Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Why Pet Sitters Drink Decaf

Pet sitting is not for the faint of heart. Animals are unpredictable; there are some days it takes every trick in my bag just to survive. If you are considering pet sitting as a career read this first. You should know what you’re asking for.

Mondays are the busiest day of the week for me. I reserve my office time to do payroll, balance the checkbook and take care of my assorted paperwork. I had quite a stack waiting for me on my desk as last week was spring break and the locals fled town to make way for the golf fans that descend on our city once a year. It certainly isn’t our busiest time of year but I spent considerable extra time out in the “field” facing down everything from pony-sized dogs to itty-bitty caged rodents. Throw in out of town relatives at the in-laws to visit and I was out more than I was in.

I still had one sit that carried over into this week so I went to take care of the three large dogs before I locked myself in the office for the day. I like the three dogs but I’ve had many simpler pet sits. This one in particular is very time consuming, as the dogs need a lot of exercise and it isn’t exactly next door. I walk one each day that I go and the sit generally takes longer than the 30 minutes we typically alot. It was the Rotty’s turn to go for a walk. He likes to chase after cats and squirrels so we have been practicing not chasing them, especially while on the leash. As we rounded a corner for home, I spied a cat just inside the overhang of a storm drain. I saw the cat before the dog did and decided not to let him get up to the curb and prepared myself to correct him if he lunged. Seconds later he spied the cat and lunged despite my mental preparations. Startled the cat jumped and fell back into the storm drain. I could hear her claws scraping like nails on a chalkboard as she frantically tried to save herself from the fall. Typically cool in critical circumstances I freaked!

“Oh, my God!” I yelled at the dog. “What are we going to do?” I looked under the drain. No cat. Panicked I rushed the dog home and tried to decide my next move. Over my dead body was I leaving the cat in the bottom of a storm drain. I put the dog away and hurried back to the corner calling Animal Control on my cell phone as I went. They had to come. If they didn’t come I’d call the Sanitation Department but so help me someone was coming to rescue that poor cat who I’d sentenced to a slow, torturous death in a dank dark hole.

I could picture the cat huddled at the bottom of a long shaft, partially submerged in water possibly suffering with a broken leg. I fought back tears. The poor cat with the broken leg. I decided to volunteer to be lowered by ropes down into the pit. I’m scared of heights but it was my fault after all. I should be the one to get wet and dirty and cold, it was unbelievably cold for April. If no owner was apparent I would insist on taking the cat with me, Animal Control rules be damned. I’d take her to the vet to have her leg fixed. If an owner appeared after she was well, I wouldn’t take their money. I’d nearly killed their cat, paying for her injuries was the least that I could do. If no owner ever appeared, she could live with my husband and me. I would hear no arguments from him. We have three cats already, what’s one more?

I sat by the storm drain waiting for the promised Animal Control person. My mind raced. What if Animal Control wouldn’t get the cat out of the hole? If they wouldn’t help, I’d call every media outlet in town and scream about how they’d left this poor little cat to die. I imagined the public outcry. That could be anyone’s cat down there. I knew the locals would be furious that no one came to the cat’s aid and imagined the frantic scramble at the offices trying to deflect the inevitable criticism and media nightmare. I’d probably be interviewed on TV. I’d need to touch up my make up.

I was planning on how I would put the soggy cat with a broken leg in our office for a few days to recover before I integrated her to our household when the man from Animal Control arrived. He looked like Superman to me as he climbed out of the white county truck and pulled on a pair of leather gloves.

“Thank you for coming,” I said, “I feel just awful.” I pressed my hand to my chest, trying hard not to cry again. He smiled patiently and asked me what color the cat was and if it was indeed a cat or possibly a kitten. “Grey, cat, long hair.” This is what I do for a living after all. I know an adult cat when I see one, even if all I saw were the cat’s front legs.

He pulled out a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. He lifted the edge of the manhole cover with the screwdriver and shoved the pliers under to make room for his hands. Mightily, he heaved the cover back and rolled it onto the curb. Fearing the sight of a small broken body ten feet below I steeled myself and looked into the hole. There, about four feet below the street surface I saw a couple of broken liquor bottles on a soft sandy bottom. No cats, broken or otherwise. A tunnel led under the street to another storm drain. I confess, I was surprised at the shallowness of the hole but insisted the man climb into the hole and look down the tunnel all the same. Complaining of spiders, he took a large flashlight and went in. No cats in the tunnel either.

Needing my sleep, I begged him to crawl into the manhole across the street. It was equally shallow. Still no cats. Three tunnels led from this storm drain to two more storm drains, a man hold cover in the center of the street and one master storm drain that lead to wherever storm water goes to die. Careful of spiders, the man patiently looked down each of the three tunnels. It was beginning to dawn on me that not only would we not find the cat but also that the cat should have no trouble jumping out of the shallow hole if and when she was good and ready. Though I would have been happiest to see the cat and offer my apologies, I had abandoned my pleas to God to let the cat live. It seemed perfectly likely that the cat was alive and had probably crawled out of the hole shortly after I walked the dog home. I was feeling much better; my visions of martyrdom dying as quickly as the storm drains were shallow.

The man in the hole looked up at me, “You know, cats live in storm drains. We go to property to pick up feral cats and they dart right down them.” He eyed the other two storm drains hoping I would relent. Secretly, I rooted for the feral cats and their storm drains but the man was only doing his job and he had been very kind and patient with me with regards to my not-broken legged, un-soggy cat who I hadn’t killed. In the spirit of benevolence, I consented that crawling in the other holes wasn’t necessary and in all likelihood wouldn’t produce the cat anyway, slippery little things that they are.

So, I returned to the office an hour and a half later than I would have had I not suffered through the saga of the falling cat but I didn’t care. Thought I can’t be 100% certain the cat suffered no injuries I felt much better about the situation and I didn’t suffer nightmares of the sweet little cat who I’d decided to call Saffron shivering at the bottom of a wet, sunless shaft dying of starvation and exposure. Besides, if there’s one thing about paperwork it’s that it will still be there waiting for you when you return. I finally finished it with the help of a cup of coffee. After my morning ordeal, I made it a decaf!

Still considering a career as a pet sitter? If so, you’ll probably be wildly successful. Just remember to stick to the decaf and stay away from storm drains!


polliwog said...

Very funny stuff! Here via the humor carnival.

Linda said...

Came over via bobbarama's - funny stuff and I guess I'll never be a pet sitter as I just don't like decaf!

The Freelance Cynic said...

Ew. Decaff? Why not just put cat in my mug...

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