Dogsitting Part II

Last week, we posted Michael’s embarrassing, yet hilarious, story about dogsitting. Early in our friendship (pre-dating and marriage time) I heard his story for the first time. Of many. So... so very many. And then I shared my dog-sitting story, which, while significantly less embarrassing, is still pretty funny.

So while in college, I made ends meet through a variety of jobs. Many of which will appear in future posts. One of the recurring jobs was babysitting. A family I babysat for regularly asked me to dog-sit their two brand new, two month old Golden Retriever puppies for a long weekend while they visited family a few hours away. This was fine by me, since I had to work at one of my other jobs that weekend, and could do my laundry there.

At the last babysitting day before the holidays, the mother told me she was short on copies of the house key, but showed me exactly where she would leave it once she had a copy made that day: in between the cushions on the front porch couch, with the Halloween scarecrow over top of it (note: this was mid-November, and the Halloween decorations were still up).

That Friday, I drove over after class. I fished out the key and headed for the back door, which she said was the door the key would open. It fit, but didn’t turn. Hey! That sounds familiar! This woman was notoriously forgetful, so I walked back around to the front door. It didn’t work there, either. I could see the puppies through the windows and doors, and they danced around expectantly, obviously needing to go out. I tried the key a few more times in both doors, and then called. No service, no answer—they were driving through rural West Virginia, and I couldn’t reach her.

I was distressed, but I knew I needed to run home and change before going to another of my jobs: taking tickets at a concert that night at school. I left two messages, and let her know that the keys didn’t work, and to please call me back immediately. I paced nervously outside of the window, looking at the puppies, worried for them.

My manager at the Arts and Entertainment series concert was understanding, and allowed me to keep my cell phone on vibrate throughout the event, so that she could reach me if need be. As a dog lover, she also offered to let me leave early if I needed to, for which I was incredibly grateful.

The woman called me back finally, towards the end of that night’s concert, which, by the way, was a two and a half hour event. This means that not only had she completed the four hour drive to her parents, where she had cell phone service, but that she’d seen that I’d called multiple times, and waited till after the kids’ bedtimes to bother to check her messages or call me back. Very responsible.

I’d told her before I left that I’d only call if I had any problems, so this wasn’t like she could really be surprised. I left work early, and headed to the house. Now, this is a twenty minute drive on back roads in West Virginia out of Morgantown city limits, so, very twisty-turny roads. At this point, it’s also raining. Not a light rain, but that cold, probably going to turn into snow that night rain.

So I take my time—let’s face it, I can’t feed the dogs if I wreck the car. At this point, I also involve my boyfriend at the time, asking him to drive there and help me out. He drove there, and called when he realized he was behind my car. So, he’s following me, and we drive into the housing development. It’s raining harder, and the roads are slick and starting to turn to ice. I’m going pretty slowly when (and this is where it really starts to get crazy) a deer runs out in front of my car. Reminder: rural West Virginia.

Growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania, I’d lived in mortal peril of hitting a deer; I’ve seen cars that had been totaled by people who’d hit a deer, and literally everyone I knew who was old enough to operate a motor vehicle had a deer in the road horror story.

I do what you’re not supposed to, and I slam on my breaks. My car skids to a halt, but not before I’ve bumped the deer’s ass. I was maybe going five miles per hour at that point, but I was terrified and shaken. The deer just turned and looked at me, as if to say “watch it, blondie,” and slowly sauntered off into the woods.

My boyfriend, who was a bit (lots!) calmer driving in that kind of weather and with giant mammals running amok in the streets, gets out of his car to inspect mine for any damage. There was none, but I’m in FULL PANIC MODE. I had ALMOST DIED going five miles per hour because of a DEER. I’m hysterical and making more than a little noise. He’s trying (in vain) to get me to calm down when my phone rings.

It’s the woman, wondering if I’m at the house yet. No. NO I AM NOT AT THE HOUSE. I HIT A DEER!

I’m one street away, so, saying, “I think my car is driveable” (“it’s not even scratched,” says the boyfriend in the background), so we head to the house. I let her know he’d come with me in case we needed to call a locksmith. She starts to go on about how ridiculously expensive locksmiths are, and that she is SURE that she left the backdoor key. I MUST have not turned it properly.

And I think, I’m a twenty-one year old University Honors Scholar, how in the hell could I not know how to turn a key?

So I try the key again. Back door, front door. Then I think, what about the side door where the puppies’ cage is? So I try it—it turns! I shout excitedly into the phone that we may have a solution! She turns away from the phone to yell at her husband for making a copy of the wrong damn key. Just when I think it’s going to turn out ok, and I can finally let out and feed the puppies, not to mention eat dinner and take a warm bath, do I realize that the long, handle-like doorknob gets stuck on the top of the kennel, keeping the door from opening all the way.

So she says, “I’ll call you back.”

I know she’s yelling at her husband, cause she does that frequently. And I’m pissed. I’m standing in the rain, unable to do what should be one of the SIMPLEST part-time jobs on the planet, and I can’t even complete it because they put the kennel in front of the only door I can unlock. And by the way, who gets two puppies FIVE DAYS before they leave for a long weekend?

Part of me just wants to leave, to say, screw it! These people are not worth it! But then I look through the window, seeing the dogs wimpering at me, obviously hungry and having wet all over the puppy pads and blankets in the kennel. If I left then, these puppies would die over the long weekend because they were so young.

So I wait for her to call me back.

She does, and I’m prepared to call a locksmith, wait for them to arrive, and expect them to reimburse me for the fees in addition to what they pay me for dogsitting. Logical, right?
But this isn’t the Cure for the Common Logic blog. So her instructions aren’t going to be logical.

“There’s a stack of bricks next to the gas grill. Have your boyfriend take one of them and break the left basement window—then one of you can climb through the window. You won’t have far to go, cause Casey’s toybox is on the floor, and he cleaned up his toys and closed it before we left, so it’ll be easy to step on and go ahead in.”

Beg pardon?

Rather than pay a hundred dollars for a locksmith to safely open her door and let in the house/dog-sitter, she asked that we break a thirty-five dollar window instead. And put one of us in danger, crawling through a window in broken glass. And oh yeah, what happens if any of the neighbors see this, and call the cops? If only they’d had a doggie door…

I’m imagining myself being arrested, trying to explain to the officers that I was only doing it for the puppies! And then there’s an arrest on my record, I never get a job, and I end up on the streets, singing ditties for spare change. That is, if the cops don’t hit a deer on the way to the prison, killing me in a horrific car accident.

So my boyfriend, who can’t bear to see animals in pain, and is off on a tirade (which I’m sure can be heard by this woman over the phone) about how people like this shouldn’t have animals at all, when they clearly can’t care for them properly and don’t know what a new pet really requires, and how cruel it was to leave them in the kennel, knowing I wouldn’t be there till the end of class, etc., etc.

Now, I agree with him, but at this point, I want to rescue those poor little doggies, even if it means allowing the ineptitude of this family to escape retribution.

So he breaks the window.

I start to crawl through it, using the grill cover (leaving their very expensive grill out in the freezing rain, ha ha) to prevent gashes in my legs, stomach, face, and hands as I go through the window. And then I fall into the OPEN toy box. I was saved from really hurting myself by landing one foot in a Darth Vader helmet, which, fun fun, was full of broken glass, as was the rest of the toy box.

I go upstairs, and let the very excited dogs out of the kennel. I open the backdoor, letting the dogs run out and the boyfriend run in. I pour food for them (the dogs, not the boyfriend) and let them back in to gobble it up. I call back, saying we’re in, but the toy box is full of glass because it was open. And toys were all over the floor. “CASEY!” she screams loudly into the phone, along with an unintelligible outburst at what was probably a sleeping child for not completing a task before leaving.

Before I can say, well, thanks, goodnight, see you on Sunday, you better pay me well for this, she says “can you clean up the glass in the toy box?” Sure. I sigh, thinking, I will not be coming back to your house to dog sit EVER AGAIN. So, sure. I also washed all the blankets in the kennel, and stayed up an extra few hours so the dogs could have more time outside before going to bed in the kennel again.

Meanwhile, I cleaned up the glass with the boyfriend, and then, we helped ourselves to the beer in the fridge. The next day, I ran home and came back with four loads of laundry. I watched tv on their big HDTV, with all the premium channels I didn’t have at home, while I worked on homework. I of course continued to care for the dogs. When they came back, I handed them the ill-fitting key, and collected the check for two hundred dollars—a hundred more than I was originally promised.

I left, knowing I’d definitely earned it, but also thinking, I was paid an extra hundred dollars to break and enter a home.

And that’s just crazy.