Column: Dog Walker, Pet Sitter, All Species!

By Susan Parker
Tuesday March 13, 2007

“Tell that guy I don’t board dogs, and I refuse to stay at somebody’s house and pet sit.” 


“Tell him that the customers have to provide their own plastic bags. I’ll pick up poop, but with their bags, not mine.” 


“What did you say his name was?” 

“Craig. It’s craigslist, and— 

“Well, tell Craig List I’ve got experience with all kinds of animals, not just dogs and cats, and— 

“Dad, it’s not Craig List. It’s craigslist. It’s not a person, it’s a website. I’m putting your ad in cyberspace.” 

“How much does it cost?” shouted Mom from the kitchen. “I don’t want to waste good money on the impossibility of finding an old man a job.” 

“I can work!” yelled Dad. “I’ve got plenty of skills— 

“It’s free,” I said. “Running a community ad on craigslist is free.”  

“Free?” asked Dad. “How can that be?” 

“Run the ad,” shouted Mom. 

I was visiting Las Vegas, trapped in the desert with two argumentative octogenarians. My father had once again been complaining about his lack of employment. A decade ago, back in New Jersey, he’d been retired for six months. Then he’d gotten a job as a divot replacer on a nearby golf course. He had dreams of driving powerful tractors and complicated lawn mowers, but after a few years of carrying a bucket and replacing holes in putting greens, he’d quit. Now he was locked up with my mother in a retirement community in northwest Las Vegas. There seemed to be no employment opportunities for an energetic, feisty 81-year-old who spent half a year in Nevada and the other half in New Jersey.  

“Let me see what you wrote,” said Dad, peering over my shoulder at the computer screen. “I wanna make sure you listed all my best qualities.” 

I read the ad aloud to him. Mom hovered outside the doorway, eavesdropping. 

“Need someone to walk your dog, or look after your pet/s while you’re gone? I’m a retired biologist who is up early and available to exercise dogs, feed pets, give medicines, run errands. I’m well acquainted with all species, including reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, and furry creatures, big and small (pet rats, guinea pigs, gerbils, rabbits, hamsters, etc.) Fee negotiable. Respond via e-mail.” 

“I don’t want your father walking big dogs,” said Mom. “It’s not safe.” 

“Nonsense,” said Dad. “Leave it in. I can walk any dog, big or small. Hell, I could walk a wolf or a mountain lion.” 

Mom rolled her eyes. 

“Remember that time I wrestled a bear? I was in the Army, and— 

“That was over 60 years ago,” said Mom. “You were drunk.” 

“It was a big, smelly bear,” said Dad. “From Texas.” 

“Look,” I said, interrupting an argument I’d heard on and off for the past 50 years. “We’ll run the ad. What can it hurt? You can screen potential customers on the telephone. If you don’t want to walk their dog or feed their mice, you don’t have to. What do you have to lose?” 

“Tell Craig to run it,” instructed Dad. 

“Are you sure it’s free?” asked Mom. 

Later that day Dad and I took a walk. We ran into a couple following a small gray Schnauzer, a dog who looked just like my beloved, departed Whiskers.  

“I’m a professional dog walker,” Dad announced while I petted their little pooch. 

“Really,” said the woman. “How interesting.”  

“Yes,” said Dad. “I’d give you one of my cards but I left them at home.”  

“Dad,” I said. “You— 

“I’m good with any kind of animal,” said Dad. “I can do anything.” 

“Really,” said the man. 

“The only thing I don’t do is provide plastic bags,” said Dad. “You’ll have to do that.” 

The man and woman nodded. They appeared anxious to continue their walk. Dad and I headed in the opposite direction, but after a few steps Dad turned and shouted after them. “You can look me up at Craig’s,” he said with unabashed, youthful enthusiasm. “It’s free!”