Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Last Day of My First Job in Italy

Monday was my last day of dog sitting. Don’t take it the wrong way if I say “Thank God.” It was fun, but of course we are strangers who don’t follow the routine exactly and so every animal expressed their concern about the (in my opinion miniscule) adjustments to their schedules in a variety of ways. It kept me on my toes and a little nervous the whole time, wondering who would do what next.

The cats took turns refusing to come in at night. Not a big deal as cats are well prepared to live out doors 24/7. It’s only humans who think cats would prefer to live inside and eat food out of a can. All you people who buy fancy cat toys for your pets listen up. I watched one of the cats play with a rock like house cats play with a catnip stuffed “mouse” and have as much fun on a garden bench with a rug tossed over it as he would on a hand crafted cat house with all the goodies attached. One night I decided that the one cat in already in the house didn’t need to be fed because it was already in. Cats have ways of showing their displeasure, like wandering through your bedroom at all hours making meowy-growlly noises in their throats and NOT using the cat box but continuing to do their business. Next time, as ridiculous as it seems, they will get fed every night before bed.

The dogs, waking up in a bedroom with no people in it (and being unable to tell time) thought that 5 or 6am was morning. Obviously, as the people who were usually in the bed were not there and so must be up and around already. We tried simply staying in our bed one morning and letting them wander the house for a bit, bit that too was a bad idea. I guess not all dogs desperately ask to be let out in the morning, but still find a place to relieve themselves. Thank goodness they have no carpets in their house.

This day the owners were scheduled to arrive around 3pm. The redhead, after four days of refusing to walk very far with me, decided that morning we should walk the entire perimeter of the property before the housekeeper came to feed them. The blonde tagged along of course so by the time we got back they were both covered in the stuff a forest is made of. Sticks, burrs, dead leaves, grass, dirt, bugs and (eeeewwwww) spiders. I wanted them to look good for their owners, not like I had left them outside for the entire five days so I got out the brush and went to work. I had brushed them in previous days for quite awhile to get rid of some of their winter coats and by the time I finished this last brush up I had gathered enough hair for a small sofa cushion. I was covered in dog hair and what I assume to be dog dander. I am coming to the conclusion that I might be a little allergic to dogs. Or there is dog hair so deep in my sinuses that it will takes months to get rid of the tickle in my nose. But they looked good…beautiful in fact.

After their breakfast they settled in for their post meal naps, the blonde out in the garden and the redhead near my feet while I read architecture magazines and enjoyed the sunshine. She got up at one point and I assumed she walked over to where the other dog was sleeping to get in the shade. But I couldn’t see either of them because of the charming, ancient stone shelter situated close to the house. She was gone so long that I thought I should check on her…and she wasn’t there. Yikes! Again, the thought of losing an entire animal, especially their favorite one, made me feel a little sick. OK, terrified.

I started walking around the house, calling her name and asking her to go into the house. She was not in the upper or lower gardens. I walked further away and followed the fence like we had earlier in the day. Halfway around the property I saw a red head above the tall grass under a tree. She looked quite happy lying there. I toyed with the idea of letting her stay there, but the owners had told me that she never left Monica’s side, so this was unusual behavior and I wasn’t sure if she could find her way back. She seemed disinclined to leave that place, despite my begging. Yes, begging. I just wanted to be able to present them with two dogs and two cats intact at 3:30 and get home. So I hiked back to the house (remember, idyllic mountains of Tuscany) to get a biscuit with which to bribe the little darling back to the house. I remembered to bring one for the blonde too, even though she didn’t leave the yard she did make the trek with me to find the missing pet. We get back to the yard as a group, so I felt accomplished.

I looked at the two dogs, blissfully panting with little smiles on their faces, and I could tell the redhead was thinking “That was pretty cool.” I decided not to brush them yet again, but to open my motherly eyes in the back of my head. That one taste of freedom and independence will inspire further escapes. She actually didn’t try to wander off again, thank goodness. She moved on to something all new and exciting. She was really getting in touch with her inner dog . Suddenly she started digging at the bottom of a probably hundred year old tree like she stood a chance of uprooting it. Silly dog. And of course, dogs are single minded enough to remain focused on the current fascination for hours. No matter how many times I tried to distract her, yes even tried to bribe with another biscuit, she kept going back to that tree. Finally I sat next to her at the bottom of the tree and held her back from digging. We didn’t leave the tree, but we tried very, very hard not to dig.

That’s when we all fell asleep. I was leaning against a warm stone wall with the redhead’s nose tucked into my lap and the rest of her curled up next to me, while the blonde stretched out on the other side of me with her back pushing against my leg. I can’t be 100% sure, but I think one of the cats (creatively named Meow) was sleeping on the wall above my head. Every once in awhile the redhead would wake up and try to dig, but I managed to persuade her to stop. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day sitting on the ground. It’s pretty uncomfortable after awhile with a 40 lb (~20 kilos) cast. She was perfectly content at that point to follow me into the house and sit under the table while I read. She stayed that way until the owners arrived. In fact, she didn’t bark at all when they drove in. All the animals were accounted for and I hadn’t burned the house down, so the owners quickly said that they already had plans for August and would be calling in the next few days to confirm the dates with us so that we wouldn’t book any other jobs for those days.

When her husband drove me back to town he remarked that the redhead was so relaxed and calm, very unlike the dog they left. But he seemed happy about it. I told him she might be just extremely tired from her two long journeys this morning. I described the second solo walk and he said that she never goes off on her own. That she must be finally feeling that their home is her home. I told him about the digging. I had to, he couldn’t possibly miss the pile of dirt she created. Again, instead of concern he was excited. That’s what her breed does, they like to dig! She is really getting comfortable with their home and her life there and he was thrilled. He looked at me like I’d done something magical, which I didn’t. He also mentioned the coming trip in August with excitement.

I’m torn. Yay, I will have work. But it has been almost overwhelming. I had to stop and remind myself that next time I won’t be wearing the cast from hell and Leif will not be working elsewhere. It will be August, when Florence becomes an oven and tourists go to the coast instead. And so we will get to be in the much cooler mountains in a quiet and beautiful place. With two furry friends, two witches familiars and a nightingale in an olive tree.

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