Dexter

Be Here Now Pet Sitting

Early in the journey you wonder how long the journey will take and whether you will make it in this lifetime. Later you will see that where you are going is HERE and you will arrive NOW…so you stop asking.”
Ram Dass, Be Here Now

Slowing down is not my best skill. It wouldn’t even make it into the top ten list.  I routinely spend a couple nights a week sleepless because my brain won’t shut down. I get up early, feed our critters, jump on the computer with coffee in hand to answer emails and deal with the day’s schedule changes before going out on my morning pet visits around 7 am. The words “Type A”  come to mind.

Maybe that’s why pet sitting is such a good corrective for me. You can be type A for approximately seven minutes of a half hour cat visit, unless someone has vomited or had diarrhea, and then you might stretch the type A stuff to ten minutes. After that, you have to settle down and either play with Kitty, or, depending on Kitty’s age and preferences, pet and groom. If the visit is to a dog, there are walks to take and walks are about exercise and sniffing and taking care of business and enjoying the day. Not type A stuff.

Butterscotch walking

With animals the only thing to do, once tasks are completed, is to stay in the moment and pay attention, that “be here now” stuff. I know pet sitters who skip the fun stuff – the play and hanging out – and just do the work that needs to be done and take off, but I can’t see the point of that.  I’d just as soon sit at a desk if pet sitting is just about cleaning litter boxes, freshening water, feeding, and just letting the dog out to potty.

I have to be honest and say that sometimes that hanging out stuff gets boring.  Especially on mornings when I’ve got six or seven cat households in a row. But I remind myself that these visits are often the highlight of the pets’ day when their people are gone. This visit may be the most fun or the most comfort that a cat or dog will get that day. I may be bored playing with the Cat Dancer or the laser for the sixth time this morning, but the cat is having a blast.

Annie

I may be tired of walking dogs already that day, but the stimulation of being outside and smelling the scents of the other neighborhood dogs and whatever else is there makes that dog’s day and sends that tail wagging.

Dexter

How can I begrudge them the very best moment of their day? Really.

Other days the visit is all about challenge. I’m caring for a couple cats right now, new ones for our services, and one of the cats is incredibly stressed out. He’s been under the sofa for a week, and if I so much as offer my hand for sniffing he charges and growls. I feel so sorry for the poor guy. I spend my time with the other resident kitty who likes me just fine, and hope the scaredy cat decides I’m not so bad. Today, after almost a week, he came out from under the sofa. He issued no invitations to me. Three feet away was  about the closest he came. But he was out, and he stayed out, and he watched me play with his kitty roommate, and he’s thinking about me. Hopefully, he’s thinking good thoughts and not planning my demise.

Either way, a lot of pet sitting is just about being present, about being in the moment and paying attention to whatever is needed or wanted, and seeing what you can do to provide that. It isn’t about looking ahead or behind. I’m pretty sure it’s the universe’s way of trying to teach me something. I’m a notoriously slow study on this one, but the cats and dogs are patient teachers. Someday, maybe someday soon, I’ll get it, and when I do, maybe I’ll rename my business to Be Here Now Pet Sitting. What do you think?


Butterscotch

The Circle of Life (and Death)

As someone getting closer to 60, and as a pet sitter for seven years, life and death are more present companions these days.  Perhaps, as a pet sitter, I have seen too much death, more than 100 animals in the last seven years. Perhaps I am simply more aware of passages than I used to be since I have fewer years ahead of me than behind. Luckily I get to see new life as well,  the circle of life, and somehow that makes it…well, I guess manageable is the word.

 Death is nature’s way of making things continually interesting. Death is the possibility of change. Every individual gets its allotted lifespan, its  chance to try something new on the world. But time is called and the molecules which make up leaf and limb, heart and eye are disassembled and redistributed to other tenants.” ― Peter Steinhart, The Company of Wolves

First, a little over a year ago, it was my dad. He passed away, but his dog, the lovely Butterscotch, had come to live with us a couple years before that when Dad could no longer care for her. When Dad was gone, somehow he lived on in the dog he loved so much.  Butterscotch used to sit on Dad’s lap, and when she came here, it was my lap she chose.

Butterscotch

Her arthritis makes that harder for her to do these days, and is a reminder, along with her “sugar face” (as my sister puts it)  that her allotted life span, like mine, will be up someday.

Butterscotch

A few months after my dad passed, a cat I cared for regularly was diagnosed with advanced kidney failure. She was close to death, but force-feeding her every few hours for several days, and daily sub-cutaneous fluids, brought her back from the brink.

There is something powerful about saving a life. The bond is practically unbreakable, and though she was not my cat, still…she was in a way. Without me, or someone like me, she would have died then and there. She was not thrilled with the fluids, but she was alive because of them, and I was the delivery person. The vet said she might even get a couple years of life from the time of her diagnosis. We were going for it.

Nine months later, out of the blue, she developed a mass on her heart. It was massive and threatened an awful and probably painful end.  I sat with her as she was euthanized the same day the mass was discovered. To say my heart was broken is an understatement. I saved her once, but could not do so the next time she needed me. Her time was up.

B

In between B’s kidney diagnosis and her final day came Annie, a little feral kitten whom the Angel of Death was courting hard. She would have been gone in a few more days, eaten from the inside out by hookworms and other infections.

Help look

She let me capture her one day, and many skilled hands nurtured her back to health. She lives with us now, and gets less and less medicine by the week. She has learned from the rest of our gang how to be an indoor kitty. Her newest and most endearing habit is “sneaking” out of the cat room like a teenager sneaking out of the house, and scampering back when we find her out of the room. She’s allowed out now, and has the run of the house, but she hasn’t quite figured that out yet.  We hope for a long and happy life for her, with many years between now and when she will be “disassembled and redistributed to other tenants.”

Annie on catnip

Somehow the idea that we have an allotted time span, and then  time is called, and we are disassembled and become part of something else, is comforting. I like the idea that we live on in some form or another, that our molecules become part of all that exists, like all the stuff I put into our compost pile that becomes part of next season’s veges.  I have no idea what form my molecules will take next, or even if I will be aware of that, but I hope so. Not that have any desire to be rushed off stage, but I am terribly curious what I will become part of when the time comes. I wouldn’t mind if I were part of an indoor cat who lives in a lovely home with nice sunny windows overlooking a colorful garden with a little catnip in it for fun. If the powers-that-be are listening, and taking requests, that’s mine. Fingers crossed.

Minh

Annie’s Freedom: Next Chapter

It is time.

Annie’s medical issues are well under control. She lets me give her meds as needed, and she’s pooping daily without problem – such a huge accomplishment for her. So there is no longer any need for her to be contained in the upstairs cat room. It’s time for her to join the rest of the household and go where she pleases.

Annie

She is soooo little that it’s hard for me to open the doors and let her go, but if she managed being outside for the first six or seven months of her life,  terribly sick for part of it, with a colony that mostly rejected her, she can probably manage living in a warm house with our crew. She’s met most, but not all, of the gang.

Butterscotch, one of our dogs, has hung out with her a few times. Butterscotch is far more interested in trying to find and eat her poop than anything else about her, which is exactly what was needed. Annie got to sniff Butterscotch a bit. She hissed at Butterscotch, who doesn’t care a whit that Annie is hissing, and Annie got over it, and went on with playing.

Butterscotch

Paris, our other dog, will not be as kind. He won’t hurt her, but he will certainly work hard on scaring the daylights out of her with his huge voice. She will have to learn for herself that if she ignores Paris he will ignore her. That lesson has been harder to learn for some of our cats than others.

Paris

Annie will have to negotiate with some of our other cats as well. Lily has been her best friend for the last couple months, and hangs out with Annie day and night.

Lily

Most of the rest of the cats have met Annie and their responses have ranged from mildly unhappy to downright ticked. No one has tried to hurt her – they just hiss or growl, and Annie is smart enough to back off and give everyone lots of space. There’s only one cat she hasn’t met – Stripe. Stripe doesn’t like any of the animals in our house, and she hangs out in a cat bed high up on a closet shelf. She likes to watch my husband eat breakfast and she comes to sit in my lap occasionally when I’m watching tv. Otherwise, she prefers a monastic life by herself. How long it will take Annie to see or meet Stripe is anyone’s best guess.

And so the door to the upstairs cat room is open now. There’s a gate across it that prevents doggie entry, and it has a cat door, but Annie is so small she can slide easily between the bars. For the moment she is not inclined to leave the room. She’s hanging out in her favorite cat trees, looking out the windows, and doing what she normally does.

Annie

This room has been her sanctuary and safe space for a couple months, and she’s not terribly interested in leaving it, or so it seems. I think curiosity  will get the better of her at some point. And some of the other cats may wander up to their old hangout and find that the door is open again, and come visiting.

Annie

As much as part of me wants to keep her in that room forever and protect her, it is too small a space ultimately, even for a tiny kitty.  Part of rescue work is knowing when to let go. Time for the next chapter of your life, little Annie. Come on out and play!

Annie