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!”
“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.”