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Typical Day

Paula Poopscooper staggered out of bed, smashing the alarm clock into submission as her feet hit the floor. Darn that infernal dog hair, she thought as she scratched furiously at her nightgown. Paula reviewed the day's pet sitting schedule as she inhaled two cups of coffee, making notes of each pet's little idiosyncrasies. Yep, that dog pees on everyone's leg the second you walk in the door, she wrote. At another house, she would be facing a cat who delighted in clawing visitors' ankles into a bloody pulp. Wear heavy socks, Paula scribbled. "Good thing the rest of the pets had agreeable personalities," she thought. "Oh poop," she muttered about her last scheduled appointment. Last week she had to walk that 100-pound lab that pulled her down the street. Pack leather gloves, she wrote before stashing her appointment book and throwing on her clothes.

Early in Paula's pet sitting career she had encountered a few clients who failed to leave poop-scooping supplies. Paula was reduced to scrounging for used paper towels from the clients' trash. Better than using her bare hands. After that unfortunate (and odiferous) debacle, Paula regularly stocked her car with a pooper-scooper, lots of goodie bags, scads of paper towels, and hand sanitizer. She also packed an airtight bin, just in case she couldn't dispose of the dog's leavings right away.

Paula's first three stops involved looking after sweet and easy-to-handle pets and, more importantly, no disagreeable surprises. She squeezed in a few errands and wolfed down a drive-through burger and fries before heading to her lunchtime appointments. One of these dogs was a known escape artist, the "Houdini of Highland Heights," vaulting out the barely cracked front door at every opportunity. The muscle-bound beast behaved as expected, sprinting down the block to rendezvous with his friends as Paula lunged after him. She snared the wretched miscreant a split second before he ran headlong into traffic. Knowing the jig was up, the dog allowed himself to be leashed and led home for lunch.

Paula's ordeal had left her sweaty and smelling like wet dog; unfortunately, she had no time to freshen up before meeting two new clients. Oh well, Paula shrugged, that's why they make deodorant and cologne.

The clients greeted her with puzzled looks and suspicious sniffs; the dogs welcomed her more enthusiastically. Paula noted each pet's food preferences, bathroom requirements, and attack triggers on her nicely printed client information forms. Too bad the dogs slobbered all over the pages, making the writing virtually illegible for anyone but a handwriting expert.

Finally finished with her afternoon appointments, Paula was relieved to have an hour to herself before beginning her last round of potty visits. She settled into her foul-smelling car, sipping an iced latte loaded with so much caffeine it made her toes curl. Hopefully it would get her through the evening.

Unfortunately, her unsympathetic cell phone jarred her into reality. Great, Paula thought as she listened to a regular client's panicked voice. Yes, Paula understood the client had made her vacation plans without making kennel reservations. The woman was heading to the airport, the boarding kennel was chock full of dogs whose owners had planned ahead, and the dog was probably crossing his legs in desperation. Naturally, the client's house was half an hour away, and she had to travel through rush-hour traffic to get there. "Hold on, Bubba," Paula pleaded as she inched forward. This was starting to become a habit with this client, as she had pulled the same trick last month. Last time, Paula had arrived in time to save the living room's hardwood floors; this time she wasn't so lucky. The dog wagged his tail as Paula rummaged under the kitchen sink for cleaning supplies.

Paula was thankful the rest of her evening appointments were drama-free. Play fetch with that crazy Lab on steroids, locate three cats hiding somewhere in a 3,000-square-foot house, and change the cage liner for a foul-mouthed parrot with equally nasty hygiene habits. Finally, Paula climbed into her car, exhausted after her last appointment. "What's that smell?" Oh wait, it was her. Come to think of it, she did reek of dog hair, slobber, and a spritz of cat urine. She drove home on autopilot, barely noticing her surroundings in her stupor.

Swinging into her driveway, Paula stumbled into her house and dropped her smelly, hairy clothes in the mud room. She luxuriated in a hot shower and nuked a frozen dinner while she flipped through her voicemails. Paula made an executive decision to ignore her paperwork until the weekend, but spent a few minutes reviewing the next day's appointments. She collapsed into bed to build up her strength. After all, tomorrow featured a 120-lb. Rottie with draft horse pulling skills, two Yorkies with pill requirements and extremely sharp teeth, and an elderly cat with diarrhea. Just another day at the office.