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.