Whenever I’d come home from my previous job I’d rip off my shirt as soon as possible. And almost anytime I could take my shirt off before then I’d do that instead. I didn’t want to be associated with the job. One time, a person called me from across the street, “The [Redacted] Guy!” and I wasn’t sure if I was more offended by the association or the misgendering.
Truth be told, I started to accept that I’d be working in retail for a long while still. I wasn’t sure how I’d get out with my lackluster transportation (e.g. no car) and lack of money to Uber everywhere. I didn’t think that I had the skills or experience to work many places I could do well in or heck, even feel like I belonged in to one extent or another.
Still, I kept trying. I kept applying for jobs via Indeed.com (not a plug and I’m not getting money) and getting their daily emails detailing jobs they think I’d be interested in. I actually still get their emails because I’m always looking for a better opportunity for myself. But the good news is that these days I look at the emails with mild disinterest.
And that’s because now I work with dogs!
I won’t explicitly say the name but if you know enough about me you can figure out where I may work. For all future posts when I talk about my job I’ll be discussing this new job and not my previous one. I always try to leave companies names out of it because (especially in retail) a lot of them have similar issues so the name doesn’t really matter.
It’s like putting a fresh coat of paint on shit and then saying it looks appetizing. It really does nothing for the substance of my experience, just the minor details. And those details aren’t worth talking about anymore in the pet industry than any other one, where dogs need to be watched by you.
But the substance is markedly different for this industry. Instead of having to work with humans I get to work with my favorite animal in the world (sorry cat fans, cats are good too!): Dogs! I love dogs so much because they’re friendly, loyal, loving to a fault and, let’s face it, they’re a bit needy and go out of their way to try to make humans happy.
I can relate a lot to dogs. Their enjoyment of playtime, their love of naps and taking it easy, their desire to make others around them happy even if they look ridiculous, their neediness is a particular relatable point for me. I’ve had plenty of experience over the past few years with small groups of dogs and even volunteered at a pet resort in New Jersey once.
So I applied to a job I didn’t think I’d get. Funnily enough, when I looked for some emails from the same employer I found that I almost got an overnight position there once but it didn’t work out for some reason. Thankfully this time around I knew I had a few more connections who had transportation and would be willing to help me out.
When I got called in for the interview I was ecstatic but still tried to keep my nerves cool. I was able to get there through the help of my wonderful partner (who deserves an award at this point) and got back through the mediocre local bus system. In between the interview seemed to go well and while I was honest about transportation I felt depressed.
I thought with my upcoming college schedule making me part-time and no possibility and being a curmudgeon when it came to mornings how could they hire me? I felt doomed to work in retail forever because of my lack of transportation (I’m a terrible driver) and this was the only remaining close(ish) pet resort.
A few days later I got a call asking me to work there and I was excited as all heck. I couldn’t believe my ears and was so elated that I had to actually ask the person on the phone if I was dreaming. Here was my chance! I could finally get out of retail and work with dogs which is one of my top 3 jobs (behind philosophy professor and comic book writer)!
I had to make a decision though: Would I give my retail job 2 weeks notice or try to balance the two jobs? If I couldn’t handle the new job then I may as well stay in retail, right? But I knew this was me being overly cautious and that there was no way I could handle both jobs. And undercutting my new job would mean I wasn’t giving my all…to dogs.
So I quickly resolved to give my two weeks at my retail job.
The next two weeks were largely uneventful. Made up of a happiness and excitement that would swing back down into despair that I was still there and didn’t just quit. But I knew both employers would look poorly on such a move and I thought to myself, “I’ve survived over a year of this job. What’s another two weeks?”
Apparently a lot.
Another two weeks took a lot out of me and I think it was in large part because I knew I had something really cool to look forward to. The last day in particular was memorable because it involved me finally letting loose on a customer for using the store like it was their private bank. I had mixed feelings about my job and leaving it.
But is the new job any good?
It’s stressful, hectic at times and can be a bit of a physical hazard with dogs jumping on me, playing too roughly with each other or even biting me once in a blue moon. But it’s also deeply rewarding, relaxing sometimes, my co-workers have been great with my name (Dory) and mixed on my pronouns (mostly out of ignorance, not malice).
I’m actually out at this job and it’s been nice. It’s a little tiring to hear people say I’m “transitioning” and them immediately presume I’m going for genital transitioning or whatever but I’m not. It’s way too expensive and that part of me doesn’t cause me anywhere near the dysphoria my hair does or the way my body is shaped, etc.
But the dogs are lovely and I love being able to hang out with so many dogs for a living. Well, I mean, $9 an hour might not be a super great living, but I was getting by on that before, so no big deal. And in the 2-3 years I’m planning(!) on being here, I’m hoping I even get a raise or two to make it slightly more affordable for me.
As y’all may have noticed I haven’t been posting as much and that’s because my schedule has been all over the place. This weeks I’ve been having evening shifts for around 4 hours but also a split six hour shift with 3 hours being in the morning and the other 3 being at night. And the week before that was mostly morning shifts and 4 days in a row!
Training was definitely the toughest part. I remember being so intimidated by the dogs at first (even though I started with the smallest dogs, there were around 30 of them). I wasn’t used to being in this strange environment so I was disassociating a lot and it was tough for me to get a handle on what I was supposed to do at first.
By far the biggest issue at the pet resort I work at is that we’re woefully understaffed and not the least of which because up to 3 people sometimes take the same day off or try to. I’ve had a few days where I’m 15-30 minutes late but at least when I work the evening shift the late factor isn’t as much of an issue given the store closes around then.
Another issue, though not nearly as big, is that after the dogs leave (or at least most of them do) you have to clean the rooms you were just in. And hey, I get that. I think it makes sense that you should wash the walls, mop the floors and try to get some hair off the floor. And it’s usually just one room and it’s the one you were in, so that makes sense.
But it’s also quite literally not what I signed up for.
I’m not much of a cleaning person. I have poor hand-eye coordination and I have a tough time figuring out if things are even clean or not due to my obliviousness. So this part of the job isn’t exactly my favorite but on the other hand, there’s usually no one to scold me, just give me pleasant instructions. And without fail I’ve been able to listen to my music.
That’s another thing that’s been great about the job. No pop music! And on the off-chance the dogs are actually laying down and calm(ish) you’re free to look at your phone, watch videos, listen to music, whatever. I never made use of this during my training week because I was too nervous and wanted to make sure I absorbed things as much as possible.
It’s weird finally taking a job seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t break my back for the company or anything and as I’ve demonstrated, I’m not uncritical of the work I do. But I’m much happier doing what I do, even when it has to involved cleaning at the end of the day. The cleaning feels so much more meaningful than it did when I did it at my retail job.
There are different groups of dogs. Around 30 are put in the small dogs (and trust me, their numbers make up for their size), the mediums have around 20 or so and the big dogs have around 20 or less dogs. It’s a lot of dogs and seemed very intimidating to me at first, but it’s also not as hard as it looks! Many of the dogs are fine in fact.
But there’s always a few troublemakers. Whether it’s because they have anxiety and bark a lot, they have a lot of issues about playing with other dogs in a considerate way, they have issues with controlling themselves when a door has been opened (this is more dogs than you’d like) or maybe they just have a personal issue with you and won’t stop barking!
Whatever the problem is, much of it can be handled. Dog fights do happen but not often in my admittedly limited experience so far. I’ve had to break up a lot of rough playing but I’ve really only had to throw out one dog into the hallway for misbehaving and antagonizing (over the course of a half-hour) another dog when it looked like it could get ugly.
A few other problems is the lack of communication. My job has a great app that we all use to communicate but the general manager doesn’t let us make full use of it. I understand that if everyone texted on the chat group that everybody’s phones would blow up but with notifications but there are ways to snooze notifications or start different groups, etc.
I admit there’s no perfect answer for this issue, but only using our walkies or trying to do sign language when the dogs are very loud isn’t effective. And that part about being understaffed applies to how long it sometimes takes to get water for dogs or (as I mentioned) get a replacement for yourself if you’ve gotta leave. Not to mention bathroom breaks!
Still, I’m satisfied in ways I thought I’d never be at work. These past few days off has been a nice reprieve but I’m looking forward(?) to going back to work tomorrow. Just being able to type that out is a feeling I never thought I’d have.
And just so y’all know, I’ve worn my pet resort shirt outside more than once.
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