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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Pet Sitters Don't Get Sick

I did the unthinkable and got sick. Like, sick sick.  I have been in this business for...gulp... 17 years!!  I have been full time for almost 8 years.  In those 8 years, I have gotten sick, but it maybe lasted a few days.  A head cold, a runny nose, vertigo... which were uncomfortable, but I sucked it up and still worked.  This time I got the flu.  I had a fever for what seemed like weeks, but it was really only 5 days.  I was weak, I was coughing and it felt like someone was stabbing me in the chest, and I was hot all day long.

I started freaking out on Saturday when this began.  How am I going to work? How am I going to walk dogs?  I had extra dogs scheduled this week !!  I stressed and I sent out a TON of group texts to all of my regular clients.  I texted my doctor clients for medical advice (daily).  I didn't want to let anyone down, I thought that I could work through it.  I could not.  I still had a few cats to feed because my clients were already away when I got sick so I had no choice.  Just going to one house was exhausting.  It was then I realized that I am human.  I am not invincible.

I have worked 7 days a week for the past 7.5 years and have not taken a vacation since 2011.  I rarely say "No" to clients, I like to be there for them and the animals.  I overbook myself all the time, but I love what I do.  I am also a workaholic for a variety of other reasons, another story for another time. It was only a matter of time before I got sick enough to have to cancel walks.  How do you do that when people depend on YOU Monday - Friday? How do you tell them that you physically can't walk for more than 5 minutes at a time?  I was emotionally drained from even thinking about it. The crappy part was that Terry, my backup was ALSO sick which made for an even worse week.  The chances of us both being sick at the same time were a million to one, but it happened.  This lovely winter where the flu got everyone.  It got to the point where I was so delirious in my bed that I stopped caring about everything and just focused on getting well. In my mind all of my clients were going to drop me for being sick for a week and cancelling.  I thought, "Well, I'll just have to start over!" I'm glad that people stuck by me, even if they were angry.  Believe me, no one was angrier than the workaholic who was stuck in bed for days.

It put things into perspective about owning my own business, getting sick, having a plan, having backup, and just staying sane.  It is near impossible to plan for these things and even more difficult to fix them once they are happening.  Stressing about it will only keep you down longer, and I was down for about 10 days. I try to be superwoman and be there for everyone at all times, but it's not realistic.  I do my best and I say yes as much as possible, but I cannot do it all.  This flu taught me to see my human side again, and that was they only good thing to come out of the past 2 weeks.  I will continue to overbook and work day and night, but I will take more time to be a real person as well.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

So you pulled the race card!

Some days it seems as though I walk around the city and angry people just take their inner crap out on me.  I don't walk down the street looking for fights or conflict.  I don't yell at strangers.  Well, that's not true.  I actually tend to yell at strangers daily, but it 98% of the time it is because they almost hit me with their car (STOP signs are not just a suggestion).

Lately I have had women pulling out the race card on me, for literally no reason.  I don't know if it is the political climate or how they feel about themselves and their life, or if they are used to being profiled....whatever the reason behind it, my advice is this:  If you want to pull the race card, someone better be saying or doing something that directly correlates to your race in a negative way.  I will not be that person doing such things.

Years ago I was bartending on South St. in a small bar and restrooms were for customers only.  These 2 underage girls walked in the front door, came up to the bar on a busy Saturday, and asked if we had a bathroom.  I said yes, but the bathrooms are for customers only.  I asked them if they wanted to buy a soda or fries or something. They said, "No! We just want to use the bathroom!"  I again repeated that they were for customers only.  They then got mad and yelled, "You just won't let us use the bathroom because we're black!!"  Totally caught me off guard!  I said, "Nooo..... I won't let you because you're not a customer, it has nothing to do with your race."  They caused a scene and we had to then kick them out.  This was about 10 years ago.

A few months ago I was walking 2 dogs past a bunch of houses on 5th st.  A few of those houses are Section 8 and the people who live there always sit in the car out in front of their house and talk on the phone.  I walk by this woman who I see all the time and she is in her car.... on the phone.... having a very loud conversation.  The one dog peed on the sidewalk next to a tree about 100+ feet from her house.  She LOSES IT on me.  Screaming at me FROM HER CAR (I assume because I was walking 2 big dogs)
"Well that's just great!!  What the fuck? Your dog just peed in front of my house!!  Why don't you let that dog pee at your own house??"
 I examined where we were and screamed back, " We are nowhere NEAR your house! The dog is peeing on a public sidewalk owned by the city! Relax, we are not near your house!"
She kept on yelling and it was just so ridiculous and I was tired and hungry, I just kept yelling back! I probably shouldn't have engaged, but if you're screaming at me, I have a really hard time just putting my head down and walking away.  At least at first.  So she kept on as we were continuing on our walk and the last thing she screamed was, "Walk your fucking dogs on another goddamn street you fucking CRACKER!"  Um.... yeah.  This is basically my neighbor.
Another male neighbor comes out of his door and is looking at me saying, "What's all the screaming? "  I told him that I am apparently a cracker because this woman didn't like that the dog peed on the sidewalk down the street from her house"  He told me he'd go talk to her and calm her down.  Made it about race and tried to offend me - all because a dog peed on the street.

More recently I had an incident happen before 8am!  I was walking a dog in South Philly where there are no trashcans.  I had a bag of poop in my hand and I was coming upon someones trash bag on the curb that was half open and had other poop and trash in it.  I walked over to it and put the bag of dog poop in that big trash bag.  The owner of the trash bag was apparently in her car that was parked right there and started screaming at me!  "Don't you throw that bag of poop in my trash!!! You take that home!  Throw it in your own trash!  Take it out!!"  This was 7:52 a.m.  So I said, "No, this is trash and I am putting it in the trash.  They are coming to pick up the trash the next day!  It's ok"  And there was another guy walking his dog that happened to come upon us.  He heard what was going on and had this fight himself so he stepped in and just told her to leave it alone and have a nice day.  She just would not shut up!!  I was not taking trash out of the trash bag to go find another trash bag - this bag was already out on the street and I was not the first OR the last to use it.  She started following me down the street in her car screaming at me for saying that I wouldn't take my poop bag and the guy was trying to just get her to go.  I realized that I should not engage with the crazy and just kept walking the dog - and she drove up directly next to me and yelled, "YOU RACIST BITCH!"  I looked straight at her and said, "I assure you that this has nothing to do race, I was throwing trash in a trash bag.  Have a nice day."  I then was shaking for stifiling my screaming and had to sit at my clients house and calm down.

Here is the thing - you can get mad at me for stupid things like dogs peeing and using your precious trash bag, but why bring race into it when this all really pertains to a dog?  I am not shouting racial slurs or tagging our property saying racially offensive things.  I AM WALKING A DOG!  It is my job!!! I have been yelled at for years by all races for the dogs peeing "near" someones house and only recently has it come to this.  Is it Trump related?  Just because I am white you think I must have voted for him and feel the same way?  Is it just lashing out because you had a crappy day and that is your go to insult?  I really don't get it - and it's sad.  I mean really sad.  It is also a shame that someone can get that angry before 8am.  I don't know if anyone else has experienced this, but I sincerely hope that these unprovoked accusations stop.  I don't like being called racist for throwing away a bag of poop.

Monday, August 21, 2017

So you want to help me out?

Recently I have been getting alot of offers from people to help me out with work.  These are actually people that I know and that I do trust and I DO take this into consideration, however I always come to the same conclusion.  There is no way that just "helping out" is possible.  Maybe it's because I am a control freak.  Maybe it's because I am a good business owner.  Maybe it is because I know how people are.  Could be all of the above.....

If someone wants to help me out, it is really committing to working for me.  Here is the scenario.  I have regular dogs that are walked daily, weekly, etc.  I have relationships with these dogs and their owners.  I know their habits, I know their schedule, I know their personalities, and they trust me.  So do their parents.  When you throw a random new person in to walk a dog it throws the whole balance off.  Strangers are coming in to the house, and it can be daunting for the owner as well as the animal.

The cats that I watch are the same way.  Aside from the medical visits, the instructions are so specific in most places that it would take me longer to write it out for someone than it would be to just do it myself.  The cats get used to a certain person as well, we become like a second family member.

If I had said yes to the people willing to help in the past week, that would mean that I could possibly take on 5-10+ extra dogs per day.  Then what happens when these people help for a few weeks and decide that their lives or other jobs get in the way of helping? Then I am stuck with a schedule that I can't handle and will have to let clients go.  It's a double edged sword really.  The work is out there if the commitment level is high.  This is not for everyone though.  We are like mailmen - out in all weather all day long.  We work holidays, weekends, mornings, evenings... it's tough to juggle.  So while I could use a break and would welcome the help, I know my clients would not want someone new in their house and I fear the temporary enthusiasm :)
If I needed coverage or backup (If I ever take a vacation) that would be another story, but I have had some clients for 15 years! They are used to me and my neurotic ways.

So apologies to all those people that have offered....I am simply not ready to try to figure this out yet, but it will always be in the back of my mind.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Maggot Monday! (Warning, it's a bit gross)

One of the worst Mondays ever. Seriously. And I have had a lot of crappy Mondays.  My day started off just fine, I even had one less morning dog to walk!  I fed a neighbor cat and then headed to my first dog over on 11th st.  I had seen him the night before.  He is an older dog with some hind end mobility issues, but he is just the sweetest boy! Loose poo has been his ailment this week so I knew to be prepared for a good bum cleaning (It's all part of the job)

He was sound asleep when I arrived so I prepared his pill and his food and his butt wipes before waking him up.  I go over to him and lift his tail and I see a maggot. (Ugh!!)  I start wiping and I see more.  And more. And more.....This was not an isolated maggot.  They were big too! About 1/2 inch long.  I started freaking out because maggots are really the ONE THING that I cannot deal with.  I start to see them drop off the dog and wriggle on the floor towards me. NOOOOOO  I was armed with paper towels and lysol, but honestly nothing kills them except squishing them.

Let me take a moment to preface this by saying that I had a traumatic experience with maggots when I was 16.  I was working in a pet store, my first job, and they told me to clean out the hermit crab tank.  I picked up the 10 gallon tank full of hermit crabs (dead and alive) and took it to the big back sink. I started by putting the live ones in another container and soon realized that the dead ones (and the water surrounding them) were filled with tiny maggots!  I lost my shit, threw everything in the sink and ran to the bathroom to wash my arms and hands!  My boss saw how freaked out I was and told someone else to finish.  I finally regained my composure and went back on the floor to help customers.  Someone came up asking for a dozen crickets. I grabbed a bag and on my finger was one tiny crawling maggot.  Again, freaked out!!! To this day they are the one thing that I cannot deal with.  Give me puddles of blood, protruding bones and organs, abscess, anything!  Not maggots!

So here we are, over 16 years later and I am in a house by myself with a dog that is covered in maggots that are mobile.  I'll admit, I cried a little and got a bit lightheaded.  This was at 8am. I had to get a level head and figure out the most logical thing to do.  If I were still working in a vets office, what would we do?  (well, the first thing I would do is pass it off to someone else and buy them lunch) I knew that I had to shave him down to see what I was working with because there had to be a wound under all that hair that was attracting the maggots.  I called my husband in a panic to see if he could drop off my clippers and rubber gloves before he went to work.  He agreed and was there in about 10 minutes, I was on the verge of breakdown.  He told me to put on my clinical face and do what I had to do.  I agreed, walked back into the house and cried for a couple minutes, and gathered my strength. I couldn't walk him through the house or put him in a car or take him to a vet until these little fuckers were all gone!!

I got down on the floor armed with rubber gloves, electric clippers, Lysol, and paper towels.  I started shaving, uncovering more and more creepy little maggots.  They just decided to jump ship at the same time! I kept shaving, they kept appearing.  They were falling to the ground and I was killing them one by one.  Stepping on them, squishing them with my paper towel.... and it got to a point where the fear just left and I was on a mission!!  Bug! Squish!  Bug Squish!  It really is true what they say about immersion therapy!  It was gross, but I stopped shaking and just did it.  It took about 30 min to clean up and do a butt shave on this large dog and he was a trooper!  I then saw that there was a large hot spot and a bed sore type hole near his anus.  Sigh...

Long story short, I took him to the emergency vet just before 11 am so that they could fix him up and get him antibiotics. It was super busy and I sat there forever because his case was not critical (totally understandable).  I removed all maggots before he got to the vet (they were appreciative) and we all came up with a plan. They are keeping him overnight to monitor him and keep him happy and clean. Poor buddy - this was about 3 hours out of my day.  I faced my fear for a dog that I love.  I wish that I never have to encounter maggots like that ever again... but in my field I know that I probably will.  If you could all jut say a little prayer though... just in case.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sweet But Broken Cat - The Dramatic Saga

This summer has been incredibly busy, and hot!!  I took on a new client from a vet friend referral that needed subcutaneous fluids everyday.  Unfortunately it was semi short notice and my schedule was so full that I did not get to do a formal meet and greet.  The client was nice enough to leave me a very detailed note and drop the keys at my house.  She was watching the neighbors cat before she went away and was going to check in when she returned in a few days per THAT owners request. They were out of the country. (Personally, I am not a fan of the every 3 day visit because emergencies happen)

MY client asked me if I would mind checking in on her neighbors cat while they were away because she noticed that the cat was limping.  Of course I obliged, but in my head I am thinking, "How am I supposed to find this cat in  the basement and figure out what is wrong?" I am always willing to look and help, I was just hoping that there was something that I could do.

I found the keys and walked down the street to the other house and then down to the basement to find the cat and I was so pleasantly surprised.  There was this very petite, gray tabby, lady cat who was just as sweet as can be.  I started to pet her and she looked up at me with her sweet eyes and told me that something was wrong.  I picked her up and noticed that her right leg was dangling and her right hip was not able to let the leg fully extend. Ugh.  I palpated the leg/hip/foot and she didn't seem to be overly painful (or she was being extremely stoic).  She seemed to have a little bit of feeling in the foot/leg, but it was indeed dangling and obviously broken.  I put her down on the floor to watch her walk and she would not bear any weight on that side at all.  She also wasn't eating, drinking, or eliminating.  Poor kiddo!! Still a sweetie pie throughout letting a stranger feel around her broken parts.

I called MY client to tell her that I thought the leg was broken, but most definitely needed an x-ray to be sure of what was going on. She then had to contact her neighbor to explain the situation and then give her my information.  This was my predicament.  I was watching a cat that WAS a client, and then saw this broken cat down the street who's owners were out of the country who I had never even met.  I needed to take this cat in to the vet and I needed their permission.  There was a TON of texting back and forth between the 3 of us for the next 12 hours because I didn't even know what vet this cat went to!  We finally got everything squared away and I got the answers and permission that I needed to take this poor kitty in to be seen.  She was a trooper!

We went to the vet, I explained the whole complicated story, and they of course did an xray immediately.  This is what was found.
Ouch!  Quite broken!  Here is the new predicament.
16 yr old cat
Grade IV/V heart murmur
Severely Broken Leg
Owner out of the country

Sadly, the only real option with her age and health and the severity of the break was to amputate the leg.  It is really tough to splint cats and orthopedic surgery would cost a fortune.  Her heart was also a concern because she might not have even been able to make it through anesthesia. Again, UGH!  More texting with the owner and my client, all day long.  The owner opted for euthanasia due to all these factors (cost, age, health, etc)  Luckily the staff fell in LOVE with the cat (how could they not??) and they took over ownership and responsibility for her (with the owners approval).  YAY! This sweet kiddo got a second chance!

I spoke to the vet at length and she was determined to do the surgery to give her a chance at life.  This was a week ago, and I called yesterday (fingers crossed) to check in and see what her status was.  I didn't want to bug them, but I had to know!

She made it through the surgery!!! She is currently getting tons of love from the staff at the vet while she recovers!!!  Happy Ending indeed!  Major thanks to my client who noticed the limp and to the vet who cared enough to see what an amazing cat this is.  This cat was not ready to go just yet and now she will have one less leg, but a great life of love.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Off Leash and Aggressive

St. Peters Church.  Society Hill.  They welcome fussy babies. They welcome the LGBTQ community.  They have a lovely staff and lovely grounds that they open to the public.  They also have rules that no one follows, particularly the one that states that dogs must be on leash when on their grounds.

Maybe it's me.  Maybe I have become the definition of insanity.  I keep going back to this churchyard and ancient cemetery thinking that people are good and have common sense and actually abide by the rules.  They don't. I keep trying, but they keep treating it as a dog park. Are they to blame for breaking the law and the church rules?  Am I to blame for repeating a behavior and expecting a different outcome?

Two weeks ago I was walking my weekend dog through the cemetery who does not react well to certain dogs, but especially dogs off leash while she is leashed.  We walked halfway though and notice that there is a black dog off leash.  We stopped to regroup, the owner is calling to her dog to come, the dog is not listening.  My husband called over to the owner and yelled, "She's not good with other dogs!"  She called her dog again, but dog was fixated on the dog that we had and charged toward us.  The dog that we had on leash was visibly startled, barking, growling and this dog just kept on coming.  The owner kept calling to her dog over and over but her dog (that was good enough to be off leash) was not paying a bit of attention to her.  She is also not running over nearly fast enough to grab her dog that was then snapping at the dog that I had.  It was a chaotic mess and i was just trying to lift our dog in the air to buy time.  In the midst of trying to protect my client dog, the other dog bites my hand.  No skin was broken, no bleeding occurred, but at that point the owner of the other dog finally made it over to us and just kept saying, " I'm sorry."  The sad thing is that this entire situation could have been avoided if her dog was ON A LEASH!!!

Today I was walking through the same cemetery and there were 2 large dogs running around off leash while church services were in progress.  Then a 3rd big dog came up on leash and those owners decided to let THEIR dog off leash too!  I yelled over to them that their dogs needed to be on leash, it was the rule.  The man looked at me and waived the leash at me and looked away.  They kept going about their business.  The dog that was with me was agitated and then I had to drag her away from this situation  that shouldn't be happening in the first place. This is not a dog park and people continually treat it as such.  Who's responsibility is it to enforce the rules? The church? The police? The community?  I left a message for the church to explain the situation and I am hoping that they will do more to enforce that dogs remain on leash (given that it is a city ordinance).

I must sound like a broken record, but if no one says anything then nothing will change.  If I just turn around and walk way, the entitled people will still act like they can do whatever they want.  Is that ok?  What would you do? My first priority is the safety of my animal clients. If I have to keep them safe by getting a bite, then so be it. I also should not have to avoid certain areas because of irresponsible rule breakers.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Lifestyles of the Rude and Entitled

I was working in a fancy highrise one morning and I was riding the elevator down to to lobby.  The elevator stopped after a few floors and a woman and the cutest little dog walked in.  The dog came right up to me and she told me that that dog doesn't like many people.  As more people got on the elevator, the dog his behind me for safety.  The owner and I got to talking and she asked for my card.  Excellent.  

About a month or so later, I receive a call from this woman asking me about dog sitting.  When she called, I was already out working so I asked her to please email me all of the information (the dates, what times she needs visits, etc) and that I would get back to her later when I got home.  This was about 8:30/9 am when she called.  I skimmed the email a bit later and realized that I had some questions for her, but didn't want to call until I was home and didn't have a dog in my hand. 
This was the email:

Good morning Debbie,

We will be away for an overnight next weekend and would like you to check on Esther while we are away.
I shall feed her and walk her the morning of the 10th, so if you could:

Walk her around 2-3:00 and feed her on the 10th
Walk her around 9-10 at night on the 10th

Walk and feed her 7-30-8:00 on the 11th.

We should be back for her afternoon walk.

Please let me know if this works for you. Then we can discuss details.

Thank you,

 I got home at my usual time, about 3 pm and I had just enough time to eat something, sit down, and take a deep breath.  Then my phone rings and it's her. Perfect timing!  I say, "Hello!  How are you?"  Her reply was, "This is (insert her name here)."  And I say, "Yes, I know. I have it saved in my phone, how are you?"  She replies in the coldest, most annoyed, snarky tone I have ever heard, "Were you going to respond to me?"  

I was taken aback!  I told her that I had just gotten home not too long ago and I was planning on calling her in a little bit.  She said, "Well, I called you early this morning."  And I said, "Yes, and I told you that I was out working and that I would call you when I got home.  I just got home."  She replied by saying how she didn't expect me to be out so long!!  (Um... I WAS WORKING ALL DAY !)  I I told her that there were potentially a few problems with her request.  One was that I had already sent out an email that I was taking off from the 7th to the 10th and she wouldn't have known that because she is not on my email list.  She immediately dismissed me.  Then I said, for the future, the other was that I do not do visits past 7pm because I allot myself 12 hour days.   I was trying to ask if we could switch the time around and she gets literally angry and haughtily says, "Well no!  She NEEDS to go out late at night so I guess that's it isn't it?!"  Again, taken aback.  I don't even know this woman and she is already angry at me for not being able to accommodate her every need.  I was about to offer her a referral for someone that I know that does do late night walks, but she essentially hung up on me.  I was angry, but I let it go for the night.

The next day I rethought it and realized that it was completely uncalled for and I didn't even get to finish my sentence!  So I sent her an email that said this:

Hello there. I'm sorry to disappoint you with my lack of availability for this particular trip, but you hung up before I could get a few things out.  

#1  It is tough to find a dog walker to come for walks after 8 pm, but I could put the word out to try to help you find one. We all normally work 12 hour days as it is and there has to be a cut off somewhere.  I personally am in bed by 10 as I am up at 6 everyday.

#2 You must allow at least 24 hours for someone to get back to you regarding pet sitting/dog walking.  Things come up that are unexpected and days are long.  I was not ignoring you, I literally did not have the time to sit down and reply to an email until 6pm last night.

#3 I have a lot of family from ******** with the last name *******, might we be related?

She replied almost right away to this (which I was not expecting) and it was pretty bad!

Got someone to sit. She called
Me back in 2 hours and she is available for the times I needed.  No issues. 
I don't have time to listen to excuses. I need a service, you can't provide it so I was done. I need to work with Serious business people no matter what their product or service. I have been around a little
Longer than you and have a decent understanding of dependability and availability. It is time for me to move on. 
Btw you wrote this email in a much more timely manner than you returned my call. 

Let's just move on. 

Sigh.....  I replied and just told her that I was trying to keep it cordial since I do business in her building and we would inevitably run into eachother again on the elevator. Told her to have a great weekend and called it a day.  I later found out that she is just as awful to her other neighbors in the building as well as the staff.  Do I feel a bit better about that?  Not really....  
If I can't accommodate someone, I will always try to give them another option.  When they insult me and my business because I didn't have time to get back to her until after my workday, well, that's just below the belt.  I am one person.  I do not have a secretary to schedule my life.  I know I lucked out by not having her as a client (Thank you universe), but  I hate to know that there is someone like this treating people terribly for no reason.  Literally, no reason.