Going east to visit my family is always a fun moment. Coming home to three birds and a dog who feel they have been sorely tried by my absence is not so much fun.
I was away for three weeks this go round and I believe they all felt that I had stayed one day too long at the fair. My dog Mr. T expressed his feelings by sitting on the carpet outside my bedroom and howling and barking till 1 AM. Mind you, the door to my bedroom was open. He could have come in if he wanted. I’d even offered to lift him up on my bed and let him sleep there for one night. This apparently is not as much of a treat as it used to be now that I actually snore louder than he does. Mr. T doesn’t like to be second best at anything.
It’s not that he didn’t have a good caretaker while I was gone. My house sitter walked him, gave him his treats and was very kind to him. What apparently was missing was any subservience on the part of my house sitter that would indicate to Mr. T that the sitter understood Mr. T’s position in the pantheon of gods and kings.
My birds reacted somewhat better. I got a whole week of love and cuddles from my African Gray Abdul before he bit me. He had to be sure I was really back and going to stay for awhile before he felt it appropriate to give me a nip that told me of his anger at my absence. The other two birds, Captain and CB, after a first brief flurry of joy that they couldn’t quite suppress, turned a cold shoulder to me to let me know that they would disdain any and all feeble attempts on my part to make up for my thoughtless departure from their life.
Of course, they are pretty easy compared to Abdul and Mr. T. I only had to make an offer of their favorite treat – and who can resist the seeds of the pomegranate so red and juicy and ready to be flung to the four walls that constitute my living room – and I was immediately their best friend again. Or, I was for so long as I held those seeds in my hand.
I guess in this season of joy over miracles of love and faith, I should pause to give thanks to the many house sitters who have come into my life for the past thirty years. Some were friends lending a hand, some were strangers who did it for a living, some were co-workers in crowded apartments who were happy to have the break of a house for a month.
It hasn’t always been easy for the house sitters. Dogs have run away and had to be chased and found, birds have laid eggs and stopped eating suddenly. Each time I left my little family I would be nervous that the house sitter would not understand how special their little charges were and how wonderful they needed to be treated. And each time I came back to find that my animals had made another conquest and stolen yet another heart.
Even those who had never been around big birds before seemed to melt at the insistence of Abdul when he would persistently call out for hours at a time, “I love you. I love you all. Give me a kiss”, followed by a big wet sucking sound. Or when he would hang upside down from his cage describing figure eights with his body while dancing rock and roll rhythm to the classical music channel I told the sitters to leave on for them.
As this season of thanks for our many blessings reaches its peak this year, I think it’s time that all of us who are pet owners send out a silent prayer of thanks to the army of house sitters who have come into our lives at one time or another and acted as surrogate parents to the pets we love so well. They have cleaned birdcages, scooped poop, chased escape artists up roads and down alleys and still managed to give love and affection to their little charges.
I know there are probably some people reading this who have not always had positive experiences with house sitters. But there are a whole lot more who could never have taken a vacation were it not for the security they felt in leaving their animals with someone who was kind, caring and understood that a day that did not start with a turkey dog cut up to just the right size, was a day without light or meaning.