Nearly ten years ago, I was working part-time as a dog runner, taking active pooches out for their daily jogs, when I found an ad on Craigslist. A company called PugetPets was looking for a dog walker and pet sitter. I loved working with dogs, but running was taking a toll. A dog walker job was the perfect opportunity. I was so excited! I immediately responded to the ad and, as they say, the rest is history. For almost a decade now, I have had the privilege of serving PugetPets canine and feline clients and their guardians. I’ve been a daytime companion, surrogate guardian and—the all-important—can- and door-opener! Now, my dog walker and pet sitter decade draws to an end, as my partner and I prepare to move out of state and begin a new phase of our lives.
In the beginning, I never guessed how being a dog walker and pet sitter would impact my life and enrich my spirit, but it has. Of course, there were plenty of frustrating, crazy and even scary times, and plenty of poop! And there was more to learn than I ever imagined. If you think being a professional dog walker is an easy job, think again! There was the variety of “bodily fluids disasters,” the day I affectionately refer to as “Poodlepocalypse,” and chasing an escapee through the groomed backyards of an affluent Seattle neighborhood—not to mention any names (Lilly S!)—you know who you are! Being a dog walker has plenty of challenges. But being on the receiving end of warm, loving and excited receptions every day without exception, always outweighed the hard stuff. This is the lesson of our animal friends that we can never fully live up to as human beings: no matter what I was experiencing in my life, from a run-of-the-mill traffic nightmare to the deepest personal challenges, “my” dogs and cats always greeted me with the same happiness, caring, understanding and love. A wagging tail, a cat’s purr and play, a compassionate look (“Is there something wrong? Maybe a walk would help!”), always put the focus back on life’s important stuff. Every day. Without fail. No matter what, life falls into perspective when you come home to a heartbeat.
A decade is a long time to be a dog walker, so it isn’t surprising that while cleaning out for my move, sorting through dusty stacks of vintage vinyl and 8-tracks, I would unearth a long-lost rarity. Most of us are familiar with Joni Mitchell’s famous song “Both Sides Now,” but many of us feel it is somehow unfinished. No existential pondering of life, love and experience could really be complete without looking at the ups and downs of pets. But good news for pet guardians! Now, right here on the PugetPets blog, the rare lost pet verses of “Both Sides Now” can be revealed for the first time (with my sincere apologies to Joni Mitchell).
Both Ends Now
Sit and fetch and say bow-wow,
The tennis balls and Puppy Chow,
Excited wags and playful growls,
I’ve looked at dogs that way.
But now there’s dog poop in my hand.
They bark, and stink and track in sand.
They act like they don’t know commands
When I tell them to stay.
I’ve looked at dogs from both ends now,
From ears and rump, and still somehow
It’s dogs’ illusions I recall.
I really don’t know dogs at all.
Purrs and fluff and balls of string,
Play-stalking every moving thing,
And feather-toys with bells that ring,
I’ve looked at cats that way.
But now my couch arms are defaced.
They stick their butts up in my face.
My basement smells of kitty waste.
The males just want to spray.
I’ve looked at cats from both ends now,
Whiskers and tails and still…meow:
It’s cats’ illusions I recall.
I really don’t know cats at all.
One day, after walking a very sweet dog and dispensing treats to him and his lively young feline companion, I turned to notice a very large, rather bowling-ball shaped older cat who appeared Cheshire-like and was staring me down, as cats are wont to do. “Okay,” I said, not without reservation, “you can have ONE.” After Mr. Portly got his treat, I heard chirping. At first I thought it was the smoke-alarm battery. Then I heard it again, coming from somewhere upstairs. A bird! “Is there a bird?” I asked the cats and dog. All three looked at me (“Duh.”). “Hey, there, bird!” I shouted in a sing-song fashion. Chirp response. “Hey there, bird!” I sang again. Chirp response. “Okay,” I said to all, “I guess everyone’s alright, so I’ll be on my way.”
In loving memory of Nessie, Jackson, Bleu, Missy, Lucy and Breda. You are not forgotten.