Pet sitter stories: that night I slept on the bathroom floor with an Angel guarding the door

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By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

The year was 1996. I owned a pet sitting and dog walking company and loved doing visits. Even though I had several dozen dog walkers and pet sitters on my staff, there were a few pets for whom only I was able to provide care.

Enter Angel, the 6 year old chow chow. She wasn’t a dog who took to strangers readily, but over the years I took care of her, she became, well, okay with me. Never thrilled., but always willing to allow me to do things like let her in the yard and give her food.

I mostly took care of her on occasions where her owners went out of town, with an overnight here and there. I never loved the assignment but it was my duty and no chow was gonna keep a good petsitter down.

Although, I did learn that a chow could keep a good petsitter in the bathroom all night.

Yes, you read that right. I locked myself in the bathroom all night as a means of protecting myself.

So let’s get the conditions straight. The family just had a baby, and to make things really juicy…they had just moved into a new home.

Let’s remember that this is before I became a dog trainer and I was still a wide-eyed and super-optimistic dog lover. That’s not to say that I wasn’t realistic; I always took precautions, but I certainly never thought I’d find myself in position in which I truly feared for my safety. Had I known then what I so clearly know now, I can’t imagine I would’ve taken on that job with such gusto.

Angel let me in the house with no problem and I went about my business. I let her in the backyard, I refreshed her water, and I gave her food. It was as I made my move to leave the house that she became ferocious – barking, growling, and lunging. It was as though she was a possessed chow. And if you know anything about chows, well…I’ll leave it at that.

I made a move for the bathroom and shut the door as quickly as possible. Unfortunately this was pre-cell phones and pre-dog training career, so I had no handy-dandy treats in my pocket and no way to call for help. Basically, I was screwed.

I slept on the bathroom floor that night, and all the while Angel prowled outside, growling and scratching at the door. I would characterize it as a slightly unpleasant experience.

Her owners came home midmorning to find my Jeep in the driveway and their petsitter hiding in the bathroom. I wouldn’t say they were upset so much as confused. I, however, was not confused at all. Angel wanted to eat me.

What is the moral of the story, you ask? There really isn’t one, unless you take this as a cautionary tale that working with animals requires more than love, it requires education and quick thinking (and, sometimes, a willingness to sleep on a bathroom floor).

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Learn how to speak dog with Behavior Fundamentals Online! It might just keep YOU from spending the night on the bathroom floor. 🙂

Misreading the signals

whisperBy Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

The other day when I came to the office with Whisper and Mimsy, I was looking forward to getting a lot of work done. I had a marketing meeting in the morning, a podcast recording in the early afternoon, and conference calls sandwiched in between (not to mention my WiSTEM homework).  Before I had even settled in at my desk, Whisper decided to start barking. She barked at young mother walking by with a stroller. She barked at the UPS guy. She barked at the empty desk. She barked at her reflection. She had already done her business for the morning, she had been fed and watered, and it seemed to me that she was barking for no other reason than to keep me from getting my work done.

So what did I do? I got frustrated and raised my voice (more than once), which did absolutely nothing to stop the barking. Pretty soon everyone in the office was firmly asking her to stop, or trying to distract her with kissing noises, or just rolling their eyes and stuffing their earbuds in a little deeper.

Finally Paulette took charge of the situation and marched Whisper outside to see if that would break the pattern. As soon as she got to the nearest patch of dirt, Whisper peed a river (in spite of having done exactly that a half hour earlier). And then the entire office full of dog trainers felt a bit sheepish for 1) having misread the clear signals that she needed to use the facilities, and 2) getting irritated with her for it.

What is the moral of this story?

No matter how many years of dog experience you have, you’re still going to miss, or misread, the cues once in a while. You get distracted, then you get annoyed, and finally you get to the point where you are so aggravated that you aren’t seeing anything clearly because none of the usual triggers seem to be at the root of the problem.

But dogs aren’t robots – just because they did their business a half hour ago doesn’t mean they won’t need to go again, or that the noise which never bothered them before isn’t going to make them freak out on this particular day, or that the food they digested with ease for five years isn’t suddenly going to give them terrible gas during your investor meeting (there are occasional downsides to having dogs in the office). 

If you have dogs, all of these things will happen to you – whether you are a pet professional or not – and you just have to accept that you misread the signals, file the information away for future reference, and move on. For those of you who have aging or infirm dogs, the cues will change more rapidly. To read the signals correctly, sometimes you have to put aside what you expect the dog to do and act upon the information right in front of your nose.

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Want to learn more about canine communication? Check out our I Love Dogs badge and Canine Communication course; for an even deeper dive into all things dog, sign up for Behavior Fundamentals Online!

Say hello to Behavior Fundamentals – now online!

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By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

We’ve been working like dogs (heh) all summer long* and are super-duper proud to announce the official launch of Behavior Fundamentals Online!

Behavior Fundamentals started out as our popular in-person program through CanineLink (now FetchFind Academy) in Chicago. Not only did it fill the growing need that dog lovers had to understand their canine companions on a deeper, more scientific level, it helped launched the careers of many amazing dog trainers (all of whom are now making the pet world a better place through science-based, positive training!).

During the month of October, you can grab the entire Behavior Fundamentals Online program for only $99!

Click here to sign up now.

All of the modules are also available a la carte; click here to learn more about pricing and curricula.

If you have any questions or comments about the program, please contact us at hello@fetchfind.com or 872-802-4114. #fetchylovesyou

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lynda-lobo* I just have to give an extra-special FetchFind shout out to Lynda Lobo, CPDT-KA, (⬅︎ ) who really knocked it out of the park with the development and design of Behavior Fundamentals Online. We love you, Lynda! 🙂