Friday, 12 June 2009

Too Many Cats Killed on Our Roads

A few days ago, a car in front of me knocked down a cat. It lay, kicking, on its back while the car drove off. I stopped, remembered my hazards and ran over thinking, please die now, die now.
The cat was bleeding from everywhere. I knew it was hopeless because of a pet first aid course I’d laughed my way through. We’d practised on a dog manikin called Casper – CPR, get it? Made jokes about his lack of gender and other childish stuff.
But I felt for a pulse in the cat’s femoral artery – nothing. Now I knew that the writhing and the kicking were nerves and adrenalin. But my eyes didn’t believe this.
I carried him to the pavement, cradled his warm ginger body and told him that, had he lived, he would have been a king among cats, a mouser like no other, Top Cat.
Running from house to house to find an owner, I wondered if I found one, would they think it was me, the cat killer? I might have to assure them that were it me, I would have been a blithering mess and incapable of coherent speech.
At the fifth house, a man with greying, almost shoulder length hair, answered the door. Yes, he had a ginger cat, a rescue cat about two years old.
Clamped under his arm was The Guardian and in the other hand, a half eaten baguette.
So I ran with Guardian man and when he cried on the cat’s body, I cradled him too. Then I gave him a towel from my car, a dirty dog towel. We had a short, polite tussle over my giving up a precious towel – the blood might not wash out. I no longer needed the towel, I said. I have a hundred, no, a thousand towels.
I didn’t take the number of the car that killed the cat and I never asked what the cat’s name was. A name would have made a hard thing harder. Perhaps it’s good that I don’t know who hit and then ran. It’s just a cat. No law says you have to stop. Unless you count decency and kindness of course. Maybe the driver was young and frightened. Or old and agitated? I don’t want to believe differently.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Keys are Your Friends...Really

Most petsitters I know hate keys. It's not that we have some kind of phobia about them - although that would be understandable - it's simply that they have all the power.
That terrible moment when you either shut a client's door knowing that your keys are inside on the work surface, or you reach a pet's home and realise that the owners have bolted the door from the inside, give me shivers.

I now have a good line of attack which is this:

Always get a set of front and back door keys. This is completely necessary because under Health and Safety laws, you must have a second exit route in case of fire.

Before you confirm a booking, try out the keys yourself. The client may have had that spare key for a while and not realise it's gone rusty.

Attach all keys to you. You can use a piece of leather round your neck or a clip on retractable cord. I clip this to my jeans.

Keep any keys you aren't using in your locked file or safe

Only have the pets names on the keys, not client's name.

WD40 can loosen up sticky locks.

One of my key experiences:

I walked a Labrador for a few years who, like all his breed, loved to carry things in his mouth. This fine and sunny June morning as he jumped into the back of my car, he snatched the keys out of my hand just at the moment I closed the rear door with the other. This particular car locked itself the moment the door closed. So there was Jack, car keys dangling from his gob and me, helpless, outside.

The temperature was rising fast and I knew I coudn't leave Jack in what was becoming an oven. I rang the AA who quoted half and hour but this was too long. I called my husband who told me how to break the window - you have to hit it at the right point apparently, something he learnt in the forces...hmm. So I hurled a rock at what I prayed was the right spot and the glass fell away. Hurrah. Jack wasn't bothered but my hands shook all the way home. A very expensive lesson for me:(

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Treading on Thin Ice

Brr...As the UK seems to be heading for another cold snap, I thought I'd issue a severe weather warning of my own:

Beware of dogs and ice!

A good few years ago I was walking my three dogs by a huge frozen lake. Now these dogs all hated the water even the terrier x Lab, Archie. But this day, Archie decided to fling himself across the ice in a well executed flying spin. His life - and mine if I was stupid enough to risk the ice - flashed before my eyes. How would I tell my children? Could I ever forgive myself? Of course I should have realised that dogs can't know the dangers. To Archie the scary water was now a new pasture for him to explore. There he was,pirouetting amongst the gobsmacked ducks, ignoring my calls and pretending to be Dean - or should it be Torvill? - while I watched helplessly by the shore. Eventually, I remembered I had an ace and shouted, 'chicken!'into the frozen air. He came skating back and, of course, I told him he was a good boy and gave him a treat, while crying into my scarf.

Tip - If your clients house their dogs outside, get them to hang a thermometer in the kennel. It's illegal to keep dogs in temperatures below 10c so if it drops this low, suggest they buy a kennel heater.

And don't forget about you. I won't go all mumsy on you and tell you to wear your vest, but a good hat and a piece of healthy(ish) cake, will help keep you warm. For the easiest and tastiest cake, look in this fab book, How to feed your whole family... The 'wholesome' cake recipes are great.

Did any one see the Trinny and Suzanne Meet Their Match with the dog owning girls? Loved it.

The photograph in this post is used with kind permission from Phil Lee. Find him and more stunning photographs here.


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Last Minute Dog Biscuits

These beautiful girls are owners of my good friend Lane, who helped me so much with my book. She is also a fine writer and devoted pet lover. Her short stories are just great. Check them - and her dogs - out at

Dog Biscuit Recipe:

Last minute Christmas presents for pets can be expensive but a few home made dog bones or biscuits are quick and easy and much appreciated. Okay, these aren't hugely healthy - well they are in comparison to some commercial dog food - but if you allow only three or four per pet - making sure, of course, that the dogs aren't gluten allergic and that the family has no children with nut allergies, these peanut butter treats go down well.

You'll need:

12oz Plain flour
20oz cheese
50ml milk
Three quarters Tbs baking powder
Three quarters Tbs peanut butter

Mix peanut butter and milk together first until fairly smooth
In another bowl, mix flour and baking powder
Mix everything together - help yourself to a Christmas sherry at this point:)
Knead the mixture and then - on a floured surface, roll out and cut into shapes or small squares.
Sprinkle grated chesse on top of biscuits
Bake for 15 - 20 mins
Cool and then wrap in spare wrapping paper and deliver to your clients.

I'm sure there are better recipes out there so do share please:)

Happy petsitting and Happy Christmas

Saturday, 15 November 2008

The Sharp End

So far I haven't pet sat a diabetic hamster. It's just a matter of time. Giving insulin either by pills or injection, has become part of the job. For my first diabetic pet, I asked not only the owner to show me what to do, but my vet as well. And I was so worried. 'Sammy will hate me,'I'd cried to the owner of a long haired tabby when she explained my duties.

Sammy, who's eleven with a waistline bigger than the whole of him, didn't even flinch as I eased the needle into a fold of skin between his shoulders. But just to make sure I was still on his Dead Mouse to Go list, I played ping pong with him - not with bats you understand, just paws - for half and hour before leaving him on squirrel watch.

Tip: practise injecting an orange first and make sure you push up a drop of insulin out before you inject. You want to make sure you eliminate air bubbles. Oh, and rub the injection site before and after injecting to relieve any nerve pain.