Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pitfalls of House-sitting...

One thing I absolutely hate doing is house sitting. This particular activity is when one watches over a house, generally full of animals that need care, while the owner(s) have gone on vacation, medical leave, or whatever happens to crop up at any given time. To those I have watched their house for, please note that I bear no grudges, and will watch your houses again if asked. But it makes me damned nervous. Actually I should rephrase that and say that I will be extremely picky about whose house I'll house sit. Some of you will get a yes, and some of you will get a no. The people who will get the 'no' already know who they are. If you don't know my answer, then you're probably safe in your ability to secure me for a weekend... maybe. >:)

The 'why' of how I came to hate house sitting began with a neighbor's excursion, the details of which I no longer recall, in which the entire family clambered onto their motor home and disappeared for a month. OK, so it was 3 weeks, but it seemed like an eternity. They had, at that time, a small menagerie of animals, ranging from chickens to goats. The livestock care was fine, even with the one small panic attack I had when I couldn't find their banty hen, regardless of the fact that the hen was in a very tight enclosure. I still have no idea where the hell she was sleeping at night, but no amount of searching in the dark with a flashlight revealed her sleeping spot. Every morning, she'd show up for food INSIDE THE ENCLOSURE. If someone can explain Houdini Hen, I'd pay a small fee to know her secret. I do mean small. Maybe $5.00. Aside from that, I had no issues with the barnyard.

In the house was a different matter, where I took care of a parakeet, a rat, two cats and the family dog. The dog was a malamute. Beautiful, huge, grey beast who missed his family. A LOT. This dog would pester me every night until I let him out, and then he'd sit in the corner of his run and howl. And.. it wasn't just once a night. It was ALL night. For two weeks I got no sleep. None. I was basically the walking dead. Week three, I begged someone to watch the house and critters for me, so my run of sleep deprivation did end. Thankfully the dog didn't go off his food or anything, but he was a wreck and so was I. I promised myself I would never watch a house again. Especially if animals were involved that missed their owner that much. Honestly I was a little annoyed. They could've taken him with them. The RV was enormous. But that's all in the past and I do try not to dwell on it.

Since then I have found myself watching relatives homes which were inhabited by the dreaded pets. I wasn't so worried about the youthful cat, but was terrified that the elderly dog was going to expire while my relatives were vacationing. Apparently my stars were in the right alignment because the dog is still alive today. The cat and dog both were actually a lot of fun once I calmed down and stopped watching them like a vulture eyes weakening prey. They both seemed to like music a lot, which I played while cooking dinners for the dog. You may think that's spoiling a dog, but the dog is still going strong, and I think she's coming up on 17 years of age. Something is obviously working for her.

In all of these cases I could tell you what went wrong. The miserable dog from my first explanation is fairly obvious. From the second, the cat broke something in the house one night, and we still haven't figured out what it was, but I definitely heard something shatter with great enthusiasm. She also knocked over a lamp, and did several other things that were way out of character for her. Yes, my subtle influence can probably be blamed. Generally though when I do something like this, I expect the worst, so am not too surprised when things like this happen.

Which brings me to my most recent escapade in the wide wide world of house sitting.

Somehow, I got talked into watching a friend's house. I guess she wore me down. Either that or the blatant bribery that was flung upon the table worked. I'm chalking it up to exhaustion personally, but whatever the reason, I found myself in a house with 3 cats. One is Orange, one is a Calico, and the last ... forgive me, but the last is a Fraidy Cat. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent.) Fraidy is terrified of anyone she doesn't know. I couldn't rightly blame her given that I used to hide under tables myself when I was little, and people I didn't know showed up.

The other two are a different story. Mr Orange is quite affectionate and loves being held, petted, hugged, brushed, using you as a pillow, using you as a heating pad... using you to soak up the drool he excretes while you pet him. Basically I think you get the picture. In fact the first night I was there, he was so happy with me that he zipped out the cat door (which I was supposed to have locked the minute I walked in the door, so they could come in, but not out) and was gone for about 20 minutes. Then he was back, and he jumped up on me where I was reading a book, and dumped a small snake onto my lap. He looked quite pleased with himself while I scrambled to catch the small reptile before it disappeared into the depths of the couch, or worse the house. Once I finally caught it, ... it pooped on me, while I attempted to take it outside to let it go.

Perfect. I was off to a roaring start.

Day two wasn't nearly so eventful. In fact it passed by without too much trouble at all. Cats came in. Mr Orange came over for a snuggle, and Ms Calico took up position next to my chair so she could easily whap me with her paw;

"Hey." *whap* *whap* *whap*

"Yes, you. Get up and get me more food." *whap* *whap* *whap*

This was generally accompanied by mrrrowwwing. She's a .... portly kitty and I didn't think she should have more than what she ate that morning. Her owners have said that she does need to drop a bit of weight. So, this would go on for about half an hour before Ms Calico would walk off in a huff and pout in the living room. Mr Orange would eventually wear out my scratching hand and he'd go take up position on the back of the couch. Miss Fraidy wouldn't come in until late. She'd come in, give me a nervous look (You know the look. The one that you get when you say the word Vet in their vicinity and they've already figured out what that means.) and then scurry over to the food bowl. Wolf down a bunch of food, then throw me another furtive glance before hastily rushing across the dining room, down the hall and through the cat door into the garage.

I felt guilty, and I still have no idea why.

... perhaps I was getting a touch clairvoyant.

Day three arrived and I made the mistake of thinking that, "Maybe this House-sitting thing wasn't so bad." and let my guard down. Don't worry. Nothing awful happened... although that may depend on your point of view.

When I woke up, it was raining. Nothing heavy, but enough to get everything good and soaked without being a gully washer. Given the rain I decided that watering would probably be a moot point, but I did get up, to let the cats out. That day I was supposed to be going over to a friend's house to help her make dog beds for a donation to a shelter, so after getting dressed I grabbed my backpack and headed for the stairs. Keep in mind I was somewhat flanked by a feline contingent as I headed for the stairs; Mr Orange following and Ms Calico who decided to go into a different room and lay down. Thus, I reached the top of the stairs and started down.

From my vantage point at the top of the stairs I spotted Miss Fraidy sprawled on the stairs, so I started to pause not wanting to spook her. Which is when my partially braced left knee was taken out by a flying tackle from behind.

Why Mr Orange, I had no idea you played offense for an NFL team. Thank you for sacking the quarterback.

My knee gave way. I inadvertently send my backpack flying into the air as I whirled to catch myself from rolling down the stairs and crushing Miss Fraidy to death. My actions were in vain, as I watched from the corner of my eye, as my backpack sailed into the air and landed on Miss Fraidy. My backpack and Miss Fraidy crashed 4 or 5 steps to the bottom, at which point Miss Fraidy leapt with an indignant howl to her three feet and flew through cat flap and disappeared into the backyard.

The only thing I could think of as I watched her go was that she'd broken her leg, since she'd sped out the cat flap using only three legs. So, out the backdoor I went to see if I could find her, which was a long shot considering how high up I was on her list of favorite people. I was out there for a quite a while in the misty rain, which basically had me soaked through. Finally I started looking through the bushes along the back fence hoping that maybe she was hiding under one. She wasn't.

However, a flock of tiny birds had taken shelter in the bush I was searching. There were probably less than 10 birds in there, but when they're flying at your face and shrieking like a reenactment of Hitchcock's "The Birds" it looks like about a million feathered demons. Thankfully, it was quick. They were gone in a matter of seconds. It was still raining. I had failed to the find the injured cat...

... and now, not only was I soaked, but my head was covered in bird shit.

Slowly I slogged back into the house, and up the stairs to the bathroom where I hoped I would remove my new encrustation, and possibly warm up. Somewhere I found a plastic bag, in which I deposited my newly cristined, soggy clothing. Grabbing a towel I reached into the shower and turned it on. From behind the shower curtain erupts the object of my desperate search, and now she's just as wet as I am... and heading downstairs at speed. On ALL four legs. This actually presented something of a problem, as, if she decided to go through the flap into the garage, she'd get into the litter box and I had no idea if the litter was clumping litter.

Have you ever seen what happens to a wet cat that gets into clumping litter? They turn into a seudo sand sculpture, and its fairly difficult to rectify the problem. Solution?

Make sure soggy kitty never reaches the litter.

I chased the cat around the house for a while, before finally cornering her in the downstairs bathroom, where I trapped her by closing the door. My towel ended up drying a cat. Never fear, I did get my shower... and I removed all the bird crap. Somewhere in there I got a phone call from my friend to find out where I was. Quite honestly I had forgotten about the dog bed thing entirely during my romp upstairs and downstairs and all around the town. Before anything else could happen I left, and wasn't back until evening.

When I came in, I had two kitties in the house. Mr Orange and Ms Calico. Miss Fraidy was nowhere to be seen, and quite frankly I would have run too if I'd been on the receiving end of all that. So, I fed the cats, and waited until Miss Fraidy came in before locking the door completely for the night. No one in, and no one out. She ate, while throwing glances at me to make sure I wasn't sneaking up on her, then scurried into the garage. I did not see or hear her come back in, because I was watching a show on my computer. A very engrossing show.

I sneezed.

Miss Fraidy who had apparently been on the other side of the table where I couldn't see her, panicked and made for the outdoor cat flap at speed. The LOCKED cat flap. There was a loud *thwack!* sound and she bounced back about a foot into the kitchen, where she sat weaving slightly as the world realigned with her own reality. Having learned that this cat does better if totally ignored, I tried very hard not to snicker, and never looked directly at her. After a few moments she got up, drank some water and wandered away.

Thankfully, for certain creatures involved, the next day meant the end of my tour of duty.

And this is why I hate house sitting.


Callie said...

House sitting pets is scary even if nothing goes wrong. I'm always worried something will go wrong. I can't believe the cat brought you a snake... I mean I do, and the cat in the shower... good grief! Poor you! :)

Jennifer said...

Sorry for all the problems but it made for a hilarious story! Very well written, I laughed through the whole thing. :)