Last week, my cousin asked me to do her a huge favor and watch her “devil dog” while she went on vacation…to the beach…where I wanna be…She told me to think about it before immediately saying no…so I did.
The “devil dog” in reference is a little shih-tzu who, quite frankly, doesn’t like any other humans except my cousin and her children. His real name is “Dumpling”. Although he’s missing several teeth from eating gravel – he can get pretty vicious and anytime there’s a visitor (including me), he has to be confined to the basement. I hadn’t actually seen him since he was a puppy – and he was great then. I won’t speculate about what may have changed his demeanor, but visitors are a problem. He also has a penchant for chasing cats.
I, too, have a dog who is very protective. He is much larger than the “devil dog”, being part German Shepherd and terrier. Visitors call him “Cujo” in reference to the famous rabid dog of the Stephen King novel/movie of the same title. His real name is “Shenzi” – meaning ‘savage’ in Swahili (not much better is it? Maybe more exotic!)
I also have 3 cats. Midnight, Fish, & Silver (don’t ask). 2 teenage daughters. And (fortunately) only 1 spouse – who I lovingly call Dr. Doolittle – because animals seem to always like him. That’s 6 more beings that could potentially become victims to the devil dog.
This would also, if accepted, be my first experience as a pet-sitter…
Given all these elements, my logical response to the favor was –
“NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! ARE YOU CRAZY?!”
My intuitive response was –
“YES! ABSOLUTELY SO!…AM I CRAZY?!”
Now, my cousin could eventually find someone else to do the pet-sitting if I said no, but I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t follow my intuition. Was there fear? Oh, yeah! When I thought about it logically. What if I was wrong? There’d be a lot of injured animals and people around these parts! The entire thing was a recipe for disaster.
So without consulting Dr. Doolittle a.k.a. my spouse – I said “Yes”. I knew a consultation would result in “No” because he’s more logical than I. Don’t worry…I let him know about it when I received word that the devil dog would be arriving shortly! Haha! (Maybe I should add a disclaimer here – don’t try this at home!)
I used the last few minutes before his arrival to get centered and balanced. To clear my mind of all preconceived judgments about the dog and what may occur.
Upon his arrival, I was calm, cool, and collected – inside and out – not just pretending. My cousin and her daughter, on the other hand, were visibly nervous. I let them know it would be fine and I had her take him to the backyard where I would bring out my dog (with my husband) so that the devil dog and Cujo could meet.
And for all you animal behavior experts out there – I know that it’s never a good idea to introduce a pet to a new environment with a “crowd”. They can get overwhelmed and anxious – not just the animals but the humans, too!
Not to drag this story out but everything went fine. The dogs growled a little upon seeing each other. Sniffed each others backside. Went through the yard marking over each others “territorial evidence”. And were quickly becoming pals, not once regarding us humans with anymore than a sigh when we attempted to correct behavior that could turn ugly. And just as we were getting comfortable, we heard the chain link fence rattle…
The pit bull next door had jumped the fence!!!
He’s smaller than my dog but the bone structure of his jowls leaves no doubt that his bite force could seriously cripple the biggest of dogs…and humans. He looked menacing but was not acting with aggression. I honestly think he wanted to play but there were too many unknown variables in the mix. We quickly ushered the animals and ourselves into the house…where the cats are…
A chase ensued that lasted less than a minute…when the cat jumped on the kitchen table and the devil dog was reprimanded…
And that’s it…20 minutes later my cousin was leaving. He cried a little at the door. Had a little mishap that night – peeing on my husband’s slipper…I think he likes him. And no other issues.
We’re on Day 3 and Dumpling follows me wherever I go. I warned my cousin that I may be his new human now. Her nervous joke before heading out “He’ll be your new best friend” may just turn out to be true.
Here’s the infamous Shenzi (on the left) and Dumpling (on the right):
The whole point of the story?
It’s good to be logical but can you imagine how different life would be if you didn’t let it override your intuition ALL the time?
I now know:
- If I treat animals like I do humans (sometimes better) and leave my preconceived judgments or suggestions planted by others at the door, my image of “who” they are transforms – thereby transforming the relationship.
- I should have recognized point #1 a long time ago when it comes to animals and, in fact, looking back – can see how I did this naturally (dropping the preconceived judgments). Our cat, Fish (don’t say that too fast you may get confused), has lived in 3 other homes before us. She was only about 8-9 weeks old when she arrived at our door. Gifted from a little girl (her 3rd human) who – just like the 1st and 2nd human – wasn’t allowed to keep her either because she was “too much”. Sure, she was batsh*t crazy for about 3 days. Ripping through the house like a demon. We let her have her space and do what she must to adjust…she’s still here…a year later – calm and cool as a cucumber – loving her humans. The other 2 cats? They’re strays – one found eating in a dumpster years ago and the other roaming a parking lot in the winter snow…pregnant. She lost all the babies, none of them developed fully. She’s currently crying out for another mate but refuses to go outside – for fear she can’t come back. (She’s sadly mistaken if she thinks I’m going out to find her a boyfriend and bring him back to the house!)
- Remember the pit bull? Yeah, well, it never crossed my mind that the dog could get over the fence (I suspect and hope that my neighbor didn’t know either). My dog goes out by himself sometimes and is not watched. It’s very possible and highly probable that if I hadn’t of agreed to pet-sit, there would’ve been a day that the pit bull jumped the fence and things would have evolved much differently. Although he did not appear to be acting in aggression, I know that my dog bares his teeth at any newcomer until he’s reassured its okay. It also may have never been brought to my attention if I didn’t have my cousin take her dog to the backyard first. Needless to say, until the issue with the fence is resolved, I watch the dogs now when they go out. I can only imagine that somewhere down the line, if I would have said “no”, I’d be devastated, at the vet, and likely in court. What started as a logical disaster, ended in an intuitive blessing.
- And, my last point, without trusting my intuition I may have never figured out that I’M AN AWESOME PET-SITTER!!!
Of course, there’s many more lessons to be had in this, I’ll leave you to puzzle and ponder over those. The journey isn’t complete but I know without a doubt – if something goes wrong it’s because…something shifted in me…