Being a caretaker for my friends’ dogs and homes when they go out of town has suddenly turned into a third job now that some of them are referring me to their friends and colleagues. (Writer and Manny are jobs one and two, if you’re keeping score. Did you forget that I’m a writer? That’s okay, because I do, too, sometimes.) The moon must be in someone’s Uranus today, because I woke up to several emails with caretaker job requests. This is what I get for thinking I might spend a night in Galveston soon, once the risk of Spring Break is fully past. I sorted through my calendar and the emails and now I’m suddenly booked through April and half of May. Crazy.
While I was working all that out downstairs, Penny hopped onto the sofa next to me to say hello. I patted her sweet head, which made her grin, and then she jumped down to patrol the perimeter of the kitchen for food-like objects. She’s been known to eat dust bunnies and taste pebbles if they’re looking especially food-like, which is great when I slack on housekeeping, but I worry that she might ingest something poisonous one day. At least I know how to induce vomiting in dogs.
After she circled the kitchen she sat in front of her food dish and stared. Was she willing food to appear? She’d just had breakfast, so it seemed silly? Why not wait until later, when she’d really be hungry, to magically make food appear in her dish? She stepped forward and sniffed the water dispenser to the right of her food dish and I thought, Oh! She’s not hungry. She’s thirsty.
Months ago, I’d replaced the Compound water dishes with water dispensers, because with five dogs running amok the water dishes were constantly empty. Penny, however, refused to use them. A dog of the streets, Penny prefers puddles, flower pots, and any other water source she can find outside. Becky maintains a pail of water on her front porch for the dogs, so that’s the first place Penny goes whenever I open my door to let her out. It wasn’t until I was giving my dogs treats a couple nights ago that I understood why Penny wouldn’t use the water dispensers. Mine was originally positioned next to my refrigerator and trash can. It just seemed an ideal place to put it. Why was that ideal? It was the first place I put it and I never gave it another thought. When I was tossing treats to the dogs, Penny’s treat bounced off her nose and skittered across the floor, finally coming to rest by the water dispenser. Penny looked at it, but wouldn’t budge to get it. I pointed to it and encouraged her to grab it, thinking maybe it was like dinner to her and she was sitting until I gave her the command to eat, but she refused. Then the light dawned and realized the water dispenser was also on Rex’s food mat. What else is on Rex’s food mat? Yes, his food dish! The treat was too close to Rex’s food dish, which Penny won’t go near, because she knows Rex is superior to her in the chain of command. I picked up the treat and handed it to her, and that’s when I put two and two together and moved the water dispenser next to Penny’s food dish.
It wasn’t until today that she took a tentative drink from the bowl. Of course Pixie had just been there, drinking like a camel about to cross the Sahara, so Penny’s delicate taste of moisture was just enough to lower water, causing the dispenser to refill the bowl, so it gurgled at her, causing her to jump back as if electrocuted. I praised her original bravery, and she returned to the dispenser minutes later. Success!