“You must have animals,” the stout lady behind me says.

I’m in the grocery store, going through the check out line. The woman has apparently noticed all the cat and dog food I’m buying, along with a few measly things for myself.

“I have more then a few pets,” I say.

I’m thinking of my little reddish/brown dog, Bob, my Indoor/Outdoor cat, Sparkle, and all the formerly feral cats that I have had fixed, have named and have befriended. They all eat a lot.

The blonde lady is grinning at me.
“I’m a pet sitter,” she says. “Would you ever need a pet sitter?”

“I really might,” I say.

I can’t imagine actually, how I will ever be able to leave the property for more then a day if I don’t have someone take care of my animal friends so my mind will be at ease.

I ask for the lady’s card and say, “How long have you lived here in town?”

As the lady digs in her comfortable adjustable waisted pants for a card, she says, “Two years. I used to pet sit at the coast. It’s been a hard adjustment for me to pet sit up here in this town. It’s not like the beach community.”

She’s right about that.
The beach cities, about an hour from us, consider themselves very hip and rich and cool.
People at the coast wear shorts year around and walk their tiny little dogs on long silver chains while the people (and sometimes the dogs!) wear trendy baseball caps and drink expensive low fat lattes with double espresso.

My town is up over the mountains from the coast, in a valley ringed by more mountains studded with giant boulders and laced with wild lilac.
We townspeople are still mostly rural jeans-wearing people but we argue with each other about how rural we want to be and stay. We retain the feel of a cowboy kind of place in many ways. For example, there’s the old bar, the Turkey Inn from the 1940’s. It has a sign sticking out from it’s overhang. It’s an enormous blue, red and yellow neon lit strutting turkey. Local cowboys and Indians who drink at the Turkey Inn still occasionally get tossed into the street by the owner if they’re misbehaving.

In my town we have a lot of land and lots of horses and cows, bars, churches and real estate people. Many of us still live on some land; some live on at least an acre, some live on lots more then that.

“Why was it hard for you to adjust to pet sitting up here?” I ask, as the checker counts all my dog food cans.

“Well,” the Pet Sitter says, “my first job up here was to take care of a bunch of big dogs while the owner was out of town for a week. Before she left I was asking the woman when she wanted me to walk the dogs and she said, ‘Hell honey, you don’t need to walk the dogs! Just throw open the back door here and let ‘um run.’

“I looked out the door and saw acres of empty fields!” I said, ‘How in the world will I ever get all these dogs to come home, again?!’

“The woman grabbed a huge rifle by the door, shook it at me and said, ‘Just shoot the gun, woman, and the dogs will come right back.'”

Hearing this story from the Pet Sitter, I bend over and have hysterics. I even drop my grocery money on the floor.

“I assure you,” I say, as I straighten up, “if you sit for me I won’t be nearly that much trouble.”

I laugh all the way home.

I have to be honest though. I don’t shoot off a gun to get my animals to come home, but they can all think up lots of trouble to get into, and they generally do.

When you have a small dog like Bob who has hemophilia and specializes in knotting himself up on sharp nails and spiky underbrush when he just goes out for a quick pee, then comes back into the house streaming blood, it’s not easy. And Bob is allergic to bees, so much so that the next sting could be his last. A quick pee can bring on sudden death.

And then of course, there are the cats. They get themselves into all kinds of fixes. I always have lizards and parts of lizards in the house that the cats have brought in, and live screaming squirrels and gophers that escape their captors.
Last year, I had tiny grey and white kittens dropping from the purple wisteria that over hangs my patio. A mother cat I hadn’t been able to catch and fix was responsible for that one.

A few months ago my mother had a long spell of dead and dismembered squirrels appearing in her shower. There was always blood smeared and dragged all over the bathroom floor and walls. The perpetrator, my mother’s cat Silk, had been verbally condemned by the vet who said, “She’s so old and sick she only has a week left at most.” Apparently Silk set out to prove the vet wrong.
The ‘dying’ cat caught and killed at least 10 squirrels in the next month and set them without any thought of placement in my mother’s shower. Maybe they were offerings to the Grim Reaper because that cat is still alive.

Anything can happen when you have animals.
We had a cat once that peed behind the refrigerator and caught the kitchen on fire. How do you plan for that?

Then there’s the common occurrences.

Cats choke up slimy hair balls under the bedcovers at night with you in the bed.
Dogs throw up on your floors and get into the cat box and do unspeakable things.
They get yellow diarrhea on your carpets.
Dogs suddenly freak in the night, jump on your head and bark in panic. ‘There’s a stranger in the house!’ There’s a murderer in the house! He has guns! He has axes! Help! Help!’

After you’ve jumped out of bed and you’re shaking all over and your heart is going way too fast, they stop barking and look at you like, ‘Oh. I believe I made a mistake…but, now that you’re up, do you think maybe we could have something to eat?’
No wonder the Pet Sitter has had such a difficult time adjusting to animals in my town. I can see her point, exactly.
Come to think of it, maybe pet sitting IS a lot easier at the coast. Perhaps the animals are more refined down there, just like the people.

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