For many years I walked a little Scottie dog named Kiltie. I first met her when she was six months old. She was a furry ball of enthusiasm for all that life sent her way. She remained that way for all the years I had the privilege of knowing her.
Any pet sitter will tell you that just like children, each pet we care for is a special blessing that can teach us incredible things and bring us much joy. Kiltie is just one of the many examples I have to share about the sweet pets I had the opportunity to care for over the years through my pet sitting business.
Today I'm going to share with you the depth of connection and love that little Kiltie expressed for one of her special friends. It truly blew me away, and so this post is entitled "Kiltie's Gift".
One day I was walking Kiltie by the bay in the village in which she summered called Watch Hill. It is a touristy area with little shops, a historic carousel, and a beautiful cove where many dock their boats during the summer months. Normally I'd walk Kiltie anywhere from one to three times a day and she knew just about all of the shop keepers and she was quite the little celebrity in her own right because she loved to entertain everyone with her tricks and fun personality.
It was no joke when I said she had a fan club! People didn't know me from Adam, but when they saw little Kiltie at the end of the leash we had instant company! People would drive by and yell from their car windows "Hey Kiltie!". Kiltie would sport a few different outfits on rainy or cold days, which made her look even cuter if that was possible, and she was the summer hit of the village for many tourists and summer residents.
On this particular day when I picked Kiltie up for her walk, her owner told me that Kiltie found a bone while digging in the backyard. Sure enough, Kiltie presented me with a nice bone and she was quite proud of her treasure, as I'm sure any dog would be! Her eyes twinkled and her tail wagged with joy. Before we left the house Kiltie "buried" the bone under a throw rug in the kitchen for safekeeping just in case an intruder came by looking for such a treasure. Of course, there were none expected, but one can never be too safe with such a priceless treasure! Upon returning from our walk, Kiltie "dug up" the bone, took a rest on the rug, and chewed away at it.
When I arrived several hours later for Kiltie's evening walk, she was even more attached to her special bone, so much so that she wanted to take it with her on the walk. Once in a while Kiltie would want to take a toy or ball with her on the walk but would drop it soon after we left her driveway, so I'd have to carry it the rest of the way. I figured it would be the same scenario for this walk. I was wrong.
Kiltie took off on her walk with such a sense of purpose, proudly carrying the bone in her mouth as if on a mission. Little did I know, she was on a dog mission that I knew nothing about.
Normally, she would trot a little, then sniff around, then meander and take her time with her walk. Not today. It was as if she couldn't walk fast enough and she was literally pulling me and was walking full speed ahead.
Silly me, I thought she'd drop the bone soon enough, but I was wrong again. She led me straight into the village to the row of shops across from the bay. She marched right up to her favorite store - a jewelry store that was owned by one of her village friends - and waited to go inside. This jeweler, Tony, always gave her treats and he loved dogs so she made it a point to stop there on each walk. She'd do her tricks for Tony, get some belly rubs, a treat, and then we'd be on our way to greet others walking throughout the village.
This evening Kiltie had other plans. Unbeknownst to me, she was so proud of her find that she wanted to share it with Tony, one of her favorite people. We arrived at the jewelry store and I immediately noticed that it had closed a little earlier than usual. Of course, Kiltie did not notice that. She stood with her nose right at the door, bone in mouth, panting from the quick walk, and tail wagging, waiting for me to open the door so she could deliver her gift to Tony. Oh gosh........
I gently picked her up so she could see in the store window and said, "Oh gosh Kilite, no Tony tonight. His store is closed." She looked intently in the window hoping to see him in there somewhere, but no luck. I put her down and her tail stopped wagging, her head went down. I witnessed such sadness in her little furry body and eyes. She was thinking and didn't want to move. So I waited. Little did I know, she was developing a Plan B.
A minute later, she turned back to the door, put the bone very close to the door, and pushed it so it was touching the door. She was actually going to part with her precious treasure, hoping Tony would get her special delivery when he opened the store the next day.
Before we left the doorway, I gave his store a call and left a voice mail telling him that Kiltie had left him a gift, what it was, and where to find it. He normally would enter through the back door so there was a chance when he opened the front door he would unknowingly push the bone behind the door and not see it, so Kiltie and I wanted to make sure he would look for it. We did what we could.
So, Kiltie continued her walk, albeit a little slower. She was clearly disappointed. We arrived back at her house in time and told her human what happened. She too was touched with Kiltie's actions. It was a great sacrifice and chance for Kiltie to leave her bone in an unattended place overnight, but for Kiltie, Tony was worth it.
Fast forward to the next morning and our next walk..... Once again, Kiltie wanted to stop by Tony's shop. This time, the door was open, and we walked right in. I could sense the anticipation in her little self. She looked for Tony and he emerged from the back of the counter, holding the treasure she left for him and said: "Kiltie, are you looking for this?" Kiltie was immediately elated! Her tail started wagging and she had this little back and forth dance going on with her legs. She was so thrilled that Tony found it!!
As it turned out, and as it would make sense in dog logic, Kiltie really just wanted to show it to him, she didn't want him to keep it. At the end of our stop to see Tony, she took the bone back home with her so she could continue chewing it.
Sometimes just sharing the joy of a gift with someone you like makes it all the more enjoyable.
I share this story not just because it is cute, but to emphasize the reality that pets have intense connections with humans and they communicate in their own ways. Owners, pet sitters, vets, etc.... should be observant about pets' behaviors and emotional responses. Sometimes the cues are subtle and sometimes very bold. The thing is that we must be observant.
For me, being observant is a skill that not only works with understanding pet behavior but human behavior too. We all have similar ways of self-expression - like an angry face, for example, but we also each have our own uniqueness in self-expression and it would benefit all of us to become more observant. Someone could start to show anger with a raised eyebrow, but if that subtle behavioral cue isn't noticed, then the expression of anger could work up into a more overt expression of anger. It's the same way with pets - subtle cues can tell us a lot of what will come next - for good or bad.
The more we truly get to know the personalities of the pets we care for, the better we can serve them and the smoother our pet sitting visits and dog walks will be. Everyone wins.
* Above photo: This is a photo of the one and only Kiltie the Scottie, in her older years. She has since crossed over the Rainbow Bridge and I look forward to seeing her again someday in Heaven.
Reflection Questions for Pet lovers and Pet Sitters:
What are the unique behavioral signs you've seen in pets that have let you know what was going on between their furry ears?
Do you, as a pet lover, tell your pet sitter of these unique behaviors? They are important to know.
Pets, like all of us, eventually cross over the Rainbow Bridge, so do you take enough photos of your pets so you'll remember them for the rest of your life?