what's grosser than gross?

You want to know the dirt, right? People ask me about what crazy clients I've had or if I've ever been bitten, or whose house is the filthiest. It's true that I've "seen it all." When enough time passes and I don't name names, these things become stories of lore. So let me tell you about the grossest job I ever did.

Pet sitters often network and get to know one another and sometimes rely upon each other in times of need. Many several of few years ago in a land far, far away and gone, one of my colleagues/competitors explained that she was "beyond fully booked" for the weekend, and could I care for a couple of dogs for her. It was a long-standing client of hers, and it would be easy, she assured me.

This is different than a referral. She wasn't offering the client to me, just asking me to be an "employee for a day," kind-of taking away the beauty of self-employment. I was happy to do it. Put in a good deed for someone, and it might one day come back to you, right?

Long story short: Two sweet, delightful Scottish Terriers, each in their own crate when no one is around, released upon my arrival, and tucked back in to cozy upon my departure. I was informed that they could sometimes have nervous tummies when their owners were away. Well, who doesn't? The standard wait-time for eating in nervous-bellied pooches is three days. They drink, they eat treats, and they survive until the third day, when they decide they want to live to see their family return and give in to the kibble. Textbook.

The first time I entered the home, I was startled by the unmistakable odor of uncontrolled, explosive, liquid poo. The sight was far beyond what I'd imagined in my nightmares. Each dog was frantic, friendly and excited to meet me, yet, alarmed, splashing around in a pond of their own excrement, with a pattern of crusty fireworks on the white wall just behind them. Clearly, I hadn't been given the full story about these cases of "nervous tummies," and, certainly, these dogs had been carefully selected for me as the créme de la créme of jobs to pass along to gullible competitors.

I spent the next two hours bathing the dogs, laundering their bedding, and hosing off their crates. I, of course, let my "boss" know, and requested that she inform her client that her animals were quite ill. I doubt that she did, as my concerns were promptly ignored, and I was told that all of this was quite normal. I, too, had to be disinfected...legs scrubbed free of graffiti left by happy paws. Best not to go into detail.

For the next four days, the dogs' situation was much the same. I felt awful for them, but also became resentful and curious as to why such a problem was passed on to me, and, even more so, why my "boss" had no desire to check on them herself. Maybe that's a story for another time.

Don't worry. The dogs lived and fared well. My lesson was learned. I experienced what is grosser than gross, and, that, I must censor for your own good. To put on a positive spin, the dogs and I certainly bonded. I think I perhaps provided the best care they had ever received.

So you ask about gross? All I could do was use it as a learning experience. Don't pet sit for competitors' clients. Always have direct contact with pet parents. Know that "nervous tummy" is a cute euphemism. Love the animals, no matter what (they actually enjoy nine bubble baths in four days). And always know where your nearest barf bag is.

Oh, and when the client tells you that he'd like to hire you for future visits because you did much, much better than the pet sitter they hired in the first place, take the high road and teach him a thing or two about loyalty.

tails on trails today: who's guiding whom?

When I began Well Minded, I envisioned it primarily as a pet sitting business, but I didn't want to close myself off. I'm an entrepreneur and an adventurer at heart, so I didn't want to discount the possibility of going into training or grooming, both of which I have come to learn are not my strengths. Although I like to try lots of things, I recognize my weaknesses and try to focus elsewhere. I'm good at caring for animals. I love to hike. It's an activity I took up only after moving to AZ. There are countless trails in Phoenix, and my favorite local spot is South Mountain. I recently decided to combine my love of hiking and my love of animals. I started "Tails on Trails," small-group hikes for dogs. Once a week, I pick up dogs, drive them to the trails, provide secure leashes, water, poop bags, and post-hike pictures to my clients so they can see our adventures.

Though we've had other dogs sometimes join the ranks, today it was just me and my two really regular regulars. They have been to every hike since the start, and we definitely have a multifaceted bond. When I arrive for pick-up, the brown one goes ape-shit. The black one is calm, yet welcoming. Both are SO excited that I'm there, and they know why I'm there. They enjoy the car ride to the trails. When we first hit the dirt, they go, then sniff. Mark. Walk. Trot. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. Mark. And then I tell them "that's enough," and they seem to understand that though there will be countless animal smells, excrement aromas, and tiny fast-moving reptiles, birds, and small mammals to grasp their attentions and snap their necks in this direction and that, we're there to hike. And hiking means moving. So then about five minutes in, we get into our groove. And then they go poop. And then we get going, for reals.

Enjoying the spring wildflowers.


While they get over all of that, I'm making sure the leash isn't cutting my wrist in the wrong place, my phone (for camera access) is in the most strategic pocket, and that my underwear isn't riding in the wrong spot since we're in it for the long haul. When we hit our stride, and we're all in sync, I feel like something was meant to be. The dogs start to pick up the pace, and so do I. They navigate the trail beautifully, and I pick my footing as if I had instinct for the thing. We do this jog/walk/hike thing that feels good. Just as I notice a nice view, they slow down, as if they recognize something to be seen beyond the dusty trail their noses run along. And they show me details in the path.