perhaps the best client i've ever had

I was dreading the moment when Mona Chica's parents would come to collect their other fantabulous pooches. Two others, to be exact. If you read my post, she died in my arms last night, you know we've had a really rough week. Since Mona Chica passed, we've been dealing with the emotions of it all. It's rough. Not just for me, but for my whole family. And since then, we've been caring for Mona Chica's older brother and sister. Until today.

As a professional pet sitter...I'm thinking that's now an oxymoron. Because there is nothing professional about crying on the phone when you tell your client that their pet has passed. The professional part was that I downgraded from all-out bawling, which I reserved for my family. But, then, a week later (they were on a cruise, don't judge)–today–when they came to collect their other animals, once they started to cry, so did I. And we hugged, which is also not considered professional in the professional sense. Mona Chica's mom remembered that Campbell (my 4-year-old daughter) was over the moon to take care of a Chihuahua, her dream doggie. So she brought this for Cam:

20131008-200422.jpgUnbelievable, right?

Let me break it down for you if you haven't heard: I was taking care of these dogs for the first time. Though the clients knew their Chihuahua was sick, they didn't know how sick. Mona Chica's death, though not unexpected, was shocking. Then, when returning from their stay away, immediately after dealing with her beloved's remains, upon collecting their other dogs, they presented my daughter with a toy Chihuahua (Mona Chica look-alike), simply because they knew Campbell had been excited to help me care for Mona Chica.

I think these brand-new clients touched something in me, and in Campbell, that we didn't realize before, and probably won't fully realize for some time. I didn't think as much about my own daughter's feelings of failure as I did about my own, the professional pet sitter, or as I did about my clients, who had suffered the ultimate loss. Sure, our family went through the emotions of loss and talked it out, but I never even conceived that my girl might feel a bit of failure that the dog who she most likely felt ultimately responsible for died in our care.

We now have a new Mona Chica in our lives. And though she can't truly compete with the original Mona Chica, she's something special, and she lets my daughter–and me–know that we're something special. And that we did the best we could. And that loss sometimes just happens anyway.

she died in my arms last night

I don't really feel like writing right now. In fact, I don't really feel like doing anything. My eyes are practically swollen shut, and I'm suffering from a crying hangover. And I haven't slept hardly at all in the last twenty-four hours. Last night a client's dog died in my arms. I'd only known her for a day. Just a day. But she made an impression on me. She was little and sweet and cute and loved to cuddle and liked to lay in the sun. Her tags jingled so we'd know her four-pound body was approaching. And she had a heart condition. We just didn't know how bad.

She was walking along and she just keeled over. She let out two little yelps. I thought she just passed out, as her owners said she might, so I laid next to her and pet her and told her it would be okay. I didn't mean to lie. I stroked her head, and she laid there, breathing, and then she seemed to stop breathing. I didn't think it could be. I told her "no," but she did not obey. She just kept on not breathing. So I started CPR. And she just kept not breathing. And her heart stopped beating. I picked her up and she twitched. I held her and told her "no" again. She twitched a couple more times, giving me hope, and then she just went limp. And she didn't come back from that. I tried to breathe into her mouth again, but she didn't come back. I gave her a pat and a shake and told her "no" once more, but, still, she didn't listen.

We called the vet, the emergency vet, and my friend and client, who is a vet tech, but there wasn't an emergency to help with any more because she was gone.

Before I married my husband, I told him "we're going to have lots of pets, but I can't do the dying part, so you have to be the one to handle that." He still married me, thank goodness, and he has kept to his word. He tried CPR, but I told him to stop. So he wrapped her in a soft towel and held her for me while I cried and while the kids cried. And he took care of her body for me while I made the necessary phone calls to her owners, my unbelievably supportive vet tech client friend, and he held her body while I went for a short walk, just to clear my head.

My head is not clear. I still can't believe it. I want to rewind. I know I can't change it, but I want a rewind anyway. I always wanted to be a vet but opted out because of the sorrow. As a pet sitter, I didn't think I'd ever have to hold a client's dog in her last moments. What are the odds? I only knew her for a day.

All the pictures I took of her yesterday keep popping up. I keep thinking about yesterday, before it was like this.

I'll never forget Mona Chica and how she died in my arms last night.


doggie dna analysis: Ava's story

I've been taking care of Ava almost every weekday for the past two years. Her family adopted her from a local poodle rescue. Huh? Does this look like a poodle? Ava

Since Ava's ancestry was a complete mystery, her family decided to have a DNA analysis done. Their veterinarian offered the convenience of doing the blood draw for the test during her regular appointment and sent it to Wisdom Panel for analysis. Though there are less expensive options, Ava's mom, Maura, liked the convenience of doing it right there at the vet. She paid $125.00. Maura explained that there are at-home testing options that use saliva that some people may prefer.

Though DNA testing is not medically necessary, it sure is fun! Ava's family was simply curious of their rescue dog's origins so they decided to proceed with the analysis.

Wisdom Panel's report was nine pages of detailed information about Ava, including "Breed Detection," "Breed Appearance & Behavior," "Appearance, Behavior & History," and "Sharing Your Dog's Story."

Ava's mix was declared to be an "American Eskimo Dog Mix crossed with Yorkshire Terrier/Chihuahua cross." Huh? The only thing I see in her is possible Chihuahua. Good thing the report goes into detail.

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The next page went on to detail what "Mixed Breed" means for Ava:

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And there we see the poodle in her! It makes me think that maybe I might have a bit of poodle in me, too! It's pretty cool to be able to see in such detail what Ava's background is.

I asked Maura what she thought of the results. She said, "I was surprised that her great grandparents and grandparents could be American Eskimo Dogs. I was not surprised to see Terrier, Chihuahua, or Dachshund in her history."

I would have to agree with Maura. I was pretty shocked to see the American Eskimo Dog make an appearance.

Ava's report went on to explain the Chihuahua, Yorkshire Terrier, and American Eskimo Dog breeds in detail and suggested possible traits of these breeds that her family might see in her.

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So how does this all work? Wisdom Panel said,

The process started when you sent a sample to our laboratory, where the DNA was extracted from the cells and examined for the 321 markers that are used in the test. The results for these markers were sent to a computer that evaluated them using a program designed to consider all of the pedigree trees that are possible in the last three generations. The trees considered include a simple pedigree with a single breed (a likely pure-bred dog), two different breeds at the parental level (a first-generation cross), all the way up to a complex tree with eight different great-grandparent breeds allowed.

Our computer used information for over 225 breeds, varieties, and types from our breed database to fill these potential pedigrees. For each of the millions of combinations of ancestry trees built and considered, the computer gave each a score representing how well that selected combination of breeds matched to your dog's data. The pedigree with the overall best score is the one that is shown on the ancestry chart. Only breeds that reached our set confidence threshold for reporting are reported in the ancestry chart.

Maura was really happy that she satisfied her curiosity in having the DNA analysis done. Some may argue "I love my dog. Who cares what she is?" Well, of course we love our dogs no matter what, but knowing what is in their background may give us the opportunity to better care for our pets. And despite even that, it sure is fun!

Report provided by Ava's family.