Picking up a friend’s mail this week (he’s out of town, I’m not stealing mail or anything) has reminded me of some other house-sitting-ish experiences from my past, so let me take you back to 2006, when a young me was living on her own for the first time.
This was post-college, pre-Peanut, and I had recently moved across the country without knowing a soul. That left my social calendar wide open. I was a prime candidate for babysitting, house-sitting and/or dog-sitting, and I got a fair number of requests along those lines.
Of all the pets I spent time with that year, my favorite by far belonged to my landlords. His name was Henry, and he was an old terrier who the landlords rescued from a shelter several years before I met them. In fact, Henry used to live in my apartment before the daughter of the house existed and before the couple was a couple. He was abused at some point in his pre-landlord history, so he was shy.
The landlords wanted me to stay with Henry at night so he wouldn’t be alone so much, and I gladly accommodated. Everything went smoothly until I climbed into bed on the first night of the job and was followed immediately by Henry. I never would have dreamed of letting a dog sleep in my bed!
A look of shock registered on my face, but Henry didn’t notice. He seemed pretty used to the situation, so I thought I would go with it. And if I didn’t already love him at that point, Henry won me over by placing one of his front paws lightly on my leg. He moved a little each time I moved a little, and his paw stayed on my leg all night. He just wanted to make sure I was there. It was pretty much the cutest thing I had ever seen.
So that covers Henry. He was my standard for best dog until Peanut burst into my life. Peanut isn’t shy, and that’s another story.
The second surprise of that job came from a man named Claude. Claude is the father of one of the landlords, and he walked Henry during the day while I was at work. In addition to that task, Claude wrote me a letter every day. He filled an entire page most days with phrases like, “Henry was all wags this afternoon.”
Because I liked Claude from the first note, I wrote back. Claude thought I would care how his morning went and how Henry felt two hours before I got home to him, and I did. He also assumed I would like strawberry shortcake and left the ingredients for me in the fridge. Right again. We never wrote about anything significant, but those letters still made me feel connected to a local family in a way that was really rare at that point in my life. I have those letters stashed away in a file somewhere.
I never did meet Claude, and it’s been three years since I’ve seen Henry’s cute mug, but they still have a special place in my heart.
(What did this have to do with picking up the mail? Not much. I did set the mail on the counter at the landlords’ house though. And the picture was taken by Cindy47452.)