Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Pooch Palace: A Segment on Odd Jobs

(This post is a very long time coming. Dedicated to my aunt Trisha, thank you for your continued support of me, happy birthday)

The summer after my freshman year in college, I got my first REAL job. By that, of course, I mean the first job that gave me a paycheck with a tax form I had to fill out on my "first" "day." You may be wondering how I, a nineteen year old girl got her very first "real" job at the (some might say) old age of eighteen, and the answer to that is that I have always been under-qualified, lazy, and more willing to devote time to writing workshops than jobs, thinking that, in the future, the writing workshops would...prepare me writing.

How did I get this job? Well, naturally, I applied like all other human beings to a position in a field I was kinda sorta interested in pursuing - wait, no, no, that's not me. My mom's friend got me the job and after a weird interview, I got the job!!! Oh, and my place of employment was The Pooch Palace (a fabricated name for a Very Real Place, in order to avoid copyright upon this blog's inevitable fame). It was, and is because it remains to this very day (I pass it, shamefully, every time I come home from an eastbound direction), a place for dogs to go instead of being home alone. A sort of daycare, if you will.

As my dad drove me back home after my job interview, I imagined the great job I'd secured and pitied those in jobs like waitressing, retail, babysitting - after all, I would be getting paid to pet puppies all summer long.
My own dog, Maddy, who inspired me to take this job even though she is the least dog-like dog on earth
How naive I was, thinking that because I love dogs I would love this job, that I wouldn't mind standing for hours, picking up dog waste because I'd be surrounded by cute loving animals. I should've known something was off about the place when, in my second meeting with the manager on my "first day," when she gave me a red shirt and explained the job in detail to me, she started crying while talking about a dog who had recently been put-down. As someone who also cries when thinking about losing a dog, I understood her on some emotional level, but the more critical part of me was extremely disturbed. Seeing an authority figure cry is like seeing a turtle without its shell or a mouth with no teeth.

Ignoring these obvious signs from God or the universe, I kept the job and regretted it by my third shift, when I was reduced to tears by the expectations of a boy my age and a middle-aged woman who obviously was enough of a dog person she couldn't communicate to other humans.

I was warned about dogs, too, which ones were most likely to make an escape, which would bite, and which were very timid. I started to fear dogs and their teeth. One afternoon during a shift, I was restraining a dog and it slipped out of its collar, prompting me to run around chasing it for twenty minutes, my jeans wet and sliding down my body, the dog laughing at me, my coworkers staring and not helping or offering advice.

The best and worst parts of my shift were feeding the dogs. The best, because for twenty glorious minutes I could focus on just mopping up dog hair and urine and not worry about Mitsy and Jasper fighting or mounting one another. The worst, because the process involved physically blocking the dogs and sending them one by one out of their gates and into their cages to eat. Anytime a dog escaped during this high stakes process, it was always my fault, even if I wasn't working at that gate.

Like an Edgar Allan Poe short story, my work was slowly driving me mad. At night, I was plagued by images of dogs and heard the faint sound of barking in the back of my mind always. I never smelled good in the entire month I worked there and the jeans I wore there retain the stench of dog, even after multiple washings.

What was the final straw, you may wonder? Was it the smell? The shoes, always wet, leaving my feet damp for hours after? One shift, I spent the entire time on my hands and knees cleaning a dog's dirty cage and realized that this was not the life I wanted. My fear and anxiety of dogs and cleaning supplies and tennis shoes had increased and I was sick of it; I wanted to live and this job was impeding my lavish lifestyle.

I didn't quit like a normal person, either, and when I did quit, they held my paychecks hostage until I returned to them the ugly red tee shirt that smelled, always, like dog. When I finally got the nerve up to drive there and go inside, my boss only gave me one paycheck and frostily asked where the whistle was. Of course, I didn't think they'd want that disgusting object that I'd put my own lips in, my own germs, and of course this saga would be drawn out one more day.

I can happily say it's been one year since this experience and I've finally come back to loving dogs and show no visible signs of fear of them or tennis shoes. Never again will I take a job because I have lofty ideas about animals.


  1. I'm so happy you have accepted tennis shoes back into your life :) Proud of you for this entire experience. Love ya.

  2. LOVED THE PART ABOUT EDGAR ALLAN POE also i left a comment on this post like 3 days ago but it didn't go through GO FIGURE. you're writing in amaze as usual. I REMEMBER LIVING THROUGH THIS WITH YOU even though we're mortal enemies