Dog care as ancestral healing: Hear me out
My side job as a dog caregiver has revealed another side of Austin and of myself.
Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a little series about losing our dog during the pandemic and turning to pet care as a source of both income and healing in the wake of our loss. To read the first post, click here.
Losing an animal is a life-changing moment for most of us.
Whether it’s a goldfish or a golden retriever, the death of something we love is a painful loss and a reminder that we all die, two tough blows, no matter if you’re 5 or 55.
When our 17-year-old blue heeler died in 2020, I wrote about how the pandemic shaped her last few years. We haven’t added a new dog to our family, but we almost always have a dog at our house, thanks to the wonderful family side gig that is Rover.
After Shiva died, we didn’t plan on getting a pet anytime soon — our farm animals are plenty — but in fall of 2021, we started watching and caring for dogs (and cats) as a way to bring in some extra income and to let the boys help me earn extra money by walking and feeding our furry guests.
It was Avery’s suggestion: “Hey, Mom, isn’t there a website where we can get paid to walk dogs?”
Fast forward more than a year, and dog-watching has become one of the true joys and sources of satisfaction in my life. I’ve met some of the most interesting people and dropped off dogs in neighborhoods from Far East Austin to Steiner Ranch. After the first few weeks of feeding, walking and cleaning up after these treasured companions, it started to settle in: I am doing a really important job.
Harnessing the energy needed to deal with all these different canines has been a skill I’ve had to develop, and more often than not, I think about how my dad interacted with dogs. He was the one who showed up one school night with a long-haired Sheltie-Collie mix that loved to eat carrots. We kept the name from the shelter, Bernie.
As I write this column today, I have another pup by my side: Sita. I’d call her a four-legged friend, but she only has three legs. She is the first and (so far) only tripod dog we have cared for.
Sita’s owners are two of the most amazing women I’ve ever met, and I wouldn’t have crossed paths with them without this dog-watching business.
Within a minute or two of meeting, one of her moms held my gaze and said, “Thank you for being the kind of person who can hold space for a dog like Sita. We appreciate you.”
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Feminist Kitchen to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.