Shouldn’t petsitting be one of the easiest tasks in the world given that one is comfortable with our fellow mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians?? And by comfortable I mean can readily feed, clean and ensure overall safety of said pets. I can proudly claim being one of those individuals as I grew up with a variety of vertebrates including dogs, cats, fish and other critters. Granted I have very little experience with farm animals but feel confident in my animal-whispering abilities to adapt to any circumstance. I mean I’ve watched several episodes of “Ear to the Ground” (an Irish documentary farming series) as well as the movie “Babe” so what could possibly go wrong??
Adventure #1 – farm in rural Ireland in the heart of County Wicklow; approx. 120 cattle including massive bull, 200 sheep, 5 horses, 2 dogs, 6 ducks and 1 incredibly friendly barn cat.
I arrived the night before the owners departed for their weekend getaway so was fortunate to have hands-on instructions and a walk-through of duties. No problem, I’ve got this! Feed dogs, bar from sitting room (the hounds that is), towel off at door and walk twice a day. Feed ducks, release from stable in morning and back into pen at night, provide clean water on daily basis. Sheep, leave be. Cattle, leave be. Horses, feed apples every day.
Day 1 – woke up full of fervor & vitality, ready to embrace the culchie (any persons residing outside of Dublin a.k.a. country folk) lifestyle and what better way to start then with a good cuppa. So with kettle in hand I proceed to open the tap…waiting…old pipes…any minute now…noooooo…not a single drop!!! Not only do I panic about the tea (it is the first and most important cup of the day) but there goes any chance of a long, hot shower, ugggh. And let’s not forget that I’ve still got 3 days to go! No matter, I’m from tough stock and can get by with…well…sponge baths, piece of cake! Luckily I had a large bucket of clean water (ironically in case of emergencies) to draw from. However this required rationing as I needed agua for the essentials such as rehydration, tea and teeth cleaning. Remedy – a quick call to the owners who asked their mate to swing by to check problematic pump and/or pipes. Back on track.
So with much deodorant and a restored cheery outlook I decide a hike through the fields would suit to clear the cobwebs and get the blood pumping. Wellies, check. Three layers of fleece, check. Furry friends in tow, check. To the cattle field we go. Sidebar, did you know that cows can get a little aggressive if they feel that their young are at risk? Fortunately for the walk-through I was made aware of this little tidbit and knowingly gave a wide berth, notwithstanding a few hairy eyeballs from some big mammas – who knew steaks & roasts could be so temperamental?! Tip – walk beside fence in the event of charging bovine to allow time to hurl entire body weight over barbed-wire into thorny brambles. Fortunately, my high-jumping skills were NOT put to use as I was able to complete my journey unscathed.
Next came the field and permanent residence of one of the biggest-assed bulls (and not the only appendage of considerable size!) I’ve ever laid eyes upon (no “bull-sheep”!!). He had the pleasant task of accompanying a bevy of lovely, fluffy ewes who didn’t give him the time of day…such bitches. Again, my senses were on high alert in the event of a charge but my stealthlike maneuvers didn’t even warrant a single glance from Ferdinand as he was happy ogling his harem while chewing his cud (not dissimilar to a recent date). I’ve definitely got the hang of this now!
Next came the field with the young male sheep also referred to as the “ram”-bunctious lot (obviously kept separate given their teenage antics and objectionable ways). Lastly, I arrived at the cream of the crop (pun intended) which housed the thoroughbred horses who, to my dismay, inconsiderately and greedily snapped my apple offerings along with a side of finger (not to worry, I was able to duct tape it back to the hand with a paperclip, stick of gum and some rubber bands. One word…MacGyver).
Day 2 – a tour of the kale field in order to procure an abundance of green goodness for future smoothie-making (and yes, I had permission to harvest). However, upon approaching the superfood meadow I spot a lone sheep shimmying along having a good ole graze. What the flock?? How, what, where and when…Shaun the Sheep, you little divil!!! I quickly deduced “why” as the grass was ACTUALLY greener on the other side. Ah geez, here I go ringing the owners again. This is not boding well for my pet-rep! After a quick exchange my instructions were to leave him be as a neighbor would journey down to investigate shortly. Funny enough, by the time he got to the field Shaun had vamoosed…probably headed to the pub to wet his whistle after all them greens!
Back to the water shortage issue…the owner’s friend blew in to tinker and plumb so things are looking up as he finally secured running water…well…for a couple of hours anyways. As it turned out and after the initial “let’s give it time to do its thing”, I was only able to get “hot” water and not a single drop from the cold tap…bullocks!!! Not to be deterred I just popped a few jugs in the fridge, at least I’d now have a blend of hot & cold to work with. Band-Aid fix but it’ll do. Massive oversight though…still in need of a shower. Needless to say, I bypassed the more intelligent route of a bath and forged ahead with a blistering attempt at a shower. Jaysus, I looked the right eejit jumping in and out from under the jet…not unlike the hokey-pokey song. WTB??!!
To summarise thus far, I’ve encountered some water issues, a bruised digit and one wayward sheep which is fair play given the array of things that could go wrong given it’s a farm with livestock (emphasis on “live”). All animals are safe, fed and watered (ducks may have suffered a little as I couldn’t provide clean water but they do sleep in their own shite…enough said).
Last day and final tour of my adopted fields. A beautiful grey, drizzly day (par for the course in Ireland) and I’m feeling pretty damn cocky given recent hurdles and my innate ability to adapt (with a little help from friend, aloe vera, to assuage the skin after scalding shower incident). Cattle field is in order. Bull & sheep field is in order. Horses field…what the?? As I approach the gate I can see an entire length of the fence which bordered the young male sheep field completely flattened to the ground so those snappy equines and those damn randy lads could have a big ole partay. It had drunken shenanigans and horseplay written all over it…let’s just say I have yet to settle a score with Shaun the Sheep…it had his stamp all over it!!
All in all, the entire affair was definitely memorable and one for the records considering my limited experience and propensity for all things urban. End result: I’ve been asked back for Round #2 in the spring…WTB??!!
Alas my crusade as “the” quintessential petsitter continues when Adventures in Petsitting – Part 2 resumes in the next episode of WTB…set in the scenic suburb of Killiney Hill (the Hollywood Hills of Dublin)…