Dogsitting and counting

I spent this past weekend dogsitting. A friend asked me last week if I could watch his two pups Pepper and Casper while he was away. His wife and daughter are out of town, so I was happy to have the opportunity. I miss my dog Trixie so, so much, and I miss seeing dogs I can interact with in general, so I agreed. When I met them on Wednesday, I felt a little nervous, but we hit it off right away.

Pepper (~3 years old) was found on a construction site. Casper (~1) was adopted from a shelter. Both are mutts of no discernible variety, but full of love and spunk.

My friend was happy I could help him out because the last time he went away, he kenneled his dogs. They came back with kennel cough and fleas, and one was covered in his own feces. Needless to say, I can do a better job than that…

I added his keys to my keyring and my first visit was Friday afternoon. The rainy season is in full swing here, with a major, drenching thunderstorm nearly every afternoon. Friday was no exception. I was on the bus when the storm hit. Wow, I thought. I’m going to have to wait this out before walking the dogs. Meanwhile I was thinking about my dog Trixie and how much she hates rain of any kind…

Pepper and Casper did well in the drizzle that remained by the time I reached their place. I knew they weren’t thrilled about the rain, but they did the good work of dogs on a walk. Not many people were out when we walked, but when I left the apartment compound, there were people selling live chickens out front. (This is China, I reminded myself.) I walked to a friend’s apartment nearby where we had takeout and ice cream. My friend taught me to crochet while our other friend practiced her violin. (A classy girls’ night in, if I do say so myself.)

In the elevator before Friday’s rainy walk.

Saturday I went over in the morning and both dogs were both so excited to see me. Wow, what a hot walk we had! When the sun rises at just before 5 a.m., a walk at 9 a.m. has the heat of the noontime sun… The humidity has been terrible with all the rain, so even just walking the dogs left me dripping with sweat.

On our walk, I noticed lots of grandparents with children walking about or sitting in the shade. Many times when the kids saw the dogs, I would hear them announce “两只狗” (liang zhi gou; two dogs). It was cute, like they had planned on practicing counting and I and my charges were part of their game.

Saturday evening, Andy came with me to walk the dogs. We had been busy enjoying the weekend since my morning walk–we hit the gym, followed by our favorite Indian food buffet, and then rested at home during the daily thunderstorm. It had been an enjoyable, but busy day, so we brought our Kindles and read for awhile after walking Pepper and Casper. The dogs were content to lie at our feet. Once in awhile, Pepper would just stand in front of Andy and stare at him, asking to be petted. Trixie does that too.

I brushed Casper. He loved it and sat still the whole time I combed through his fur. His owner had just put flea medication on him, after seeing a few fleas, so I was on the lookout in his white fur for any invaders. Fortunately I only found one. The medication was working!

Sunday came quickly. It was my last day with the dogs! I arrived for their morning walk and they did a much better job of letting me put on their harnesses. They were finally used to me. We walked and walked. I sweated and sweated.

Once, a little boy yelled from a distance, “two dogs. One. Two.” Hearing English, I looked up, made eye contact with him and his mother, and smiled.

“一,二。两只狗,” I said in reply. (Yi, er. Liang zhi gou; One, two. Two dogs.) The little boy clapped his hands and repeated me. His mother said, “对了,” (dui le; correct) and they walked away with the little boy saying “one, two” over and over.

Apparently overhearing our counting fun, a security guard walking towards me held up two fingers, to which I said “两个.” (Liang ge; two (of).)

“好,” he said, smiling. (Hao; good) And he walked away.

I felt happy to have proved to just a few Chinese people that I understood the concept of “liang,” which is the word for “two” they use when counting objects. I learned this very early in my Chinese lessons last spring and I feel happy to have demonstrated my mastery while fully occupied with another task… walking two dogs. 😉

We went inside and Pepper was thrilled to have water. They hadn’t done all their dogly duty outside, so I planned to hang around until they ate so I could take them out again. I read my book until I heard the door open.

My friend was home, my dogsitting duty complete. I felt a little sad. I knew I’d miss these two sweet, goofball dogs, even though we’d only had a few days together. It was nice to have that responsibility again–that someone needed me, that I needed to be somewhere–even though sometimes as a dog owner it can be tough trying to keep up with them. I won’t get a dog here for many reasons, but I know I need dogs in my life.



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