Friday, July 24, 2015

10 Shocking Reasons You Should Read This Post (#6 is so weird orange juice shot out my nose and I wasn't even drinking orange juice!)

Ah, gee, I feel kind of bad now. There aren't really ten reasons. There isn't even a #6. It was all a shameless ploy to lure you back to The Crooked Clothesline. It's been months since I've aired any dirty laundry and I've missed you!

I owe you an actual headline, don't I? I suppose if I hadn't lost all integrity and, instead, used my imagination, I might've come up with something like "Dogs: Just Kids Packin' Hefty Sniffers" or "Your Kid is Nothing More Than a Bi-Pedal K9."

You see, last fall while enjoying my rash and brash decision to leave my teaching position and luxuriate in delicious writing time, my cousin suggested to her friends that I might be just the person to help out with their dog-sitting business. I thought, "Eh, should be a fun way to bring in some cash until I have to get a full-time job." Oh, it was. It was also strangely familiar.

Yes, I spent the next several months noting the similarities between teaching a classroom full of kids and tending to a pack of dogs. Before you are offended, please note: I love dogs and kids. Pretty much. I was just surprised by the intensity of the similarities. Of course, if a person thinks hard enough, she can find some similarities between almost any two items. I've provided a Venn diagram to illustrate my point:

However, with dogs and kids it's more like this:

Granted, many of the similarities are positive and endearing qualities.....but this is The Crooked Clothesline.  And, really, isn't it more fun to focus on the ridiculous? So grab a glass of orange juice and let's see if anything shoots out your nostrils. 


In my experience as a teacher, blatant student disobedience was not a daily occurrence. Yeah, there was always that child who would have spent an entire math lesson folding his homework into an origami Yoda on the sly, if he could've gotten away with it (and it's possible some did.) However, the more spectacular displays of disobedience tended to be rare, such as the following incident that occurred during recess. One of my first graders had been told several times not to do such-n-such. Of course, he did it again -- simply for the pleasure of having all attention on himself. I remember the smile of glorious triumph on his face, his shoulders hunching up with each uncontrollable giggle. He hung back, just out of reach, waiting for me to call him over. When I did, his smile stretched even wider and he took off running in the opposite direction. 

As much as I would've loved to race after that kid and make him eat turf by tackling him to the ground, I knew I would never catch him. In addition, and more importantly, it was Fifties Day. I was in full costume. I could just imagine the Benny Hill theme music playing as an overweight, middle-aged lady in rolled up dungarees and cat-eye glasses chased a grinning little boy back and forth across the soccer field and up and down the play equipment while all the other first graders watched.  

So I nonchalantly blew the whistle to signal the end of recess and walked the line of obedient children toward the building with Mr. Naughty trailing along just out of reach (much like a dog!) I completely ignored him until he dared to walk within my reach. Without a word, I took him by the wrist and marched him to the principal's office.

Actor dramatization
Just like kids, most of the dogs I dealt with were mostly obedient. "Come." "Sit." "Drop it." Then, I met Roosevelt (not his real name.) Roosevelt was a fluffy yellow lab puppy roughly the size of a PT Cruiser. I had 30 minutes to get this giant baby to eat and go for a walk. He much preferred to loll around in the yard, munching away patches of the manicured lawn. Once he lazed in the grass with a bird carcass protruding from his fuzzy lips and refused to drop it. Another time, I was perusing handwritten directions left by the homeowners when Roosevelt snatched the paper out of my hand and ran away...reminding me of a certain student I once had. Roosevelt also confused my forearm with a Nylabone and left me peppered with tooth-sized bruises between the elbow and wrist.


 If you have a dog or a child, you probably already know what I'm  talking about. Both are separate entities from yourself and,  unfortunately, you cannot control either with your thought waves.  While teaching, if a mouse is spotted in the classroom, the calm,  orderly spelling test taking place will erupt into screaming and  clamoring to get a closer look. While dog-sitting, if the  homeowners leave a note requesting that you not allow their Lhaso  apsos in the pool, the landscapers will leave the pool gate open and  the dogs will jump in to ravage a poor, vulnerable lizard that you  will have to wade after in order to rescue.

Plays a Lhaso apso on tv.


Teaching can be a little scary in today's world. One mistake and your mascara-streaked mugshot may show up in everyone's Facebook news feed. The day students started bringing picture-taking cellphones to school, I got smart and emptied my desk drawer of the vodka bottles and stopped showing that Richard Pryor video for Black History Month.

I was always afraid that something I said to students would come back to haunt me. Part of my fear stemmed from my unprofessionalism. As one of my favorite first graders put it, "You're like a big kid, Mrs. Bastek." However, a problem much bigger than my leaky filter was what might be lost or gained in the first-grade translation later that night at the dinner table. 

"My dear Mrs. Jennings, let me assure you that Tommy grossly misquoted me. I did NOT say he was a brat. I said he was acting like a brat."

Being trapped in a classroom with 25 children all day drudges up all sorts of fearful thoughts. "What if I'm letting this child down?"  "Am I singlehandedly responsible for the tragic demise of cursive?" "Did Mrs. Jennings wrap up these homemade cookies herself or did she let little Booger Fingers do it?"

I never expected that during my dog-sitting jobs, I would again be poked by the cold finger of fear. Heck, dogs aren't scary. When I was around nine years old, my dad mentioned, somewhat jokingly, that I was too dumb to be afraid of dogs. Doesn't sound very nice, I know, but the man was right. For decades, I unreservedly invited any stray dog into the backseat of my car so I could track down its owners.

Not actual pit bulls
I will admit, though, that I had to put on a brave face to go feed and be company for two pit bulls. I want to say up front (so you don't get scared for me) that I got through the experience with nothing bad happening. Mitch and Micki (not their real names) appeared to be wonderful, friendly, loving dogs. They always acted happy to see me and enjoyed getting their hind ends scratched. Yet, after reading unsolicited "trending" articles on Facebook about pit bulls in the news I grew more wary. Honestly, every time I went to feed Mitch and Micki, my own brain spent the entire half hour visit inundating me with disturbing mental images featuring myself. I don't want to go into detail because they were not funny images. The result, though, was that I never bent down to pick up a dog toy in that house.

The similarity between teaching and dog-sitting is clear: one wrong move and you're dead meat.


Perhaps it is a little known schoolhouse phenomenon but it is my understanding that legends relating the mysterious appearance of poop on classroom carpets circulate amongst teachers as high up as the 5th grade. I myself have had to discreetly squat down mid vocab lesson, tissue in hand, to remove the object of horror (lest chaos ensue) and then attempt to sniff out the poopetrator.

Taking Bulldog classes at community 
So when it came to dog-sitting, one would think that as a former educator and lifelong dog owner, I would have developed a high tolerance for poo. Well, I recently had a brand new humiliating experience and for that I can thank a beautiful, gray bulldog named Layla (identity changed so the Dog Boss won't get mad at me.) While walking Layla through her apartment complex, she had a bout of the big D, in the grassy common area right outside of a semi-circle of patios. I was a little stunned, standing there with my limp and useless doggy doo-doo bag. I texted the Dog Boss to see if he had any suggestions, really hoping he would say something like, "Oh, please. Just leave, ya' goofball!" I loitered for five minutes without getting a response. Then, confident that no one had witnessed the event, I took Layla back to her home and prepared to leave. That's when the Dog Boss called all panicked, saying that the apartment management would DNA test any dog poo found on the property and that the Layla's owner would get in trouble. Now, I don't know if that claim itself was a load of caca but I found myself scooping up dog diarrhea with two red Solo cups. 

That might've been the very night I decided it was time to throw in the leash.

Messy Business

So in the past year, I moved seamlessly from one messy business to another. The overlap between teaching and dog-sitting really did strike me as funny. I remember being very nervous about the pit bulls. I reminded myself that I was also always nervous the night before a new school year started and had to put on a show for the kids of not being nervous. So I told myself to do the same with the pit bulls: just put on a show and use my teacher voice. It worked. Both jobs provided me with lots of laughs and a clientele that was 100% adorable. One major difference between the dogs and the kids is that the kids usually could tell when I was joking and when I wasn't. I hope you can, too! 

A special thanks to 
          Shawna,           Harvey,               Langdon and Sophie,               Roscoe    and     Annabelle.