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The Great Pet Sitting Debacle of 1988

Last week First Born pet sat for the first time. She was in charge of feeding the neighbor’s fish.

Which really meant, I was partially in charge of feeding the neighbor’s fish with her.

She’s a tough negotiater, when our neighbor came over and told me he wanted her to do it, I warned him not to give in to what ever exorbitant fee she may charge. He said he had a number in mind, which made me laugh. It’s pretty bad when you have to have a plan to go into negotiations with a nine-year-old. He said his number would not exceed the cost to replace the item she was caring for. They settled on a price, five dollars.

I was nervous about this experience for her. I was certain my nervousness had to do with a personal pet sitting experience from my own childhood. I remember petting sitting when I was a kid very clearly, in fact, I did it only once.

I was probably 12. My mom’s boss lived on a farm, he was going out of town for a week, I (along with my mom) was in charge of taking care of his animals. My responsibilities included feeding his chickens, his hunting dogs, and his horse, which sounded much simpler than it turned out to be.

For my mom and I, the week started off great. Day one and day two went perfectly.

On day three, we noticed a couple of dead chickens in the barn. We didn’t think much of it, and assumed it was possible chickens simply died all the time. We decided it probably wasn’t a good idea to leave the dead chickens in the barn with the others, so we tossed them in the ditch.

On day four, we had even more dead chickens, we tossed them into the ditch next to day three’s dead chickens.

Day five brought us, you guessed it, more dead chickens. We decided it was no longer a fluke and began looking for the problem. Then we noticed the small water bowl we’d been filling up for them had a large hole in the middle of it that we were supposed to fill with water as well. Oops, apparently it’s not normal for a dozen chickens to “just die.” Our chickens died of thirst. We tossed our dead chickens in the dead chicken ditch and moved on, feeling bad about all the chickens we’d killed, but good that we’d solved our dead chicken problem.

On day six we walked into the chicken barn, and all the chickens were alive! Hallelujah! We felt pretty good about ourselves, until we got to the dog pens, where one of them was not well. We loaded up the sick dog in our car and drove to the vet’s office. We got a call later that night telling us, in fact, the dog had died. (One week later found out the dog died of old age, but that didn’t make us feel any better about our animal tending skills at the time.)

By day seven, we could not wait for our pet sitting experience to end! As we drove out to her boss’s farm that final day, I’ll never forget my mom saying, “If that horse is dead today, I’m quitting my job.” Thankfully the horse was alive, and my mom still has the same boss, almost thirty years later.

Which brings us back to today, I’m happy to report, the pet sitting jinx was not passed down to First Born. She did a great job taking care of the fish all week, and most importantly it survived.

-Pete

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