I’ve become a dog sitter/walker recently, cats included. In my most recent counseling session, my therapist did a new depression evaluation and noted that I was feeling better, despite some turmoil over the last few months and some to come. When she asked if I felt the screener was accurate, I agreed and explained why. For me, animals are like a mirror that helps me love myself. It’s hard not to know how loveable you really are when a dog is licking every inch of your face. Some people do not like dog kisses, but I adore them. Helping other people care for their pets has provided me more time to walk, to feel the sun, to have fleeting moments where I feel free from my obligations and worries. Apparently, some petcare providers won’t work with puppies, which I understand. Puppies pee on the carpet, a lot. They chew on everything, including the people holding them. They take a lot of supervision and redirection. They’re furry toddlers and they bring chaos. But, my carpet has already been peed on by multiple members of my family, canine and human, and my days are already rather frenzied anyway. Puppies do make it much harder for me to get clothes folded and put away, dishes washed, any writing, but truthfully, I struggle with these things anyway. My counter is covered in dirty dishes right now, but this isn’t new at all for me. Ironically, having puppies near me has given me some motivation to do more, because I want them to be safe with me and I want their humans to know that I love their dogs. I do love them. It doesn’t take long for me to love an animal. Sometimes, I would say it’s instantaneous and many times, it’s mutual. It makes sense that I’m emotionally doing better. The nature of this somewhat accidental work surrounds me in tangible love, in assurance that I’m worth keeping, that I’m needed and wanted.
I’m a bit like a puppy nanny. Some people have been shocked that I’ve picked this gig work up, because it’s not in education, it’s inconsistent, unreliable, and in customer service. Those with unintentional classism believe my degree of education merits that this type of work is beneath me. To those who feel this way about those in customer service, helping people is never work to be ashamed of. Our world exists and functions because of people willing to help, and that should be appreciated not ridiculed. Still there are others who have wondered why I didn’t just choose tutoring, since I can control my hours and have flexibility in that work as well. My answer to this is remarkably simple: people need animals. There are people all over who work jobs with long, inconsistent hours. Paramedics, firefighters, nurses, soldiers, truck drivers, and more. Some of the work with the most bizarre timing also happens to be the most isolating. It’s hard to maintain friendship and relationships when your work hours constantly vary and you’re expected to be available, regardless of how desperately you need to sleep and recover. A dog at home might be disappointed that you took a little longer than you said you would, but they’ll adore you nonetheless when you finally open the door. A canine friendship is what could help so many of these people doing incredibly important work feel grounded to their own lives and not just a cog in the wheel that runs so everyone else can live. A dog can help them live their own, to feel like their dwelling is a home, that they belong to something that isn’t their job. The love of a pet can be the difference between sanity and spiraling into unimaginable sadness. A dog helps you stay awake, to sleep, to get up, to move. Cats do the same for their people. Contrary to what some believe, cats become highly attached to their families and the emotions and needs of the humans they love. Not being able to be home is why so many people choose not to have pets, despite aching for the bond a pet could provide. Having a puppy nanny makes it possible to have a pet, have a job, and not be plagued with guilt that you’re not giving your favorite creature the attention it needs. I’m in no way Mary Poppins, because she is practically perfect in every way and a character like no other, but I do provide something similar. Mary Poppins worked to help the families she cared for connect to each other, to separate work and home, to anchor themselves, to take time and have time to fly a kite. When a very tired person pulls up to get their puppy who wiggles with delight to see their favorite human (they love me, but I’m not their favorite), I’m just helping a family have time to play some frisbee and snuggle on the couch. Like Mary Poppins, I’m helping a family be a family. Unlike Mary Poppins, who came in after the arrival of children, I might be helping a family form, because the assurance of a dog sitter like me is sometimes the difference between getting a pet and having that family or not having one and being on the couch alone.