The Day Three Boxers and a Deer Tried to Ruin My Life
Life is just full of those humbling and humiliating moments. Some of us, of course, tend to experience what may seem like more than our fair share, but I digress. I believe that some of these occurrences are necessary in order to teach us important life lessons. Others, however, are simply hurled your way in order to amuse the powers that be. Another completely plausible explanation for such incidents would be karma. It all just depends on how you look at it, I suppose.
When I was nineteen, I lived on my own and attended college courses at night. During the day I worked at a rather high-end kennel/boarding center. Its motto was, “The only hotel so exclusive, we don’t allow humans!” With my love for animals, dogs in particular, and the wonderful staff and owners, it truly was a dream job for me. It required a lot of physical labor, and as a result I was in the shape of my life!! You were on your feet from the beginning of shift to end, all day, every day. Full capacity for dogs was ruff-ly (too cute?) two hundred and fifty, which spanned two warehouse-sized enclosures. Each day, several times a day, between one and four employees took each and every dog, one-by-one, from their kennel to an outdoor kennel to relieve themselves, filling the outdoor kennels until they were at capacity, then rotating them back in.
Tedious, to be sure, but at least every single dog got at least a couple minutes of personal attention a day, which was one of the things that made this place so unique. Every animal was hand-fed, every cage was hand-cleaned once a day (or more if needed). I loved the interaction with the animals. But those were just the services received by every pet that entered the center. What this place was really known for were their swankier amenities. In the front lobby were the doggy “suites”, which were about twice the size of the regular kennels. They were nicely tiled and wallpapered, came complete with a lovely little cot, Dutch doors, and a floor-to-ceiling window. Dogs that stayed in the suites also had their very own yard where they were allowed to roam and relieve themselves (as opposed to the general-pop kennels) several times a day.
Even more services offered for various additional fees included one-on-one playtime with a staff member out in one of the play yards, which the owner could request up to three times a day. Or, there was group play (with the other dogs receiving the same service) supervised by a staff member, also up to three times a day. An owner could even request that their dog(s) be walked multiple times per day. This consisted of a one mile hike around a predetermined, mulch-covered path in the middle of nowhere. I’d say the average staff member hiked approximately five to ten miles a DAY. I’ve struggled with my weight off and on throughout my entire life, but after just a few months working here, I was a svelte buck-twenty if I was an ounce. Life was good!
Needless to say, if an owner was paying premium rates for boarding their fur-baby, plus springing for all of the extras in an effort to pamper their pet, we had to take great care to ensure their safety. You don’t take “Bruno” the pedigree Bouvier des Flandres, who requires his own organic food and twice daily teeth brushing out into the country, miles from virtually anything, without having him properly secured! For this reason, staff members were required to wear what essentially looked like a weight belt, and the dogs’ leashes were secured to that. So basically, wherever Fido went, WE went. Always. Whether the dog weighed two hundred pounds or four pounds, they did not leave the security of the facility without being secured to a staff member’s waist.
We made your dog feel F-A-N-C-Y.
With the kennel having such a large capacity, and only so many hours in a given day, it was often necessary to walk two dogs at once, but great care was taken in making sure that this was only the case with dogs who actually liked other dogs. Also, it wasn’t unusual for more than one dog to come in together. At the parents’ request, they could share a kennel, playtime, and even a walk.
It was not completely unheard of for our facility to accommodate even larger families. One of my favorite groups was a couple who vacationed at least several times a year, leaving their FIVE English Mastiffs in our care (they actually had a large passenger van with all of the back seats removed, which they used exclusively to transport their pack). While these guys were clearly too big to share a kennel, their owners funded family playdates for the five of them a couple of times a day during each visit. As eluded to before, there was a pair of Bouviers that came in regularly, and they both had to have their teeth brushed twice daily. There was a Standard Poodle (not part of a group, I realize, but she was memorable), complete with rhinestone collar, who came in what seemed like monthly, stayed in a suite, required her own organic food (which had to be mixed with cottage cheese, not that she ever ate it), and would not relieve herself if anyone was watching. Seriously, she could stop mid-stream, no problem. And when you did come to get her, and used the scooper to clean up after her, you’d swear she was about to die of embarrassment, it was ridiculous.
I no longer find the killing of Bambi's mother nearly as tragic.
Suddenly, They Were Sled Dogs and I Was the SLED!
Another was a family who would bring their three Boxers. Needless to say at this point, but some of our customers had more insistent demands for their pets. The deal with the Boxer family was that their owners wanted them all walked together, three times a day. No problem! We’d simply use more than one staff member. Unless there were just too many dogs, too few staff members, or BOTH, in which case a more experienced, well-practiced staff member would take all three on their own. On this fateful day, yours truly was said-staffer.
I’d taken these three in the past without a problem, so I actually volunteered. Three Boxers, somewhere around sixty pounds per dog, so I was outweighed by approximately one whole Boxer, but they were good boys! I secured all three to my waist, grabbed my poop bags, and we were off. It was clear that these dogs were experienced walkers, rarely even pulling the leads to a tension, keeping a pleasant pace, and not even tangling. They were pros.
I was just enjoying the fresh air and scenery. It was a gorgeous early autumn day. I’d noticed that the number of deer beds near our trail had been increasing over the past several weeks, which was neat. The leaves were just barely beginning to turn, and there was a significant increase in the amount of dead pine needles mixed-in amongst the mulch on the trail. It was a little muddy from the previous days’ showers, but not bad. The temperature was just perfect as far as I was concerned, just right for wearing a sweatshirt and jeans.
We were moving along at a good rate, when suddenly all three dogs completely stopped and stared in total unison. I stopped as well, and followed their gaze off the path, into a field where a terrified rabbit sit, I imagine simultaneously pooping itself, staring right back at us. “Crap,” I thought to myself. These were great dogs, but was I about to be taken for a ride? I gathered all three leads in my hands quickly, delivering a firm jerk to the Boxers, snapping them out of their collective trance, and uttered a solid, “HEY!” All three immediately began panting and wagging their tails again. The rabbit tore-off in the other direction, and the dogs and I continued along our merry way. Man, was I good, or was I just frickin’ GREAT?!
We got to around the halfway point, a dozen or so yards from the ravine, which is where the trail circled-back toward the kennel again, and one of the animals had to defecate. The other two were just sniffing around aimlessly while we waited. And man, was he taking his time. I’m just looking around, when I see something big move out of the corner of my eye. I turn my head and see a big old stag standing about twenty feet away. I felt the corner of my mouth begin to smile (because, COOL!), and then felt my stomach drop. The dogs had yet to notice the giant animal standing between us and the ravine.
The one finally finished his business, and the others continued to sniff and mark bushes, I was just praying that I could gather them and move in the other direction before this thing decided to run and get their attention. Still holding all three leads from earlier, I gave them another quick jerk, and attempted to pull them along without incident. Just as we were beginning to walk in the complete opposite direction of the deer, it must have begun to walk away itself, because there was a very loud, extremely noticeable crackling. All three dogs immediately shifted focus, turned around, and froze, completely transfixed on the deer, who also again froze. We had another stand-off on our hands! However, it was a short one, as I didn’t even have the chance to turn around myself.
Panic was officially setting-in, as the dogs had turned around to face the deer, and in doing so one had gone to my right, the others to my left. I therefore dropped the leads from my hand, because I was going to have to get them back together before I could do anything else. But then, I heard the old miser of the trio begin to growl, which cued the younger two to follow-suit, thereby signaling the deer to run for its life. Did I mention that I had 180 pounds of DOG chained to my WAIST?!
Not that I really had a clue what my next move should be, I no longer had to worry about it, however, because the dogs made the decision for me. Given the fact that they were now behind me, and on each side of me, when they gave chase they essentially clotheslined me. I was now on my back, and could feel the three of them lunging-away, making for a slow start, but building speed faster than I’d like! I was being dragged through mud, mulch, and pine needles, which is even less pleasant than it sounds. Now I had to find a way to regain control. I grabbed the leash of the dog that was off to my right, and managed to pull myself onto my right side. This caused my employee-issue walkie-talkie to be yanked from my waist, soon followed by the unpleasant wrenching of the headset from my ear, both of which were then left behind in the mud.
Maybe they just wanted to cuddle the deer?
I was now being pulled through this crap at a faster rate, and on my side, but at least I could see where we were going. The dogs had now pulled me from the trail, and into the pasture. The sudden absence of mulch and dead pine needles was a nice change of pace, but they were merely replaced by long, brittle grass and God knows how many different kinds of animal scat. The belt that secured all the dogs’ leads was working its way up under my arms, making them even more difficult to use. NOW WHAT?! I glance ahead at the deer, who decided to hasten his retreat straight into the deep ravine, which was now just a few yards away! Good grief, at least if we all fell into the ravine, the dragging would come to an end, right?! I dare not simply disengage the belt, as part of my job was staying with these dammed dogs no matter what.
My mind is racing a mile a minute, if I could just think of the biggest Boxer’s name, maybe if I could get HIS attention, I could get them to stop?! But I was blank!! I yanked as hard as I could on the lead I was clinging to, and yelling obscenities that would make George Carlin blush, but wasn’t having much luck. I managed to roll onto my belly, which wasn’t much better, and certainly didn’t slow us down. I was just starting to really FEEL all of the pain from the massive beating my body was enduring, when suddenly I noticed all three animals jump up and over a log. Wait, a LOG?! And with that, my body became an anchor of sorts, absorbing every bit of the dogs’ collective kinetic energy. I at least had enough reaction time to bend my head down as far as possible, absorbing MOST of the log’s impact with my shoulders, then back, butt, and legs.
The dogs continued to pull, but the log, mercifully, kept us in place, just barely rocking as the dogs continued to bark, growl, whine, jump and twirl at the end of their leads. I knew if I just stood up, these idiots would take me for another ride, and that wasn’t happening. I’d had it. One by one, I managed to gather the leads back into my hands, I planted my feet into the log and sat up, simultaneously SCREAMING, “ENOUGH, F#@%ERS!” in a voice that even scared me a bit. Instantly, all three animals’ ears went back, their heads dropped, and they fell completely silent. If the morons had HAD tails, they’d have been between their legs. I imagine the sight of me was frightening as well. Head-to-toe mud, with wood chips, pine needles, leaves, grass and whatever else sticking to me. The right side of my face was scraped practically raw beneath all of the other crap. My long, blonde hair, which had been pulled back into a neat little ponytail, was now frizzed-out in every direction, and had collected its own share of twigs, leaves and mud.
I made sure they were feeling fully-cooperative before I got to my feet. Bless their hearts, they couldn’t have looked anymore remorseful if they’d tried. They gathered around me now, two of them even sat down, reluctantly wagging their tails, and just waited for me to calm down a bit. Finally, I took that first step back toward the trail, only to feel it disappear into a particularly muddy area. Why did it feel SO cold, though? I glanced ahead about ten feet only to see one of my shoes which had been pulled-off during the ordeal as well. I managed not to lose it any further, pulled my foot from the mud pit, and on the way back to the trail managed to pick up my shoe, the lost walkie-talkie, etc. My entire right side, stomach, and back were burning from road rash. My head was pounding, but I was just grateful that my face and neck were at least spared from impacting the dang log.
We hiked - well, limped back the last half mile to the kennel. My walkie was broken, so I wasn’t able to warn anyone of the condition I was returning in. At least the dogs were spotless, sans some muddy paws. Humanely, my boss sent me home for the rest of the day, but I had to line my car seat with trash bags so as not to destroy the interior. To this day, I see a deer, and the first thought is no longer “COOL!” so much as, “A$#H@&E!”
© 2015 Katie Keesecker