It’s funny how much other people’s perceptions of my dogs matter to me. In April, Lindsay’s (my husband’s) family was visiting Philadelphia for the first time. (I lived overseas with them on and off over the years, so I know them very, very well.) But I had the normal jitters that would be expected when the in-laws are flying in from overseas for the first time. Will they like Philadelphia? What will they think of our house? (And the endless fur/dust bunnies that accumulate mere hours after vacuuming…) How hard will it be to juggle working full-time and hosting/entertaining for two weeks? Will they understand our obsession with Philly restaurants? Will they fall in love with the Phillies if we take them to the ballpark?
But the one question that really perplexed me was, “Will they like our dogs?” Lindsay grew up in a pet-free household. Both of his parents grew up in rural parts of New Zealand and Australia and in their minds, dogs were “working” animals. No farm? No reason to have a dog. My family was the polar opposite. Our family lives for critters. There is an urban legend about my grandfather going out in a snow storm to get vanilla ice cream for one of his Yorkies. (If it’s not factual, it’s probably because something got lost in translation. He was actually going out for STRAWBERRY ice cream in a HURRICANE, not vanilla in a snow storm. Either way, that’s how it was growing up in the Ruddell/Terry family.)
Our dogs are very much, dog-dogs. (And our cat, Ned, who thinks he’s a dog.) They lick, they bark at knocks on the door, they fart, they snarf their food while making weird noises, they greet us at the door with a ridiculous amount of exuberance (even if we’ve only been gone for an hour), etc. I was worried! Are my dogs “too much dog” for my in-laws? It’s funny how personal I took the entire scenario of my Kiwi-family interacting with our pets. If they didn’t like Jax, Lola and Ned, what does that say about how we raised them? Ok, maybe we shouldn’t always let them jump on the couch uninvited, and perhaps we should train them not to bum-rush everyone who walks in the door, but overall, they’re OK grand-monsters, right?
Rest assured, everything was fine. The critters were on their best behavior. (Except for when Jax decided to pee on the floor twice in one night for no apparent reason. Maybe he had to let us all know it was still his house, even if it was invaded by Kiwis. Oh and the fact that Ned would constantly sit on “Mum’s” jackets/jumpers whenever given the chance. She happens to be mildly allergic to cats so she kept her distance, and it became a running joke that she was the only one NOT paying attention to Ned. And he knew it.)
We’ve been looking forward to this reunion for quite sometime. Due to the fact that Lindsay and I find ourselves back in New Zealand just about every year for weddings (we’re at that age), the Kiwi parents just hadn’t made it over to our side of the world. Knowing that they have experienced our city, eaten dinner at our table, and gotten to know our pets makes the gulf between us feel just a little bit smaller. I found myself feeling a sense of pride in my monster family. Sure, they’re not perfect, but they’re ours. And that’s all that matters.
(And for the record, Philly treated our family VERY well. Perfect weather, helpful strangers, awesome food, etc. Way to go hometown!)
Guest Blog Post by Assistant Manager and Minder, Nikki Rockwell
Artist: AJ Bredensteiner (see more information below)
Ever go through the day thinking “If I could have one superpower what would it be?” Well, I think about this question constantly, partly because I’m a secret nerd (it’s a secret?!) and partly because I actually spent an entire year of my graduate school existence writing about superheroes (jealous!) But as I walk through the neighborhoods, fuzzies by my side, I can’t help but notice that I’ve already developed superpowers. No, not the mutant kind where I can shape shift or teleport from place to place with a BAMPH (how cool would that be!?), but the kind of superpowers that come with experience and careful honing of my craft. You know, Batman style! That’s right, I have developed dog-walking superpowers, and I’m sure I’m not the only one! Here are some of the powers that I have developed since hanging with my daily pups!
The ability to answer any questions posed to your pup, as your pup!: That’s right, good ole anthropomorphizing. Has this ever happen to you? A person comes up to your pup and they say “Oh hey sweetie, how are you today?” and you answer, with doggie voice (you all know what I’m talking about here), “I’m good, just sniffin’ around today, making new friends. Can I get pets?” If it has, you are well on your way to having this super loquacious skill! One time I spent nearly 20 minutes having a conversation with a person, speaking as my pup…you can’t make this stuff up!
The ability to carefully craft a usable poop bag out of what I can only refer to as plastic swiss cheese! MacGyver’s got nothing on dog-walkers. Sure, he was able to fashion a transmitter out of some duct tape and match sticks, but is he able to pick up poop with a bag which is 97% negative space without getting any on him? Didn’t think so, only those who spend day in and day out handling poop really understand the usefulness of this power.
Supplemental power: The compliance factor. Being able ask anyone on the street for a bag to scoop the poop. Sometimes my pup has a double doody day and I am ill equipped to clean up the waste. We have all been there. You gotta clean it up, but how? Ask someone! Armed with a smile and a wet-nosed pup I have been able to convince people to actually go into their homes, a block away, and come back out with a bag. No one has ever told me “No”…talk about a much needed superpower!
The ability to know a dog is approaching with only the faint sound of a collar jingle: This power has saved me many backaches and nervous reactions. So I am walking a nervous dog and we are approaching a corner with a 10 ft high wall and no way to see what’s around the block. Then all of a sudden my DW senses go crazy (Dog-walking senses, not all that different from spidey senses). I hear the “ching, ching” coming closer…and BAM, me and the dog are outta there! If your ears perk up at the same time your dog’s do, you have learned everything there is to know about this power, you superstar you.
The ability to take any song and adapt it to fit the doggie’s name and personality. When I first started leashing pups I used simple nursery rhymes and kid songs to sing out the dog’s names. You know, spelling out the dog’s name to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club song etc, but you can only spell a dog’s name so much before you start to reevaluate your place on the planet. I have since created songs using The Beatles and Carly Simon and the like as inspiration; I’m entertained and the pups love to hear their name sung! There are far less challenging things in the word; matching up the meter, the rhythm, the rhyme…what an accomplishment! Your high school English teacher would be proud!
After developing and perfecting all of these superhero/dog-walking capabilities, the only thing left to do is do come up with super rad name…mine is Captain Easywalk!
What’s yours? Leave us a comment!
More Info About the Artist: AJ Bredensteiner has created an entire world of animal friends. In fact, his website, The Animal Friends, showcases some of his first creations. Stay tuned as you get to know more of them. Interested in more information? Contact him.
To say it was a “Championship” would mean we’d have to have a “Champion,” right? Here at The Monster Minders, we’re all champs, so we weren’t really keeping score. (OK, we kind of were, but we paid for two hours of lane time and the power was cut to our lanes right at two hours, so there’s no really telling who “won.”)
We had a blast! PEPBowl is hands-down my favorite place to bowl in the city, but, sssshhh, don’t tell anyone. With only six lanes, we can’t let the entire city know about this gem on Broad and Federal. Never been? You’re missing out – forget all of the fancy bowling allies you’ve been too. This is like the bowling joint you probably remembered as a kid (minus about 20 lanes and screaming children at birthday parties.) No frills, no fuss, just a wonderful, laid back atmosphere. (Call ahead because there are quite a few bowling leagues that take the place over during the week.)
Here are some of our favorite pics of the evening
Written by Nikki Rockwell, The Monster Minders Assistant Manager
When I first knew that I was going to be jumping into the world of wet noses and wagging tails I consulted a friend in the dog-walking biz. She said “Dog-walking is an introvert’s dream job!” The first thing I thought was “Uh oh”. Being the rather extroverted, outgoing, will talk to a plant if it showed interest type of person I said “No Sir! How am I going to use my gift of gab?”
Before coming to the fuzzy friend world, I spent all of my adult life in front of a group of students (teenagers being my specialty) teaching, lecturing and creating a community through exchanged ideas. So when my friend said that dog-walking was an introvert’s paradise I was admittedly nervous about losing the sense of community that I’ve become so accustomed to. (Not to mention the captive audience forced to listen to my every thought.) Little did I know that I was simply going from one community to another! Now besides spending a good portion of my day talking to pups and receiving good, positive snargles in return, I’ve become a fixture in the neighborhoods I walk in.
There is not one day that goes by that I don’t hear “Oh, you are the dog-walker, I see you walking my neighbor’s dog!’ Or, “Where is Ellie? I was looking forward to seeing her all day!” Shopkeepers, PPA officers, postal workers, all of them know me and the pups that I walk, and all of them have stories to tell and snuggles to give (to the pups of course). I have heard all about their present and past critter kids and what makes them tick. One thing I’ve learned is that people will take any opportunity to rave on about their pets (and I absolutely LOVE listening about their pets’ quirks). I now know that Mr. Bo doesn’t like the rain but has a tail that looks like a shark fin when he is charging through feet of snow. I also know that Willis only likes dogs that are around his age and cannot be bothered with puppies. Sadly, I’ve also had several neighbors come up to me and give me pictures of their lost kitties so I could help keep an eye out for them on my travels around the neighborhood (I keep them in my binder just in case). Happily, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of a few reunions as well.
An introvert’s dream job? Only if you manage to run away from everyone you see! Animal lovers will seek you out and I (and most of my pup companions) gladly welcome the company! In fact, when I’m with a pup, I feel as if every person on the street is a potential new friend. But this could just reflect my dogs’ influence on me. Next thing you know I’ll be chasing squirrels!
We’re beyond thrilled to announce that we are partnering up with the fantastic folks at Opportunity Barks for continuing education for our Minders. Our Minders are serious dog-experts, many with years of professional experience working with dogs and their owners. But, we can always learn more.
As such we reached out to our colleague, Leigh Siegfried (owner and founder of OpBarks) to see if she’d like to join us for regular staff training sessions. And she’s on board! She’ll be attending staff meetings and giving Minders demos and lectures about various dog training and behavioral issues, followed by Q&A sessions so we can pick her brain. Many of our clients have worked with Leigh and her staff, and we’re excited to give The Minders the chance to tap into their expertise. (Leigh also helped us develop our orientations for The Monster Milers volunteer running group when we launched that in 2010.)
About Opportunity Barks: ” We at Opportunity Barks™ believe that every interaction with your dog is a learning opportunity. We use these daily opportunities to design a training plan that works for you, your dog and your life. We use humane, positive methods to create relationships based on respect, fun and play.”
First up for February’s Staff Meeting, a question that we get from clients all of the time: “How do I stop my dog from pulling?” Leigh is going to give us easy tips and tricks that we can not only utilize while on walks, but also share with our clients on a daily basis. We hope that your dog gets more out of Monster Minder daily walks than “just exercise.” Dare we say we want to give them a “doggie education” too?
Find out more about OpBarks on their website. Leigh and her team provide private and group training sessions, fun classes such as “Circus Class” (AKA the class you’ll want to take to teach our dog quirky party-tricks!) agility lessons, phone consultations and more.
VSEC (Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care) opened a hospital in the Pennsport neighborhood of South Philadelphia on February 4, 2013. We were invited to the ribbon-cutting on Feb. 2nd by our long-term client and friend, Kathy Kazmierski VMD, DACVIM (Oncology at VSEC). We were honored to be invited, and not just because the cookies were tasty. (Every Grand Opening should involve cookies in my humble opinion.)
The second you walk into the space, you can tell it’s “different.” It’s bright and fresh. And it’s a welcome addition to Front Street and the Pennsport neighborhood. VSEC is easy to get to for many of us in Center City, and let’s face it – if you’re experiencing an emergency with your pet, distance matters.
Kathy took us “backstage” and humored all of my questions such as, “What does that machine do?” “Did that machine cost more than my house?” I found it really interesting to see what a vet emergency hospital looks like behind-the-scenes. Sadly, my aversion to blood and guts means that I will never go to vet school, but it was neat all the same.
The hospital has flat screen monitors EVERYWHERE, which will link the kennel attendants, techs and vets directly to each animal’s files and medical needs on a constant basis. When they say it’s a state-of-the-art facility, they are not joking around. I said to Kathy, “I hope I never have to come here, but I’m happy that you guys are in the neighborhood should we be faced with an emergency or medical crisis.”
VSEC in South Philly is a 24/7 Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center. What does that mean? Pet parents won’t be going to VSEC for annual check-ups or general vaccinations. Continue going to your vet for these types of services. You’ll go to VSEC if you need advanced care for your pet (or in an emergency). Services provided:
- Critical Care
- Dermatology & Allergy
- Diagnostic Imaging
- Emergency Medicine
- Holistic Medicine & Acupuncture
- Internal Medicine
- Radiation Oncology
- Radioactive Iodine (I-131)
1114 South Front St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(Front Street, just below Federal)
Are you as excited as we are about the new VSEC Hospital?