Saturday, April 5, 2014

No Ordinary Raccoon

One summer I watched a cat named Rocky who used a cat door that was installed on the back door of the garage apartment in which he lived.  During one visit I noticed Rocky had made a huge mess of things in his eating area.   Now the apartment's small kitchen was undergoing a renovation and there were tools and various other construction items about the house.  However, I always made sure Rocky's area was neat and clean after every visit cuz that's just what I do.

As I picked up his water bowl to clean out I noticed it was very murky - one of the tell-tale signs of a raccoon.  They like to wash their food and in doing so their dirty feet get washed too.  I realized they were coming in through the cat door.

I notified the client right away and told them it would be a good idea to lock the cat door.  They agreed.  Rocky wouldn't be able to venture in and out.  The next day I couldn't find Rocky.  A short time later he came through the cat door.  The locking mechanism was broken.  I checked his food area and could see that indeed the raccoon had gotten in again, made a mess of the food area and scatted.

This time I barricaded the cat door with a wood panel that I found and braced it with a heavy tool bucket.  I exited out of the front door.  The next day I entered through the front door and immediately went to check the back door.  The bucket and the wood panel had been moved!  This was no ordinary raccoon.  At this point I'm thinking this sucker must be a behemoth and could probably take my lunch money if he wanted to.  

I went to clean Rocky's eating area again and when I bent down "something" scurried under the big chair next to his food area.  I'm never one to panic.  I like to survey, deduce the entire situation...and then decide whether or not I'm going to panic.  

At a distance I bent down to see what was under the chair.  There I discovered two little raccoon cubs!  They were just as startled as I was.  They were not able to get back through the cat door which was still partially barricaded.  I assumed the Momma raccoon couldn't get them out of there.   After much hissing and spitting trying to herd them out with a broom, I knew what I had to do.   I cleared the cat door and propped it open.  I had to cordon Rocky off in the bedroom and leave traces of cat food leading from the chair to the cat door (Jack Hannah would be proud).   

The next day there were no resident raccoons but there was much raccoon poop to clean up.  With the owner's permission I found a much heavier item to barricade the cat door with, which worked.  Poor Rocky couldn't come and go as he pleased for the rest of the time his owner was away, but it was better than him having to deal with an over sized raccoon and her brood.  And I would no longer have to fear a large paw grabbing my leg from under the bed!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ziggy & The Bee

This happy funny face belongs to my buddy "Ziggy."  Zig has been with me since I started my pet sitting business six years ago.

Before putting my name out publicly as a professional pet sitter I made sure that I joined PSI (Pet Sitters International), became a Certified Professional Pet Sitter, got insured, bonded and obtained a business license.  I also made sure that I became certified in Pet CPR/First Aid.

I recently updated my certification through Pet Tech by taking their thorough eight-hour long course.  The American Red Cross was where I initially became certified.  That particular course was good and taught the basics.  However, it was taught by a mature female instructor who had to start and stop several times and consult the same handbook she had given us when she forgot how to do stuff.  It was easy to drift off in that class and she at times, looked like she was sleeping with her eyes opened.  But many of the important bullet points I remembered.

One lovely summer day I was walking Zig.  We had barely started off on our walk when he kept biting at his front right paw.  I thought he had gotten a sticky-burr stuck in between his pads which happens often.  In that case, I just pull it out.  I bent down to check him out and a bee fell out from underneath his paw!  I looked at the bee and could see his stinger was missing.  

Several seconds after that, his leg started swelling up!  He was having an allergic reaction.  A long time ago I had purchased baby benadryl for my pet first aid kit.  I never had to use it but hoped it would still do the trick despite it's expired shelf life.  I got Zig back home right away, broke the benadryl in half, per my first aid training from the mature woman at the American Red Cross, and gave it to Zig with a treat.

I waited a few minutes and the swelling began to subside quickly.  I called the client right away to see if she wanted me to take him to the Vet to get checked out.  Ziggy was fine, had no trouble breathing and wasn't limping anymore.  She told me to go ahead and finish the walk and if anything didn't seem right when we got back home to give her a call.

All was well on our return after the walk.  The client was relieved and I felt grateful for having had the training I did at the time with the "eyes-wide shut" instructor.  And now Zig and I avoid bees like the plague.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Law & Order: Pet Sitting Unit

[names changed for privacy]
One of the written requests I ask of my clients is to have them to please inform me of any visitors or house guests, housekeepers or maintenance personnel that may be present during the course of my pet sitting visits.  This is particularly important for me because...I'm naturally suspicious.  Deep down inside I'm a frustrated detective.

One of my clients, a delightful young couple, Angela and Dave with two just as delightful little dogs, had recently moved to a different apartment within the same complex.  On perhaps the second or third visit to the new apartment I greeted the dogs in the same sing-song voice I greet all my dogs.  I don't do it when I know someone's present because that's just embarrassing.

A male voice uttered "hello" from the sofa.  I thought it was Dave home from work.  It was not.  It was a gentleman I had never seen before nor informed about.  I immediately identified myself, and trust me if I had a badge I would've whipped it out.   He did not do the same so I asked him who he was.  He said his name was "Cliff."    That was it.  No explanation of who he was or anything.

I left the apartment with the dogs...and my purse!  I immediately texted Angela and Dave informing them that I ran into someone named "Cliff" at the apartment.  And I purposefully put Cliff in quotations because that may or may not have been his real name.  I did not hear back from either of them.

I completed the walk and returned to the apartment careful to look for signs of a struggle or blood or anything out of the ordinary.  "Cliff" was still there.  I made sure my back was never to him as I left the apartment.  I immediately got back on my cell and texted Angela and Dave something to the effect of, "I don't know who this "Cliff" guy is and you guys haven't responded which worries me. So if you don't respond within the next 10 minutes, I'm calling the cops!"

Five seconds later I get a text from Angela, "Oh my gosh!  I'm so sorry we forgot to tell you Cliff is our roommate!  He's Dave's best friend.  Please don't call the cops.  I'm so sorry!"  Right after that I get a text from Dave, "LOL!  That's funny. Yes, Cliff is our new roommate.  Sorry we forgot to tell you.  I started to text back, 'Cliff who?!'"  I literally laughed out loud to that one.

Later I learned poor Cliff was not happy about the fact that they didn't tell me, or that I was about to go all Law&Order on him.  We all got a good chuckle out of it.  However,  I'll still have no problem calling out suspicious activity in or around my clients' dwellings.  It's just part of the job of...The P.S.I.: Pet Scene Investigation unit.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Pilled Cat

Ever since being a pet owner, before my professional pet sitting days, I've always prided myself on being able to administer meds to cats.  Whether the meds be pills, liquids, shots, inhalers or topical ointments; I had never met a cat that I couldn't "pill."  

There arose a request from another pet sitting company for whom I work as an independent contractor.  The bulletin went something like this, "We are looking for someone to help administer medication to a difficult cat.  Any cat whisperers out there?"  I immediately responded.  Trying not to sound too cocky I replied, "I've never met a cat I couldn't 'pill.'"

I was given the morning shift of the assignment and another pet sitter was doing the evening shift.  I met her at the home where she showed me where everything was.  She asked if I wanted to try to give Kitty (as I'll call him) his medication.  Positioning myself behind Kitty in a crouched position I gave him his liquid meds.  The other pet sitter was awed at my deft handy work and gave me congratulatory praises.  Kitty however, gave me a condemning look that said, "There will be blood..."

Like the calm in the eye of a hurricane, the next morning Kitty was abnormally still, watching my every move as I went about freshening the water, cleaning out the food bowl, putting fresh food in and cleaning out the litter box.  It was now time for Kitty's medication...and Kitty knew it!

If the Flash had a pet, it would have been Kitty.  However, not to be defeated and have my untarnished "pilling" record blemished, I was able to corner Kitty in a small bathroom.  

There is a method to opening a cat's mouth to administer medication.  You gently press in on the sides of the mouth to get them to open automatically.  It is then that you can give the medication.

Somehow, in that small bathroom of doom, after getting Kitty to open his mouth he managed to powerfully and supernaturally clamp down on one of my fingers!  So much so that he did not let go until there was a small puncture wound.  There was blood, yes, lots of blood.  And all of it was mine.

No medication was ingested by Kitty that day; yet the sweet taste of my humiliation and defeat was the panacea for all his ills.  And like a kitten's saucer of pure milk left out in the sun too long, my pilling record is forever soured.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mythological Bull

In Greek mythology, Zeus is the father of gods and men…the god of the sky and thunder.  So if “Zeus” chose to move next door to me and present himself in the form of a four-legged, slobbery-mouthed Pit Bull…who was I to judge?  And no, he didn’t change his name to try to blend in.

Zeus shed his Mt. Olympus swagger and became a dog of simple means and pleasures.  He loved belly rubs, head scratches and chasing after his favorite toys.  He was larger than most Pits I’d seen and more often than not, many people avoided walking past us.  Understandable, sure.  But you have no idea how upsetting that was to me. Breed-profiling, I call it.  “Breedists!”

One day as I was making my way towards my apartment building, I heard one of my neighbors screaming from her car, “April!  Run!  Oh my God…RUN!” A split second later I saw Zeus tearing around the corner at full speed, headed right towards me.  It all happened so fast. Unfortunately there was nothing that neither I nor his owner could do to avoid it…I was covered in dirt and slob!  My neighbor was still safely tucked away in her vehicle, no doubt convinced that I had been mauled to pieces.  I poked my head above the cars that obstructed her view of the carnage, and informed her that I was fine.

Pet sitters are like postal workers, not that we go postal but that we have to work come snow, rain, heat or gloom of night.  However, with Zeus being the god of the sky and thunder and what-not, I should have better prepared myself before walking him in the rain.  All was going well; in one hand I had my large golf umbrella that I paid $16.95 for at OSH, and in the other, Zeus’ leash.  We were almost done with our walk.  One block away from home, without any warning, without any rhyme or reason…Zeus’ chain prong collar broke away!  I’ve never been one to panic, outwardly, but my immediate thought was, “Oh, $#@!”

Zeus was not yet aware of what had happened until I started calmly approaching him with the collar and leash.  The look he gave me when he realized that he was no longer restrained made my heart sink and his leap for joy!  Thoughts of angry villagers chasing Zeus away after his reign of terror and them hanging me in effigy, swept through my mind.  I had to get him back.  To Zeus it was all a game of ‘chase.’  I abandoned my large golf umbrella and proceeded to get drenched while Zeus exploited my mortal limitations.  This game of cat and mouse continued half way down the block.  I was losing all hope.  This was it.  I was going to lose my pet sitting business all because of some mythological Bull and a faulty collar.

It may have been the other gods from Mt. Olympus showing favor upon me, but the thought to give the king of the mythological gods a command, struck me like an anvil on Wile E. Coyote’s head.  “SIT!” Great bolts of Thor, it worked!  I was just as shocked as Zeus was.  He was leashed.  The game was over.  I retrieved my umbrella; its purpose of which was moot at this point.  Visions of torches and pitchforks were now replaced by joyfully animated woodland creatures dancing about my head.

Zeus and his owner moved downtown, out of my service area.  I do miss him a lot.  But I often wonder what other mortal pet sitter he may be toying and amusing himself with now?

Bye Bye Black Cat

One of my little fuzzy babies passed over the Rainbow Bridge earlier this year. He was an older cat but had lots of vim and vigor in him towards the end. 

My clients instructed me to allow him to venture out, supervised, in the backyard during my visits. The backyard itself was more like a patio area. Eight feet out from the back door was a fence that cordoned off a steep hill with a 30 foot drop into the back of the neighbors back patio area. You see where I'm going with this?

I let Mr. Black Cat out (we'll call him B.C.) as I went to the other side of the house to dump some kitty litter in the bin. I came back around and B.C. had disappeared! I found him traipsing down the hill. I panicked! I found a space in the fence to crawl through and had to kick off my shoes to get a better grip on the hill's terrain. It was that steep.

B.C. led me on a goose chase. Just when I almost had him in my hands he dashed back up the steep hill towards home, leaving me to struggle back up the hill. Twigs in my hair and mud oozing from between my toes, I was not happy. But was very glad I got B.C. back home.

It wasn't until I was on the road to my other assignment that I busted out laughing at myself. I imagined what I must have looked like to one of the neighbors if they had seen me. I will miss B.C. very much. But not that hill.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Randy Bull Mastiff

“Randy” was a very excitable and friendly Bull Mastiff.  Upon meeting him for the first time he was more than happy to show me his toy up shoving it in my stomach! “Ah, he likes you.” the owner said.  Thank goodness, because I’d hate to walk a dog whose entire head was nothing but mouth, to dislike me.

My job was to take Randy to the dog park three times a week.  Because of his size, and his large mouth, I could see the caution and wariness on the faces of passersby.  One of those passersby was more than happy to express her fear and trepidation.  

One time Randy wanted to make friends with a German Shepherd whose owner was walking a few steps ahead.  So Randy galloped towards him, in that playful way that dogs do when they want to play.  The owner, upon hearing Randy approaching her dog, turned around and spurted out, “GET YOUR DOG!” with such venom it rendered me speechless.

She repeated her request again which jolted me out of my Medusa-induced trance, and I called for Randy.  Randy couldn’t have cared less whether or not he got to play with the dog…but my feelings were hurt.  How dare she make such a rash judgment against my dog!  I tend to get a little possessive about the pets in my care.  Randy was a happy-go-lucky pup who loved to play, run, romp around and chase me!  He was also quite the ladies-man. 

Randy loved nothing more than to walk along side a cute babe that was hiking, look up at her and with those eyes, demand a head rub.  Or if he spotted one sitting on a bench, he did not hesitate to jump up and sit next to her.  Not wanting these women to have a heart attack, I’d yell out to them way in advance, “He’s friendly!”  Each time, they all warmed up to him very quickly.

Randy was one of my favorites.  His owner had told me a month ahead of time that they were moving to San Francisco.  However, I was still completely caught off guard when after our last visit together as I was saying goodbye, I bawled my eyes out!!  What the hell was that all about?!  Even Randy’s owner was taken aback.  I hope to God she didn’t think I was a wacko and realized that I was just very fond of Randy.   

That’s one of the occupational hazards of this field.  You get attached so quickly and easily to these fuzzy critters.  They burrow themselves into your heart and curl up in a nice warm spot and stay there forever.  Randy said goodbye to me by jumping up and thrusting his front paws into my stomach. Mushy I know.  But true.  The emotion is mushy...not my stomach.