pet-sitter.