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!!!

1 comment:

  1. Oh Karen - that sounds so familiar. No one has any idea of how much work and love it takes to do the job you are doing. Most people would be insane by the end of day 1! I love your head count plan. When we walk the pack, especially with more than 6 dogs, I do a head count at every intersection in the woods. If someone is not there we wait until he (normally number 7, Hootie) shows up. It is hard giving up the pet sitting part of my business but after cleaning up diarrhea in the front living room on the floor and area rug I know it is time. The clean up took over an hour as I was trying to protect both the floor and rug (not my normal mood of scrub the s*&T out hard!). Can't wait till the house sells.