Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blogging is Dangerous

If you're a dog walker, you shouldn't blog about it. In fact, you shouldn't write about it at all. Two years ago, the poop eater in my pack found out I was telling people he ate poop. 

"Poop eater, huh?"he said to me. 
"I'll show you what I can eat," and proceeded to chew my writing hand to bits. 

It's taken me a year to heal physically and another to overcome my fear of writing, but as my psychiatrist says, "Sometimes, you just gotta get back on the horse."
Which is not a reference to you, Baby the Malamute. I know you hate horse jokes. If anyone asks me, "You got a saddle for that thing?" again while we're together, I'll smack them with the Chuck-It. I promise. 

And then I'll write about it. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Open Letters to Park Picnickers

To the kid who lost his Pizza-themed Lunchable to my French Bulldog,

I’m sorry your dad was so stupid as to feed you at an off leash park. I’m also sorry your dad gave you flavored chemicals for lunch. The Bulldog did you a favor. Thank you for simply screaming instead of trying to save the “pepperoni”. You could have lost an arm.

To the guy who ate McDonalds and shared with my “cute little Pug”,

Next time, fucking listen. I wasn’t yelling for the Pug to leave you alone. I was yelling that he has severe allergies and you were about to kill him. I don’t care if he sat when you told him to, he doesn’t know there’s trace amounts of real Chicken in those nuggets that could send him into anaphylactic shock.

To the guy who yelled at me and kicked a dog who tried to steal his Subway sandwich,

You’re a dumb ass. I wish that dog had bitten you. I regret not biting you myself.

To everyone who picnics at the off leash park,

You know that beautiful, grassy hill right by the picnic table? There is dog pee there, also piles of things bad owners don’t pick up. That’s why you don’t let your children roll down it, as inviting as it looks to them.

The dogs I bring to the park every weekday run down that toilet of a hill before they play king of the mountain on your eating surface. That table top calling you to sit for a spell, is a cesspool.

Do you live under a rock? Is this your first day with your first dog ever? Even the most docile Golden Retriever can turn into a Velociraptor when there is food involved.

What makes you think the smell of your bologna sandwich won’t send someone’s dog into wild hyena mode, devouring your lunch as well as any forearms resting on the table? What if your dog plays family protector when another dog jumps on the table to steal a snack? What then? Is your four-legged family member dog enough to win a bout with a hyena? Mine’s not. That’s why I don’t eat at the dog park.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Being a dog walker can be awkward. There are moments in my job where I would turn in my leashes for a desktop under florescent lights in a second.

Like the time I showed up early to a client’s house.

When the dogs didn’t greet me at the door and I heard an, “Oh fuck,” come from upstairs, I assumed the dogs were at the groomer’s and someone forgot to tell me.

I hate showing up when there are no dogs. Not only do I not get paid for a walk, I have to sit and listen to people over apologize and explain why their life was so hard that they couldn’t call me and cancel.

“Hello!” I called to announce myself. As if the house alarm chime ringing through the house didn’t make my entrance obvious enough.

A single bark shot down the stairs. So there was a dog to walk after all. A dog that never left the side of her owner who was taking a ridiculously long time coming down the stairs.

I wiped my shoes on the welcome mat and stepped into the living room with vaulted ceilings.

An elongated “Oh God,” floated over the banister and down to my level.

“You’re kidding me,” I thought to myself. “You’re fucking kidding me.”

I make a whole lot of noise when I come into someone’s house. Mostly because I don’t like scaring people, but also because opening the door to one client in his boxers was one time too many.

Unless the acoustics of the house only worked in one direction, there was no way these people didn’t hear my knock on the door, the alarm chime, the jingling of my enormous key ring, my hello, and near slam of their front door.

If I had snuck in quietly and sent them scurrying off the couch with throw pillows hiding sensitive areas, I would be mortified and apologetic. As it was, I was just pissed.

Pissed and awkwardly stuck in their living room weighing my options.

If I left and came back later, I risked them still being home and trying to cover up the obvious fact that I had already been there and left. That seemed super awkward and a waste of my time.

If I left and never came back, well, that would be unprofessional.

I decided to wait it out, then had second thoughts. What if they really didn’t hear me? What then? How long would I wait in silence before pretending to have just walked in the house? How would I know if they heard me and were just taking their time and then caught me pretending? There was no non-awkward solution.

As I backed toward the door in indecision, the dog came flying down the stairs followed by one owner in flannel pants and a pink tank top.

I greeted her like nothing had happened. My plan was to grab the dog and go but she sat down on the second to last stair and started chatting like we were sharing a table at a coffee shop.

“How have you been?” she asked.

“Busy,” I said, clipping the dog’s leash and reaching for the door handle.

“Got any plans for the weekend?”

Seriously? It’s one thing to exchange ‘hellos’ and ‘have a great days' while pretending your partner isn’t smoking a cigarette eight feet above our heads, but engaging in idle chitchat while I’m trying to flee the situation is just plain inappropriate.

And so, dear reader, unless you too want to spend your entire career trying not to think about your clients having sex every time you open a front door, stick to your office job, where people are more likely to have their intimate moments in closets where you don’t frequent or on desks behind locked doors.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dog Pack Profile # 1

The Missile Kisser

120 lbs of pure, muddy intensity, this dog is a park goers nightmare. An extreme athlete, the Missile Kisser is a force to be reckoned with both in the air and on the ground. The wobbliest Frisbee launched across the park never hits the grass thanks to his lightning quick reflexes and impeccable eye/mouth coordination.

Beware the call of the dog walker "Stay down, Missile Kisser! No jumping!" as he charges towards you. His tail may be wagging, his long tongue flopping out the side of his huge smile, but he is no friend to you.

The dog walker has seen it before. The call is not for him. It is for you. She is giving you time to put your knee up, turn your back to his charge, slow him down with a firm stare and a resounding "No!" anything to snap him out of the hallucination that your face is a Frisbee.

The wrong move in this moment could very well ruin your entire day. The Missile Kisser aims for the mouth, leaving the lucky person with a slobbery cheek and a fat lip, the unlucky, a ripped shirt and a missing tooth.

Should you fail to see him in action, victims of his attack are easy to recognize. They wander zombie-like across the park, hand gently touching their lips as if checking to see if that really did just happen to them.

Steer clear of the missile-kissed. It is likely they're thinking what they should have done to retaliate and likely they will do it to you should you startle them in your approach.

If your dog pack has a Missile Kisser, upgrade your insurance and beef up your first aid skills because this dog wrecks havoc wherever he goes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dog Walkers are Super Heroes

If you're not part super hero, then you shouldn't be a dog walker.

I save the lives of dogs all the time. I've pulled a snarling Pit Bull off of a Great Dane, sprinted up a hill toward a busy freeway in ninety-degree heat to snatch a pair of puppies before they entered traffic, dove into gardia-infested puddles to stop a dog from drinking, but nothing compares to the feat of ingenious bravery I displayed today.

The day started out like any other Thursday. Thursday is barking day. I pick up a Dalmatian on Thursdays who barks non-stop and on full volume. Barking is like yawning. Soon the whole crew has to join in and like a bunch of drunken bar patrons trying to be heard over the neighboring table filled with people trying to be heard over the bad metal band, Thursdays get louder as each mile passes.

It's not only volume, it's proximity. Today, two dogs were standing on their hind legs, leaning into the barrier that separates their space from my space, and barking while biting at each other's faces. I might do that to someone I hated. They do it because they love each other and can't whisper sweet nothings or make out like we humans can.

I like to think that they do it right behind my head and not against the van window far far away because they love me too. The fact that it grates on my nerves and makes me want to swerve into oncoming traffic is just my small mind not appreciating their natural expression of pure love and affection.

During the love fest today, just as I was pulling onto the freeway, I heard a distinctly different sort of barking. It was the sound of a dog in distress, the yelping, screaming sort of dog sound accompanied by the snarling, thrashing sound of a dog proving her dominance over all living things.

I had a fight on my hands.

I yelled and squirted the attacker while keeping one eye focused on the road. When a second dog jumped in and the remaining seven dogs went silent and scurried away from the altercation, I veered into the shoulder, slapped my hazards on and whipped off my seat belt.

It was the first time there had ever been a real fight in the van. One French Bulldog had decided to dominate the most submissive dog in the van and an opportunistic Hound Dog decided he had her back. Two on one, squished in the corner of the passenger seat and the sliding door.

Normally, I would have jumped out of the van, whipped open the sliding door with lightning speed and broken up the three dogs with fierce agility and strength. But we were parked on the freeway on ramp. Trucks were flying past us on their way to 60 mph and if I survived the jump out of the driver’s seat, I was sure to lose more than one dog trying to flee the scene when I opened the slider.

The disastrous scenario played out in my head in milliseconds as I yelled and squirted at the fighting dogs and seven terrified dogs stared back at me to please do something already.

The only way to get to the dogs without getting hit by a SUV was to go through the barrier that I had recently reinforced for the millionth time in order to keep two Houdini dogs out of my front seat and therefore out of my lunch.

I had spent hours duct taping two metal barriers to each other, weaving in parts of a third barrier that had been disassembled at the stupidly designed plastic connectors by the eager chewing of two Lab puppies, and wedged a small plastic dog crate in between the two front seats to block any attempts at crawling under the makeshift fence.

I then taped the barriers to the handles on the back of each seat in the event the two barking love birds or any pair of wrestling pooches pushed the bottom half of the floor to ceiling tension rods enough to send the whole contraption careening onto the unsuspecting furry heads of their pack members. Some dogs were already only one more barrier crash away from never getting into the van again.

It took me hours to secure a barrier system that finally kept all the dogs in the back and about a half a second to decide to destroy it.

After three attempts at knocking the barrier down with the full force of my body weight slamming against it, I detected a week spot near the ceiling and pushed my arm through. The upper half of my body followed and finally tilted the barrier far enough away from the ceiling for me to grab the French Bulldog by the harness.

I pulled her up and away from the chaos, hoping the Hound Dog would give up the fight. He didn’t. Now that the Bulldog was out of the way, he was free to chew on the hind leg of the submissive dog like a chicken wing.

Unfortunately, my only hand not full of French Bulldog harness was stuck on the wrong side of the barrier. The thought of kicking against the dashboard to push my body far enough backwards to grab the flopping ear of the Hound Dog with my teeth actually crossed my mind.

Fortunately, the extra weight of the Bulldog dangling from my arm while the rest of my body teetered across the tilted barrier unstuck one more strand of duct tape and sent the whole contraption falling onto the Hound dog, releasing the submissive dog's leg.

When I lifted my face from the pee stained carpet, all eyes were on me, frozen in expectant stares.

The French Bulldog, harness still in my fist, eyes locked on the submissive dog in the corner growled into the silence.

And that's when I lost my shit.

Call it a combination of adrenalin rush and pure horror at the idea of terrorizing the sweetest dog in the van, but I grabbed the Bulldog by the jowls and yelled, "You're going to jail!" into her smushed little face before shoving her into the crate and slammed the little metal door.

After double-checking that the door was secure, I checked the submissive dog in the corner who seemed to be in shock but not bleeding. The Hound Dog seemed content to sit peacefully now that the excitement was over and all the remaining dogs had resumed breathing.

I sat back on my feet, just beginning to soak in what had happened and what should happen next when the first dog leaned towards me and swiped a dry tongue across my face. Immediately, my head was covered in dogs licking my face, chewing on my ears, and pawing gently at the top of my head.

"Your welcome," I said. "Now get off the barrier so I can put this stupid thing back up."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dog Wakers Are Drivers Too

If you don’t like driving, you shouldn’t be a dog walker. If you like driving and don’t want to hate driving, you shouldn’t be one either.

I drive about 60 miles a day. That’s 60 miles of people texting while jaywalking to the beat in their noise canceling headphones. 60 miles of near misses that could have been five car pile-ups, innocent children turned into speed bumps, or, at the very least, piles of evidence that every driving-based stereotype is actually true.

And they are. Especially the one about teenagers. They’re bad drivers, but they’re also bad pedestrians and bad people in general.

The other day I turned down my favorite shortcut, squealed around the hairpin turn and practically ran over a crowd of teenagers blocking my path. Twenty or so kids just hanging around looking at each other in the middle of the street.

As a seasoned driver and conscientious member of my community, I’ve decided to take advantage of every teachable moment in order to restore pedestrian etiquette in the streets of my neighborhood.

The lesson of the day was: Silly kids, streets are for cars, and there was only one way to teach it. I took my foot off the break and let gravity roll the weight of my minivan into the crowd.

Layer by layer, the sea of teens parted until I was bumper to kneecaps with a girl fight. Turns out this group wasn’t just loitering in the street, they were jockeying for the best view.

Slowing me down on my route is one thing, but doing it in order to watch a senseless act of violence is just plain unacceptable.

I’m proud to report that I did not rev my engine, neither did I crack my window to spray the delinquents with the squirt bottle I use on misbehaving dogs. I even reapplied the breaks when one of the girls grabbed the other by the hair and threw her in front of my wheel.

While the girl was pulling herself back to her feet, I contemplated calling the police. Obviously, I was the only one on neighborhood watch that day and didn’t think the Golden Retriever whining behind my seat and I were a match for this crowd.

Before I even decided between using the non-emergency line or 911, I heard sirens and the teens scattered. I don’t know if the cops were headed our way or flying past on the main road near by and I didn’t wait around to see. I had a job to do and these stupid teenagers had taken enough of my time already.

Friday, January 15, 2010

It's Raining

I've been considering taking back everything I've said about not being a dog walker. My heart is torn. Torn between the flood of unemployed office workers giving dog walking a try and a desire to reach out to the wannabe dog walkers of the world.

It's the middle of January. A new year, a new decade and time for me to turn over a new leaf. Let it be known that as of today, my message to you is, BE A DOG WALKER. That's right, shut down your Farmville game, get out of your PJ's, decline that unemployment extension deal and come make an offer on my business.

From now on, it's up to YOU to figure out how to make it through one more Seattle winter without drowning in a three inch mud puddle diving after a dog who won't leave the park. It's YOUR turn to fill your holiday wish list with Smartwool and Gortex, Shamwows and eyeglass squeegees. And best of all, YOU get to come up with your own snappy comebacks for your clients when they say, "Stay dry out there!" as rainwater drips off the tip of your nose while you coax their dog from it's bed by the heating vent.

Get in touch with your inner five year old! Buy a yellow rain slicker with matching boots. Stomp through puddles until your toes rot and fall off. Rediscover the joy of spending a day with the ends of your sleeves soaking wet. Restore your skin to baby's ass smoothness with a windblown sand and natural rainwater exfoliating treatment.

Wanna be a dog walker? Take advantage of our winter special and receive one thousand dog towels and a lifetime discount card for the local laundry mat.