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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Protracted Adventures in Dog-Sitting

Official Collie Greeter

I've been very busy as of late with back-to-back dog-sitting gigs that took me away from home, much to my own dog's dismay, for seventeen days. The first gig was with my longtime collie friend, Mr. Gorgeous, and the second was with a brand new client.

First, we need to talk about Mr. G.

Listen, I love Mr. Gorgeous. I get a real kick out of him and am always delighted to stay at his place. But the truth is, he's a dog that's got a lot more beauty than brains. When his luxurious coat is in fine form, like it is in the photo to the left, it gives him an air of elegance, might, nobility, intelligence and dignity, allowing you to overlook the part where he doesn't actually have much in the way of personality. You shave off that amazing fur and, well, you're got this guy:

"Oh hai!"

Stormy weather is migraine weather.
But there's no rule that every dog has to have oodles of personality and Mr. Gorgeous, even when he's looking more like a Mr. Doofus in his summer haircut, is still very fond of me. He puts on his happy ears when he sees me because he knows that I'm always good for a game after dinner and some intensive ear noogies! We had a certain amount of stormy weather that left me feeling wiped out, so on this visit we spent a fair amount of time napping together in the basement, a pastime that he found highly agreeable. These days, he spends most of his time sleeping, complaining (via long, pointed stares through the glass door) that there is not enough cheese mixed into his kibble, and barking for no discernible reason in the middle of the night. He's quite stiff now--it saddened me to see how he had to take a deep breath before tackling the increasingly arduous task of climbing the stairs--but the sight of rabbits feeding on the grass at the far end of the property never failed to stir his blood or his aging limbs! When the weather was fair, Mr. Gorgeous trailed in my wake as I roamed the property with my camera looking for insects, a highly successful venture that netted a dozen species new to my catalog, including TWO species of metallic green bees!

Mr. Gorgeous plunks himself down in the broccoli as I hunt for insects in the garden.

He found it a bit boring, frankly, when all I did was stand stock-still for minutes on end.
He had no idea that photos of metallic green bees were at stake!

*     *     *

Everything you need to know about Goldie can be seen in this photo!

After nine days spent alternating between stormy-weather-sleeping and sunny-weather-insect-photographing with Mr. Gorgeous, it was time to move half a mile down the road to spend some quality time with a new dog. My newest client is 10 year-old Golden Retriever that I'll call Goldie. She's a petite little miss and though plenty white around the face, Goldie shows no other signs of age. Sweet, friendly, and mellow around the house, she would transform into a golden blaze of canine joy when chasing her ball. I have to confess, I usually find Golden Retrievers to be just a little bit generic, but Goldie completely won me over. I loved how patient and polite she was while waiting and how her furry ears would prick up and her whole body would start wiggling and wagging when she hoped some good thing was in the offing. She loved being brushed and petted, so I spent a lot of time on the floor next to her dog bed, massaging her eyebrows, working out every last mat in her coat, and brushing her fringes to finest floss. Goldie gets the prize for the quietest dog I've ever met: over the course of nine days, I heard her bark twice. Her house also gets a prize for being the most conducive to a migraineur's comfort, particularly because of the blinds that allowed me to filter the incoming light to a warm dimness, perfect for my light sensitive eyes. I also found myself deeply grateful for the supreme comfortableness of Goldie's couch: it was perfectly suited as a platform for reading books from cover to cover, for watching football, for cradling my nauseated body during migraine-racked days, and for sleeping. I'm not usually one who sleeps on couches, but it was so comfortable that it was no hardship that I had to spend the better part of two nights on the couch to keep Goldie company during thunderstorms. (She's not as anxious as my own dog, but she did need a bit of hand-holding, so to speak.) In fact, it would have been a near-perfect gig if it hadn't been for those unusual thunderstorms that left me feeling sick, tired, and in the possession of nasty headaches. Fortunately, Goldie was so easy and clearly so content to just sleep on her pillow in my vicinity when I wasn't feeling well that it made those under-the-weather days easier. Still, we were both very glad when the weather finally cleared and we could resume fun activities like going swimming and visiting Mr. Gorgeous!

Rolling in the grass is fun!

Fetching is fun! (Look at that tail!)

Meeting Mr. Gorgeous is fun! (She thought he was amazing, he thought she was a bit much.)

Swimming is fun!

Blowing bubbles is fun!

Running this way is fun!

Running that way is fun!

Sleepy Goldie lifts her head at the sound of my camera shutter.
I must confess that the photos of Goldie at play, while wonderful in their expressions of unabashed joy, are misleading. Those expressions of joy were unleashed for half an hour each day and aside from a few playful spins and the previously mentioned wiggling and wagging, Goldie spent the rest of her hours in a state of supreme mellowness. It was this quiet sweetness that had me calling her, within days, by endearments usually reserved for my own dog: not just the more generic "Pumpkin" and the humorous "Wigglepuss," but also the dear and intimate "Noodle." After saying goodbye to Sweetheart earlier this summer, I'm really happy to have another wonderful older lady dog among my clientele! I'm definitely looking forward to more gigs with Goldie.

The only time Goldie made any noise of any kind was when snorting over her favorite toy.

A toy carefully nestled in the blankets.
I am very glad to be home now, though, even if I do love spending time with Mr. Gorgeous and Goldie. As comfortable as Goldie's couch was, it was still no substitute for the restfulness of being home. My dog, Abbey, had been missing me a lot and the strain was definitely showing. I came by my own house most days for a few hours to do things on my own computer, say hi to Abbey, and eat a meal, and on one of those occasion I'd found that Abbey had tucked one of her favorite toys into the folds of the blankets on my bed. She's done this before when she's felt stressed about missing me and I think it goes deeper than a compulsive need to nurture: I suspect that she thinks caring for the toy will somehow keep me safe. It made my heart ache to see this sign of her love and her anxiety, but duty kept calling me back to the houses of others dogs.

Just as she knows that I'm leaving for a dog-sitting gig when I pull out my toiletries case, Abbey also knows I'm not really home for keeps until the duffel bag I carry my clothes in comes back, so she was just thrilled when I finally lugged it, my camera bag, and various sacks of food and miscellany through the door. After she did the requisite zooming and yodeling with joy, Abbey made the unusual step of abandoning me as I put away the food I'd brought home. I found her upstairs making an effort to entice me into my study. It seems that it wasn't enough that I was home: she wanted me to be in my "proper" evening place. (Dogs do love a routine.) When I sat down at my computer, she briefly came over for some wiggling and petting, but soon settled on the floor behind my chair, heaved a big sigh, and fell asleep. Her girl was home at last.

All is once again right in the world.

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