An old friend of mine stopped by today. She was curious as to what I really do for a living. I sometimes ask myself the same thing. So it was a good thing for me, because it reminded me that I do have a real job.
Most regular folks (as I like to call them) cannot comprehend what a Dog Walker / Pet Sitter (puppy wrangler - cat puke cleaner - bunny poop photographer - vicious cat injector - etc) actually does during the course of a normal day. When meeting people and telling them what I do, I get two distinct responses. There's the "OMG, that is the best job ever! You're outside playing with dogs all day!" response. And then there's the "you do what?! Is that even a real job? Do people pay you for that?" reaction.
Yes, we are outside most of the time, no matter the weather. We're out in driving rain that stings your face and soaks you to the bone, to the point where you can feel the droplets running down the small of your back into your butt crack. We're out in snow so deep you have to dig your way into the house to get the dog out. We're out in 100 degree heat with 95% humidity that's so oppressive it's difficult to leave the car's AC. It's not always yellow labs playing Frisbee on the beach. Only sometimes.
It is a real job, and yes, people do pay me to do it. Sure, you could get the kid from down the street to come walk Petsy for a few dollars. A friend or a family member may be able to help out here and there, after work, or on their days off. Heck, you might even be able to come home from work every lunch hour and take care of Petsy yourself. That's all well and good, until the kid forgets to show up or has a ball game he forgot to tell you about. Or until friends and family stop answering the phone when you call - hmm, I wonder why? Let's not forget your lunch break - here's hoping you never get stuck in traffic or have a breakdown, or that the boss never makes you work straight through it.
I've done other jobs. In fact, I've done many. I've dug holes, painted, plumbed, planted, dish-washed, cooked, managed, bar-tended, and even jumped out of planes. Working as a chef for many years, I thought I had found my true calling. Eventually, though, eighteen hour shifts and hardly a single day off made me reconsider. My days now can be just as long, but as I drive around visiting pets, usually with my own dogs in tow, the only cooking I think about now is, what's for dinner.
So here I am. A professional Dog Walker / Pet care provider. I have insurance, a uniform, a website, and business cards. I'm trained in Pet First Aid and Animal CPR. I can give insulin shots and subcutaneous fluids. I know the difference between a Vizsla and a cat (Vizslas are bigger), and that Puggles and Border Collies are some kinda crazy. That's just the small stuff. The best part of the job is is discovering each animal's individual personality. Some are sweethearts, angels and love-bugs, and you just can't stop yourself from picking them up and giving a hug, hopefully getting a lick on the nose in return. Others are determined to test your patience, with the whining and barking or with playing catch me if you can. Or sometimes they even pee in the car - yes, the new car, only one day old. Either way, I get to know what makes them tick. Spending hours with many of them on a daily basis will do that. I know the dogs by their barks, the cats by their meows. The rabbits, not so much.
My car usually smells like a wet dog on a hot day. Come to think of it, I might smell that way too. I get peed, puked, and pooped on (so far, not all at the same time - yet). Gone are the pressed suits, shirts, ties, and shiny shoes. Now it's only hoodies, jeans, and a sensible pair of New Balance. Gone are the days of staying within the same four walls. With every step I take, my office continuously changes.
I think I've found a job that fits.