I never imagined the casual dogsitting favor would become a recurring activity in my mid-20s.
Over the last year, I’ve become a reputable dog care professional, via word-of-mouth, forÂ very select clients. Why? I guess because my friends get a reliable, attentive caretaker, and I get the opportunity to play a role, different than the one I am by default, as Alex. And I’m unattached, with a tepid social life that fits well with feeding and walking schedules.
The experiences have provided me such perspective…on life, children, pets, home decor, technology…cars. I get to trade lives and homes for a temporary period, adjusting my routines to suit new responsibilities. Not always convenient, but always fun.
At Chez English, I grew up with cats, not dogs. I had animal allergies as a kid, so never been big on the canines (or any farm animals). We had various Siamese, Abyssinian, and Persian kitties over the years, though never more than two at a time.
Cats are (at least in my experience) more agile, more reserved, and more clever, albeit also moodier, and less likely to instantly bond. Sometimes, they can be downright standoffish.Â They’re also less obtrusive to life, home, and logistics.
Dogs, alternatively, tend to be friendlier and more approachable, and less discerning when choosing ‘new BFFs’. They have a greater ability to stink, and be sloppy, and messy. And destroy shoes. They’re higher energy, and embody cheerfulness much of the time.
For me, the borrowed contrast is a valuable novelty, to give my own history a counterpoint.
Gays in particular tend to be very pro-dog. Or maybe that’s just my sweeping assumption. I’m inclined to attribute it to a macho necessity checkbox (cats are for sissies?). OR…they just prefer the personality of a dog. I only know a handful of gay cat owners.
After spending plenty of time around both pet species, some key observations: cats and dogs can both be annoying. Cats will meow and paw and play incessantly, at all hours, or poop outside the litter box. Dogs will beg and shadow you around the house, always hoping you have something to feed them or looking for a sign you want to play.
Both species can be great fun too. Dogs can play fetch, run in circles, tussle with each other. And they love to have their bellies rubbed. Cats do many of the same tricks, and are legendary snugglers.
How ‘ruled by the animals’ the household is, varies too, with both dogs and cats. I don’t like the idea of being beholden to any animal (essentially an invented self-restriction), so I prefer more insular, sufficient pets. There is a spectrum for both canines and felines – some of both which require constant attention and supervision.
Prissy pets, of any variation, are no fun.
At this very moment, I’m looking after Emma the dachshund, and she is such a doll.
She is small, which has many advantages: she can sleep in the bed as a little cuddler, she doesn’t poop in copious volumes, and she doesn’t stink or dominate the home space. She can be easily managed, and can’t knock anyone over.
But, she does have some personality quirks (doesn’t like to walk far, has to be dragged), and a serious Napoleon complex with bigger dogs that threaten her (she becomes quite aggressive).
My favorite part about sitting the dogs is the role swap. Goffman said it best: “life is one big stage” (where acting keeps the brain engaged).
I pretend to be a dog owner, a homeowner. I drive the big Bimmers, and cruise around, playing theÂ WASP mom. In a way, it gives me a glimpse to my potential future. Do I want a house with a yard, away from the bustle, full of pets? An apartment in the city, with a single baby bear in a compact footprint?
These puppy au pair moments are great vignettes. They interrupt normal life for me, and give my friends peace of mind their precious ones won’t be left companionless.
And, I get to develop uncle Alex pet relationships – with Emma, Brandon, Barnaby. All my nieces and nephews, without the commitment.