It’s probably not a big surprise that my very first job was as a dog sitter. I was only about twelve years old and our retired neighbors trusted me to take care of their Pekingese when they would travel to see their grandkids. They knew me well, were my emergency adult contacts after school when I waited for my parents to get home, and I always played with their grandkids when they visited.
I took that dog sitting job very seriously. In fact, they had warned me that I had to be very careful when taking her outside because a stick could easily poke her eye out. We lived in the woods and so sticks were plentiful. Any time I walked her, I watched with an eagle eye to make sure that her little face was never near anything pointy or dangerous. I took good care of her and ended up dog sitting for other neighbors on our street before we moved my sophomore year of high school.
Becoming Mary Puppins
Since then I have done a fair amount of dog sitting over the years in an unofficial capacity for friends and neighbors. I have pondered throwing my proverbial hat into the professional dog sitting ring for many years, especially since it would fit so nicely with the blogger lifestyle. It just never seemed to be the right time, and I did not want to have daily commitments that might prevent me from saying yes to events and other opportunities.
I saw the post in a local Mom’s group for someone to watch a puppy from 8-5 on weekdays for a few months until he was old enough to go to doggie daycare. I was intrigued and immediately mentioned that I was interested. It seemed like the perfect temporary dog sitting gig. I was also intrigued and impressed by owners who were willing to make that investment into their puppy’s life. And so we met, talked, and I am their Puppy Nanny for the next several weeks.
Chewie, named after the Star Wars character Chewbacca, is a ten week old yellow Labrador Retriever puppy. Today is day 7 of puppy sitting duty, and I can already see his legs getting longer, his coat color deepening, and of course, his puppy attitude coming out. He’s got a great little nose and loves all of the yucky things outside like earthworms, rabbit poop, and some mystery scent that he keeps trying to go back to just beyond their property line.
His humans are big Star Wars fans, as are my husband and I. I’m waiting for the chance to say, “Chewie, I have a good feeling about this,” but so far the opportunity has not come up, nor has, “Laugh it up, fuzzball” but I am sure it will before the Puppy Nanny gig is up.
Putting My Own Blogs to Work
As a dog lifestyle blogger, one of my favorite blogging categories is Surviving Puppyhood. I am particularly passionate about helping with some of the things that new puppy owners need to know before they ever reach their vet’s office or a puppy class: house training, bite inhibition and helping the humans of the house get some sleep right from the start.
Although my role is puppy sitter, not a dog trainer, it is impossible not to spend large chunks of time with a young puppy and not teach him anything. I am certainly not going to let him pee all over their floor and chew the hell out of their house. As a result, it has been fun to help in his training.
I love watching puppies and adult dogs learn, and Chewie is a super smart little guy. He is doing great with house training and we’ve only had two accidents on my watch. Although he is very much into the Velociraptor stage of puppyhood (i.e. darting in and out and attacking with razor-sharp teeth), I can see that he is gradually figuring out that he’s not allowed to bite when playing with humans.
I love watching him sit and think about a decision that he is about to make. Just this morning he sat and stared at the handles of the kitchen pantry, something he’s tried to jump up to grab every day since I’ve been on puppy patrol. Today he sat, looked at them, looked at his toy, looked back at the pantry doors, and then trotted off to grab his Planet Dog Snowball toy. I was so proud of him and we celebrated with tons of “Good boy, Chewie, good boy!”
Like I wrote about in my most recent blog, I love to hold puppies like other women love to hold babies. I have been getting my fill of puppy kisses, smelling his puppy head and soft puppy coat. I love stroking his silky ears and his little paws, the pads so smooth and new. Part of that is also practical so that he is used to people touching his feet and ears as a grown dog, and part is selfish because he’s still so brand new in this world.
Every morning when I arrive, I let him out of his crate, we go outside for a potty break, and then I sit on the floor with him. He immediately crawls into my lap and lays across my legs while I hold his antler for him to chew on. It is such a sweet moment and I feel so lucky to be part of his puppyhood and that I can take care of him while his humans are at work.
No Place Like Home with Jax and Tink
Of course, no matter how much I love puppies, there is nothing like coming home to Jackson and Tinkerbell. I tell them this when they are giving me their daily once-over, sniffing me from head to toe with great interest. I love watching Jax the most. He is very serious about his sniffing and will stop and smell a particular section of my shirt or pants, his brow furrowed, his mind working hard. I wish they could tell me what they were thinking.
I have read that a dog can tell everything about another dog from their urine while out on a walk. Although I am, thankfully, not coming home with any urine on me, I still wonder what they can determine about little Chewie from his scent. Can they tell he is a puppy? Can they determine that he is a Labrador Retriever like they are? Do they even care about breeds? Or understand? What information are the gleaning from those scents? Or can they just smell that my hands have been handling training treats all day?
But once the smell-fest is over, there is nothing like your own dog who is your very best friend in the world. I was thinking this morning when my dogs got me up at 4:30 in the morning and I wandered through our dark first floor, how we have a routine, a process, for everything. I can tell when they wake me at 4:30 and they mean it versus waking me at 4:30 just because the birds are chirping or another family member started moving around elsewhere in the house. We know everything about our life together.
The Right Puppy at the Right Time
The funny thing is that I had originally turned down the opportunity to watch little Chewie. I was afraid that it would take too much time away from my blog and freelance writing business.
I am so glad I decided to say yes!
For one thing, Chewie is a sweetheart of a dog. Sure, he’s a puppy, it’s not hard to be sweet when you’re only ten weeks old, but I can see his temperament and intellect coming out day by day. Both of those are hallmarks of the Labrador Retriever breed. It is fun to see those little Labrador quirks that I know so well, more than I know my own species.
I think little Chewie came along right when I needed him.
Yes, they pay me. Yes, I am getting my puppy fix. Yes, I am having fun spending time with him. And yes, I’m already in love with the little guy. But it’s turning out to be much more than your average puppy sitting gig.
Helping Other Dog Owners Bond With Their Own Dogs
Just like Destiny taught me that I have important knowledge that can make a difference in the life of an adult dog, this little yellow pup is a reminder of all of my puppy rearing expertise.
Chewie’s owners did so much planning, preparation and research before bringing a new life into their home. I think that if every dog owner was like them, we would not have such a heart-wrenching pet overpopulation problem. Between hiring people to puppy sit until he has all of his shots, arranging in advance for doggie daycare for after he’s thoroughly vaccinated, getting him right into puppy socialization class, they were ready. Really ready for the chaos that is an eight week old Labrador Retriever puppy. Their love and lifelong commitment for him started before he arrived, and I am thrilled that I get to be a part of his journey. They started to set their life together up for success and I can see what a confident, happy little puppy he is because of it.
Not only do I get to be part of Chewie’s journey as a forever dog in his forever family, but I’ve also realized I get to be a little part of every puppy whose life is impacted just a little by the skills and techniques and stories that I’ve shared. Whether it’s helping a puppy and her human figure out house training or helping parents teach their kids about how to act around a puppy, I may not know if I have helped, but those puppies and their humans know. I feel so honored to help any dog owner and their puppy start their life together and work toward the same sort of bond that I share with my own Jackson and Tinkerbell. And that is one of the big “whys” behind this blog. So thank you, Chewie, and Chewie’s owners, for this reminder. I am so happy I said yes to sharing your adventure.