We love our dogs and love finding the gift that shows our intimacy and enjoyment of them.
I emailed Hermia’s owners this week to keep an eye on her. It’s hard to explain, but she doesn’t do the Bunny Hop when we leave the house, a dance that exactly matches the beat of the old song, accompanied by nips at my sleeves. They’ll take her to the vet this week.
The last time I observed a change in her verve, she had Lyme disease.
When Sweet Tooth began skootching her behind on the ground, her walker ended up taking her to Animal Medical for anal cancer surgery.
Our job is to concentrate on the dog rather than hiring a new secretary. We see the dog in and against the context of a other dogs. Part of our expertise is observing changes in energy and behavior.
It’s Saturday night and I’m rushing to give an Italian greyhound his Prozac. I’m the first one notified of births, engagements, deaths, travels, redecorating and moves because I step in when labor pains start and I have the keys when an owner can’t be home for the arrival of a sofa.
This is the only job in which I have taken exactly one sick day. It’s also the only job in which I incur an ongoing roster of abrasions, bruises, scratches, pulled muscles, bites and excrement under my fingernails.
With no benefits.
Each of us got into this business from something else. We stay because of the ecstasy and trust of our dogs. We each have our own style. Some of us are cozy with our dogs and each other, while some of us maintain the silent disciplines of a New Skete monk.
It was with some trepidation, then, that I entered into the space of work styles for a completely unscientific sampling of the taboo topic of what we like getting from our clients at the end of the year. Of the eight walkers I spoke to, only one demurred that he expected nothing and was pleased by anything he got.
I guess we know who gets the re-gifted fruitcake.
From there, the answers got more uniform. Money is our favorite holiday gift. One walker added that money enclosed in a sentimental card thanking her for what she’s done for the dog is at the top of her list.
All the women melt at spa gift certificates. We’re bundled beyond gender or fashion this time of year and girly time is a rare. A massage (see pulled muscles above) or hot wax manicures for the cracked hands of winter is a blessing.
Men won’t admit to wanting the spa experience but like gift certificates for other stuff. If chosen carefully, rough weather gear is welcome. (If a store caters to hunters and ice fishermen, you’ve chosen correctly.)
One walker swoons for homemade goodies, another for booze.
The worst gaffe is no recognition of the holidays at all. We know which families are busy and/or struggling and we don’t carry grudges when there’s no fudge or an extra Andrew Jackson. But not being thanked for a year of showing up – in 38-degree rain with cookies in our pockets, hoarse with bronchitis, bloody from an encounter with an intact male golden retriever, on a humid afternoon in the 90s – is plain Scroogery.
Because that’s just the beginning of what we do.