more personal updates, more stress

On top of everything else, when I got home from work on Saturday night, the house looked strangely untouched. I was all but certain that our dogwalker had not been in to take care of the dogs.

If true, that meant that Tala had been locked in her crate for 12 hours. Neither dog had been outside, they hadn't been fed, Cody hadn't had her medications. All bad. But Tala being crated for so long is by far the most disturbing part.

I was shocked. J, our (now former) dogwalker, had always seemed so responsible. He's been taking care of Tala and Cody since January. He stayed at our place on our recent outings to Stratford and Boston, and has been planning to stay here while we're in New Mexico. Leaving the dogs stranded all day seems most unlike him. I was worried, and angry, and also mystified.

I called J's cell, called his home, emailed, texted. No response.

Allan and I made arrangements for Sunday, and I started thinking about how I would cover future weekends and our trip - now only two and a half weeks away.

Kennels are not an option for us. We might reluctantly board the dogs at someone else's home, but that would be a last resort. We much prefer someone staying at our house. And our work schedules depend on reliable weekend dog-care.

* * * *

You may recall that this disappearing act has happened to us once before. That time, I didn't know D hadn't been there on Saturday; I knew something was wrong, but didn't know what. It wasn't until I got home from work on Sunday that I realized the dogs had been stranded all weekend. Yet another lesson in trusting my instincts: every time I don't, I regret it. We never heard from D again.

Since then, we've had a few different dogwalkers, each of whom worked out temporarily, but ultimately didn't continue. Sometimes someone's life and schedule changes, and the weekend job no longer works for them. That's cool.

But often the dogwalker is a young person who turns out to be too immature to make a serious commitment. It seems like at the beginning, it's fun to have a little job, make a few bucks, and have something new to do. But settling in for the long haul is another story, and they end up quitting on little notice.

One young man was simply too difficult and annoying to work with, and I had to let him go. A series of friends filled in for three weekends while we looked for someone new. Although this was time-consuming to coordinate, it was also an amazing lesson for me. I have excellent friends here in my new home. I have, in fact, put down a few roots. Plus it yielded another bonus, as we took people to dinner to say thank you.

It's been suggested that we'd have better luck with professional dogwalkers, rather than with random people looking for extra work. But professional dogwalkers usually don't want to work on weekends. They either charge exorbitant weekend rates, or simply don't take weekend jobs. Also, our few experiences with professional dogwalkers has been frustrating. They had their own pre-set routines and methods that they wanted to fit our dogs into, rather than work with the dogs' individual needs.

I think finding reliable weekend dog-care is simply an ongoing challenge, similar to finding reliable child-care. I accept that and go with it. But it can be time-consuming, and frustrating.

* * * *

So finding J was a great help, and we've been very pleased. He is occasionally offered some well-paid work on a Saturday. On those weekends, his mom fills in. So not only is he reliable and good with the dogs, but he came with his own back-up. The situation needs to be mutually beneficial in order to work, and J said it was working out great.

Coming home on Saturday and seeing he had not been there, I was floored.

J did not respond to any of my messages on Saturday night or Sunday morning.

On Sunday at 1:00 p.m. I received this by text: "Sorry I had to work all day yesterday and left the key with an irresponsible friend who forgot to come. It will never happen again and I feel terrible. Looking forward to relaxing in the yard today with the girls."

I left the key with an irresponsible friend???

I assume he meant he left the key with a friend who turned out to be irresponsible. But why is he leaving our key with anyone??

J's mom is visiting family in Poland (a common summer pastime in Mississauga), so not available for back-up. Had he told us he had other work, we would have found someone to fill in.

Instead, J gave our house key to someone who we have never met, without even asking us. Someone who has never met the dogs, wouldn't know their routine, and - clearly - doesn't care about dogs anyway.

I. Was. Livid.

The word ballistic comes to mind. Steam coming out of my ears.

After venting to Allan, I fought my impulse to fire J on the spot. He was planning on taking care of the dogs that day, so I might as well let that happen. I hadn't left money for him, so he was doing it at his own expense. Good.

From the same Craigslist ad that netted J, I also had a response from a woman who sounded like a good fit. I dug up her info, and she is still available, for both weekends and our vacation. She's coming over this afternoon to meet and chat.

I am very stressed at having to meet and train a new person less than three weeks before we go away. I hate being in this semi-desperate position when trying to find someone. I am very annoyed at J's poor judgement putting me in this position. And frankly, I have enough to do! I don't need this.


Stephanie said...

I think you will have better luck once at grad school. This is too late for your trip to New Mexico but worth investigating.

When I got to grad school I was almost immediately in demand for house/animal sitting jobs. I have done overnights and three week long vacations. I loved it because I can stay there and work while being paid, nice! It is the sort of task that is very very suitable to the grad student life and there is likely to be someone in the group who is already doing this for profs or other students.Being part of the same community at school has a certain desirability to it too.

Best of luck!

James said...

We can't house-sit as such, but if you need someone to swing by and check up on things, let us know.

L-girl said...

Stephanie, at the risk of sounding annoyingly contrary, I'm not sure that will work in our situation.

I'll be going to school in Toronto, and we live in Mississauga. I don't think most grad students will have cars - and even with a car, it's not really cost-effective for someone to come out here for an hour of dog care, on a consistent basis.

We've found it generally works best if the person lives in Mississauga, and relatively nearby at that.

But hey, if it helps, that will be great.

James, thank you, as always. I'll let you know.

Amy said...

Is it worth giving J one more shot? Maybe this was one case of poor judgment and he learned his lesson? Is he remorseful? Maybe he just got stuck and felt he had no choice?

I hope you can resolve this to give you peace of mind. I know that it is incredibly stressful to go away and not be sure that the animals will be safe.

PS How did Tala do after being crated for so long? And was Cody okay after all the stress she has been under?

L-girl said...

Thanks, Amy. I'm just not comfortable with J now. It's too big a screw-up.

Maybe he just got stuck and felt he had no choice?

He gets his work schedule in advance. It wasn't a last-minute thing. But even if it was - just tell us!

I have no idea if he's remorseful or not. Don't care.

I know that it is incredibly stressful to go away and not be sure that the animals will be safe.

Indeed. That's exactly why I can't trust J anymore. I would never have peace of mind.

Both dogs were fine, thanks for asking. They were very, very happy to see me! Much more than usual. But they seemed ok, not especially stressed.

Fortunately it hasn't been raining and thundering for a few days, so Cody is calm and seems herself (for now). Thank goodness this did not happen during a storm!

Last year when D disappeared, Tala was frantic when I got home. I remember she pooped on the grass right near the patio - couldn't even make it to the back end of the lawn, where she would normally go. It still upsets me to think about!

Amy said...

I wasn't trying to excuse or defend J (why would I?)---just wondering whether you were inclined to give him another shot. Guess not!!

Glad the dogs are doing okay. Now if only their owner(s) could get some breaks.

johngoldfine said...

Nightmare with J. I agree that you only get one strike in that game and then you get dropped from the team forever. I also agree that a kennel is not an option for someone who loves their dog.

My wife and I haven't taken a vacation or a trip together since 1968--one stays home with the dogs, horses, cats, the other travels. It seems normal to us, but I guess, judging from people's how-weird looks when I explain our method, it isn't. Normal, I mean.

Once my travel agent (who does know dogs and horses) offered to stay here while we both went to Iceland, but...I really didn't like the idea of leaving my house and life open to prying eyes. So, no....

My nightmare as I get older is that when my wife is away I'll have a stroke or heart attack and drop dead, and that the dogs will be left with nothing much to do for a week... except eat me. Which I wouldn't begrudge them, but still they wouldn't be too happy.

Dharma Seeker said...

Now that I'm available through the afternoon for the next few weeks I'd be happy to drop by or you can give the new sitter my contact info in case something comes up. Can't believe this happened to you AGAIN!

L-girl said...

I wasn't trying to excuse or defend J (why would I?)---just wondering whether you were inclined to give him another shot.

I knew that. Truly, I only meant to reply with my thoughts. Nothing more!

L-girl said...

John, we are alike about our animals, I see! The difference is I feel totally comfortable having someone stay at my place while I'm gone. In fact, I prefer it to leaving the place empty, since we do want to travel together.

Over the years, a few people have asked me "aren't you afraid of having someone come in the house when you're not there", etc. I guess it's just a personal thing that bothers some people.

We've done it for more than 20 years now. In NYC we were very lucky, the same person dog-sat for us more almost 10 years. But before that and since, we've had a series of people, usually young people with roommate situations who are happy to have their own place for a while. As long as the dogs are happy and cared for, I'm good.

L-girl said...

DS, thanks for offering. Two other friends have offered as well. It sounds like a very good idea!

Amy said...

FWIW, we have had good luck leaving our animals home when we have to go away without them (and we like to get away together). We have a sitter who comes in 4 times a day to walk the dog, check on things, bring in the mail, etc. She does not sleep there, but we still feel comfortable with that arrangement. I know some people are not comfortable unless the person lives there, but we have rationalized it by saying (1) at night we are asleep anyway and (2)during most of the day we are at work anyway. It's a rationalization, but it works for us.

The one time we left a dog with a kennel, I was so upset I almost threw up leaving him there. It was a fine kennel, lots of people recommended it, and the dog was fine when we returned. But somehow I feel better with them being in their own house, even if they do not have 24 hour supervision.

James said...

It was a fine kennel, lots of people recommended it, and the dog was fine when we returned. But somehow I feel better with them being in their own house, even if they do not have 24 hour supervision.

When we went down to Las Vegas recently, we left Denim & Cobalt at Urban Dog -- the same place we send them for "day care". They aren't crated or anything there; all the dogs sleep together in a supervised room. Urban Dog took great care of them, of course -- the only problem was, their accommodations cost way more than ours! In fact, theirs cost more than ours plus Cirque du Soleil tickets at the Bellagio.

I like having them have the supervision, but it's pricey!

Tom said...

I feel your pain, a week and a half ago the day hot weather hit, Zulie just stopped coming to work, no call, nothing.

We heard from people who know her it was just easier for her to have the government pay all her expenses, when she found out they discovered she is working and wanted to stop financial support, she quit without notice.

Lucky for us our other employee has taken on the extra hours and is doing great.

L-girl said...

I saw on FB that she hadn't shown up for work, but I didn't know she was gone for good! That's really amazing, considering how much you have helped her and supported her.

It's also weird, because I know what those govt benefits amount to, and it's a pittance. I'd think she'd still prefer to work - both for the money and the community. Sheesh.

Luckily the gelato didn't need to be let out and fed. Poor Talabo was locked in her crate for 12 hours!

But that really sucks about Zulie.