Tag Archives: Upper East Side

Poodle Nanny Diaries

27 Mar

I find myself in a bizarre situation. I have agreed to be a live-in poodle nanny. Hear me out.

A couple of months ago, our landlords told us that they were not going to renew our lease, because they wanted to give our apartment to their daughter. At the time, I couldn’t face the news. I was drowning in anatomy and chemistry exams and figured I’d deal with finding a new place to live when our June 1st move date was up. But a couple of weeks ago, my roommates both found apartments to move into in the beginning of April and began pressuring me to do the same, so that we could all break the lease early.

I started telling my friends that I was looking when a co-worker told me about an interesting proposition from a client who we have all worked with in the last couple of years. This client owns five black poodles, the newest of which are two young poodles that don’t get along with the eldest poodle. They live in a mansion in the Upper East Side, and the client, a woman we’ll call Marie, was looking for a live-in poodle nanny. I was skeptical. It sounded crazy, but curiosity got the better of me, and I agreed to meet with her and talk about the situation.

Attached to the 5-story home is a small studio apartment, a couple of blocks from where I work, around the corner from Central Park. The deal is that I will live there rent-free, with a small stipend for food in exchange for letting the two youngest poodles sleep in the apartmentĀ at night. The caveat is that it is something like a nanny job. They expect me to be there at a certain time at night to bring the poodles into my apartment and to stay there. Marie explained to me that she still wanted me to have a life, but that I just needed to inform the house manager of when I was going to be out at night, so that they could arrange for one of their many, many assistants to watch the dogs for me. I’m still unclear on how strict it all is. How much freedom I’ll actually have.

But I was pulled in, lured by the curiosity of the situation, of this woman. I’m so intrigued to find out how they live, how they function. I thought about it for a couple of days and told them that I would give it a shot. We agreed to do a three-month trial to make sure that I like the job and that they are happy with me. It was exciting and strange at first, but now a bit of panic is starting to set in.

How beholden will I be to these people? Do they really expect me to lead some sort of Cinderella life where I have to drop whatever I’m doing at 8pm to run back to the apartment to greet some poodles? Why can’t the poodles just hang in my apartment while I’m not there? How nice is the pool on the roof? I’m trying to calm myself down by remembering how much money I’m going to save while I’m in this current stretch of post-bacc pre-med school and how if it doesn’t work out, I’ll pretty much be in the exact same position that I am now, looking for a new place to live. But I’ll have a story. And really my whole life has just been chasing stories to tell the nurses at the old folks home one day. Maybe this will be an incredible experience, and I’ll love it. Maybe I’m entangling myself with international crime lords. At this point, I honestly don’t know. And that’s where my nervousness and my anxiety is stemming from. But all new journeys start with a little bit of fear and hesitation I suppose.


Walking a Mile in the Client’s Shoes

30 Mar


At my clinic, we refer to a lot of our appointments as “Upper East Side Problems.” People will bring their pet in for an “emergency” appointment, and it often results in something silly. A pimple on the nose, licking of the paws, not eating their entire breakfast, standing in the hallway looking off into space for too long. I sometimes think our clients have too much time on their hands and that they must spend a majority of their time staring at their pets, manifesting problems out of thin air. They then show up at our clinic in a nonsensical panic, complaining about how their pet is nervous about being in a new place. “Please don’t put Fluffy in a cage! I can’t bear the thought!” I have little patience for these people.

A couple of weekends ago, I was pet sitting for two of my favorite patients, Ellie Mae the pug, and Lucas the fat cat. I’m friendly with the owner, and she had warned me that Lucas has become a picky eater, lost weight, and been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I have stayed with them since the diagnosis, and it means that when he is dropping a deuce in the litterbox, he makes the saddest little kitten cries. It’s heartbreaking.

So I walk into the apartment on a Friday after work to be greeted by Ellie Mae who is making her pug squawks at me, letting me know that she is ready for dinner. But I notice Lucas hanging back a bit, sulking. Then I start to notice small drops of diarrhea everywhere. In the entryway, in the living room, the bathroom, and leading out of his litterbox. I text the owner to ask if that is something that has been happening. She texts back in a panic that, no, the diarrhea is a new development. I start texting the veterinarians asking for their advice. I’m hovering over Lucas, feeling his pulses, checking his mucous membranes for tackiness, testing his skin turgor, overall annoying him. I call the clinic and make an appointment and spend the night not able to sleep with worry.

In the drizzle-rain the next morning, I put Lucas into his carrier and bring him into work with me. I set him up in a cage and have the doctor’s look at him. As in multiple doctors. I want bloods. I want fluids. I spend most of the day hovering in the cage, petting the stressed out cat and telling him it’s okay. I have in a 24-hour period become the crazy clients that I find myself complaining about most of the time.

I’m an anomaly in the vet tech profession in that I don’t own any pets of my own. I would LOVE to, but my apartment lease doesn’t allow it. I also feel too irresponsible, too prone to spontaneously going out, too overbooked to give a pet the love and attention that it deserves. So this weekend of taking care of a sick animal that I have a deep fondness for was an important experience to have. Although I still stand by the fact that the majority of our clients have too much free time on their hands, I get the neurotic obsessiveness. It comes from a place of love and a feeling of helplessness when their pet is not feeling well.

By the end of the day, Lucas was doing much better. He was stressed and hiding in the cage (which shattered by heart), but the veterinarians and I rehydrated him and found some better food options that are more compatible with his delicate bowels. Later that night when I got into bed, he came with Ellie Mae and I. He curled up under my arm purring, and I knew that he was feeling better. And after a full day of worrying about him, the three of us slept soundly through the night.

Our post-hospital cuddle-fest.

Our post-hospital cuddle-fest.

Cat Sitting

16 Dec
A couple of rescues from the NYPD.

A couple of rescues from the NYPD.

Last week, Dr. L introduced me to a new cat sitting client. His cat, Midnight, had that day been diagnosed as a diabetic. Him and his wife often go to Long Island for the weekend, and he needed someone to stop by and give Midnight her insulin. I quoted him my rates, and we had made a deal.

“You know,” I told him. “I also do cat feeding and litter box changes if you wanted me to take care of all of it while I stop by.”
“Oh no. There’s a lady in our building who does that and..um… she does that.”
“No problem. I’ll just take care of the insulin then.”

He sent me a nicely detailed email about the times he wanted me to stop by. The cat sitter that lives in the building would feed the cat in the afternoon, and I was to come over in the “early evening” to give her the insulin.

So after work I walked to the apartment, and as I entered, I heard someone rustling in the kitchen. I called out a hello and a slight-of-frame woman came out from the kitchen with a phone cradled between her shoulder and face.

“The technician just got here,” she said into the phone. “Yes, she just walked in. So I’ll help her.” She hung up the phone and turned to me. “I’m the other cat sitter. That was Bruce. He told me you were coming in the early evening, and it’s almost six.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you’d be here.”
“I’ve been waiting for you since 3 when I fed Midnight. I called Bruce to tell him that I could just give the insulin. I know how to do it myself, you know.”
“Oh, okay,” I said making my way to the kitchen to draw up the insulin. I wanted out of that apartment.

“Bruce is such a nervous daddy,” she continued. “I mean, I can give the shots. I know how. I don’t know why he hired you. I’ve done this before. I’ll hold Midnight for you. She doesn’t like strangers.”
“I actually met Midnight at the clinic.”
“She likes me better.”

So I let the woman hold the cat while I gave the quick injection. We both left the apartment together, and she told me to call her tomorrow if I needed help giving the injection in the morning.

The next morning I walk into the building and tell the doorman at the front desk the apartment number that I’m going up to. He picks up the phone and starts calling someone.

“Oh, they’re not there,” I tell him. “They left a key for me to let myself in.”
“That’s not who I’m calling.” I swallow my annoyance as I hear him announce to my cat sitter friend that I have arrived.
“She will meet you at the apartment,” he tells me.

I head upstairs and let myself in. I get out the insulin and start drawing it up as the cat comes out of the bathroom and circles at my feet. A couple of moments later, the cat sitter enters.

“When you said late morning, I didn’t think you meant 11!”
“Here. Let me hold Midnight. I can do this myself you know.”

I smile and nod and give the injection that I was paid to give.

“I’ve given injections to other animals before. I don’t think Bruce will be using you again. I’ll just do it from now on.”
“So I’ll leave my key here for them, so they don’t have to come by the clinic,” I say, placing the key on the living room table.
“Sounds like a good idea,” she says to me. “I mean, I have my own set.”

So, needless to say, I don’t think that client will use me again. I felt a mix of frustration and guilt. I never meant to step on this woman’s territory. I wasn’t trying to steal her client. I had no idea Upper East Side cat sitters could be so territorial.

Kissing Puppies

17 Nov

2013-10-15 18.50.55This little puppy came in at 12 weeks old with pneumonia. It had aspirated its own vomit. It was touch and go for a while, but she made a full recovery and went home after a week of hospitalization. Everyone at the hospital fell in love with her, because, well, look at that face! Her owner was notorious for driving the doctors crazy with odd demands and overdramatics. I hadn’t experienced any of that though.

She brought the puppy in for a recheck exam about a week ago. Dr. S always meets with clients in an exam room and afterwards has a technician go to the room, retrieve the animal, and bring it to the larger treatment area for their full physical. After meeting with this woman, Dr. S came to treatment to tell me to get the dog.

“She might be a little difficult about it,” he warned me. “But don’t fight with her, just bring it back here. I’ve told her a million times that’s what we do here.”

So I head over to the room. The woman is sitting in the corner with the puppy on her lap, her cheeks shiny from an abundance of tears. I know I need to tread carefully.

“Oh, our girl has gotten so big! Still so cute though,” I say.
She clutches the dog closer to her.
“So, I’m going to take her to the back now for Dr. S to examine her,” I tell her, reaching for the dog. She places the dog in my arms, looking at me with suspicion.
“Do you *sniffle*…do you *sniffle*…do you kiss her when she’s back there?” she asks through her tears, in a quiet timid voice.

A word about this. No, I almost never kiss the animals that come to the back. I’ve seen too many dogs dance in their own shit, roll around in it, really get it in their fur. Because of this, my mouth does not touch them. The idea makes me cringe a little. I only kiss the patients I know very well. I only kiss my top 5. But this woman seemed distraught, and I wanted to reassure her.

“Oh course! We all love her. She’s such a good girl,” I say petting the puppy.
“Well, DON’T! I kiss my puppy. Not you. I do. I’ve been getting colds the last couple of weeks, and it’s from YOU PEOPLE kissing MY dog. You get your germs all over her.”

I’d already been given strict instructions not to fight with her. So I nod my head and make my way to leave the room.

“And tell everyone else to not kiss my puppy! Make sure to tell everyone!” she yells after me as I head down the hall.

I sigh. Just another day in the Upper East Side.

Tiggy goes Tee Tee

19 Feb
Fancy Shmancy

Fancy Shmancy

My job is bizarre. I say this not because of what I do all day, but because of the people I deal with. Upper East Side pet owners are a brand of crazy entirely unto themselves. For instance, I was recently cat-sitting for a woman who has a nanny cam. Not to spy on me. It’s so she can watch the cats eat while she’s away.

But that’s nothing. Dogs that only drink Evian. Gucci leashes. Par for the course. This past weekend, I dealt with one of our most extreme clients.

Let’s call her Celia. I cannot use her real name, because a quick google search will turn up one of the most well-known socialites in New York City. Even google images of her with her dog! She has her own tag on Gawker.com where I found out she owns her own line of travel gear for “rich ladies and their pets.” Celia is a Southern belle divorcee, who now runs with the lady who lunches crowd. These ladies are Chanel-suit wearing frenemies who try to out-do one another with which charity luncheons they attend. These lunches are hosted at the most expensive restaurants in the city, which in my opinion is a complete waste, since you know these ladies only eat arugula salads with a slice of lemon on the side.

Her pet is a toy Yorkie named Tigerlily. 16-years-old, blind, deaf, collapsed trachea, unable to walk, dementia. In summation, a shell of a dog. This dog has been in renal failure for about two years now, but somehow clinging to life. She brought the dog in on Friday for a recheck, and it is clear that this is the end. The bloodwork looks horrible, and the dog is barely alive. Amid tears and hysterics, Dr. S explained that the dog had to be hospitalized. She told the doctor she hasn’t been apart from the dog for more than half an hour in 15 years. She doesn’t know how she’ll go on.

My first encounter with her was during a visit. It was after hours, so I greeted her at the door to the clinic and led her to an exam room.
“I’m going to go get Tigerlily now and bring her to you.”
“Chrissy!” she put her hand to her mouth, stifling a sob. “I just have one question for you. Just one!” Tears streaming down her cheeks. “Can she survive off the fluids for the visit. I don’t want my angel to be harmed by my visit.” Heaving sobs. The friend she brought with her rushes to her side.
“Oh, Celia, pull yourself together! Tigerlily is going to be alright. You need to be strong for her. Let this young lady do her job.” They clung to one another in desperation. It was a scene straight out of a day time soap opera.
“Chrissy!” Celia looks at me. “Just (sniffle, sniffle) answer my question for me!”
“Yeah, the dog’ll be fine off fluids for the visit.”
“Oh God! My baby in the hospital. I just can’t take it!”

I brought her the dog and remained calm in the face of such hysterics. Now she has latched on to me. Asking for me, wanting to talk about the dog. She talked the doctors into letting her stay with the dog ALL DAY. She sits with the dog in a far off exam room, talking baby talk to the dog and crying. I stay as far away as possible. But somehow I get sucked in. She hears me walk by.
“Look, Tiggy! It’s your good friend, Chrissy!” she’ll turn to me. “Did you see her tongue, Chrissy? I’m so worried (gasp, sniffle) about my angel. Look! Look!”
“I think that’s just a spit bubble.”
“Would you tell the doctor? I’m just so worried. Look at the way she’s holding her head?!”
“Yeah, I’ll go tell the doctor. Right now. I’ll go right now.” I inch out the door, trying to shut it behind me, pretending to not hear her calling my name.

Back in treatment, Dr. G is once again the voice of reason.
“Can someone please have a real conversation with this woman?” he asks the other doctors.
“Please don’t go in there,” Dr. Z begs. “You don’t understand this lady.”
“Just let me do it! This is a quality of life issue. She needs to snap out of it.”
“What would you tell her?” I ask him.
“Even a train comes to a stop.”

Yesterday, at the end of the day, her friends (you know, the heiresses of New York) convince her that she should go home and shower, try to sleep a little. She places the dog in my arms and follows me back to the treatment area.
“Don’t worry, Tiggy. Your good friend Chrissy is going to stay here with you!” I don’t have the heart to tell her that my shift is over, and as soon as she leaves, I’m out the door as well.
“Oh, Chrissy! I have such good news. Tiggy went Tee Tee!”
“She did a nice Tee Tee!”
“Come again?”
“A Tee Tee! On the paper y’all gave her.”
“Oh, she peed?” Her face scrunched up as if I called her dog a motherfucker.
“Well, she tee teed.”

From what I gather this stands for tinkle tinkle?

The thing is, she’s a very nice woman. She bought us all Magnolia cupcakes on Saturday and last night she gave me a bag of Potpourri. Not just any potpourri, Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella potpourri. Imported from Italy. She told me to place it in a bowl as soon as I get home.
“It smells like heaven! I’ll bring you a different fragrance for tomorrow.”

I said my thank-yous and wished her a good night. I changed into my street clothes and headed home. On the smelly subway, I kept getting a whiff of the potpourri in my bag, the flower petals gathered on a Tuscan hill. I couldn’t stop thinking, “God, my job is strange.”