That's not how it started out, of course.
It was last July, a sunny Sunday morning, and we were sitting at one of the outdoor tables at the Gold Street Cafe (R.I.P.). Waiting a bit too long for our food, I'd read everything interesting in the paper and had finally gotten to the classified ads. And there it was. The ad I'd been waiting for.
Westie Puppies For Sale.
We'd been talking about getting a companion for our 10 year old Westie, Casper. He's a retired stage actor and radio hound. You might have seen him as Sandy in the U-Prep production of Annie a few years ago, or heard him bark a few times over the JPR airwaves when someone would come into the studio unexpectedly while I was announcing some difficult foreign name during Siskiyou Music Hall.
We drove down to Anderson the next day, and met 3 roly poly little Westie puppies. I'm kind of a genealogy buff, and was interested in her lineage...and it turns out (since people actually keep track of this stuff) that Casper was the great grand uncle of these sweet little fuzzy white things. My teenage daughter picked up one especially fluffy ball of fur, and fell in love immediately. We named her Olive.
We introduced her to Whiskeytown Lake almost immediately, and found out within a few weeks that she liked to dog holes in the back yard. She peed on everything, and may have eaten a few bugs, but we love her anyway. She became my husband's puppy, his little girl. Her favorite thing to do (besides chasing and being chased) is to lay on top of Eddie and lick his face as long as he'll let her.
Months later, Eddie was contemplating a career change. To be more accurate, he was laying on the dining room floor, with the dogs both on top of him, and I was talking to him about finding something different to do. We hated that his current job involved him getting up at 3am and working for a guy who wanted to pay him by the hour, yet wanted to pretend Eddie was an independent contractor so he wouldn't have to pay his fair share of taxes or unemployment insurance.
So while Eddie lay there, playing with the dogs, I was trying to come up with some ideas.
We talked about going fishing again, back to Alaska.Which would keep him away for months at a time.
We talked about going back to work for the highway construction outfit that had been so good to him for years in Oregon. The pay was great, but it would keep him away for weeks at a time.
He considered going to work for another grocery merchandising company, which would require him to get up at the butt crack of dawn, and work on the weekends. We'd still never see each other.
I suggested he try something completely different. Maybe working at one of his favorite stores (it's a toss up between Harbor Freight, one of the motorcycle supply stores, or Orchard Hardware). But we realized quickly that all these jobs required him to work weekends. And again, we'd never see each other, he said, as he rolled around on the floor with the dogs, laughing.
He needed a job doing something he loved, surrounded by people he enjoyed, making his own hours, and still having time for his family and his wood carving. And he needed to be able to take Olive to the dog park every single day, because her personality and boundless energy demanded it.
All of a sudden, it came to me.
"Eddie, I figured it out. You need to be a professional dog buddy."
He thought I was joking at first and laughed (well, I think it was a laugh….it was kind of a hacky gurgle because one of the dogs was licking him in the mouth at the time), but I told him I was serious. I've never seen anyone who connected better with dogs, and being there for the dogs was something he took as serious as being there for his family.
"I'm serious! You need to start Puppy P.E."
That got his attention. He sat up, wiped the puppy slobber off his face, and said, "What? You've already named it and everything? You've really been thinking about this."
Indeed I had. The one thing that was keeping Eddie from looking for full time M-F 9-5 work was the dogs. He didn't really trust them (the puppy, that is) at home alone for more than an hour before she'd start eating away at her wicker bed, or dragging chunks of pumice out of our decorative gas fireplace, leaving little piles of toothpicks and sand for us to walk on when we got home.
I figured that there were probably a lot of other people in the same position that we were. We'd adopted and fallen in love with a sweet little puppy, and then discovered that it needed as much attention as a toddler. Even as she got older and became potty trained, if Olive stayed at home without adult supervision, she didn't just need exercise, she demanded it. I started to realize that this couldnt be uncommon. There were other people just like me who came home at the end of a long day at work to a dog bouncing off the walls, getting into all kinds of trouble because it wasn't getting the attention, exercise and socialization it really needed.
And Olive, of course.
We found out that whenever Eddie took Olive to the dog park, while Casper spent his time slowly roaming the outer edges of the fence, peeing on anything that might possibly have been peed on before, Olive got busy making fast friends. And I do mean fast. That little girl started whizzing around the dog park, encouraging, enticing and instigating every dog she came into contact with. She quickly became the ringleader of anything worth leading, the shotcaller of anything worth calling. When Olive arrived at the dog park, She. Had. Arrived. And dogs noticed.
So did their owners, of course, and within a few short months, Puppy P.E. has grown beyond the glorified dog walking service he initially offered. We've found the demand for doggy daycare and boarding in a home that actually treats your dog like family instead of putting it in a kennel for 23 hours and 40 minutes each day is sort of hard to find.
|Puppy P.E. at work on the trail at the Clear Creek Gorge|
But most importantly, my husband is happy. He's fulfilled, and that's what we should be hoping the ones we love the most find in life, right? Fulfillment. He's not getting rich overnight, but he loves what he's doing, and loves his co-workers. He loves his clients, and judging from all the licking and panting, they love him back.
|Syler & Bella in the Puppy P.E. Mobile|
Today's Walking The Dog playlist is all about the dogs, and I think you'll get a kick out of it. Not only is it all about man's best friend, it's some doggone fine music as well! Whether you're a fan of singer songwriters, country & western, reggae or straight up butt rock from the 70's, there's something fun for you in today's streaming playlist. Go fetch!
- Comeback Kid (That's My Dog) - Brett Dennen
- Dog Days Are Over - Florence & The Machine
- Like My Dog - Billy Currington
- Walking The Dog - Run C&W
- Do The Dog - The Specials
- Dog Teeth - Peter Tosh
- Hound Dog - Elvis Presley
- Police Dog Blues - Hugh Laurie
- Salty Dog - The Blues Preachers
- Dog's Life - Kottonmouth Kings
- Black Dog - Led Zeppelin
- Giving The Dog A Bone - AC/DC
- Hair Of The Dog - Nazareth
- Dog Eat Dog - AC/DC
- Alpha Dog - Fall Out Boy
- Dog Park - Minus The Bear
- Dog - Wavves
- I'm Walking The Dog - Patsy Cline