pet sitting: there are some things you just can't prepare yourself for

I pride myself on the fact that, as a professional pet sitter, if I don't know something that I need to know, I find out. If a client's pet has an illness I am unfamiliar with, I ask lots of questions and do independent research. Or if there is a behavior issue, I ask trainers and find out how I might be able to help. I come prepared. There are some things you just can't prepare yourself for.

About six years ago, I found myself taking care of two young, rambunctious, but lovable, large dogs. Their owners had just done a stunning backyard renovation that the pups loved almost as much as they did. They informed me about the situation and instructed me on how to handle it:

For some reason, they do fine when they are outside individually, but if they get outside together, they start tearing up the landscaping, and it's impossible to stop them. Please let them out one at a time and go outside with whoever is outside. That way, they will both have some outside time, but they won't tear anything up.

Sounded simple enough to me. I'd taken care of these dogs before, so I knew they could be a handful. I just didn't know how big a handful.

My clients left town, and we did just fine with the new instructions. I'd let the puppy out first because I thought he'd have a harder time "holding it," and then I'd put him inside and let his big sister out. The plan worked perfectly.

Until day three.

Upon arrival, I opened the door for the puppy as before, and stepped outside with him. He did his business and I gave him some time to run around. His big sister was typically pretty excited to see me, and this day was no exception. Through the sliding glass door, I could see her jumping up and down with anticipation. How cute. As she made her eighteenth decent to the floor, I heard, "click." She kept jumping. My mind started spinning.

I tried the door. I tried the door again. And again. It was really, actually, truly, officially locked. And the house key and my cell phone were in my bag inside the house.

Don't panic. Think.

I tried all of the windows I had access to. Maybe one would be open. No luck.

I paced and fretted while puppy frolicked, completely unconcerned with our predicament.

Luckily, I had some friends living about a mile away. I'd simply need to walk there and use the phone. Never mind the hundred-degree temps. Puppy would have to stay in the backyard unsupervised, and my nemesis would have to stay inside. It was then that I'd noticed what was going on inside. My indoor friend had tired of waiting and was bringing each piece of the client's bathroom trash to the window, bit by bit. I won't go into how I knew it was the bathroom trash.

I had no choice but to leave them both. I made it to my friends' home and called my husband, who brought me the back-up key to the client's home. (If you're a pet sitter, it's always a good idea to have a back-up copy of your client's house key. I get written permission from new clients to make a copy of their key at the initial consultation.)

When I returned, the dogs were just as I'd left them. I had a bit of a mess to clean up, but they were otherwise unscathed.

What did this ordeal teach me? Keep the house key with you, and keep your phone with you, even if you're just going into the back yard. I never could have imagined that a dog would be capable of locking me out of the house, but it happened. It happened.

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