I saw Raja’s mom pull into the parking lot. Erin and I were in the middle of a temperament evaluation with a new customer but I gave her a wave and we continued on. Erin whispered to me, “Where’s Raja?” His mom came in the lobby and bravely told us Raja had passed away two days before. He hadn’t been sick but had developed a very aggressive tumor and was gone in a matter of hours. Raja was one of Doggie Daycare’s very first customers and universally adored.
Erin and I were speechless. We hugged Janet, told her to call if she needed anything and she left. The new customer was understandably uncomfortable at the sight of Erin and I deteriorating into two puddles so I explained to her that Janet’s German Sheppard was special to us and losing him hit us hard. We managed to finish up with her and then collapsed in the back to recover from the news.
At my job, anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 dogs a year come for daycare or boarding. I’ve been here five years, so in theory I’ve encountered approximately 135,000 dogs. It would seem as though I wouldn’t know one from the other, let alone get attached to any of them. How could I, what with there being so many?
Well, I do. We all do. There are some dogs who come everyday for daycare and you know what? We get attached. There are some dogs who have been coming for so long that it’s like an old friend is in town whenever they come to board.
There are many upsides to this. I’ve become friends, very good friends, with some of my customers and see them socially WITHOUT their dog. I met my significant other through a customer that became a very dear friend (although I always give her dog Nobu the credit – technically speaking, if it weren’t for Nobu, I never would’ve met him). The dogs themselves reap the benefits of being so close to the staff and are regularly treated to extra snacks and “office time” if they’re having an off day or one of us humans needs a hug. And of course the owners feel even better about leaving their dogs because they know their precious pooch is getting the VIP treatment. It’s a win/win/win situation.
But there’s a dark side to this. Dogs don’t live forever. And when someone special to us passes away, the entire staff goes through mourning as if it were one of our own, including (but not limited to) experiencing all 5 stages of grief:
Denial: Shut up. I just saw him yesterday; he was fine.
Anger: Are you kidding me? His owners did everything right, this is insane!
Bargaining: Maybe it’s another Fido.
Depression: Total silence from all us (for anyone who knows the Hounds Town staff, you know that is bizarre)
Every time we tell each other NO MORE! We are NOT getting upset over So and So when his time comes. Riiiiiiight….yet there I was bawling my eyes out in the Sprint store after I get the call that Mr. Chops passed. We can all tell ourselves 100 things but we still mourn and cry and want to hug every other dog we see.
Then…out of nowhere…I’ll get an email. “Hi Marianne! Just wanted to let you know we got a new dog! Can I bring him by in a little while?”
And so it begins again.