Monday, August 30, 2010

Tails of a Dogsitter – Hair Balls?

Dogs that come to Tails-By-The-Bay Dog Camp are free to be. They are allowed on the furniture, in the bed, on the deck, in my studio – whatever makes them happy. We aim to please here. I often work in my art studio accompanied by as many as 15 dogs at times. They are happy just to be with me and often lie around sleeping as I work on my photography prints.

I have an archival printer that allows me to print large images for my clients. Lately I have had an ink smudge on the corner and down the middle of the prints. It looks similar to a roller mark and I can’t for the life of me figure out where it’s coming from. I have wasted so much paper trying to switch the settings to see if it makes a difference. Nada. With Q-Tips and alcohol I have cleaned every roller I can find, especially the ones that line up with where the smudge comes out on the paper. I have also done the automatic cleaning through the computer process that takes mucho ink to complete. Short of taking the printer apart piece by piece, I have tried everything I can think of and nothing has worked. The smudge is still there.

Consequently, I can’t get the work out. I have client projects lined up and it’s either find a computer maintenance shop that will look at it, or bite the bullet and buy another printer at the tune of 1K+. There aren’t a lot of options in Homer, and usually tech people tell you it will be more expensive to fix it than replace it. Well, I called Radio Shack and that’s exactly what they told me until I explained it was an archival, large format printer with a replacement cost of at least a grand. Having said that he agreed to have a look at it for $65/hour.

After a few days I called to check on the progress only to find he had just gotten to it. I explained that I had work to do and needed to know as soon as possible if it was fixable, or if I had to order a replacement. Not a problem, he assured me. He would call me later with a diagnosis. Much to my surprise he called back a few hours later to say it was ready for pickup and if I hurried, I could pick it up before they closed at 6PM.

“You fixed it?” I was amazed.
“Yelp,” he said. “It’s ready to go.”
“So, what was the problem?” I asked

He explained how he had pulled a large ball of hair out of it, and “it wasn’t human”, he added.

OMG, I burst out laughing, asking him if he knew what I did for a living? He hesitated and then responded with “other than making photographic prints? No”.

“Well, I’m a dogsitter,”
I said. . . and it was his turn to crack up.

Yes indeed a large hairball had been imbedded on one of the rollers causing a huge smear on my work. Why is that not a surprise? Maybe I will have to start vacuuming the printer just like I do the floors -- at least twice a day! You just never know where the “essence of the dog” is going to turn up at Tails-By-The-Bay Dog Camp.

And, the good news? For less than $100 I got my printer up and running again and I don’t have to buy that new one after all. Even with hairballs. I still love my job! It keeps me smiling. ☺

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Dogsitter

Just how DID I become a “dogsitter”? An evolution, that’s what it was – never planned, it just sort of happened over time. I started doing it for my friends and word spread about how their dogs loved coming here. Eventually I came up with a day rate to supplement my income as a server, created a name for my business, got some cards printed and like magic. . . I no longer had to wait tables in Homer. In fact after 5 years, I am so busy that a social outing is no more than 3-4 hours. This is 24-7 job – there are no days off unless I plan them well in advance and find a substitute that is willing to sleep with dogs - essentially a like-minded person as nuts about canines as yours truly.

Like most people sometimes I wonder about the job I have selected. But, I do adore hanging out with dogs – they make me smile. In fact I was probably a cocker spaniel in another life. In this business most days are a complete howl, but other days can be exhausting and/or exasperating. Today was one of those “other” days.

Several dogs woke up at 6 AM and needed to go potty. Okay, I climb out of the dog-filled bed (sometimes a challenge), grab my robe; search for my flip-flops, and locate the contact solution that allows my eyes to open enough to get the doggies downstairs and out the door. On the way I see that someone was not able to hold it so I grab the bleach cleaner along with the paper towels and wipe it up on the fly. Since I am the pack leader they all wait for me. I run downstairs quickly to let the other nine out before they too pee their pants – or in this case, pee on the floor (thank goodness for laminate floors). And, for me personally - well I will just have to hold it for now.

Pampered housedogs do not particular like rain so they immediately put on the brakes when they see it is pouring outside. Okay, so I go out first and coax them onto the porch, where they would stay unless of course I go out to the grass with them. GAWD! As I stand in the pouring rain in my bathrobe they all scurry around finding the right “spot” to relieve their bladders. Finally everyone is finished and at the backdoor – obviously deciding they can hold the poop until the rain ceases a bit – fat chance. It’s a record rainy season here in Homer – we are going on 29 days of straight rain so wet dogs are the norm.

We are finally back inside – a pack of wet dogs and a drenched blonde anxious for her turn in the loo. Ahhhh, life is good. Before getting on with the canine breakfast regime I run upstairs to change out of my wet robe and into some real clothes – sweats. And there I see it, OMG. . . how could I have missed the smell and the size – the thought flashed through my head that maybe, just maybe I was getting desensitized. That’s a scary thought. In any event, one of the dogs obviously had a blowout sometime during the night – diarrhea. Back downstairs to get the bleach bucket – still in my robe. Sigh. . . .

Back up the stairs, followed by the herd. As I’m cleaning up poop, messy poop, lots of poop, I see Qimmiq, the yellow lab on the back deck, retching. Two large blobs of vomit hit the deck - thank goodness this is outside. Of course all the other dogs want to investigate to see if there is any undigested food in the pile. I get them inside and slam the back deck door leaving Qimmiq in the rain to make sure she is indeed done, while I finish cleaning up the poop pile that I somehow missed in my morning fog. That done, I go to the back deck and see that Qimmiq has eaten grass during her brief potty break outside, and that is why she has thrown up. She’s fine now and ready for breakfast. I clean that up and head back downstairs to trash all the evidence.

And what dear God, is THAT I see on the living room floor? An entire roll of shredded toilet paper all over in the short time I was cleaning??? Teeny, weenie, tiny pieces of paper everywhere that needs to be picked up. Grrrrr. . . Although tedious, this is so much better than cleaning up bodily fluids – I’m at my limit already today - one more pile of anything could indeed push me over the edge into a fit of hysteria.

I look at the clock – it is now 7:30 and the dogs still have to eat. Never mind, I am getting dressed first (I dream of a shower but know it is out of the question right now) – back upstairs I cautiously peer into the bedroom wary of finding yet another mess. Wheeew! Coast is clear, looks like I can get those sweats on now (who needs to go to the gym when I spend my days running up and down stairs?).

Finally it’s 8 AM and I am ready to start my real day. It’s been a long morning but I look around me at nine adorable little faces sitting in the kitchen waiting for me to make their oatmeal, peel the boiled eggs, cut up a banana and get their homemade Greek yogurt ready to eat. They clean their bowls, lick their lips and are now ready for their morning nap. I’m exhausted and ready for yoga practice to center myself for the rest of the day.

Like any job, some days are better than others. Life is as it should be at Tails-By-The-Bay Dog Camp – where a dogsitters job is never quite done! Oh, and did I mention how much I LUV my job? Namaste

“Observe the wonders as they occur around you.
Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry
moving through, and be silent.” – Rumi

Monday, August 16, 2010

Five Dogs, VeVe & Me

Days slip into weeks at Tails-By-the-Bay Doggie Bed ‘N Biscuit. The summer is flying by with lots of doggies in and out plus fabulous weather suitable for beachcombing and ball chasing hounds. Tuesday morning and time for a run to the beach in Veve. Dukie, one of the big dogs has decided after a romp in the gravel pit that he wants to hang out under the house instead of in the house! That’s all fine and dandy except we are ready to load up for a beach run and he won’t come out from under the house. So, after tempting him with a hotdog that he cannot resist, he moves closer to me – my body is partially under the house in a scrunched up contortion as the opening is not really big enough for me but somehow I have managed it. With an outstretched hand holding an Oscar Meyer Weiner I am able to grab his collar with the other hand as he chows down on the beef – he also LOVES cheese but forget the dog treats - he won’t touch them! ☺ He didn’t resist coming, just wanted to know that Yes I am giving him the special attention he deserves, and Yes I really do want him to come in the house. The hardest part was getting my body to unwind out of the predicament while holding his collar. That done, Dukie meanders into the house to a doggie bed for a nap - fully sated after eating an entire hotdog.

Okay, now I think we are ready to go. I open the car door and 5 dogs jump into Veve each claiming their spot. Teddy is a yellow lab with more energy than ten dogs – he’s off the wall hyper and will chase the ball until he drops. No matter how much we exercise he never wants to quit! He could actually be the Marley dog, reincarnated. And then there’s Issy, another yellow lab that loves the chase but can’t come close to competing with the Tedster in speed, although she never gives up. The big dogs are relegated to the back area, while the smaller ones share the front seat. Yang believes he is a big dog most of the time and prefers staying in the back with Teddy & Issy. So that means Luce & Woody are in the front seat with me.

Okay, so you’re wondering - where’s Zippy? Well, she is not invited to the beach because she doesn’t really like it much, but instead prefers the bakery right next door. Off to Two Sisters Bakery first chance she gets to pester the outdoor diners into giving up their croissants, or at least a portion thereof. When that happens (and it always does) I end up spending more time looking for her than throwing the ball. So consequently she gets to stay home when the rest of us go to the beach for a serious ball-throwing session.

Getting there is always a thrill as the excitement in the car is totally over the top. The dogz are whining, barking, prancing, and panting in anticipation of a run in the sand. It’s approximately three miles down the hill and what a ride it is! The big dogs are in my face (Teddy manages to slime me twice), standing on my shoulder to get a better view, hanging out the window in hopes of getting there faster while the smaller dogs are climbing on each other trying to get a spot on my lap to look out the window. Are we there yet? Are we close? Meanwhile Veve continues down the slope on autopilot. I’m sure anyone passing me would swear the dogz were driving her down East Hill Road since I am barely visible in the crowd – which also means I’m struggling to see the road for most of the ride. The good news is I have driven it so much that it’s not necessary to see exactly where I am. Are we there yet?

Finally we get to the parking lot at Bishops Beach just as a man in a wheelchair, and his dog are leaving. He looks stunned when we pull in next to him, and yells over the chaos: “How MANY dogs do you have in there?” just as his dog jumps up to peer in the window. OMG, the 5 dogs already excited, now go berserk! So much so, that I’m sure the car is rocking back and forth as they all begin barking and jumping up and down at once. Needless to say the windows are fogged over and I’m sure he didn’t hear my answer. I finally manage to get the door open (I’m ready to get the hell out of the car!) and all five of them fly over my lap to meet his dog. Lots of circling, butt sniffs, posturing and doggie communication is necessary before we leave the parking area heading toward the beach. Are we there yet?

I get the chuck-it ball, the bag of treats, my camera and a couple of leashes just in case I need them, and head down to the water. At last we arrive at the Homer public beach where dogs are allowed to run free without leash rules. People often do a double take when they see me and all the dogs – some actually ask if all these are mine, while others just have that look of wonder. It’s low tide so there is a large area of packed sand for the dogs to run. And run they do! Chasing the ball, swimming in the ocean, sniffing butts, getting treats and generally having a doggie good time. Issy and Teddy develop an efficient system for ball retrieval. Teddy swims out to retrieve the tennis ball while Issy waits in the surf. When he reaches her he drops the ball allowing her to actually bring it ashore and back to me, as he waits in the wings for another long throw into the icy waters of Kachemak Bay. It’s interesting to watch them work so well together while still totally enjoying themselves! Of course Yang is trying to figure it all out while running in the surf and getting his feet wet for the first time. The spaniels are content to watch this evolve as they have been there done that many times in the past.

After over an hour of running full speed, we head back to Veve. My friend Kay is playing Frisbee with her dog Tango and is curious to see me get 5 wet dogz into a Volkswagen. No problem, they follow me back to the car at a much slower pace than when we arrived, and one by one jump into Veve and shake off. Okay, so I have a sandy, wet-dog smelling car. That’s okay; I have 5 happy, content dogz almost immediately asleep for the drive home. What a contrast, you could hear a pin drop in Veve. When we get home the dogs stretch out on the deck to dry in the warm sun. Teddy did make one attempt to bring me a ball, and I just looked at him with that “you’ve got to be kidding” look. The next thing I know he is sound to sleep snoring in the sunshine. It’s been quite a day - 5 Dogz, Veve and Me. Life at Tails-By-The-Bay is always an adventure. And, a tired dog is a happy dog! Woof! Woof!

Did I mention how much I love my Job?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Little Dog Week

On Friday the big dogs start going home and are replaced with little dogs. TBTB Dog Camp is never predictable. It seems that for the most part medium to large size dogs are the norm. Not so for this weekend.

Mr. Yang is here Monday thru Friday each week and to date has been considered the little guy. However, on Friday he found himself to be the biggest dog around and was not particularly fond of his new position. He enjoys picking on the larger dogs enticing them to wrestle him to the floor and roll him around. He thrives on the interaction. But he ended this week with the teeny, shy, timid dogs who wouldn’t give him the time of day. Poor Yang! He slept most of the day and eventually got Zippy to play with him but it wasn’t the same, he still prefers the larger labs for wrestling.

And so we have: Sammy a Schnauzer mix and Mattie the Shitzu who are locals that have been at TBTB before. Mattie likes to roughhouse with Sammy who runs under the bed to get away when he’s had enough.

Holden is a Las Vegas miniature poodle that decided he didn’t want to eat, drink or pee the entire day but instead preferred to sit on the leather chair and watch the activities from above.

Dixie, an adorable Schnauzer from Nevada also liked being perched high on the table by the Doga book where she could practice her poses. She has a very high-pitched shrill when she gets excited and interacts with the other dogs. Yikes! It’s a good thing her mom warned us of this noise, otherwise we would have rushed her off to the vet thinking she had to be hurt or worse yet, dying!

And then there is LeRoy a local miniature daschund with a big attitude because after all he is the Homer Tribune Mascot! LeRoy likes to hide in the house and makes a game out of not coming when I call him. However, all I have to do is shake the treat bag and he’s there!

TBTB practices Wu Wei, the true way of the dog. Translated, Wu Wei simply means the art of not doing. Dogs are happy to just be. I learn so much by sharing their time and space. It’s uncomplicated and totally in the moment. There is never a dull moment at TBTB, no matter what dogs are at in Camp it’s always a howling good time!