At this moment, there’s a dried goo smear on my lower sleeve. It might be dog slobber. Or could it be splatter from a fiercely cracked egg? Maybe the hand soap dispenser misfired? The truth is in the first theory, and we all know it.
As I write this, I’m on Day 11 of a real life dramedy titled “Total Dog Rube Babysits Six-Month-Old Canine Grenade.”
A month ago, I described in my column how joyful/fearful I was as I anticipated an extended grand-dog-sitting gig. I predicted the Christmas tree would get knocked over. Holiday miracle: It didn’t. But everything else took a direct hit. Socks have been stolen out of laundry baskets, gloves swiped off tabletops, rugs moved across rooms. The newly refinished wood floors have been “broken in,” and REM sleep cycles have been annihilated.
I’m having a blast. This doesn’t make sense.
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A neighbor tells me I’m YouTube-worthy when I “walk” Sheriff, the Louisiana Catahoula Tasmanian Devil Moe, Larry, Curly mix. I try to picture what others witness. I jog and stumble along, a victim of the fits and starts of a strong young dog pulling me faster than I can run, and then stopping without warning because a tree trunk smells interesting. I have almost tripped over the leash too many times.
We MUST stop for every pinecone/stick/disgusting pile of entrails hidden beneath piles of leaves. All I ever say now is “Drop it! Drop it! Drop it! Oh dear God is that a rabbit intestine DROP IT!”
I have become a human maypole, twirling around in the middle of the sidewalk to unwind the leash that has been double wrapped around my knees. Or sometimes I’m a tether-gripping clown, shivering on my front lawn at 5a.m., hoping early bird neighbors don’t notice my zebra stripe fleece pajamas/man Crocs/bedhead. All while the dog sniffs around for eternity, because one must be selective about which patch of snow needs a lemony hue.
But mostly, I’m a person with new insight and amateurish tips I can pass to fellow rubes who might one day babysit someone else’s young dog:
1. Always go out with more than one potty bag. Encores are not just for rock concerts.
2. Try not to admit to yourself you’re walking down the street with such a bag swinging heavy with contents. Develop a chill nod so you don’t have to wave your pendulous cargo to greet neighbors. (It is no coincidence I assigned this tip as “number 2” on the list.)
3. Plan your route to avoid tempting pinecones, sticks and entrails.
4. If you are successful at tip number 3, congratulations, you are walking on Mars.
5. Be prepared to have a Google search history littered with questions like “Are pinecones, sticks and entrails bad for a dog to ingest?” (They are.)
6. On a more serious note, steer clear of yards with large barking dogs corralled by electric fences. Employ abrupt U-turns. You just don’t know what Brutus might do. Fortunately, I didn’t learn this firsthand, but I’ve heard a story or two.
7. On a lighter note, you will learn to play indoor squeaky toy hamburger soccer for hours on end. You will also notice most fabric toys are doomed to reverse taxidermy.
8. Never chase a puppy to retrieve a stolen sock, because accent tables with potted plants are not immune to the laws of physics.
9. Scratch marks on leather sofas add character to a room.
10. If you think your visiting canine “loves everybody” and would likely be a lousy watchdog, wait until the HVAC guy shows up.
11. By at least the 11th day of intense puppy-sitting, you will be buff. Leash-pulling resistance sessions, squirrel scent sprint training and sidewalk leash disentanglement spin moves will leave you in prime physical shape for a triathlon. Especially if the involved dog is Sheriff.
12. Be ready to fall in love.
Contact Denise Snodell at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @DeniseSnodell.