How NOT to Pet-Sit

My neighbor was going out of town over the weekend and asked if I would let her Chihuahua outside to potty the first day.

Her daughter would tend the dog afterward, but wouldn’t be available until dinnertime.

Enter me.

‘He won’t be any trouble,’ she assured me. ‘The backyard is fenced. Just open the door, shoo him out, watch to see he does what he’s supposed to do, then let him back in.’

Easy squeezy.

Now I’ve seen her walking this dog, but I’ve never “played” with him. I’ve been in the entryway of her house, but never really inside. So I was a bit apprehensive.

‘He knows you,’ she said. ‘I wouldn’t ask if I weren’t afraid he couldn’t hold it all day.’

Well, okay.

After my lunch, I bundled up and walked to her house, letting myself in as she’d shown me.

It’s kind of creepy going into somebody’s house when they’re not there (I don’t know how burglars do it!). She’d left the TV on to keep the dog company and set out a covered plate with a note asking me to give it to him.

Perfect — if I could catch him.

The little stinker started yapping as soon as he heard the door open. And he didn’t stop.

My Sheltie is “vocal,” so you’d think I’d be used to barking.

But this dog’s complaints really got on my nerves, fast. Probably because I was in a strange house and feeling the burden of responsibility.

I called to him in the “sweet” voice I use for my Sheltie.

Nothing. In fact, he raced out of the kitchen and into the living room, promptly setting up camp on the back of the sofa.

Taking the plate of food to lure him to a non-carpeted area, I called him again.

Nothing. This time, he charged toward the back of the house, barking like a lost soul.

What to do?

I tried calling him again. I begged, I promised I’d go outside with him, I told him his food looked yummy.

He wasn’t buying it.

Fearing he might take my leg off if I ventured into the recesses of his house, I set the food down, penned a note for the daughter describing what happened, and left.

Ah, failure. What a dismal feeling.

Looking back, we probably should have properly “introduced” me to the dog, on his own turf, before this fiasco. What do you think?

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12 thoughts on “How NOT to Pet-Sit

  1. You did the right thing. He was afraid of you in that setting…if you’d have opened the door for him to go out in the yard you would never have seen him again!
    PS Debbie, are you changing your headers a lot? I have enjoyed the pictures. This one is especially beautiful. Thanks for the treats.

    • Thanks for noticing, Lynne. This shot is one I took on the Notre Dame campus, looking across one of their two lakes. I find that area especially lovely and peaceful. Yes, I was afraid the poor dog was terrified, especially when he heard the familiar sound of the door but didn’t see his “mama’s” familiar face!

  2. Ah your troubles are what made my business grow. I owned and loved chihuahua and they can make a grown person cry–just be glad you did not get him outside. What was the owner thinking? At the very least she should have put him in a crate for you. Tip: A leash is a wonderful thing…most pups will be happy to see it in your hand and let you put it on them–also firmly telling them to sit….they can read that “nice voice” and it makes them very nervous since they are being little…uhm DEVILS. And finally never take a dog you don’t know outside even in a yard without a leash unless you have the rest of the day to play catch, catch, me if you can….As for the barking? Sorry… love my shelties–would own one in a heart beat… but you will get no sympathy from me…”a little vocal” yes that is what all sheltie owners say…
    Your neighbor failed for not knowing her pup better-you were nice to give it your best shot.

    • Looking back on it, I was an IDIOT for agreeing to such a thing in the first place! This poor doggie is skittish enough when I see him walking on his leash — no way was he going to let me near him. And deep in my heart, I know you’re right, he’d have never come back inside if I had gotten him out! Good tips, Katybeth — you must be outstanding at what you do. Most dogs naturally gravitate to me, but I’ve never had to experience their reaction on their own turf. Lucky I was, not getting my leg removed, haha!

  3. Debbie, It’s a dreary,rainy ,cold day in the Northeast and on top of that it’s Monday but I can ALWAYS count on you to entertain and engage me through your posts.So thank you! Yes, you did the right thing. I’m sure the little guy was just scared but no amount of coaxing was going to lure him from his defensive position. It may have helped to be introduced ahead of time but we are all creature so habit and you were both out of your element, leading to a tentative situation. You were gracious to offer. BTW, I agree with Lynne, your headers and your website are beautiful!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Kathy! I still feel pretty awful about having failed, but you’re right — I did my best in an unpredictable situation. My neighbor would have felt lots worse if her dog had bitten me, I’m sure!

  4. Debbie, those Chihuahuas are a temperamental bunch, I tell you! I think the worst that can happen is that the daughter will find a puddle of pee when she comes in the evening.However, better that than a lost dog. I’m afraid that given that the little runt didn’t know you well enough, he could have taken off to never come back. I totally agree with you–it would have been better to have been “formally” introduced to him before the owner left. Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20. In any case, if there’s a next time, you’ll be better prepared. :)

    • “If there’s a next time”?? Yeah, right. I doubt it. I think my pet-sitting days are over! BTW, my neighbor called this evening after she returned home and as luck would have it, her little dog hadn’t pottied on her floor or her carpet. She agreed we should have known better and she shouldn’t have been worried; after all, he holds it all night and that’s longer than four hours! I hadn’t even thought he might take off and never come back — yikes!

  5. I’m glad everything ended up well (no prizes on the floor). My aunt and uncle have chihuahuas and when we go to feed them, they just cower in their crate and shake. It doesn’t matter that they’ve seen us dozens of times before and we have food as a peace offering. I’m not sure if a formal introduction would have made a big difference or not, because once the owner isn’t around, it’s a whole different situation.

    • The voice of experience! I’m guessing you’re absolutely right, Janna. This poor darling shivers and shakes when he meets me and my Sheltie on our walks, but I just attributed it to the “ferociousness” of my dog! My grandma had a Chihuahua, though, and it was a shaker, too. Ah, well, at least I tried!

    • Thanks for visiting and for your encouragement. In retrospect, I never should have agreed to do something like this — and probably wouldn’t have, if the dog had been BIG, ha!

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