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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Their dog was your dog???

What a random series of events this afternoon!  I went to get my nails done at a place closer to my house - very spur of the moment.  I had a rare hour to kill and had been trying to get my nails done since before Thanksgiving.  I walked into this strange place where I didn't know anyone, hoping that someone was free.  The nail technician and I got to talking about what I do and she starts telling me about her 2 dogs.  She has to Shiba Inus.  She then said that she used to have a golden retriever, but had to surrender him to the shelter when he was 7 months old because he was eating her house.  My ears perked up - this sounded WAY too familiar.  She told me when this happened, which shelter,  and more about the puppy. I immediately knew the truth - I have her old dog as a client! She couldn't believe it!  (Neither could I!)  What a small world, but so nice that she knows the dog is happy and in a wonderful home.  She and her children were devastated when they gave this dog up.  She showed me baby pictures of him and then I showed her adult pictures of him!

It is so great to see him as a puppy!  I have known him since he was about 8 months, but not a baby. What a cutie - I'd know that face anywhere!  

Seems that I was supposed to go there today and get my nails done to meet this woman!  The universe works in mysterious ways!

Monday, January 5, 2015

You Don't Pay - I Don't Hold Back

I was going to write this about a month ago, and I thought that I would give these people the benefit of the doubt for just a little while longer.  Well, that was incredibly stupid on my part because they didn't even deserve that.

About 2 months ago I received a call at 7 am from a number that I didn't recognize.  It was a woman telling me that she had an emergency situation and needed a cat sitter.  She was literally in a hospital bed in New Jersey awaiting a cardiac procedure and told the doctor that she couldn't have anything done until she knew that her cats were taken care of.  You could hear it in her voice - the weakness, the worry, the concern.  She told me that she had emailed me the night before (turns out she did at 11 pm and I was asleep).  She also told me that her husband had emailed me a few weeks prior to ask about my services. They had a horrible story - Their house in NJ was being repaired after major water damage and they were living temporarily in a highrise in Center City and living off insurance money from the house.  Then she ends up in the hospital with heart issues.  Of course I agreed to take care of the cats!  I am not a monster!

She informs me that no one has been there in nearly 3 days, so they must be starving.  We get there as soon as possible which was around 11 am.  They didn't have the key at the front desk so they had to call maintenance to let us in the apartment. The cats DESTROYED the place! There were broken dishes all over the floor that they flung out of the cabinet, no food or water, dirty litter, etc.  Mike looks all over for food and litter and doesn't see anything.  I call the owners cell phone - she doesn't answer.  I call the hospital that she gave me the number for, they give me a hard time because I don't know her last name.  All I had was a first name, a husbands name, a room number , and a reason for being there.  After they transferred me to 3 different people, they finally got me connected to her room.  She sounded distressed and put me on the phone with her husband who THEN tells me that there is no food or litter and we have to go buy some.  I ask specifically what kind of food and litter (I don't want to stress the cats out any further with new things in their world) and we go to Target to buy everything.  We then go BACK to the highrise, have maintenance let us in AGAIN and feed the starving kitties.  I told the owner that morning that we would go until we heard otherwise.

We return the next few days and still hear nothing from them as to when they are coming back.  The 3rd or 4th day we come in and the carpet has been freshly vacuumed and someone had fed the cats.  Was it them?  Housekeeping?  I had no idea - so I call and text to see if they are back.  I don't get a response, so we skip a day.  We come in the day after that and ask the front desk if they are back in the apartment.  They say yes, they saw them 2 days prior hanging out on the computer in the lobby!!  What??!!  They didn't leave a note or money, nothing.  Later that afternoon I received a text from the husband that says that they are back (2 days after the fact) and  he thanked me for everything. There was no question of what they owed me, payment, etc., So I sent one back stating that we bought food and litter (the receipt was on their fridge held up by my business magnet) and they owed us for 4 visits.  I got no reply for a week or so.  I sent an email with a balance. Another week goes by.  Then I finally get an email apologizing for the lack of contact, stating that they are having financial difficulties, etc.  I knew this and even said at the very least, I need to be reimbursed for the food and litter. He said that he would send that right away and get the rest to me as soon as possible.  So far I have not seen a dime OR heard from them. I don't ever expect to  which is why I can badmouth them in this blog without a hint of guilt.

Moral of the story is this.  Just communicate and be honest.  If they had told me that they couldn't pay - I probably still would have helped them out.  I may not have purchased such pricey food and litter....but I would have helped because their situation was dire.  The fact they just disappeared and didn't even offer to compensate me is beyond insulting.  This is my business and my livelihood.  This is not a hobby and I am not a teenager doing this for pocket money.  I have a house and a mortgage and responsibilities and that should be respected.  I never met these people and I don't even know what they look like.  I refuse to send them another email that simply states common sense and decency in society because I know that they won't respond OR feel any remorse.  The truth is that they were lucky to have hired me and not someone else who would have taken advantage of the situation.  I know in the end I got screwed, but at least I know that I was the one who did right by them.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

From Puppy to Self Proclaimed Adult Dog

Approximately 4 months ago I received a call from a new client that was getting a new puppy.  I always love to watch my animal clients grow up and be a part of their "beginning."  There really is a true bond when that happens. So I go to meet this puppy and immediately fell in love.

 Leo grew up so fast!  He is a Wheaten/Collie Mix, so every week he would change colors and grow.  My first time staying with him overnight he was a teething maniac!  He would chew on EVERYTHING and pounce on me like a cat!

 The older he got, the more endearing he became.  His puppy personality was still there, but he was starting to think and make decisions and grow delicious chin whiskers!!  He was no longer in a crate, but gated off in the kitchen.  He was just getting taller and taller and I wondered why he stayed behind the gate so well.

  The last time I stayed
overnight with him (which was last week) he look it upon himself to declare adulthood and get out of the kitchen when I left. He jumped the gate (So I thought) and would greet me from the couch.  He would not stay put!  His owners have tried 2 more methods of gating (very creative)  He managed to escape both numerous times and I would swear that he grew wings and flew.  You cannot keep a determined dog contained :)
He has grown into an amazing dog who is funny, loves to hug, and has an ability to escape rooms like Houdini himself.  :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Poop War #23

I write about poop a lot. I know I do, but it is a major part of my day and it also seems to cause the most stress.  I have touched upon the issues of the lack of trashcans, businesses having a trashcan and then trying to tell you what trash you are allowed to put in it, and the ever popular fight of "Walk your dog on the street and use the trees! NO! Don't let them go on the trees, go to a park!  No, get them out of the part, kids play here!"

Today was a whole different story!  Let's actually go back about 2 months to when I was walking a dog past the section 8 housing at around 9am.  There are large grassy patches there and this particular dog likes the grass.  From behind me I hear a lady yell, "I HOPE you ain't bringing your dog here to SHIT!"   My reply was honest.  I said, "Noooo.... not specifically, but if she does I'm picking it up."  We then got into a discussion about how people are assholes and don't pick up after dogs, etc.  I told her very clearly that I will absolutely pick up after any dog I walk 100% of the time so she didn't have to worry if she saw me.  That was good enough for her and we went our separate ways.  There was some other babbling about how these are peoples houses, kids play right here (they don't, I have been walking past that corner daily for the better part of a decade), just use the side grass, etc.

Today, I was walking a dog nearing the same corner when the dog went up to the tree (across the sidewalk from the house) and squatted to pee.  From behind me I hear a SHRILL voice screaming , "Don't you bring your fucking dog over here to shit!!!!"  I whipped me head around in disbelief and said, "Whoa!!  First of all, she didn't shit as you can see.  Secondly, if she DID shit, I would pick it up.  Lastly, this it NOT your property.  This is a tree on the sidewalk and it is city property!" She said, "Yeah, it's PHA (Philadelphia Housing Authority) property!!!! " I told her that we had had this conversation before and I told her that I pick up after my dogs,  She said no, that was with her neighbor.  She told me to walk my dogs around my house, stay off that street, go somewhere else.... Wouldn't let me get a word in, wouldn't calmly talk to me - just came out of her door and verbally attacked me.  I yelled back of course because that is just who I am, but I chose my words carefully.  I didn't call her a bitch (she called me one) and I didn't drop an F -bomb (she did) because I was trying to maintain some level of respect (as she was about 60 yrs old).  The worst I could come up with in the heat of the moment was "Bite Me!!" Which only caused the reply of, "Yeah, bite cha ass bitch!"

The issue is over for right now, but this whole ordeal leaves me questioning people in this city yet again.  First of all, I know a few people who live in the section 8 housing in that development.  The people I know are wonderful and have no problem with me.  It seems that every block has their crazy representative though.  Up the street there was someone that didn't want us to park in front of her house because we were white and "Black people need to park too!"  Section 8 is low cost housing.  They can live there with a huge amount of assistance.

How do we pay our bills?
The Philadelphia Housing Authority has a $371 million annual budget that comes from several sources. (Our fiscal year runs from April 1 through March 31.)
We receive most of our funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
A small part of our budget - $1.5 million in state and federal money - comes in the form of grants. These grants are used for programs such as the Summer Food program.
PHA received $126.9 million in stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to improve and expand affordable housing throughout the city.
We bill $24 million in rents to our residents.

This also means that the housing authority covers outside maintenance (they mow grass, plant trees and bushes, clean trash, etc)  The parking lots, sidewalks, and grassy areas are COVERED in trash and empty drug bags, but THAT's ok for the kids to play in??  I walk a dog that pees on a tree not even touching your property and you yell at me like I threw dog shit on your front step!?
Bottom line is once again, I am doing my job and abiding by the law.  I get dirty looks wherever I walk a dog, whether it is in a park or on the street.  Nothing is right, yet there are thousands of dogs in the city.  People need to get off their high horse trying to boss everyone around and just accept that this is how it is.  
                             Dogs have to go somewhere outside. Deal with it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Morning strangeness.....

I have been doing overnights for 10 days thus far, and each day I am up between 6-7 am.  We go out for a walk, eat breakfast, and then I head home to shower and get my schedule together.  Yesterday my mornings took an odd turn.  I was walking home from my overnight around 7:30am and passed by an older man on one of the side streets.  He stopped and said, "Hey pussycat".  I stopped and smirked for a minute because my dad called me that when I was little.  He was amused that I stopped and reiterated, "You are.."  It went from amusing to creepy real fast. Maybe it was because the night before I watched a lifetime movie about online predators of young girls and it portrayed all older men to be scumbag pedofiles. I had flashbacks to the movie where they would bait these men with cops pretending to be 14 years old.  They would give them a hat, braid their hair and give them a backpack.  I happen to have been wearing a backpack...

Anyway, I went home, got myself together, then took the bus to Old City.  I was going to walk back and feed cats along the way.  I get from 3rd and Market to 2nd and Chestnut where an Indian mother stops me and asks me if I have a phone.  Her long winded story was that her son was across the street at the passport place and had a 9am appointment.  It was then 9:30 and the car was parked slightly far from the curb, but she didn't have the keys.  He had the keys.  And she thought the police were going to come and take the car.  She dictated (more or less) while I texted this guy in the passport office.  She went on and on about irresponsible kids, the car, etc.  I sent about 4 texts because she was frantic.  About an hour later he sent me one back to thank me for everything.

I kept heading south to cats, the bank, and then the next cat.  This is a house that is the last one down an alley.  I get to the door and there is a huge spider on the knob!  He won't move.  I was there for 15 minutes trying to get closer and he just kept going from the knob to the deadbolt and back.

I finally gave up and decided to go back later and as I walked out of the gate, I see a UPS truck turn down the next street.  The driver is a good friend of mine and I know that he deals with spiders at his house all the time!  I run over and ask him if he can move the spider so I could get into the house.  After laughing and mocking, he agrees.  We walk over, he pokes him, the thing jumps in his hand and he walks down the alley with it.  My hero!  And yes, I was mocked by a spider AND a human within an hour.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Oh, she bites :(

I had to do something this afternoon that I never had to do before.  I had to turn down a dog due to aggression.  The owner adopted this beautiful (60+ lb) Shepherd mix a month ago from the SPCA.  Since then, her new fur kid has been extremely protective of her and the apartment.  She did warn me about this ahead of time, so we decided to start the meet and greet outside and go for a walk.  She took treats, let me walk her, let me pet her, did her business, and seemed pretty relaxed.  We then went up to her apartment where she snapped at me once, and then again when I tried to touch her toy.  The second time was a bit worse.  I had to be honest and tell her that I was extremely apprehensive about walking the dog on my own, and of course she understood.  We discussed training, behavior issues, options, etc.  It's tough because I really like them, but can't put my limbs at risk.  The owner understands of course, but it is just a crappy situation for all parties to be in.  The dog has aggression issues, the owner can't have people in her apartment, and the potential walker is scared of the dog. I don't claim to be a behaviorist by any means, although I have learned some things along the way.  I hope that everything works out for the best....

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Politics of Poop

I know that dog owners are all on same page about this.  The subject is poop.  I have literally discussed poop on a daily basis for probably the past 10 years.  It is a gross, but valid subject for dog owners as well as walkers.

Basically in the city you have a few options for dogs to do their business.  They can go on or around trees in the street, parks, dog parks, empty lots, or on the sidewalk.  Very few dogs will go on the sidewalk, so I usually leave that out.  If you take your dog to a regular park, you get dirty looks from those laying down in the grass.  You then avoid the people, and the kids, and pray that the dog goes in the designated spot away from people.  They then tell you that you should go to a dog park, but if you walk a dog aggressive dog that is impossible.  If you try to walk around the outskirts of a dog park, they don't want dogs there.  If you find some grassy area around new construction (not being used for anything), there are signs that it is "pet free." If you go by trees on the street, you get yelled at by the people who own the house behind the tree.  You can search for empty lots, but not only are they disappearing fast, they are full of garbage and broken glass.  Basically, our dogs are screwed because they aren't allowed anywhere!  Don't get me wrong, I do respect the flowers and signs asking you to keep your dogs out of private areas, but public parks?!  I consider them free game.

Let's say poop happens and you are carrying around a bag only to find that there are no trashcans.  You find one and there is a sign on it that says  "No dog waste".  You find another one and someone comes out of the store to tell you that you can't throw away dog poop in the trash!  They tell you to take it home.  I tell them that this isn't my dog, nor my home so I need a trash can.  I'm sorry, when did people get to dictate what trash goes in the trashcan??  This explains why people have stopped picking up after their dog OR they pick it up and then leave the bag of poop in the middle of the sidewalk.  Which is worse?  A poop covered city or smelly trash?

They don't make it easy, but we are figuring out ways to avoid the rules.  I feel bad sometimes, but I am in the business of making dogs happy.  They shall poop where they please and I shall pick it up.  :)