Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jobs NOT To Take With A Broken Elbow: Zoo Keeper

It's been an interesting day. But I suppose you need a little background first. We (and when I say we I mean mostly me) are dog sitting until Monday. The owners are lovely people, their home is beautiful and I am so grateful for the chance to earn a little money. There are two dogs: one big white and gray furry puffball and one smaller sleeker strawberry blonde. No idea what breeds, so please don't ask. There are also two cats, both variations of black and gray striped, but cats are less dependent on people for help. We came on Wednesday, nearly 24 hours early so that we could "learn the routine." The owners left yesterday afternoon and we have been in charge since. Yeah, right.

Last night went far better than I expected. The dogs sleep with their owners in their room and after a little walking back and forth they settled in for the night.We didn't have to sleep in the owners suite and the dog didn't want to sleep in ours. Which was good cuz if they did there would be no floor left to walk on. Not a big room. The only glitch was that I couldn't lure one of the cats in. Yes, they bribe them to come inside with food because there are wild boar and other aggressive animals out there. So one of the cats refused to come and spent the night outside. I was naturally a little nervous, no one wants to lose an entire animal the first night. Cats have nine lives, so I was pretty sure she'd show up in the morning.

Aaah morning. The birds started singing at about 4am, the missing cat showed up around 5 and yowled her displeasure at us from the porch, and at 6:30 we all said what the heck, let's just start the day. Which means letting both dogs out the front door (closer to the bedrooms), down a flight of stairs and across the house to let them back in at the kitchen door. Then back up the three flights of stairs to our bedroom and one more to our bathroom.

We ate our breakfast under the watchful gaze of the three animals who slept inside. The other cat sat in the doorway with her back turned towards us. That really hurt. (sarcasm...lost on a cat by the way) The redhead, who has a little crush on Leif I think, followed him into the studio where the computer is located while the blonde sat with me outside. They did a great job of waiting patiently for the housekeeper to come and give them their food. Actually she has to cook it first. The animals eat well here. One cat eats on the windowsill, the other eats on one of the computer stations in the studio. One dog eats in the studio (on paper, she's messy) while the other one eats outside. I will never remember all this stuff. I was looking forward to when she would be gone and we could relax a little, but then the gardener came and started mowing and weed-whacking. Which kept the dogs restless and me wondering where he was going to pop up next. He moves quick for an old guy.

The animals miss their owners, so they spent the day kind of wandering around listlessly. The redhead kept watching the stairs to see if they were coming back. They were content to lay around taking numerous naps and I tried to spend time petting them so they might eventually like me. The blonde barks at everything, so I have to listen a bit to decide when to go out and suggest (I don't think they've been yelled at) that she stop barking. Mid-afternoon I had a "duh" moment. The dogs only know Italian, and have no desire to learn English. So I had to start talking to them in Italian. Really bad Italian, I'm sure. They probably laugh at me behind my back. But they also seemed to perk up a little bit. I will never be able to maintain the running dialog I have heard so many pet owners have with their pets, it is exhausting. But I will talk more than I usually do.

Leif had to work in the afternoon and that's kind when everything went crazy. I was tired because I am doing far more and trying to use my right arm more than I have since I broke it. The dogs saw one more person leave, and they weren't real sure about me yet. It seemed like suddenly a great many things happened in quick succession.

The garden looks lovely but the habitat for the insects has been removed so they all decided to move into the house. Gnats, flies and something that looks like a mayfly on steroids. When they hit the walls and lights it sounds like darts in dart board. I learned to duck when necessary and swat when one goes kamakaze on me. Otherwise I pretty much ignore them. Actually, I was a little afraid that they might swarm together and attack me if I went on the offensive with a rolled up newspaper.

When said gardener left for the day the neighbor's dog snuck in the motorized gate. Accident? Or was he having a little fun at my expense? Astra is a greyhound looking dog that trembles constantly and looks like she never eats. Well, she probably burns more calories during a meal than she takes in. She also seems a little less intelligent than the other dogs.

The motorized gate became possessed when I tried to get Astra back out. It wouldn't open, then only halfway, then closed when I wanted it to open. Of course Astra kept trying to get back in while my dogs kept trying to get out. So the gate became even more confused as four bodies kept passing the electronic eye. At one time I thought I had it. Everyone was on the correct side of the gate. I relaxed...stupid move. Astra crossed the electric eye on the outside of the gate and it magically opened for her. I hadn't pushed a button, it just started to move again. I started telling my dogs to come and Astra to go in Italian. Oh my god, they listened. I pushed the button to close the gate...and it did. I held my breath for a long time and it stayed shut.

At 6pm the second dog feeding of the day occurs. The rice was ready from the morning, but they also needed a little meat (I think). Yikes, I have to open cans. Not with an opener thank goodness, but even the "easy open" cans require two good hands. It took quite awhile, a lot of swearing and it hurt quite a bit but I got them open. What worried me most was the possibility that I would cut myself on the lid and bleed to death because I couldn't apply pressure. Or drive anywhere cuz I didn't have a car. Or be able to get out of the gate that is possessed by demons. This is how my mind works.

I tried to make myself dinner for the first time, alone and in someone else's kitchen while two dogs and a cat wound their way between my legs or lay in the only open path between the pantry and the stove. I learned that if you keep hacking at parmesan with a sharp knife you don't need a grater. I found out that I can whisk an egg with either hand. It is possible to slice a scallion with one hand if you stab it with a fork first. Of course I didn't realize this right away. Kind of a trial and error (way more error) period that felt like an eternity, especially after the cat/dog food can episode. By the time I was ready to turn my omelette out of the pan I was so wiped out that I almost let the eggs fall to the floor when the cast iron pan started to unscrew from the handle. Yeah, it was that kind of day.

The wireless stopped working and that was the last straw. All I wanted after this day was to check my e-mail and see what my friends were up to on facebook. Is that too much to ask? I sent Leif a text, short and sweet. "Am having a bad time. Come home as soon as you can." Wonderful man...he called and said he was on the way and bringing wine.

Of course when he got here the gate worked perfectly, the wireless was magically restored and all the animals came in when they were supposed to. He knew better than to question me, though. And a good thing too, because after he had been here about an hour things started to happen again. We lured the smaller cat into the studio and shut it in like we were told happens every night. It was not happy; loudly not happy. Then the redhead wanted to tinkle so I took her out, and of course the other dog wanted to come too. As I was walking them back into the house Leif said "The cat just went out, was that all right?" Uh, no. My greatest fear is that I will lose one of their animals. Oh well. We had one cat in, two dogs to bribe into bed with biscuits and finally we fell into bed, exhausted.

I sure hope tomorrow is better.

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