Sometimes it's about pets

All the research assures us that pets are good for us, soothing, boon companions, helpful to older folks, and pet ownership is generally a very good thing. And I totally buy into that.

I like having a cat sit on my lap, purring. Better than booze and illegal pharmaceuticals any day. Our cat only deigns to notice my existence on those rare occasions when he and I are the only ones in residence for a week or more. Then, grudgingly, he will wriggle onto my shoulder and we take a little nap together.

I also love dogs. So when friends asked me to house- and dog-sit their menagerie a few years ago, I agreed without hesitation. Long story short, their two dogs and one cat plus their resident poltergeist pretty much did me in.
So you have to wonder about my state of mind when I actually volunteered to house- and pet-sit again. Because now they have two cats and four dogs, which means that the off-the-wall behavior has raised exponentially.

Actually, the family owns six dogs, but the two sweet elderly female Labrador retrievers are sufficiently mellow that they go stay with someone else. That leaves the four boys:
• Boxer # 1 (B#1),
• Boxer #2 (B#2),
• Very Small Dog (VSD) with big pointy ears and an unnerving stare through his one blue and one brown eye, and finally
• Large Mutt (LM)that looks like a lab crossed with something brindle.

Their dogs arrived as foster rescue dogs that never left. They all have Issues. It makes for interesting care strategies.

The instructions read like one of those logic puzzles.
• For the four dogs there are three different meal plans, although luckily only one bag of chow.
• B#1and LM sleep in their crates at night.
• If I leave the house, VSD and B#2 stay out of their crates.
• Keep one of the boxers in his crate at all times, or else muzzle them.
• Put the dogs in their crates while fixing dinner and while they eat. (A no brainer.)
• They will dash to their crates if bribed with a treat and the desperately chanted word, "Biscuit! Biscuit!"
• B#2 sleeps overnight on the floor in a doggie bed with "piddle pad."
• Between the four different types of crate latches and the various barricades keeping the dogs (but presumably not me) from various rooms of the house, I come to regret not getting a PhD in Zookeeping.
• LM has a bladder control problem and may need to wear a diaper in the house. Ever tried to put training pants on a 75-pound dog that doesn't want them?

My husband took the first week of pet duty; he is notoriously laid back and a by-the-seat-of-his-pants pet owner. So of course, all routineswere totally screwed up when I relieved him.

Right away someone piddled on the floor in the confusion. No idea who.

I sat down to watch tv (reruns of "Dr. Phil" from their DVR selection), and three dogs tried to climb up on my lap, while two cats wriggled around my shoulders.

I quickly learned the Real Rules for handling these dogs.
• The dogs go outside at every opportunity. I still find "gifts" on the floor.
• Don't bother trying to knit unless most of the dogs are asleep. Luckily, this happens a lot, although not at night.
• Plan to get up at least once a night to turn them all out, briefly.
• Reruns of "Dr. Phil" are soporific for canines.
• B#1 can work his way out of his crate; I have no idea how he managed it.
• B#1 has to sleep in his crate but will bark in the middle of the night. A lot. Loudly.
• My only good shot at a full 8 hours of sleep requires my going back to bed after breakfast and sleeping well into the late morning.
• It is impossible to get any writing done on a laptop if a large dog (LM) keeps batting the arm holding the mouse, begging for a tummy rub.
• Keep an eye on the Licker (VSD), who might not be cleaning the other dogs' ears; he might be chewing the harness off B#2.
• Four dogs with rabies tags, licenses, and other "jewelry" sound like jingle bells. All day long.
• VSD sleeps with me, burrowed deep in my covers. He has a flatulence problem.

Bottom line, I survived ten days of this, and things did get better when I found out that the 2 am outing the dogs had demanded is not part of their routine and they were pulling my chain. Busted! Interestingly, once I learned that, they never tried it again. Who says animals are dumb? Not me.

So was it a soooooothing, restful ten days filled with bonhomie and pet therapy moments?

Yeah, right. And I've got this bridge in Brooklyn,,,

About the Author

Jeanne Munn Bracken

Jeanne Munn Bracken is a librarian and author of many books including Children with Cancer: A Reference Guide for Parents.

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