Last Thursday, Josiah, my three-year old son, woke up with a fever. His temperature was 101.7° F. If he was a dog, that would be a normal temperature but for humans, that’s about 3° warmer than normal so it’s a big concern. I cancelled my scooping route for the day and volunteered to take him to the doctor and stay with him to make sure he was okay, especially since he was scheduled to go on a road trip that evening with his Nana and Papaw.
“I’ll take him to the doctor,” I said to my wife Jeannie.
“Are you sure?” She asked me. She knew I had a large route that day and it would be difficult to make up before the weekend.
“Yes, I’m sure. I’ll just go ahead and start the new route schedule today. I can clean the North Elizabethtown yards on Saturday and the rest I can clean on Tuesday.”
Josiah interjected, “I don’t wanna go to doctor! I wanna go on my trip!” It broke my heart to hear him say this. How unfortunate to get sick the day he was scheduled to go out of town. It must have been difficult for him.
We grabbed some liquid Tylenol to help with his fever but he couldn’t keep it down. As soon as he swallowed, it came right back up. Because of that experience, Josiah was very reluctant to take any medicine at all that day.
I took him to the doctor at 12:30. The doctor said he had a virus. The only thing we could do was to let it run its course. So we did. That evening, I gave him some liquid Ibuprofen and it came up…along with whatever he had eaten that day. It was a little before five o’clock in the evening and Josiah made the big boy decision.
“Nana. Papaw. You go. I stay here.”
Tears streamed down my face as I heard him make that difficult choice. He had fervently looked forward to his trip with Nana and Papaw but the way he was feeling was too much for him to handle. He decided to stay with us. I felt for him because I knew he had to have been heartbroken.
My wife wanted to know how that was going to work out. I told her, “Either I stay home with him while they’re gone, or he goes to clean yards with me.”
Jeannie didn’t like this answer. She was nervous about how he would act while cleaning yards with me, especially with the new schedule. I told her not to worry.
The next day, my wife stayed home from work with him so I could clean my Friday route. She informed me he kept complaining that his belly was hurting. She insisted he go back to the doctor but because I had the Jeep, she had no way to get him there. Our only option was to take him on Saturday…but that meant I would not be able to clean yards again that day.
So back to the doctor we went on Saturday. This time, the doctor managed to get a swab from the back of his throat. She tested it and after about ten minutes she came back into the room to inform us he was positive for strep throat. We picked up his antibiotic that afternoon, gave him the first dose, and he’s been doing well ever since.
Labor Day came and went. It’s a federal holiday so I do not scoop yards on that day. That meant my Monday yards would be cleaned Thursday with other yards in the proximate area.
Tuesday morning, we woke up and drove Jeannie to work. Then, Josiah and I went to clean yards in South Louisville. It was raining with chances of scattered thunderstorms. We cleaned 5 yards that morning despite lightening strikes in the immediate area of at least one yard. It made me rethink my policy about not scooping in thunderstorms.
Josiah was well behaved in all but one of the yards. It was at this point I started thinking how I might create a reward system for him going with me.
Now, Josiah is three, so my expectations of him as a pooper-scooper are not the same as the expectations I have for myself. My only expectation was that he would go with me to every yard and behave. For every yard that he behaved well in, I would award him a star. If he collected 5 stars on a given day, he would earn a gold star redeemable for $2. If he collected less than 5 stars, he would earn a silver star redeemable for $1. Then, at the end of the week, I’d count up all the silver and gold stars, total up his earnings, and take him someplace where he could spend it however he wanted. My wife loved this idea.
Wednesday turned out very different than Tuesday. With the promise of stars and earnings, Josiah performed very well. He was well behaved in each location we cleaned.
At one of the homes on Wednesday, there are four Scottish Terriers. Josiah went with me into the yard, but because one of the dogs was excited and wanted to greet him by jumping up on him, it put Josiah in a timid and scared state of mind. Because of this, his presence around the dogs caused more problems.
At one point, I offered him a tennis ball to throw for the dogs. When he started to get into it, he started laughing and smiling but his body language was still sending out signals saying, I’m having fun, but I’m still not sure about this. Then, when one dog started barking, another started barking. This put Josiah on alert. His legs started shaking and one of the dogs nipped at him from behind. Josiah saw this and started running, which only made the dog chase him and snap at him again. When I saw this, I commanded them both, “Stop!” Immediately, the energy level dropped back into a calm-submissive state. Josiah was crying. Fortunately, the dog did not bite him. I took him and placed him in a chair on the porch and told him to sit there. I consoled him and told him what he needed to do.
As I continued cleaning that yard, suddenly, I heard Josiah saying, “Be calm! Be calm!” I looked over my shoulder and he was standing on the corner of the porch in front of two Scottish Terriers. He was gesturing with his hands. As he said, “Be calm!” he held out both hands, palms down. He pushed his hands down toward the dogs and outward in an arc. He put one finger up and said, “Sit!” and the rambunctious attention-seeking dog who had tried to jump up on him a few minutes earlier complied to his command. It was amazing to see the transformation from scared to calm-submissive. Very remarkable!
In the last yard that day, my customer has four children all close to Josiah’s age. When we arrived, as soon as Josiah walked through the iron gate, the children’s energy spiked. They were happily excited to see him as was he to see them. He played with them and their dogs the entire time I cleaned the yard. He did so well in that yard, I decided to give him a gold star just for his conduct.
Today was even more challenging, as I had more yards to clean than usual because I had to combine my Monday and Thursday routes together. He worked very well and was enthusiastic throughout the day. That is until around nap time. The temperature was beginning to go into the 80’s and he was tired. So, hot, sweaty, and tired made him a very uncomfortable and cranky boy. He used all of his energy today and for that, I awarded him another gold star.
Tomorrow is the last day he will clean with me. On Saturday, he will stay home with Jeannie, which for him is a good thing. Saturday, even though there will not be many yards, is sure to be difficult because it will have been 17 days since these yards have been cleaned. I’m so looking forward to getting these back on track.