22 CommentsDogs, Dogsitting Adventures - Chapters, Memoir

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Dogs have always been part of my life; a love passed down from generation to generation. Protracted unemployment in the early 90s required some creativity. Thus, my pet care business was born.
This is a continuing series.

(Click HERE for more chapters)



Muskoka was a massive yellow lab and a first ever dog for his owners, Rick and Janet. They travelled a lot, so, he stayed with me quite often.

A wonderful guest indoors; he didn’t bother with the other dogs much and was perfectly house trained. You can imagine how important this is to a dogsitter! (It’s one of my stipulations, but some people actually lie about it. )

Outside was a whole different story, however. Muskoka had a fetish. Anything he saw on the ground was immediately swallowed, no matter what it was. Kleenex, lost gloves, even cigarette butts. Shortly after he was dropped off one day, I took him for a walk and he immediately threw up a large pile of them. Disgusting!

cigarette butts

One wonders how this was allowed to happen. My best guess is that somebody dumped the contents of their car’s ashtray on the ground and Muskoka’s owners weren’t paying close attention. You have to watch these “garbage hounds” like a hawk, at all times! Even still, sometimes they’re so quick, nothing can be done about it. Muskoka caused me worry on a couple of occasions; once by swallowing a glove and another time, a broken tennis ball. Down the hatch they went, before I got a chance to fish them out of his mouth. Fortunately, in both instances, he regurgitated the objects within hours. You can imagine my relief!

broken tennis ball

He wasn’t always so lucky. A few years later, Janet told me the story of their family’s frantic Christmas. Muskoka had swallowed a sock and they were expecting to find the expelled remains, as usual. Nothing was forthcoming however and a few days later, the poor dog refused to eat, (alarming on its own!), and seemed to be in pain. An X-ray revealed the sock, coiled around his intestinal tract and emergency surgery was performed immediately.


Thankfully, he did make a full recovery, but, started gaining weight. I suspect his owners were giving him too many treats, in order to break him of the sock habit. That part was accomplished, but it came to the point where just walking would cause severe breathing difficulties. I always try to be honest with my clients, albeit diplomatic. My concern was for Muskoka’s health and I gave Rick and Janet some suggestions to help him lose weight, (prescription diet food and no more of those 50 calorie a pop “Marrow Treats”.) To their credit, they took this advice to heart. Muskoka’s next visit was about 8 months later and he was a svelte and handsome Dude, with plenty of energy.

yellow-lab-running-with-tongue-hanging out

All was well for a long time, then came the unhappy news that Muskoka had injured his right knee and needed another operation. Sadly, he wasn’t quite the same after that, (similar to most of us with gimpy knees), but, the weight stayed off and he was otherwise a normal Lab. As is often the case, his left knee started to go too and a few more years went by, with him hobbling around. It came to the point where he could barely move and wouldn’t eat. Dogs are often adept at conveying the message that they want to go to their final rest. Rick and Janet heeded the signs and said one final goodbye to their boy when he was 13; that’s 80 in human years.

Tears were shed by all. Muskoka had been coming to my home since he was a mere lad of 18 months. On a happy note, it was less than a year later that Parker came into the family. A grand nephew of Muskoka, he had similar facial features, but, a completely different personality.

yellow lab puppy

That’s a story for another day.

© D.D.B. 2013

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Debbie D.
Canine Innkeeper in suburban Toronto, Canada, known as "The Doglady". Writer/website owner, photographer, animal lover, music fanatic, inveterate traveller. History, literature and cinema buff. Eternal "hippie/rockchick". Binational, German/Canadian and multilingual. Looking for the next adventure!
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  1. It’s so weird what dogs will eat. From what I understand they don’t have a sense of taste? Perhaps that explains it if that’s true. But agreed, why was it allowed to happen.

    1. Dogs’ taste buds aren’t as fully developed as ours; they rely on their superior sense of smell, instead. How any dog would be interested in cigarette butts is beyond me, though.

    1. Glad you liked it, Susee. It’s my WIP. Eight chapters, so far. Nice to meet you and thanks for visiting. 🙂

  3. I love dog stories, so I’m looking forward to the book and until then, I’ll keep up with the blog. Our cockapoo, Dino, would eat everything when we first adopted him. He did the usual puppy furniture chewing and pillow disemboweling, but he also loved to eat plastic and pencils, pens and markers. Fortunately, he’s too short to counter surf, but if you turned your back on any food on the table —- well, there would no longer be food in the table. He’s pretty good about not eating non food items now, except that on walks, all bets are off and we have to scan ahead if him looking for things he might consider edible because there is no getting him to drop something was he decides he wants to eat it. He has never needed surgery, but he did have to be hospitalized for three days once when he couldn’t keep anything down, including liquids. The discharge diagnosis was “dietary indescretion”. The bill for the university based vet hospital? Don’t ask.

    1. Hello fellow Boomer and thanks for visiting. 🙂 I can totally relate to scanning ahead and yes, once a dog like that wants to eat something, there’s no stopping him, for sure. Glad to know Dino’s dietary indiscretions haven’t led to surgery, but, three days at the vet hospital are bad enough; also for the bank account. Sometimes these “indiscretions” lead to diarrhea alone, in which case Metronidazol works wonders! Get your vet to prescribe some and keep it on hand, if it’s a common occurrence.

  4. Hi Debbie – Muskoka obviously just had that famous labrador ‘eating’ gene – my lab Toby’s got it really bad, hasn’t had to have anything surgically removed yet, but I’m amazed he’s made it to 8yrs without serious problems because he just eats EVERYTHING. He has a special fondness for tissues and will blatantly steal them out of my pockets, which is hilarious.

    Thanks for sharing Muskoka’s story – sounds like he was a much loved pet who gave a lot of joy.

    1. Hi Sue; Yes, he sure did have that famous gene. 🙂 Your Toby has been lucky and may he continue to be. Thankfully, Muskoka did not have the other, famous Lab gene; “poop eating”. Yes, we all loved him, despite his foibles. Glad you enjoyed the story and thanks for visiting.

  5. My sister-in-law had a lhasa apso like that Debbie. It’s really not funny but in a way it was when you were waiting for them to poop out what they had eaten. Luckily I’ve never owned a dog that ate everything. Both of mine were fabulous and never overate at all.

    Still sounds like Muskoka had a really good life and a fabulous care taken when he was with you.


    1. Yes, it’s a major challenge to have a dog who’s a “garbage hound”, for sure. Glad you had a better experience with yours, Adrienne. Muskoka was much loved and definitely had a good life. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

  6. Hi Debbie,

    Very lovely when I hear about the doggie actions with full energy in ’em 🙂 Like having a baby around. You have written the story very well too 🙂

    Eventually, it’s really sad when I hear he had to go. Hope he’s with angels around.

    Those injuries are normal at that age? or it is caused by his swollowing habit dear? Jus’ curious 🙂

    Have a nicey day Debbie 🙂


    1. Thank you, Mayura. Am hoping to turn these memoirs into a book, at some point. Glad you like it. 🙂 Perhaps you would enjoy the previous chapters, as well? (Links provided in the post). Muskoka’s injuries had nothing to do with his “eating” habits; just wear and tear. Yes, it was sad when he had to go, but that’s actually a good lifespan for Labs. The larger the breed, the shorter the lifespan. generally. We all have to go, at some point, 🙁 Thanks again and have a great week.

  7. Lovely story. Sad he had to go but glad his owner’s realized when it was time. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for visiting and glad you enjoyed the story. 🙂 Yes, it is the most unselfish act of all to do what is in the dog’s best interest, also the most heartbreaking, as every pet owner knows, all too well.

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