We were out walking Basie, our current most favorite dog that we were pet sitting, on a lovely shaded trail in Park City, Utah.
I was thinking about my pets growing up. My father grew up in the middle-of-nowhere east Texas on land that has been in our family since my great-great grandfather homesteaded Spanish land grant land. He was a hunter and fisherman as the generations before him had been, not for recreation, but out of necessity.
Grandaddy and Grandma on the family farm in Texas.
(Sadly she passed away just before I was born)
My grandaddy beside my father on his horse. (Circa 1940)
You can take a boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of a boy. My dad continued to hunt and fish for most of his life. The dogs that I grew up with were never "pets", they were hunting dogs. One of my favorite stories about one of his dogs is the type from which family folklore springs.
I was just a baby at the time of the event, and still in diapers. Our family was fortunate to have a washing machine, but a dryer was a luxury that was out of our reach. The two clothes drying lines hung between one the two stately chinaberry trees and an old fashioned metal T bar, made just for such a job. My mom had dutifully washed the laundry for our family of six, and my diapers were drying on the line.
The dog was in the back yard where it lived. It was already on probation of sorts for having chewed some of the wood siding on the corner of the house. When my mom went to retrieve the clothes she found that the dog had pulled down the load of my clean cotton diapers, and they were now soiled. It was, in her mind, the absolute last straw for this dog's status as a member of our family or a hunting employee.
When my dad arrived home from work, she issued an ultimatum to him. "Either that dog goes, or I go" she said. My dad almost thought about it for a second too long... Then in full realization of what she meant, he said, "Well, that dog can't cook, so I guess he goes."
We never had pet dogs that lived in the house. We always had a cat or two around. My personal pets were a bit more esoteric. I had a hand-me-down mouse that my sister gave to me when she was leaving for college. That is, I had it until my sister's cat got in to the cage and had it for a snack - queue the sad violins and tears here. The other pet that was really all mine was a horned toad. Yes, a horned toad. My dad had found it, and he gave it to me for my 10th birthday. It was totally a cool pet that I took to show and tell. My sister didn't like it at all, which thrilled me because I could torment her with it a little bit.
Returning the horned toad to it's natural habitat since it just wouldn't eat in captivity.
All that being said, I didn't really know that I liked pet dogs until we started pet sitting. They are, as most of you reading this already know, just awesome! We have kept quite a lot of dogs among the many pets we have been privileged to keep for others.
Basie was one of the remarkable ones in many ways. He is about 14 years old, a mixed breed rescue. When we first arrived, he barked at us with displeasure that we were invading his home. He was fully invested in protecting his owner. He quickly, but a bit reluctantly warmed to us. After his "mom" left to go sailing with "dad" for 2 1/2 months, he moped around for about two days, clearly missing her deeply.
Then the next morning he seemed like a new dog. Apparently we had passed muster, and he was tired of being mopey. He had decided that I was his new person and began to be my constant shadow. Basie even went so far as to diss Ky by refusing to go for a walk with him if I was around. We joked around about it, but I think Ky really was a bit jealous. He didn't always feel like he was top dog when Basie wanted my attention and affection.
You wouldn't believe that this is my blog post if it didn't include a pickleball court ;-) We didn't stay long since Basie had trouble holding the paddle. He was ready for a hike.
Basie was absolutely a sweetheart to me, but he's not always so sweet to the two cats, Ziggy & YaYoi. He's quite jealous and prefers that he gets all the petting. They are great cats, but they are indoor/outdoor kitties, and they are teenagers. They prefer to be out all night and sleep all day. I'm always a bit nervous when we sit for cats that are outside, especially at night. I hope to never lose a pet on our watch. We're not judgmental about pet owners choices though, and do as they request. As a result of the cats' habits, they come in and request their food and some petting vociferously, then they retire to sleep away the day inside. They are soft and beautiful, and I adore cats, but they are only needy of affection for very short bursts of time. And that's okay - they're cats so they can do what they want.
Me getting the "are you disturbing our nap for a photo?" look.
Ziggy doing a perimeter patrol.
Yayoi and I were sad that it was a rainy day and we couldn't go out to play pickleball!
When I would arrive home, and Ky and Basie could hear me come in, Basie would run downstairs to greet me. Ky took to yelling out a hearty "welcome home, I'm so glad you're back!" to compete with Basie's wagging tail and oh-so-happy demeanor to see me. It was nice to be welcomed by them both.
We have a bit more time in Park City for another pet sit. Fortunately Basie's mom said I can come walk with Basie even after her return - it will ease my transition away from him. That makes my tail wag!
We have been pet sitting for about four years now and it has been a terrifically rewarding chance for us to help others enjoy their time away from home, worry-free.
If you love animals and you would like to pet sit, or if you have pets that you need a pet sitter (who doesn't charge for sitting), you can take a look at the web site that we use to find opportunities. This link gets you a 25% discount on an annual membership, and we get a couple of months of free. Everyone we have referred as sitters or pet owners has been thrilled with it.