Monday, December 27, 2010

Tails of a Dogsitter - Christmas 2010

I had so many dogs on the books for Christmas that I refused to count how many until the day they arrived. As it were I had dogs coming everyday during Christmas week, up to and including Christmas Eve.

My job as a dogsitter is to manage the pack, making sure they are properly introduced to each other and their doggie needs are met in a supportive, caring way. Lots of good boys, good girls, belly rubs and back scratches are required, along with hikes, good nutrition, playtime and mental stimulation. It’s a full time job, especially at holiday time. And anyone that thinks it’s easy – think again. You absolutely have to love dogs to do what I do, in the way I do it. Just liking them is not enough – it’s important to “get” them in order to maintain peace and order among the pack. I love my job – it is rewarding yet exhausting at the same time! ☺

We had a total of seventeen dogs in camp for the holiday. They enjoyed walks in the cold (they don’t mind), wrestling in the snow, knucklebones stuffed with all their favorite things: peanut butter, beef, chicken, cheese, etc. Of course they each have to be in a crate while eating their bone to eliminate any possibility of a problem in the pack.

The holiday guests are all off-leash dogs and usually stay together with me at all times. Because dogs for the most part are in constant motion, with this many it is impossible to do a head-count after each walk to be sure everyone is back home. So, I made a roster and call out their names at the door when we return. They get the hang of this routine right away. They stand around my legs until their name is called, take their biscuit and then move on into the house ready for a nap. Sable is always the last one in. She bonded with Jazz, the neighborhood lab and will lag behind until the last possible minute to run home and grab her treat by the door. Dogs are amazing when they figure out a routine; I can actually set my clock by it. They definitely let me know when it is 6:30 AM potty time, and when it’s 5 PM – dinnertime!

Unlike Thanksgiving, a turkey dinner was not prepared because it was impossible to be in the kitchen with all these dogs by my side. However, they did dine on weekly leftovers of roast beef, meatloaf, organic carrots, and smoked salmon. Mealtimes are always a howl – trying to maneuver my way around in the kitchen with dogs everywhere, as they await their gourmet meal – some not so patiently, making whining sounds in anticipation and causing the others to become anxious as well. There are a lot of “Knock it Offs,” from me, the Alpha.

It is necessary to separate the chowhounds from the others so that every dog has equal time to finish their meal without having to growl and guard it. The line-up is: Chowhounds DoDog, Bette, Tia and BunBun are relegated to the bathroom, Piper and Dosha are served by the back door, Sable in the Great Dane crate, RockDog in his crate, Annie in her crate, Kodiak and Lucy on the front deck, Ned, Sheba and Fern in the dining area, and LucGoose, WoodBoy and ZipTally in the kitchen area. Of course I am the designated food nazi making sure no food inhalers stick their nose in another bowl.

Some of these little darlings have their own special meal requirements. For instance, Ned always has milk on his kibble along with chummies on the top and Fern is given a spoonful of homemade smoked salmon at each meal. The neighbors sent over some wonderful star shaped doggie biscuits for dessert. Paul, Nancy and kids - the doggies woof you for this, and so do I since they were going through the Yummy Chummies and Liver Dog Bites really fast!

As I write this there are fourteen dogs left. Tomorrow three more will say goodbye to TBTB until next time. They will dance in glee when their humans arrive to pick them up – just like they dance in the car on their way to dog camp. I always tell the owners not to be surprised if their dog sleeps for a couple days after getting home. ☺ After all a tired dog is a good dog! ZipTally will be with us until mid-January, making him the longest dog in camp for the season – one month.

I photographed a mug shot of all the adorable little faces and put together a collage for each owner. It is similar to a grade school picture and will serve as a remembrance of Christmas 2010. We woof you a merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Tails-by-the-Bay Dog Camp – where every dog is a Star!

And, next week I go to Wasilla to celebrate a belated holiday with my human family. Yippppeee!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tales of a Dogsitter: Balls or No Balls? That is the Question

The rule at TBTB Dog Camp is to not accept intact male dogs, but occasionally I make an exception. After all RockDog at 11-months old still has his little testes, but he doesn’t seem to know what that means yet.

Zip Tally has been coming to TBTB for years and I actually forgot that he still had balls. He’s never been a problem; he’s just a short little dog with a big attitude, but gets along great with all the dogs. He is a Corgi so herding is what he’s bred to do. It’s hard for him to keep up with the Labs but nevertheless he always tries to do his job.

I have never seen Zip Tally around another intact adult dog until today when Kodiak, a 120-pound Chesapeake Bay retriever with unbelievable gonads, arrived in camp. Add that to the Dukemesiter, a neutered Rottweiler that thinks he still has balls. Talk about posturing! OMG, no one has attempted to mark a spot in the house, but there is lots of yellow snow outside!

So far Kodiak has tackled Zip Tally to the ground twice with lots of growling and pushing. Zip cannot control his herding instinct and is constantly strutting around with his chest held high and tail up in the air, grumbling under his breath. Of course Kodiak does the same so they are for the most part going in circles until I say in my most intimidating voice: KNOCK IT OFF! And they do. Duke is desperately trying to get in on the action but has not sparked any interest from either one of these studs. It’s funny to watch them outside repeatedly marking over each other’s spots. Where do males get all that urine anyhow?

Duke is only here for daycare and leaves at 5 PM. Interestingly enough once he was out of the picture the other two pretty much settled into being together. In fact after dinner they showed absolutely no interest in each other.

Ned and Sheba also arrived today – two wonderful, older Golden Retrievers that are regulars. Ned likes milk on his kibble along with chicken or fish and of course Yummy Chummies. And, for dessert he gets a bowl of ice cubes that he adores. He could care less about not having balls. NedHead is content to lie by the fire and get his belly scratched. Sheba on the other hand is not impressed at all with the posturing dudes and prefers to lie on her bed in the loft far away from all the action on the first floor. She rolls her eyes in disgust as if to say: “Males! Oh, pleeeease.”

We now have a total of 14 dogs in camp and will be adding one a day until Christmas Day. Everyone gets along great and they follow me everywhere. When I’m going upstairs and look behind me at 14 furry friends, it’s not easy to turn around and get back downstairs. As I write this, I’m looking at a pile of dogs in front of the fire, another pile on the couch pillows and a couple behind my head on the chair, a few more in the hallway, and Zip Tally retired in a crate with the door open. Strutting one’s stuff all day can be quite exhausting!

Oh my, life is definitely good at Tails-By-The-Bay Dog Camp - with or without balls!
Woof! Woof!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tales of a Dogsitter - A Lesson in Tolerance

It is Sunday night at TBTB Dog Camp and the snow is blowing outside, but inside we have a raging fire in the woodstove with a full moon out the window. Doggies have had dinner, a potty walk and are now sleeping all through the house. I’ve also had dinner and nodded off while reading in my favorite leather chair with a few furry friends. It seems like hours have passed when I’m jolted back to semi-consciousness by sounds from the roof vibrating, or is it the walls? Are we having an earthquake? These are my REM thoughts as I pull myself out of a dead sleep to see what all the noise is about.

I realize. . . no it can’t be. Is it SNORING? OMG, it is. . . someone is snoring louder than any man I’ve ever heard! Who could it be? I look outside to see if my roommate Russ is home. Nope, his car is not in the driveway. Was it ME, I don’t think so since I’m wide-awake now and it’s louder than ever. It has to be a canine, but WHO?

I did the doggie headcount, checking them twice: 9 sleeping darlings – not Luce or Woody, nor Zippy or Rock – not Annie or BunBun nor Zip Tally or Betty. Well that leaves. . . doggie number 9 – a lovely 12-year old Chocolate Lab, Fern. OMG it is her. She is sawing logs like I have never heard a dog do before. Hilarious! Who would have guessed that a sweet, reserved female could make that much noise? Way to go Fern! I know you’re in doggie dreamland right now and the other dogs don’t even notice. In fact, they are all still sound asleep. Goodnight Girly, sweet dreams!

A house full of happy, sleeping dogs at TBTB Dog Camp – does it get any better?
Woof! Woof!

Imagine a room full of sleeping humans with one person snoring extra loud? Would all the others be sleeping? Or complaining?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tales of a Dogsitter - DuWhite Dawg (DD)

I can’t possibly have a blog without writing about the DuWhite Dawg. DD has been coming to TBTB for five+ years now. He’s a beautiful big Samoyed that resembles a cuddly teddy bear, and he’s sure the world revolves around his needs. He’s a people dog, not a dog’s dog.

DD constantly follows me around hoping for a treat. If I turn around too quickly I bump into him. If I’m in the kitchen he’s by my side, pissing all the other dogs off. There is growling and posturing going on all around him, but he is oblivious to it. Funny his owner used to tell me to keep him on lease outside or he would run off. Ha! John doesn’t tell me that anymore because I couldn’t lose DuWhite if I tried. He is my shadow. And because he has separation anxiety he has to go everywhere I go in the VW. I must admit, he looks really cute in the driver’s seat – he assumes the position every time I get out of the car.

His separation anxiety was noted during his first visit to TBTB Dog Camp. I returned from town in a snow blizzard only to find my sliding glass door wide open and nine visiting dogs in the driveway. OMG! I’m sure he told them he would let them out but they HAD to stay in the yard. The next time I put him in a Great Dane crate only to come home and find him outside again, the door wide open – at least I had the forethought to barricade the other dogs upstairs this time.

Okay, so not only can he open sliding glass doors, he can also unlatch crates. So that being said, the next time I went to town I locked the sliding glass doors and left him in the house. When I returned all the food in the cabinets was pulled out onto the floor PLUS he took a massive dump in the middle of the living room. He was definitely making a statement and I finally got it! After that episode he has been my steady sidekick in VeVe wherever I go. He is fine with that because that’s his routine, he goes in the car with John everywhere.

During his recent visit to TBTB I found myself thinking more like a dog than a human, or in this case thinking more like a DuWhite Dawg – a requirement in staying one step ahead of him. DD just left yesterday after being here for seventeen days. In that time frame he managed to:

Open a fifty-pound bag of dog food in the car – fortunately I caught him before he consumed the entire thing.

Eat an entire bag of Pita bread and most of the plastic bag – in the car.

Open oatmeal and spread it all over the car floor – I’m sure it didn’t taste as good as he expected.

But, the real kicker was when I went to the post office to mail holiday packages to my family. I could only carry 3 of the boxes so had to come back for the other two. In less than 5 minutes, DuWhite dog was well on his way to having a box of homemade Grand Marnier Chocolate Truffles, Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Filling, and a bottle of Kahlua made with grain alcohol, 190 proof! OMG! He had managed to chew through the flat-rate box in no time flat and had gnawed the tin box to the point of a puncture hole. Yikes! A few more minutes and I would have had real problems – a white dog stuffed with chocolate and alcohol! Not a pretty picture.

So now I have to take the box home, assess the damage, repack a NEW box and stand in line at the Post Office again! Grrrrr. Plus I now have to plan my trips to town, getting the groceries last. And, if I go to more than one store for food items, well I have to carry all the groceries into the other store with me, because no matter where I hide food in VeVe, DD will find and eat it in a heartbeat! Sigh. . .

DuWhite Dawg if you weren’t so darn cute, we would have banned you years ago! You make the other dogs seem easy. But, you are such a major character in this screenplay called “Tails of a Dogsitter.” And of course who could resist that adorable Teddy Bear face?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tales of a Dogsitter - The California Wiggle Butt Strikes Again

Twas the morning of Friday and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse - only one lone cocker spaniel.

The TBTB human roommate returned to his bedroom to find the door slightly ajar. Upon further investigation he noticed an empty brownie wrapper on the floor just as one California wiggle butt scurried past him with her head lowered to the ground. The missing brownie dangling from her lips and in a flash it was gone – down the gullet.

Busted! But not before seizing the opportunity to inhale her find in one breath. Annie had silently struck again, but a chocolate brownie? Good thing it was milk chocolate and not the dark stuff – that could have meant a trip to the vet. She actually missed the second brownie sitting on the table – NOT. She simply got caught at her jump-and-grab routine and was only able to snag one before running out the door.

She now sits by his door, pondering. . . waiting for the perfect opportunity to slip into the quiet bedroom for her next reward. Her memory is long and her wait is patient. The nose not only knows, it does not forget! The smirk on that cute little face says it all: “Let your guard down, and I WILL be back!”

Woof! Woof!