Trish and I have been house and pet sitting for three years, but our first assignment in the south of France was far from a success. We hid the details from friends and relatives until we had recovered and put in many more assingments with success!
Four Jack Russells Plus a Wanta-Be Jack Russell
We did not want to say NO to the above number of dogs.
We were excited with the prospects of two weeks in the South of France. We were dismally unaware that Jack Russells are a breed that embraces a hierarchy of top dog aggressiveness. Had we done some research into the breed we would have known that with four Jack Russells, there would be a strong alpha top dog. The owner painted just a sweet picture of the dog family that consisted of dad, mom and their son and daughter. When we arrived this pack mentality was revealed to us. It was revealed in such a way that we did not anticipate any problems.
The owner did not point out the ‘dangers’ of ‘what could happen” scenario until we came face to face. She told us, “Don’t let any dog get compromised by another dog.” We asked for clarification.
“Feed the dogs separately.” This made sense whether the dogs were Jack Russell or NOT! “Don’t let the alpha dog get trapped in a small space with another dog!” This wasn’t quite clear, but every day – we put some of the dogs inside a barn – and the rest in a play area. This we easily accomplished for over ten days. The weekend before the owner was to come home on the Tuesday, the rain spilled down.
We had fed them separately and even let them outside.
Sunday night everything was going well until about 10 p.m.
Suddenly, we heard growling down the hallway and two Jack Russells and the Wanna- Be J.R dog all went running down to the hallway. Before Trish and I could get to the scene, there was a sight that made us freeze. The alpha dog had attacked his daughter and the others were on the side of Mr. Alpha. Trish and I went into emergency mode. We tried physically to get involved in a situation of snapping and biting. I got a pot of cold water and poured it over them. It didn’t work.
I picked up the Alpha male and got bitten on the hand, but I managed to get him into another room! Rats! The lock on the door didn’t work and Alpha dog was back in the fray. Then, Trish and I managed to get the less aggressive dogs into a room, and finally rescued the poor daughter dog that had many bites on her. She did not need to visit a vet.
Getting to the Hospital
Trish and I stood looking at one another with small bites to our hands. Trish had a couple of bites on or around her ankles. We needed to go to the hospital.
The owner had a daughter who lived nearby. We phoned her and told her that she had to drive us to the hospital. Her boyfriend drove one of our cars and this enabled us to get home after we had been bandaged. Trish had to get a tetanus shot – mine was up to date. Luckily, Trish is a fluent French speaker so she explained the situation and asked about rabies, etc. After about an hour or two, I was able to drive home although both hands were bandaged. Trish was in a worse state, with bites to both hands and to her legs. It was a matter of who should drive given the nature of bites and pain. I won.
What we Learned
Trish and I are an optimistic couple. We have a passion for animals. Our next housesit was with a lovable lab and a couple of cats. We had other assignments to follow in France and one was with just a cat. Then, it was off to New Zealand. After a week or so, we had recovered and we have never looked back. We learned to be more careful in accepting assignments. We settle for breeds that are known to be friendly. We have NOT had another bad experience. In fact, we want to put the animals in our suitcases and take them back to Canada. Yes, life can “bite” you.
Now, three years later we have had incredible and safe assignements in Spain, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, England, Australia and Tahiti. Life is to be lived and while this may NOT be your way to enjoy it, it is something that Trish and I delight in. Whatever you chose, make it fulfill you.