I have been an early bird since I hit my 30s. Long before I had any farm animals to tend to super early mornings. Matter of fact, aside from my childhood family pets, Christian and I didn’t even get our first dog until I was 31. Baby. She was a pitbull rescue - the first one I’d ever had any experience with - and she loved cuddling and sleeping in. Loved our cat named Puppy. Spared from a lifetime of breeding for money. She is the reason I am an advocate for the breed…
Anywho it’s still dark out, neither dog wants to get out of bed for a walk, and I’m downing some coffee and getting ready to head out and walk other folks dogs and care for their cats while they are away on holiday. It’s a perfect job for someone who:
A. Loves animals.
B. doesn’t go on vacays due to the care needed for her own animals….
When I was a kid, in any movie taking place in a big city, there always be that background extra who was walking a boatload of dogs. Like ten dogs all leashed and walking in sync through a bustling intersection.
I always thought how cool it would be to have that job….but it was a movie…. and there’s no way you can make a living doing that as an adult, right? Well turns out, with the right experience and a little world of mouth, it is very possible…. I’m not quite there yet, but I can see the potential. A year ago it was a bit harder, but now - well, folks these days have other options for pet sitters & dog walkers, but folks these days also love their animals like they are family and just as you’d never allow some random stranger from an app to come in and care for your kid, an experienced person with many years of caring for various animals with various behavioral challenges, puts me in a peak position. I’ve kind of made a name for myself here on the blog and social media among animal lovers.
I’m on the board of a nonprofit that regularly takes on medical case animals in need. I volunteer regularly with shelter dogs. I help find homes for animals that have been abandoned. I also help to educate those that want to learn.
Ya see because I have Reece, and because I have learned so much about my own energy in regards to his fear-based-reactivity, I can use that to help other dogs who may have stranger-danger. Most sitters don’t understand what is needed to build that trust, and quite frankly if I didn’t have Reece, I’d be too intimidated to try with those types of dogs as well. If you are unaware of your own energy - your fear and your uncertainty - and how powerful that energy is to a dog who is also fearful and uncertain, then you’ll never be able to have a dog overcome that distrust in you. Of course because I am me, I view this as a challenge I want to overcome, so GAME ON. I am currently months into getting to know a dog with a very similar issue to Reece. His name is Hank and we try to meet once per week so that next year his family can leave him for the first time in several years to go vacation….
I had a friend who would get visibly agitated when a dog would bark at her or jump up on her, and she’d react sharply before trying to understand what was happening. These were shelter dogs or even my own Reece - and I thought it was so strange, her response. I have learned over time that you want to understand where that energy is coming from before you react to it. For instance, if it is just excitement from happiness, then the reaction should be calm so as to ‘bring it down a notch’. If it is overstimulation from a range of uncertainty or fear, no reaction or simply stepping back quietly and allowing the animal to know your mean no harm is probably best.
On the surface, this person seemed like she was ‘in tune’ to energy, but when it came to being ‘in the moment’, she had no control over her own energy, and was clueless how her sharp reactions to other sentient beings, could - and did affect how the animal viewed her.
She assumed that by being louder, she would grab the dog’s attention. While that may be true, most of these animals viewed her as a threat. Animals instinctively manipulate situations to observe and gauge other animals reactions. Have you ever heard someone say “dogs can tell when you’re scared”? It’s true. All animals can tell. They read your eyes, see if your pupils are dilated or how much white is showing. If you are scared of them, they feed off that fear and become equally scared of you. Instinctually they go into a protective mode. They don’t know you. They don’t know your intentions, but they do see you are approaching and feel your fear. They can feel vibrations from just being grounded in your vicinity. Horses are extremely sensitive to human emotion and can hear the heartbeat of a human four feet away - which is why if you are scared of a horse, and your heart is racing but you are trying to pretend you’re cool as a cucumber, the horse knows something is off and will respond accordingly to the reality of your energy - not what you are pretending to feel.
If you have been following this blog for a while, you know this was something I had to learn on my own when I got Rose. When things clicked and I started paying attention to how I could control my energy around Rose (which was super hard for someone terrified of horses!!), it was fascinating. That whole experience helped me in regards to understanding fear in animals and how to appropriately respond. Years later when I got Reece, all of this knowledge was monumental.
Some animals I will never figure out. For example, Quackaroni. She either thinks I’m coming to murder her every day or is super excited and talking up a storm to me. I just can’t tell if she’s screaming at me or happily quacking loudly to me. Then there was David Crowie. Same thing. He seemed to never quite get that I was helping him…. I’ll expand on this story next year because guess what? His story is still being written. I just saw him yesterday and actually see him quite regularly. It’s a good story and worth the wait…
If you’ve made it this far, THANK YOU.
It’s just starting to feel like winter here in Georgia. Cold mornings where the dew has turned into ice crystals on the grass and the horses and goats require a bit more work to keep them warm… winter means more work in regards to the farm animals, but I do love it!
It’s Saturday and the last weekend of the year!!! I wish you all a wonderful weekend and Christian and I are planning to see some friends in from California!