Coping with the heat

So part 3 of my packing posts will have to wait because my brain has melted this last week. Climate change isn’t great for dog walkers, just FYI 😐

Instead I thought I would pass on a few tips for helping the fur babies cope with the heat.

Obviously the first point is to have enough shade and water for them. My very pampered clients never have a problem there, but it always bears repeating.

Henry adores his wading pool, which becomes that colour almost the second it gets refilled! Note the big ice block in the water bowl beside him too

I don’t walk dogs if my car temperature gauge says it’s above 28 degrees. For some dogs (especially the dark coloured or older dogs) even that’s too hot and I’ll try to get them walked before the temperature goes above 25. On the days we have a walk booked but it’s just too hot (or I had too many walks booked to get there before it hit the “too hot” mark) I will discuss the options with their folks and we generally decide on putting it off for another day.

If however the pups need a visit because they’re inside all day, or they need feeding as well as entertaining, that’s when we need to be a bit more creative about our visits.

An air conditioned house is nice and easy, as we can turn on the aircon for an hour or so, play fetch or tug inside the house, have a nice old cuddle, and also make the house pleasant for the rest of the day.

Some dogs adore chasing the water from the hose, which serves double duty of cooling them down and wearing them out a bit.

Poppy doesn’t want the game to end, even after I’ve gone back inside

Others like to flop in their wading pool and just lie there indefinitely. Do dogs get pruny fingers?

An air conditioned car ride and a short walk by the lake is a favourite too, it’s less physical activity but they still get the stimulation of being out and seeing and smelling new people and places with the added bonus of a bit of a splash.

Hank always looks like he’s worried about my driving!
Who needs dignity when you can have a good old splash and roll?

And some, like poor Polly, just look at me balefully and want to know why I don’t stop the nasty heat. For those I can just use the wet towels and keep apologising for my lack of facility for weather magic…

“I’m melllllltiiiiinnnng! Make it stop!”

Packing for a move – Part II

I have a friend that won some kind of prize from her moving guys by labelling one box “very miscellaneous” and another “random assorted.” While the labels were memorable (and funny), I doubt she remembered what was in those boxes the next day, let alone by the time she got around to unpacking them.

This brings me to the second major component of the packing system, labelling the boxes. You can do it one of two ways depending on how you are moving. The simplest way is to put enough detail on each box that anyone who is involved in the moving process can read the label and deliver it to the right place without needing to ask you every time. For example you might have a box labelled “Kitchen/ crockery” and another labelled “Dining room/ crockery.” The first part of the label will tell whoever is helping on moving day where the box is to go, and the second part for whenever you get around to unpacking the dining room boxes. There is generally a spot where all the boxes that won’t be unpacked immediately end up (probably the dining room from the previous example, do many people use a dining table for dining at anymore?), and that’s where the boxes of all framed photos or knickknacks will go.

The other way of labelling might work better for you if you are helping someone else move or things are going into storage, and that is just to number the boxes and write a basic inventory on a list. I have used this for people who were helping elderly relatives who couldn’t be more involved in the packing process. Once the inventory was finished I typed it all up in a spreadsheet for them, so if the relative asked for a specific thing down the track they could search for it and then get the most likely box from storage. This was very helpful when the wife collected china and art, the husband had military paraphernalia and they both had travel mementos.

One last note on labelling, always make sure you label the top and at least 2 sides of the box because nothing is surer than the only side you label will be the one that gets turned to the wall or another pile of boxes. Ditto any Fragile warnings.

And here is the sneaky main reason I like to get people to pack and sort like this: once you have made decisions about what kind of a thing it is you are packing, the decision about whether you really want to keep it has pretty much made itself. If you find you have a box of stuff you’ve borrowed that you need to give back to a number of different people, it’s all in one place and easy to say “Hey I have that thing to give back to you, want to come and get it (and also help me pack a few more boxes)?” Win win!

The box that has all the stuff that horrible ex left behind can go straight in the bin with all the stuff that made you sad or angry because you associated it with them (of course you could offer to the stuff back first, if you’re a better person than I am). The box of stuff from all over the house that might be useful for a craft project some time in the future will be the first box I gleefully attack if you come to me for help with minimising or spring cleaning.

Which leads nicely to my next post about what to do with the stuff you don’t need to keep but you don’t want to throw into landfill either.

Packing for a move – part 1

Being a fairly typical Gen X, I’ve moved myself and my friends more times than I can remember now. I’ve become really good at packing my own stuff and other people’s, and here’s what I’ve learnt: the packing process is always going to be fairly horrible, but you can make the actual move and the unpacking process a whole lot easier if you follow some simple guidelines and basically pack as though everything is going into storage.

There are two main parts to this concept, and the first is always pack by category rather than location. Most of the time the items will be specific to the room they are coming from and going to, and pots and pans will go from kitchen to kitchen without any major need for decision making.

Where packing by category is important is usually for more decorative objects or collections. For instance, you may have framed pictures in every room so the temptation is to pack the bedroom ones in a bedroom box and the living room ones in the living room box etc. I don’t like this method for several reasons, but the main one is that unless you are moving into an identical space then you are going to move things around and at that point you will have to have absolutely every box unpacked to know where everything is.

Be sure to recruit your helpers wisely!

And of course, the more stuff you own the longer it will take to unpack, and by that time are you going to remember that the picture of Aunty Ethel was next to the prayer flag she brought back from Tibet on the chest of drawers in the third bedroom?

Not everything you own will fit into carefully defined collections of course, and not every collection will fit the correct number of boxes. But when you start packing start with a number of boxes all taped up and ready to go and only close one up when it’s full.

As an example, at the end of packing up a bedroom you may still have several open boxes that only have a few things in them, framed photos in one, books in another, paperwork in a third. Take those three boxes into the next room and continue sorting and packing.

The potential exception to this rule is children’s rooms, but I believe that the sorting process is still valuable. In that case you would either put all the leftovers in the same box, put some paper in between the different collections, and label the box something like “Kid A books/ papers/ pictures” or else take them to the next room (again with a sheet of newspaper or whatever you are using in between the collections to save on arguments about what belongs to whom) and label the boxes “books – Kids A and B” and so on.

The collection process needs to make sense only to you. I always had lots of books so I was able to separate them into fiction and non-fiction and then categorise them further by genre (I don’t actually remember how many boxes were just for fantasy novels, but it was probably more than for uni textbooks). Nowadays I have one and a half boxes of books in total so last time I just packed them all and put the cds and dvds on the top of the second and called it “books/entertainment media” and I knew it was all of my physical library.

This brings me to the second major component of the packing system. Stay tuned for next week’s post on the importance of a good labelling system.

2018 in review

For my first blog post of 2019 I thought I would start with a bit of a roundup of 2018, my first full year of being Errand Girl.

  • Number of dog walks: 867
  • Daily average walked: 6.9km (10,401 steps)
  • Total kilometres walked: 2,518.5 km (3,796,365 steps)
  • Shoes worn out: 3 pairs
  • Smallest walking buddy: Suki @ 2.5 kg

  • Largest walking buddy: Polly @ 87 kg

  • Largest lapdog:BJ @ 52.5 kg

  • Oldest furry client: Ned Kelly @ 19 yrs

  • Youngest furry client: Penny @ 10 weeks

Sometimes I think that 2009 me wouldn’t recognise 2019 me. Around then was the first time I got a Fitbit, as part of a work initiative in my office job at the time. Before its untimely demise in the washing machine I learned that I was averaging 3500 steps a day, and the highest it ever got was if I decided to stroll around my local shopping centre on the weekend.

2009 me would have rolled her eyes ( and frequently did) at anybody who dared to suggest that a walk would help her feel better in any way at all. More cheerful, less headachy, more calm, fewer colds, and so on. And yet 2019 me has thought all of those things and suggested them to others, in exactly the same chirpy way that would have made 2009 me strangle someone 😆.

I’m sure it’s the dogs that have made the difference. Having a number of little joy generators leading you on can’t help but get you moving even when you don’t really feel like it, and they’re always so glad I did that I have to be glad too.

Christmas 2018

What an amazing year this has been! I have had so many lovely new clients both two-legged and four-legged that I haven't had time to blog. My New Year's resolution is to post one blog a week. (Let's see how long that lasts.)

Tis the season when I literally don't have a moment to myself as I criss-cross the mountains feeding dogs, cats, chickens, and almost a pony (last-minute cancellation). I have also slept in a number of lovely homes with a variety of cuddle buddies so, apart from dinner at mum's on Christmas day with the family, I was not really thinking about Christmas.

I took my labradoodle, Poppy, and mum's two dogs, Pearl and Bindi to the dog wash at Petbarn and discovered that they were fundraising for Working Dog Rescue Santa Paws. The lovely Sarina Scibilia from Dashhing Photography was there snapping away as Santa sat patting and cuddling dogs. I decided to get into the spirit of Christmas and philanthropy and had a series of photos taken.

All three were freshly bathed so I hope Santa did not stay soaking wet for too long.

We bought squeaky toys for the three spoilt fur kids and the house was bedlam for a time until Bindi carefully gathered all three in front of her and gloated "Mine, mine, all mine!"

And this is just a taste of my clientele over the Christmas period. Do I have a great life or what?

So I hope all of you are having a lovely Christmas break and I wish you all a happy New Year. I'm looking forward to plenty of walks and cuddles with clients such as Hank the miniature bulldog.

A day in the life of Errand Girl

My job gives me the opportunity to meet such interesting people and so many wonderful animals.

On a typical day I might start by driving to a client’s home and feeding his dog and cat, watering his potplants, taking in the letters and putting out the garbage for collection while he is on an overseas holiday.

Next I might be called upon to drive two of my elderly clients to do some shopping and then take them to a café for morning tea before taking them home again, unloading the car and putting the shopping away for them.

Then I could be called on to drive another client to Penrith to shop for a smartphone. One of my clients was swapping from a basic mobile to a smartphone and was very nervous about mastering the technology. I stayed with her, showing her how to use the functions she would need to keep in touch with her relatives and have returned on several occasions to show her how to make further use of the internet.

After lunch I may be called to say the plumber is on his way to the house of a client who commutes to Sydney and requires some emergency repairs. I have picked up the spare key the night before and will drive to the house to let him in and make sure the owner’s two dogs don’t get in the way. I will watch the work to ensure that nothing is damaged and will phone the owner if the plumber needs information I can’t supply. I will close up the house, leaving the key on the table when the plumber has finished. While the plumber works I may was the dishes, or throw the ball for the dogs in the yard, depending on what the client has requested.

Later in the afternoon I may have one of my furry clients to walk. I regularly walk two gorgeous staffy-cross dogs whose mum works in the city and is too tired to give the girls the workout they need. We do a varied circuit of at least 2 kilometres a day, which is a standard half hour walk. I send their mum a screenshot of the app which shows the route we have taken and the length of the journey, and let her know if they made any friends o anything else noteworthy. I sometimes take a snap of the girls flopped in the shade near their water bowl and happily panting. After leaving their house the other day I saw one of my other four-legged clients wandering the streets after having escaped from his yard. He came to me when I called him and I was able to alert his mum that he had been out but that I had taken him home and put him back in his yard.

Then it’s back to feed and walk the dogs I am pet-sitting. Sometimes I am asked to spend the night with the pets while their owners are away so I’ll detour past my place and make sure my own cats are well-fed and played with before settling down for the night with my furry clients.

Another day may start by taking an elderly client to a medical appointment and driving him back home. I might then be called on to drive a couple to IKEA for some furniture shopping. To the absolute delight of my clients I was able to assemble their new flat-pack furniture for them as well.

After lunch I may put in a few hours of dusting and vacuuming for a regular client.

I may end that afternoon taking a dog to Petbarn for a good wash and dry for a client who is time-poor.

In the evening I will do an hour’s data entry of bills and receipts for a tradesman whose forte is not invoicing and will email him the completed file.

I love my life.