The Heartbreaking Reality of Pet Care Professionals
Over the weekend, I got the sad news that one of the dogs I walk, one I've been walking since almost the beginning of my dog walking career, is not doing well and her family has decided to put her down. I've spent the past couple of days looking over pictures and watching videos of her. I'm so grateful I got to spend so much time with her and have so many memories of her. This lead to me looking at pictures of other dogs I've lost over the past 5 years. Being a dog walker and pet sitter means I spend a lot of time with your pets. Walking your dog 1-5x per week, for months, even years, I form a bond with them and get attached. While I become a part of their lives, they also become a part of mine.
Eddie was a senior dog when I began walking him. He was slow and had trouble walking, but he was a happy snuggly dude. I only walked him a few times before he passed away. He had a sister, Kya, who was just a big goofball, and lived with a cat named Rice. After walking the dogs, I would stay a bit with the 3 of them, they all wanted to cuddle. Eddie would lay down on the couch with his head by me, Rice would be on my lap or on the opposite side of Eddie and Kya would try to push them out of the way. He was a sweet boy and my "introduction" to this kind of loss. It hadn't occurred to me that the dogs I'd be caring for may die, that I'd have to grieve them. So while I was sad about him passing away, I was also processing this inescapable fact of life. I was debating whether this was really something I could continue doing, my thoughts being "oh shit, these dogs I love are going to die. I can't deal with that". The fear of having to say goodbye however, wasn't as strong as my love for the animals in my care. I couldn't walk away from them. Eddie's death taught me a lot.
My Georgia. She forever has a part of my heart. I met her and her human while walking another dog. I was at the dog park and just melted over Georgia. She reminded me so much of my first dog, Chanel. They had the same personality. Just cuddle bums the both of them. Happy, wiggly bums. When I would pick her up for her walk, she would just snuggle up to me for pets. If I dared to stop petting her, she'd protest with groans and by pawing and nudging me. She would pick up sticks during our walks and bring them home. She was also ball obsessed. I knew she liked to play fetch and would take her to the park to play, but it wasn't until I got to dog sit her did I really learn of her obsession. After playing with her at the park for a couple hours, she came back home and if a ball was out, she would pick it up and bring it to me to throw, so I had to hide all the balls.
I was so happy when I got to dog sit her. I got to spend days just cuddling with her, playing outside with her, just enjoying her presence. She was just the best. I think of her often and miss her so much. I also miss her family. Very friendly and kind people. Her death was a surprise as she was fine, running around and playing. One day, she just collapsed. Unfortunately, it happened while her family was gone on vacation during the holidays. I wasn't available to dog sit her, so she was with another family. When they got back, the mom called me to tell me. She said she didn't want to tell me via text or facebook. I cried. She invited me over and gave me a lot of Georgia's things, leashes, harnesses, etc. I'm sad I didn't get to say goodbye to her (and I'm sure her family feel that way too), but I'm glad that the last time I saw her, I played with her and gave her lots of pets.
Chloe and Doobie. You can't have one without the other. They're a goofy pair. Doobie loves his Chloe and he's definitely a little mopey when she's not around, when she goes up north to the cottage with one of her humans and Doobie stays behind in the city. Chloe has had trouble with her back legs for as long as I've known her, about 4 years. But, while it would slow her down, it didn't stop her from wanting to be active. She loves to fetch, loves to go for walks, loves to swim, loves the water. She's just an athlete in a body that couldn't follow. She's leaving us this week and she's the first of "my dogs" I get to say goodbye to. She's one of the dogs I've been caring for the longest it. I'm fighting back tears as I write this, trying to imagine life without her, walking Doobie without her, dog sitting without her. I'm heartbroken for her family. They are some of the most kind, generous, caring, giving, and supportive people I know.
The daughter and I would often have long conversations if she were home when I picked up the dogs. The son and I had a few chats, but he was mostly away at University. The mom has a great sense of humour, kind of a bad ass, and just amazing. I wish she were my mom! I stayed at their house for dog sitting and their home really felt like home. Boss loved staying at their house and loved Chloe and Doobie. That says a lot considering Boss doesn't really like being around other dogs. Chloe is one of those dogs that's playful, but relaxed. She likes to be pet, but she likes to sleep alone. She loves the fountain near her home, and I would let her waddle around in it after our walks. She would fish for sticks or rocks in the fountain and happily wag her tail, looking back at me as though saying "look what I found!" I'll always think of her when I see that fountain.
While each of these dogs, and the ones who moved away, who I no longer walk for whatever reason, all took a piece of my heart with them, happy memories of them fill the space left behind.
Amelie Koury is the owner and operator of Bon Chien Good Dog. She works as a dog walker and pet sitter and manages the Bon Chien Good Dog website and blog. She is responsible for bringing in guest bloggers and contributors to share their knowledge and expertise with readers. A self proclaimed "dog nerd" and "behaviour geek", she regularly is taking courses and attending workshops and seminars to further her knowledge and improve her work and relationship with the animals she works with. She is a member of the IAABC and working on becoming an Accredited Dog Trainer..
Amelie lives in Montreal, Quebec with her dog Boss.