As a companion piece to a story to appear soon in The Christian Science Monitor about our newest addition, Sam the Smiling Dog, I'm rerunning a piece about our attempt to find a sitter for our furry family when we took a weekend break (escaped) and headed to the beach. I'm excited to point out that no pet sitters were harmed during our absence.
This past summer, we finally conjured up the nerve (and money) to spend a weekend at the beach. It's hard for us to get away, since there's no immediate family left willing to stay with our darling doggies (oh yeah, and the cats, like they're not old enough to take care of themselves, and boy do we have nerve thinking they need a chaperone). But over the years we did without luxuries like frozen pizza and liver mush to scrape together enough cash to hire Guido, who usually moonlights at Happy Valley Pet Park, to stay the weekend at our home.
Here, then, are Instructions for the Pet Sitter while we’re on vacation:
There are a number of animals here. It is important to remember that dogs and cats have been bred over the centuries expressly to tell lies about the amount of food they are allowed to consume. Here’s the routine. This section applies to the Mostly Labradors, which is the State Dog Breed of South Carolina. That’s not official, mind you, but everybody knows it’s true because according to a scientific poll taken at the Doggie Do Canine Emporium and Park last Tuesday after the Milk Bone truck came by, everyone here has been owned by such a beast at some point in their lives.
The Mostly Labs are the ones most likely to try and intentionally mislead you about the frequency, amount, and duration of meal times. The Labrador Breed Club flag bears a picture of a cookie and a loophole.
By the time you get here all the animals will have had their morning potty break and have eaten breakfast, which they will lie about having. If animals hadn’t been fed in weeks, they would be dead, not rolling about the living room floor looking like a can of biscuits about to pop open. The vet mentioned the word “blubber” at our last appointment which is not, to the best of my recollection, a word associated with starving animals. They can eat again at supper time, which is not the time of day marked by finishing breakfast.
No, they do not need a snack.
No, not even a little one.
No, they do not need a cookie.
Yes, I’m aware of the cuteness factor.
Yes, I know about the big brown eyes.
Okay, maybe one cookie.
They’ll need to go out when you get there. They can stay out until they get tired and want to come back in. That should take at least until they reach the bottom step. Repeat as necessary until you consider replacing the kitchen door with one that revolves at a steady clip.
If they go missing, they’ll be at the neighbor’s house begging for food. They’re dogs; they don’t know Halloween comes only once a year. Especially since the neighbor has a treat for them every single day. Twice on the weekend.
However, they’re not supposed to beg for food, so if you catch them trick-or-treating at regular intervals throughout the afternoon, you may speak sharply. They won’t listen to you, but at least you’ll feel like you tried. Be aware that their feelings will be hurt and they’ll gaze balefully at you like you’ve taken their last cookie. It’s okay; they weren’t supposed to have one anyway. The Atkins diet people would go broke with spokesmodels like these.
If they start to go out of the driveway, call out, “Stay in the driveway!” in a cheerful tone and they’ll run to you like lost sheep found. Keep some of their regular kibble in your pocket and give them a bite when they’re good. In that way, a few kibble should last the entire time we’re gone.Sometimes they give into temptation if a squirrel or bunny across the street is particularly insistent in their taunting, but for the safety of all concerned (not the bunny or squirrel who have no need even to break a nervous sweat) the dogs should stay out of the road. It’s a quiet enough neighborhood, but I’ve come down with a nasty case of laryngitis yelling for them to come back when in hot pursuit of a stray butterfly.
Around 6:30. For supper, both the big dogs get two scoops from the bucket, and Lucy, the Dachshund Diva gets one. The amount of time it takes to consume the food is in no way related to the amount of food each should receive. Hunga Din (Bo) could suck down the bits like a Hoover as you pour it into the bowl, while Sam must take the time to lick up stray crumbs before they evaporate mysteriously into the air or someone else's (another Bo reference. His rap sheet takes hours to print.) drooling maw.
Still, two cups apiece is the rule. Those who overindulge have to be helped when it comes to establishing limits. “Just say no” is not a viable slogan for a beast who stoops to begging for the rights to lick the butter dish.
You’ll need to put Lucy’s food down next to you so as to fend off the big dogs. They’ll circle her, and every now and then they try to snag a bite, but since they are afraid of her, they’ll mostly try to convince you that she is not hungry and said they could have her supper.
After supper, they’ll need to go out again. They like to roughhouse inside, but if they get too wild you can take them outside. (They’re like small boys and will often resort to biting each other’s ear just to see who squeals first.) If you walk up and down the driveway they’ll probably start chasing each other--unless it’s hot. Then they’ll follow you up and down the driveway and complain. They usually do more chasing after dark when it’s cool, but they’re both afraid of dog-eating monsters and you’ll have to stay out with them as a motivational and protective influence. Usually about 20 minutes will be all you can stand.
Make sure they go out again at bedtime (between 10 and midnight), but that’s not a big playing time. If you don’t make them go out, they’ll be insistent to speak with you personally at about 5:30 a.m., which I know from experience is way before dawn this time of year.In the morning, same deal foodwise (2 cups for big doggies, one for Lucy, but Divas don’t breakfast well and she will probably ignore it and want to be served brunch instead later in the morning).
A word about Lucy; she’s half Dachshund and half Bull Shark. She’ll put up with a certain amount of ignorance on your part, but if you expect her to do anything she considers demeaning, such as listening to baby talk or fetching a ball, she’ll take your arm off up to the elbow. It's important to remember that if you can see her teeth, she is not smiling.
As for the cats: Feed them. They’ll lie, too, because it’s expected, but if you keep their bowl full of Friskies then really, what right do they have to complain? But be careful of the gray one. I suspect he and Lucy have the same father. If all else fails toss him some catnip and close the door. What happens in the cat box, stays in the cat box.
Thank you for your assistance, and I understand that our agreement expressly forbids me from using your real name.