A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of pet sitting Chip. Chip is a lab/corgi mix. His owner approached me one night at church to find out my rates. Because of sticker shock, she was hesitant to use my services at first. While I took my Royal Rangers class outside that evening, I realized I misquoted her. You see, her husband is a chaplain in the Army, so they would qualify for a military discount. After church that night, I informed her of the discount. However, she had changed her mind during service to use me so she could be a blessing to my family. It was truly an honor.
A couple of days later, I went over to Chip’s house to meet the owners to ask questions regarding his routine. Their desire was to keep Chip outside during the day while they were gone. They assured me that Chip loved being outdoors; however, one of the daughters told me that they had installed a second gate because Chip could jump the fence.
You might remember my story about Jumper, the blue-heeler who I rescued from being euthanized at the shelter. Jumper, who we later named Blaine, had a knack for climbing over the kennel gates. Keep in mind the gates were about six feet high. Once, when I was feeding the animals, Blaine managed to knock the kennel gate off its hinges! All of this came flooding back to mind when they asked me to keep Chip in the backyard. I decided against it for a few reasons:
First, even though there were two gates, they were both about three to four feet tall. If Chip really wanted to get out, there would be nothing to stop him from climbing the gates. Second, while the owners did have a lead that I could tie him out on, I didn’t feel comfortable with this either. One of my waste removal customers chose to stop service for a few months after Christmas. Their dogs had been outside and managed to be tangled together. Unfortunately, one of the dogs was strangled to death. Therefore, I did not feel comfortable leaving Chip unattended on a tie-out.
So, for the duration of my pet sitting job, I visited the house two times a day. I arrived early each morning, to walk Chip for 20 minutes. After our walk, I spent time with him petting him and tossing a ball for him to retrieve. Then, in the evenings, I’d return and let him outside. My son Josiah came with me and threw the ball for Chip. Josiah had a blast spending time with Chip.
One thing I have noticed when I pet sit other people’s pets is that the dogs often stop eating the first few days. I’m not sure why this happens, but I consider it normal. As I reflect on why it could happen, I think about how a dog might interpret the absence of his pack. According to Cesar Millan, the most unnatural thing humans ask a dog to do is to be alone. In the wild, dogs and wolves roam together as a pack. I suppose the absence of the pack leaders interrupts the routines of the dogs and causes them to stop eating. It is also possible that dogs stop eating because they don’t know when they will next go outside. This is one reason why I interview my customers about their pets’ routines. I might not be able to replicate the routine exactly, but I can offer their animals some stability through repeat visits to the house.
Usually, after the first two days, dogs and cats will start eating their food. This makes sense, too, because a dog or cat will not starve itself to death. I think often, we as humans freak out when our pets stop eating. We think there must be something wrong. When I was a vet tech, I often related fasting to illness. When an animal is not feeling well, it must not want to eat much like the way we humans stop eating when we don’t feel well. Some research suggests that dogs and cats can go for days without food, so it is not at all surprising that during the absence of the owners that pets would ease up on eating. Of course, they probably eat less also because their activity level declines when their humans go away. This is one reason why I offer to walk dogs while the owners are away.
I had a great time pet sitting for Chip. Josiah still asks me when we will next go back to see him. I told him tonight that we would have to talk to the owners to see if we can stop by for a visit sometime soon.