In a previous post I answered how I became a pet sitter and today I'd like to answer why we're pet sitters. My wife will tell you it's because she has spent her life around animals, wants to work with animals, and is fine with everything short of drawing blood or dealing with some of the more severe injuries a vet tech would have to. My answer is a little more vague and philosophical. Even if we're not interested in the medical care of animals there are plenty of other animals related jobs. We could be groomers or trainers or any other sort of job that would put us in contact with pets on a daily basis but we're not, and I think it's because pet sitting and dog walking fit our personalities.
Years ago when I was just starting out and working for a larger company in Northern Virginia I walked into a client's house to find one of the owners home. He said to me, "I'm sorry we forgot to cancel but since you're here why don't you go ahead and take them for their walk. They appreciate your laid back personality." If you're someone that knows me or has spent much time with me laid back is not a term many would use to describe me. I anger quickly and am frustrated by much, but my interactions with people are very different than those with animals. Being around animals calms me.
To give an example of this I will point out that our cat Bagheera is currently sitting in my lap and before that he was laying on my shoulder. He jumped into my arms while I was in the midst of typing. Lara can tell you when I am writing I am at my most insufferable. If she were to walk into the room and begin talking I turn into Jack Torrance from The Shining. I cannot stand to have my concentration broken and yet Bagheera leaps into my arms and not only am I not upset I hold him for a few minutes and then derail my own train of thought to ad-lib an unintended paragraph.
As previously mentioned on this blog by both Dr. Jessica McCleese and Andrea Singer interacting with pets releases the same hormone that makes us feel love. Being around animals and interacting with animals makes us feel the same as interacting with our loved ones and perhaps even more so because our communication with them can only happen at this most basic level. We communicate with animals with our emotions. You could even say it is a more pure form of communication than language allows.
While animals have a calming effect on me they do the same for everyone that interacts with them and this brings us back to the point of this post. Why are we pet sitters and why do we have no interest in being anything more? Being a dog trainer isn't about interacting with pets so much as it is teaching people how to interact with their pets and grooming a dog isn't really interacting with them either. I'm sure there is some interaction that happens as a good groomer has to build a relationship with the pets they take care of much like a good stylists or barber will build a relationship with their clients but the the grooming begins and the job is to get the pet's hair cut to their owner's specifications. For us our job is all interaction with the pets. We are either walking them, petting them, playing with them, or simply being with them. Even when we're getting their food ready they are around us, watching, and being close to us. Our job is about being.
There is a simple pleasure that one derives from simply being. It is something we don't do enough of in the modern world. When was the last time you sat outside, under the stars, with little to no distractions and simply existed? Our job is to exist. All we do is be. When a pet owner isn't home we come in and we exist with their pets. We be with them and interact with them on that deep emotional level where animals communicate across species. All we are there for is to be.
Pet sitting and dog walking can be quite a meditative profession. There are more than a few walks I've been on where I've retreated deep into myself and awoke to find I'd completed the walk and it was time to leave. I've looked at the timer on Time to Pet or a clock in someone's home and wondered out loud, "How did 20 minutes pass." All the while I've been standing outside playing with the dogs, inside petting a cat, or enjoying a walk with a dog and those moments are my favorite part of pet sitting. It is where we start to find understanding and begin listening to what the animals wish for us to learn. I feel a deep connection to all the pets I've cared for through the years and I miss all the friends that have moved on, moved away, or we simply drifted apart. For me, I'm a pet sitter because it is where I can exist and simply enjoy being. It is where I can find that deeper, purely emotional sense of communication and form a bond with the animals. And now that I've been doing it for so long it has become a part of me an it is not just where I can exist but why I exist.