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Otis (bottom) and Zoie

Otis (bottom) and Zoie relaxing on their couch.

 Otis and Zoie had it all – doting owners, their own couch in a loft condominium in San Francisco’s Mission District,  even an acupuncturist. But Otis also had trouble walking and breathing. His owners, Steven and JR, faithfully followed a demanding regimen of diet, vitamins and exercise recommended by the vet. But when they wanted to take a two-week vacation, they couldn’t find anyone they trusted to maintain that regimen.

Luckily for me, they got my name from relatives here in Gary, Indiana who had boarded their dog with me. Their recommendation was good enough for Steven and JR, so I was hired.

They flew me to San Francisco, where a limousine driver met me at the airport and drove me to their condo. They spent that night and the next day doing whatever they could to ensure my comfort in their absence. They introduced me to friends, neighbors and their favorite local restaurants. They took me to the grocery store and loaded up a cart with enough food and wine for a month. They took me by the dogs’ vet. They arranged for one of their best friends to look in on me and show me around. They even left a couple of hundred dollars in cash, unasked, for extra expenses like cab fares.

Otis’ needs were exacting, but not overwhelming. In addition to his medicine and vitamins, he and Zoie ate nothing but fresh chicken and rice, made in batches every other day. They were walked four times a day, and Otis needed little red booties put on his back paws to help him with traction. The sight of him waddling along in those booties never failed to elicit smiles from everyone passing by.

In between walks, meals and medicine, I explored San Francisco on foot or by using its excellent BART subway system. My visit coincided with the city’s annual Gay Pride festival, one of the biggest in the country. It’s grown into a multi-day event that includes family activities, as well as a parade led by a contingent of lesbian bikers on the biggest, noisiest motorcycles available. Lots of people brought their dogs to the parade, many of them adorned in the rainbow colors symbolic of the gay pride movement.

At the Gay Pride parade in San Francisco

This kind of pet-sitting job seemed like a miracle, but lightning struck me twice. The next year, through friends of relatives, I was flown to San Diego to watch over two adorable Yorkies. They lived in a beautiful, sprawling home near the little town of Jamul in the hills east of the city. In addition to the pool, the enormous flat-screen TV, gourmet kitchen, fresh herbs from the garden and gorgeous scenery, I had my own quarters – a one-bedroom studio cottage just up the driveway from the main house. A big, round trampoline sat outside the cottage, and on warm nights I slept on it. It gave me a great chance to quietly observe the wildlife that became active after dusk, including coyotes, rabbits and raccoons.

The picture on the right shows a view from the patio, with me hard at work!

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