Dog-Sitting Blues

Last Sunday and Monday were logistically complicated in our household. The Spouse decided to attend to some computer event in New York, which entailed leaving Saturday night and returning early Monday evening. The kids were off school Monday, while I was not– and my school is two hours away, with class again on Tuesday, necessitating an overnight stay. So what to do with three kids and a dog all day Monday, when I leave early in the a.m.?

The kids were easy. As they had no desire to get up at 7:30 on a vacation day, we parcelled them out to friends for sleepovers starting Sunday night and carrying through all day Monday. All that remained was the dog.

Our Best Friend has only stayed with Kate, our “lady who does.” He lived with her for almost a week before she successfully foisted him on us, and she babysat him a handful of times before her life circumstances changed and we had start taking him with us on trips. The last time he stayed there, she found him a little taxing. He was “bothering the cats” she said… or maybe she said “driving them up the wall.” I don’t remember so good.

I wasn’t sure it was even necessary to get someone to take him for the day. I wasn’t leaving until around 10:00 in the morning, and the Spouse and kids would be back by 8:00 or 9:00. Still, I felt that ten to eleven hours all by himself was too much. How would you like to locked away alone, unable to pee, for ten hours? I can’t go ten hours without peeing. And he’s such a social dog. He needs people. I couldn’t bear to leave him alone that long, and most of all, he’s not used to it. So I asked My Dearest Friend to take him for the day.

My Dearest Friend certainly owed me the favour. We’ve been babysitting Blackie at least twice a year (and often more) for eight years; we’ve been babysitting Blackie and Duke together for three. So I didn’t feel awkward asking. As My Dearest Friend lives half-an-hour from me by car, I decided that, like the girls, he should go on Sunday; if I brought him over on Monday, it would add an hour of driving to my already long day.

I dropped Our Best Friend, with food and leash and all, around 2:30 in the afternoon. He  knew something was up. I heard him barking as we walked back to the car, but hoped he would settle down. I dropped the Youngest at her sleep-over, and the other two and I went to the mall. While shopping, I got this text:

Your dog just snapped at me

Uh oh, I thought. I texted back, “What happened exactly?  He’s prone to fear aggression.”

My daughter’s friend’s mom rang the door bell. And she is afraid of dogs. So I took him by his collar to bring him in the kitchen and he turned to bite me. Then he did the same to E when he tried but E told him no and then he let him hold just collar but not bring him to the kitchen

“E” is MDF’s Significant Other; he has a St. Bernard, and is no stranger to controlling a large dog. Pulling Our Best Friend by the collar is a huge no-no that I’d mistakenly neglected to tell MDF about; you can pull Duke and Blackie to Timbuktu without a problem, and she often does. I felt terrible. I phoned and offered to come get him, but she refused, saying Our Best Friend must have thought it was me at the door, and only got upset because he wasn’t allowed to go greet me. I left him there, but with huge misgivings.

I texted her the next night from out-of-town, telling her The Spouse had called and would be at her place in 20 minutes. I, meanwhile, was cuddled up with a purring cat at my friend’s house. She texted back,

My cats aren’t purring. Terrorized. I have had to keep them away from OBF. Who’s been attacking them. He goes completely insane every time he sees them move

Oh, crap, I thought. Now I was really sick. Kate had said he “drove the cats nuts,” but they never got hurt, even when she left them alone while she was at work. I assumed “driving them nuts” was an attempt at play, not destruction. But his behaviour here was so bad, MDF paid her son $10.00 to take Our Best Friend for walks so the cats could catch a break. My guilt knew no bounds.

The Spouse retrieved the dog, thanked her (I assume), and went on home. I told him to give her $10.00, but he forgot. I apologized by text, profusely; she texted back,

It was fine. Not such a big deal. Dont worry about this. Please

But I can’t help worrying. I know both My Dearest Friend and the cats survived, but obviously he can’t go back there. This is what you reap when you don’t have the time or money needed to train a dog effectively. I love Our Best Friend, but I don’t love that he’s still anxious and reactive. I hope I don’t need a dog-sitter again soon. He’s got nowhere to go and I’ve got no one to ask. Another little piece of stress in an already stress-filled life.

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About one person's view

I'm the mother of three girls, three cats, and a dog. All need constant attention, but only the dog likes to go for long walks!
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18 Responses to Dog-Sitting Blues

  1. thatjenk says:

    Oh dear! I’m glad your MDF was patient and forgiving, but I’d have guilt too. Alma did some ‘business’ inside at our friends’ while we went away and felt awful!

    For short times, would it be possible to have someone (friend or hired hand) go by the house to take OBF for a walk?

    Dog boarding and daycare can certainly add up over time, but I think there’d be a benefit: as a paid service, much less guilt for ungentlemanly behaviour.

    If you were in Calgary, I’d jump at the chance to have his smiling face around. 🙂

    • Your cat might not like his smiling face so much…

      I wish I could afford professional dog-sitters. Maybe they’d whip him into shape. Then again, finding one who works on positive-reinforcement principles might be a challenge. It’s all hypothetical anyway; there’s just no money for training or sitters.

      • thatjenk says:

        Haha. You might be right about Emma’s would-be reaction to OBF, but I think you under-estimate the will of Isaac (affectionately, “Mean Cat”). Though, as a dog trainer, Mean Cat does not work of positive-reinforcement principles (if the nickname didn’t already give that away).

  2. julesmelfi says:

    I’ve been taking care of my brother’s reactive dog for a month and a half now and I was a wreck while we were out of town for 6 days. I had a friend stay at the house and we had to have her come over a couple of times before we left to make sure that she would even let her in the house! Luckily, everything went smoothly – but I think staying home in their own environment helps 🙂

    • I wish I had someone in our neighbourhood I could have asked to come by and visit him during the day. Unfortunately, most of my neighbours are dog-phobic, and the few that aren’t also had the day off school and were probably busy. Had it been Kate’s day to come clean the house, that would have been perfect. 😦

  3. Oh dear. Poor you, OBF, your friends and their cats.

    I don’t leave Georgia with friends or neighbours for the same reason. She wouldn’t be good with cats, she’s too big and strong for most people and who knows how she might play up in a strange house. Our best bet is the neighbour with 2 littledogs but they play like mad and I always worry that she’ll break stuff. There are doggie daycares here but I’ve never tried them. The only time we went away for a day to Canberra, we ended up taking her along. Less worrying in the end!

    One day at home alone doesn’t sound so bad. Most dogs with 2 working owners would do much the same. We leave the back door open for Georgia when we go out, even if it’s for an hour.

  4. We’ve had the same issue with our dogs … leaving them with anyone really doesn’t work. It truly is a dilemma and unfortunately, there are aren’t any easy answers. I hope your schedules don’t conflict again anytime soon.

  5. Kristine says:

    I would take YBF in a heart-beat! I bet he and Shiva would have a blast and my cat is way too big of a bully himself to ever let a lowly dog scare him off. In fact, my cat might be able to teach him a lesson or two about respecting the feline species. If only you weren’t so far…

    If it makes you feel any better, we are in the same place. I couldn’t sic my dog on any of my local friends and I doubt any of them would even agree to take her, knowing all her problems. Luckily, we haven’t had to leave her yet but it’s going to be a huge worry if that day ever comes.

  6. Jodi Stone says:

    I’m sorry you had such a dilemma. Sampson and Delilah are used to being alone all day and I understand your dilemma with the expense of training. There are lots of training videos on youtube if you could squeeze just five minutes a day with OBF, that might help. 🙂

  7. 2browndawgs says:

    Your friend certainly sounds like a nice person to put up with the disruption to her household. Unfortunately some dogs just never do well outside their own comfort zone. You really may need to find a good pet sitter/dog walker to let the dog out when you cannot. It is an expense, but may pay off to help the dog in the long run.

  8. Pamela says:

    It’s just not easy, is it? I’m sorry for the worry.

    I agree with some of the other folks here that having someone come to the house is probably the most comfortable option for everyone. Except it’s very expensive. I think it costs about $40 for an overnight stay plus extra for mid-day walks.

    And, although Jen and Kristine are both in Canada, I suspect I live closer to you then either of them. So if you need to board YBF with someone, Honey and I want first dibs. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Learning Helplessness | The Dog Park

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