For the past six days, I’ve had the pleasure of pet sitting Audrey. She’s a small Lab-Shepherd mix with moderately high energy. Her owner had just adopted her from Hardin County Animal Control and she was spayed a week before I started pet sitting. So going into this job, I knew I would have to keep a close eye on her to make sure that she was healing well. For the first couple of days, I walked her in both the morning and evening at a moderate pace. After I had taken her to have her stitches removed, I lightly jogged with her to test how she would perform. She did fine and there were no problems with her incision.
One morning, after we got back from our walk/run, she threw up some kibble, which was a curious thing in itself, because she hadn’t eaten much the day before. I’ve sometimes observed where pets won’t eat the day their parents leave for their business trip. Fortunately, she was eating normal by the second day.
She was supposed to be kept in the guest room at night and the living area during the day. This seemed to work okay for the first few days, but I became concerned that she was experiencing separation anxiety when no one was home. I thought she had caused damage to the couch but the owner advised me the couch had previous damage before he adopted Audrey. I suggested that she might need to stay in the guest room throughout the day and he gave me permission to do so.
The best part is she never had an indoor accident, that is, until right before the very last visit on the last day. When we arrived to visit with Audrey on the last visit, I had come into her room to find she had gone #2 on the carpet. Fortunately, because her owner feeds her quality food, this was not messy to clean up at all. I picked up what I could by hand and my wife vacuumed the carpet while my son and I took Audrey for a walk.
The experience for my 3-year-old was remarkable. It was amazing to watch his enthusiasm for Audrey. Josiah was with me every step of the way, well, on the nightly visits. The morning visits were just too early for him. In fact, all day today, from the time I dropped his mom off at work, he kept urging me to come see Audrey. He absolutely loves this dog and I am not sure what to expect now that the pet sitting job has ended.
Just as I was closing the last visit by leaving a thank you note for the owner, I went out the front door to get some paper out of the Jeep. As I was doing this, somehow, Audrey managed to squeeze through the door! She darted off like a bullet. My instincts kicked in, which is a bad thing… I immediately started to run after her afraid that she would run in front of a car. My mind said, “Just great! A perfect pet sitting arrangement ruined on the last day! How could I let this happen?” Once, I had my wits about me, I started to calm down.
Jason! I thought. You can’t chase her. When you chase her, you look like a predator and that only spurs the flight response. Stop. Let her come to you.
I paused in the distance and crouched to the ground. She stood afar off watching me. She stayed close enough that I could see her but far enough away that I couldn’t grab hold of her leash. I got up and started to walk towards her in a calm way.
Okay…now what would Cesar do? He said something about two people…oh, man, how much easier would this be if Jeannie were out here to help me. Who am I kidding…it’s hot out here and she’s pregnant…and Josiah’s with us. I guess it’s up to me to catch this dog.
I began thinking about an invisible boundary. An arc, if you will, that extended out from my left and forward toward Audrey. Stay inside the circle, Audrey. I was closer to her now and she stayed within my invisible boundary. Just then, a couple of dogs barked above us from a balcony. This caught Audrey’s attention just enough that she was distracted. I moved in to catch her. Not quick enough! She darted out of my invisible circle and into the empty lot beside me. The undeveloped lot is a bunch of wild grass and clay that will soon be transformed into townhomes. As she ducked into the tall grass, I circled her one last time.
I snapped my fingers, pointed my index finger directly at her, and said, “Stop!” Immediately, she froze and crouched down, graciously bowing out of this tournament. You caught me, she seemed to say. But it was a nice game of chase, wasn’t it?
Crisis averted, I walked her back home and went inside to write my thank you note.
While I was putting her in her room, Jeannie read my note. “I’m surprised you told him that,” she said, referring to the chase incident.
“It’s honesty,” I replied.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the great leaders of our time is that failure happens. It’s evident that I failed on a leadership level tonight because of distraction. I lost command of the pack and Audrey knew it. That’s why she was able to sneak past me and take me on a wild goose chase through the neighborhood. Admitting failure is usually a difficult thing for most people. I’m learning to own up to my mistakes. What have I learned from the experience that I can take with me into the next experience? If there is one thing, it is this: Always keep your cool no matter the circumstance. As soon as I allowed my instincts to react, I became animal and Audrey became more animal. Had I kept my cool, I might have been able to avoid a chase. After all, when our dog Buddy darts out the front door, he never makes it past the second house if I catch him. All I have to do is snap, say “Sh!” look directly at him, and point toward the house and he obeys.
I am looking forward to the next adventure.