Thursday, July 24, 2008

Love Thy Neighbor's Pets as You Love Yourself

Clark’s family is taking their beach vacation about an hour away from our house (it’s closer than it sounds). Our commute to work is about 40 minutes, and it’s on the way to their beach house (thereby leaving only about 20 minutes to get to the beach after work). The plan was to get our neighbor to let Rocky out and give him dinner when we would normally get home from work, about 6:30, so that we would be able to drive straight to the beach.

This neighbor, a very nice lady, has experience being a dog trainer and a dog food representative. She has even just recently started her own pet sitting service. Now, she’s very friendly, but she also has very interesting (read: weird) opinions concerning animal care. The dog food she recommends/sells is all natural, organic, and holistic, and she will only take her pets to a holistic vet. She is convinced that regular dog food will kill dogs and that they are incapable of digesting it. (Um, I can tell you that’s not true…I see Rocky’s food go in and then come out the other end…and if he eats a lot, he gains weight, so the digestive process is A-okay).

We went next door on Sunday night to ask if she’d do this favor for us. It was 8:45, and she was already asleep (can we say awkward?). She woke up when we came and said she wanted to meet Rocky before she committed to watching him. We walked back over to our house for the introduction (she had never been to our house before). He was crazy hyper as usual with guests, but she decided she’d take the job even though he was acting like a psycho. These are the instructions I gave her: “Please come over between 6 and 6:30 every day this week. Rocky needs to be let out only to pee, and he gets one scoop of dinner. Drop one fatty acid supplement capsule into his food dish, and make sure he only gets his water bowl filled halfway. Peanut will not need anything – we will feed her when we come home for the night. Please do not let Rocky play outside, because he’s got bad environmental allergies and he will have a bad skin reaction.” We knew she was running a business, so we didn’t assume she’d do us the favor for free. When I asked how much she wanted to get paid, she said $12 A VISIT. It only costs $14 a day to board him at a kennel! Anyway, we agreed and gave her our key.

Immediately after she left our house, I had a horrible feeling about her watching the animals.

In the morning, I was nervous about leaving them and wasn’t sure she’d remember what to do (and what not to do). I typed up all of the instructions I had given her the night before, and Clark arranged the note for her on our kitchen island. We got home at midnight on Monday, and I could not find Peanut anywhere. I started to panic and searched frantically all over the house. Her food bowl was filled with a mound of food (way too much for her, and I had specifically told the woman not to do anything with Peanut), but it was especially unusual because Peanut always eats her food right away – her food that night was untouched. Peanut was gone. Then I caught something out of the corner of my eye. It was our little kitten leaping on the door with great purpose because she had been locked outside on the porch. I.freaked.OUT. All the terrible thoughts ran through my head…she could have gotten overheated, she could have jumped on the screen and tore it with her back claws and gotten away (and killed/eaten/catnapped/run over), etc. etc. I could NOT believe it. I pulled her into my arms and bathed her with worried kisses, and then had to nearly dry her off as her fur was totally wet from the heat and humidity. I dumped her mountain of food back in the container and gave her the appropriate amount of food for dinner.

After a few minutes of trying to calm down, I see a note on the island. It was essentially a receipt from the neighbor detailing everything she had done during her visit. Here’s the gist of what it said: “I got here at 6:30 and let Rocky outside to go to the bathroom. I noticed Bunny had no food, so I went ahead and filled it anyway. I also gave Peanut dinner. I gave Rocky his dinner and supplement. My husband came over to the house with me and took Rocky outside to play in the backyard for half an hour – he seemed to enjoy that. We left the house at 7:00.”

There are some common sense rules I expect ANY pet sitter to follow:
1. Do NOT feed animals that you were not told to feed. You were NOT given instructions for these animals, and you do NOT know if they have any special needs.
2. If you are specifically instructed NOT to do something, DO NOT DO IT. If owner of dog says “do not play with dog outside, he has environmental allergies,” do NOT bring your husband over to play with him OUTSIDE.
3. Do NOT LOCK INSIDE ANIMALS OUTDOORS. Make sure all of the animals are where they are supposed to be before you leave the house.

The result of not following these rules:
1. Bunny’s food dumped down into the hutch tray because the food bowl was put in the wrong place. Wasted food, hungry rabbit.
2. Rocky has a red rash all over his skin again. He was doing very well before he was taken outside into the grass that he is allergic to. It is now Thursday and his skin is still irritated and itchy.
3. Peanut was left outside and any number of horrible things could have happened, aside from the fact that she did not have any water or a place to go to the bathroom for 5 hours.

Needless to say, we called her on Tuesday morning and told her we had a change of plans and would not be needing her to take care of Rocky anymore. I had a mind to tell her off, but Clark thought that since we have to live next to this woman for the foreseeable future, we’d better not burn any bridges or make enemies. So, since it was his idea, I let him do the talking. I’m of the opinion that she needs to know what she did wrong, because she is in a position to be responsible for the lives of people’s pets. Oh well, it’s over, and now we have a close friend watching them for the rest of the week.

I’m still fuming and still can’t believe I had such a pet sitting nightmare.


Love or Nothing said...

jess, that is AWFUL. i can't believe that woman did that! if someone did that to my puppy i'd be so upset. and i'd be worried for whoever's pets she watches in the future! glad all your loves are okay though.

Nick and Kaley said...

I can relate, but in a different way. One time I petsat for the neighbors for two weeks and had to go like three times a day.
They paid me 5 dollars. Yeah, 12 bucks is a rip off.
Glad your pets are ok!