Friends Don’t Let Friends Pet Sit

Some mornings start with coffee. Others start with adrenaline.

One of the staff called me very early this morning. The fact that she was calling before 7 am was my first clue that something was really wrong. My second clue came with her clear words: “Max has collapsed in the yard and he’s not moving.” Max is a 90 lb, 10 year-old Golden Retriever. Collapsing, unconscious in the yard at the crack of dawn, before the vet offices open, was definitely not on the agenda today.

Max turned out to be very sick, though no one had any reason to know it ahead of time, and he didn’t make it. We got him to the vet within 15 minutes, but it took three of us to pick him up, and bless the wonderful vet’s office for their help. They weren’t open yet, but I went to the back door and they sprung into action and did everything they could for Max. Luckily, his person wasn’t vacationing too far away, and she was able to be with him at the end.

But what if Max’s caretaker had been a teenager next door? Or a friend? It is self-serving…granted…but I believe in pet sitters and their knowledge and I used them for many years before I actually became one.

English: Golden retriever fetching a tennis ba...

English: Golden retriever fetching a tennis ball from the ocean. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Would a teenager or friend have looked at Max’s gums, found them to be white as snow, and wrapped him in a sleeping bag to help prevent deepening shock? How would they even have lifted and transported the 90 lb dog? Would they have known what information was critical to tell the vet staff? And because there weren’t many staff members at the vet’s office at that hour, would they have been able to help hold Max while blood was drawn and a catheter put in? (I have to admit, having worked in a vet’s office helped me with this last piece.)

Even more than that, how would a teenage pet sitter feel to have a dog die on her watch? Is a 14 year old ready for that emotional responsibility? It is hard enough for us as pet sitters, but burdening a teenager or a good friend with that…really??

OK…off my high horse. Sorry about that. It was a stressful morning, but I am really proud of everything three of us professional pet sitters did for Max. Glad that he didn’t die alone. He was a really sweet boy, and we will miss him. He loved nothing better than to lean on us and be pet, and we’ll remember him that way.

Rest in peace sweetie…I’m really glad we have been your pet sitters.

A Dark Day for Cats Update

English: Herd (clowder) of Cats Српски / Srpsk...

English: Herd (clowder) of Cats Српски / Srpski: Чопор Мачака (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Under a great deal of public pressure, the South Newton Township Supervisors have cancelled the plans to capture and kill all the community’s outdoor cats in early September. I don’t have all the details yet, but thought you would all like to know that this atrocity is not going to happen.

So many organizations were stepping forward to offer assistance – Alley Cats and others. Hopefully the township will craft a real program to help them control the community cat population now.

Thanks to all of you who signed the petition – more than 14,000 signatures were collected! It is good to know that bad things can be stopped, at least some of the time.

Making Friends

Black cat sitting in a statuesque manner.

Black cat sitting in a statuesque manner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mandy, an elegant black cat, loves some people and is very affectionate with her chosen few. I’m not one of them.

I’ve seen pictures of her on the laps of folks. People tell tales of her climbing all over them or head-butting them. But when I come to pet sit her, under the couch or the hutch or behind the curtains she goes…and stays.

But I’m working on her. That’s not only my job as a pet sitter, but, truly, I love the challenge. She’s stuck with me for ten long days. The fact that I’m the only game in town for almost all of those days might just be working in my favor. On day one I wouldn’t have bet even a dime that she would befriend me. Today, day seven, I’d be willing to put a little money on it.

Day one and two were tough for her. She darted around the house when I first arrived, desperate for a spot where she couldn’t be seen, but no dice. She settled under the couch, eyes fully dilated, and licking her lips (sign of stress) like mad. I put out some yummy wet food for her, and settled down with my Kindle to read for the rest of my visit. I did my very best to be non-threatening…just present, but not too close and not asking anything. I left my sweatshirt on the floor for her to sniff while I was away.

Day two was much like day one, but by day three, she was curious. Not curious enough to do much about it, but she wasn’t crouched as tightly, and she was willing to look at me. She wasn’t dashing around looking for a better hiding space. And she was eating, which was very good.

Fast forward to day six, and Mandy was more than curious. Rather than staying still in one place she was moving back and forth under the sofa, moving a little closer to me, and even taking treats from me. The treats were right next to my hand, so I could give her a quick stroke or two while she ate, and she didn’t run away. She even lay down, stretched out full-length, instead of sitting all tucked tight. That’s trust.

I thought that might be the best I could expect from this scared little girl, but she surprised me today. She was still under something (the hutch today) but she wanted to be pet. I reached under to give her a treat and my hand got head-butted. I started to rub her chin and head and she just leaned into my hand. If I stopped I got a quick head butt again. Very clear instructions! She got a nice long pet today, and she looked very content.

She really wanted to come out today, and even stuck her head fully out from under the hutch for just a minute. She kept walking over to the entrance but she couldn’t quite get herself to come out. She might just do that tomorrow…I wouldn’t bet against her.

I don’t know if she’s decided that she likes me, or just that she doesn’t have any other options right now, and I don’t really care. I’m finally getting to see Mandy’s sweet side, and I’m glad I can provide a little comfort for her while her people are gone. We may not be BFFs by the time her folks return, but we’re well on our way to being friends, and that’s a lot more than I expected.

Watching Pets Age

Watching your pets age is a bear.

Those of you who have read here for a while know our dog, Butterscotch. She’s approaching 13 years of age, has Cushings Syndrome, and a very small heart murmur. Today she is having dental surgery, a surgery more on the routine side than the high-risk one, but with her age and conditions, it is in the modestly high-risk category. It is a necessary operation; without it the plaque on her teeth could infect the gums, her blood stream, and ultimately her heart, so it must be done. She’s in great and highly-skilled hands, and all precautions are being take, but it is hard not to worry.



She’s been showing her age more these last few months, or perhaps I’ve just noticed it more. Nothing dramatic…little changes, but noticeable. She used to run when I would (occasionally) put her on a flexi-lead in the fields, but she doesn’t do that anymore. When she does try to run, even for a short distance, she pays for it with fatigue and some arthritis. She limps for awhile after she’s pushed herself, and so I keep the walks closer to home than I used to. Just in case.


Butterscotch walking

The stairs started getting difficult for her a year or so ago, and we put carpet runners on the wooden ones. That worked pretty well for a bit, but the stairs are back to challenging her. She likes to sleep upstairs with us, and she used to be on the bed non-stop, but now she finds it tough to climb up, and she won’t use the doggie stairs I bought. She prefers her dog bed and the floor more often these days. And someday…maybe not for a year or so…the stairs will be too much for her. I won’t like that at all. Neither will she.

Butterscotch is nowhere near death’s door, to the best of my knowledge. She’s just aging. (So am I, truth be told!) She still loves her daily walk, even if it is shorter and less intense. She never skips a meal, and would probably prefer a few more of them each day. She still gets up on the sofa and the bed when she wants to.  She forgets all about her age when there’s something to bark at…unless she’s asleep, which happens a tiny bit more often than it did in the past. But she’s got some years left in her still, I think.




Still, it is hard to watch her get older. I’m gonna spend the next few hours thinking good thoughts for her and her surgeon, and will be glad to have her home tonight.

Long week

Some weeks are wilder than others. This week was one of those ones filled with all sorts of challenges, and lots of fun. Eight or nine cat households every day, which is just about as many as I can visit in a day and still give everyone quality attention.

The highlights:

I’ve been caring for Daytona, the deaf cat I wrote about earlier this week. She is such a sweetie, and we’re having a great time together.



Had a couple kitty households with one cat who is sociable, and one cat who stays under the bed…managed to get both of the under-the-bed dwellers to come out and visit by the end of my time with them. Small victories…very important.

Then I’ve got a beautiful black cat who is practically feral. The last time one of my staff pet sat her she didn’t eat or poop for days. She was so scared of us that she ran inside furniture and there was no a chance of connecting with her. It was a trying time, to say the least.

I’m caring for her this time, and each day I spend 45 minutes sitting a few feet from her as she hides. (Today she was mostly behind a curtain with her butt hanging out the back, exposed. Maybe she thought I couldn’t see her since she couldn’t see me.)  I read a book and am as non-threatening as possible in hopes she may at least check me out sometime. Today I left her one of my sweatshirts so she can sniff it without me around. The good news is that she is eating for me, and as long as she eats and I can see her each day, I’m good. If I get anything more than that I will be dancing the happy dance, big time.

Now, as the week closes, I get one of the most fun kitty sits…a kitten!! A lovely bundle of crazy, curious energy.


Paco was a little afraid of me when I first entered, but it took him just a few minutes to warm up. Kibble hockey (scooting kibble across the floor for him to chase and eat) warmed him up real fast and we are BFFs now.


I brought him and Al (the adult cat) a cat dancer today and both cats were crazy for it. At one point they dispensed with me entirely, and each grabbed an end and entertained themselves. (Way to make me feel not needed boys!)

Paco and Al

It has been a mega-long week, and I am beat. But the company of cats has been good, so I’m not complaining. My calendar, however, says that next week is calmer; I sincerely hope it isn’t lying to me again.  Time will tell. Have a good weekend everyone.