I love dogs. When I heard that my friend from Timisoara started her own dog sitting business, I had to ask if there was any chance I could help. I’d no idea what I was getting myself into.
Dog sitting is a great way to fund your travels around the world, if you can find the work. Last year, I signed up for Trusted House Sitters and had a couple great jobs. Unfortunately, that website is primarily based in the UK, and I didn’t find any use for it in other countries around the world.
Tina, my Romanian friend from Timisoara, started RinTinTin Dog Sitting last year, which she runs from her apartment in Bucharest with her boyfriend. In Romania, the first week of June has a five-day weekend with two holidays coinciding. As such, there are a lot of people looking to take a vacation that need to leave their dog with a sitter. Tina also wanted to take a vacation, so she called me up and asked if I could cover for the weekend.
She originally said I would be dog sitting three dogs. There would also be a Beagle to walk for a couple hours, one of the days. As the weekend approached, she asked if I could handle a fourth dog. I said that was fine. Turns out, I ended up with five, plus the Beagle!
The first dog to arrive on Thursday morning was a Bichon Havanese, otherwise known as a furball of exquisite cuteness. Her name was Tara, and we instantly fell in love. Over the weekend, she would sleep in my arms in bed, which she guarded from the other dogs sharing.
Next to arrive that night was the mutt Roua – meaning “dew” in Romanian. Roua was a rescue dog, something of a German Shepard mix. She entered the apartment with her tail between her legs, and promptly sprayed half a liter on the floor. She quickly warmed up to me, and claimed her spot in my bed after Tara.
On Friday, I took Tara and Roua with me to pick up Gordon the Beagle. We went out to a local dog park – a small enclosed part of nearly every park in Bucharest. Gordon was lovely, but after two hours I had to return him.
On Saturday, I received an unexpected guest. I knew I had a Beagle coming, but instead I was delivered a black dog, which I didn’t realize until later was a pit bull named Ragnar. Boy was he a handful. Not only did he never seem to sleep, he was constantly teasing and taunting the other dogs. Also, it seems Bucharestians have a morbid fear of pit bulls. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but nearly every person I passed would exclaim something out of fear when they saw him. He also was the least house-trained of the five, although I did manage to teach him the English command “sit” before I left.
Shortly after he arrived, I got the call that the Beagle I was expecting had arrived. I took the elevator down to get him. That’s when disaster struck. I reached the ground floor, but the elevator doors didn’t open. The elevator then slowly began to climb, floor by floor, until it reached the 9th floor at the top of the building. Then -2 (lower parking) lit up on the panel. I immediately hit the ground, lying prone and preparing for a drop. While you’re not guaranteed to survive, I learned a long time ago it’s the best position in a falling elevator to minimize injuries.
The elevator didn’t drop. The doors didn’t open. It didn’t do anything. The -2 button continued to flash, but there was no way to open the doors or reset the elevator. I tried to text Tina and the owner of the Beagle, but there was no service in the elevator. There never is. Luckily, the malfunction didn’t affect the emergency button. After pushing it for 10 seconds, I was connected to an operator, who by the grace grace of God spoke enough English to understand where I was and send a technician to my rescue.
With nothing else to do, I sat on the floor and read an e-book on my phone. Forty-five minutes later, someone arrived and tried to pry open the doors. They got it an inch, and then gave up and left. A few minutes after that, the elevator started moving, slowly dropping all the way to -2. The doors opened and I jumped out. I waited outside for the technicians to thank them. A couple minutes later, I got a call from the owner of the Beagle. He had left, but was coming back to drop off the puppy in a couple minutes.
Aussie the Beagle was nearly as wild as Ragnar, and barely better housebroken. I ended up having to keep him on the balcony with Rangar most of the time, if only to protect the other dogs. But as crazy as he was, Beagles are still some of my favorite dogs, and we enjoyed each other’s company.
Finally, on Saturday night I got the fifth and last dog. A huge English bulldog aptly named Winston Churchill. He was by far the most chill dog, preferring to sit or sleep on the floor most of the day. However, he was an alpha, and brooked no nonsense when it came to the other dogs. He barked at Ragnar every time he started to whine, and would get quite upset with any dog that teased him too much. He also had the obstinance characteristic of his breed, and getting him to the apartment’s dog park 100 feet away was quite a game.
That night was the hardest. Ragnar and Aussie wouldn’t stop playing, whining and peeing, despite two trips to the dog park. Winston wouldn’t stop barking at their antics. And Tara and Roua were competing to see who would sleep with me. I finally managed to get the two rascals to sleep on the patio, while Tara and Roua each shared a side of my bed.
On Sunday, I left Winston at the flat (he’s not one for walks) and took the other four dogs to a larger dog park near the house. Walking four dogs on the streets of Bucharest is a challenge, to say the least, but we made it with only one hiccup when Tara slipped her harness in the park. Quickly recovering her, we spent a couple hours in the shade of the trees with a great view of the lake.
That afternoon, Tara was picked up. Aussie left on Monday afternoon, and Tina arrived Monday night to take over. I’d managed to keep the house in decent order, and supposedly had even cleaned it more than usual. With dog sitting every weekend, there were some things that Tina just didn’t bother to try keeping clean. After all, it seems a clean window is a magnet for a dog’s nose.
When I say I survived the weekend, I’m not actually referring to the dog sitting. All the messy accidents I had to clean up aside, I had a great time with all the dogs and puppies, and I would watch them again in a heartbeat. I was pleasantly surprised when Tina mentioned she herself had never watched so many dogs at one time. But then, I am known for going all out.
No, I was referring to surviving the Tower of Terror in the elevator. There was a small part of me that thought I might not make it. However, even in the face of that, I was able to keep my cool, and came out of it fine. Good thing I’m not claustrophobic, or afraid of heights!
The pay for the six dogs was quite good, and will either cover my living expenses for the month, or perhaps a short trip to Cyprus or Sweden. I’m still working out my itinerary for the summer. There’s a good chance I’ll end up working at the Pura Vida Hostel for the summer, thus skipping the hottest months and mobs of tourists in Europe. What do you think? Are there any other jobs I should try out in my travels?