Professional Insane Dog Walker.

I haven’t written too much about Toby and Tootsie lately, and there’s several reasons for that. The main one is that the dogs are now completely housebroken, and no longer pooping or peeing everywhere, living in relative harmony with us.

There’s no real source of drama, and let’s just say nobody clicks on a TMZ article about how in love Khloe is with Lamar (it is important that one keeps up with the Kardashians) and how swimmingly everything is going in their marriage. People want mischief, excitement, drama, and the ability to go ‘I knew it!’ or ‘I told you so!’ when they read something.

So yes, it is relative peace and quiet in the Cheok household whenever the dogs are inside. No more broken toys, no more yellow puddles of joy to be cleaned up, no more guessing what the brown thing is on the floor anymore. Okay, so maybe once or twice a week it might happen, but it doesn’t faze us anymore.

Leave the house, however, and it is a different task altogether.

hand silhouette protecting paws of dog or cat or wild animal

Every time we walk the dogs it is like a Jason Bourne movie, and everyone knows how good I am at being a secret agent. Karen and I hover over a map of our suburb, tracing routes with the least amount of dog/bicycle activity based on our daily reconnaissance activities, plan our meeting points, synchronise our watches, and then wish each other good luck as we go out, knowing each time might be our last.

Okay, so it is not so dramatic, but let’s just say that there is a certain amount of fear and excitement (for me at least) whenever it is time to leave the house with the dogs. Our main problem is with Tootsie, and how crazy she gets whenever she meets other dogs.

Tootsie, is, shall we say, socially challenged. I think the problem is that as rescues, Tootsie (and Toby) probably have had very little exposure to other dogs as puppies, therefore they don’t know the rules of social engagement.

With the help of our trainer, so far, we have managed to subdue Tootsie’s lunging and mad barking whenever she sees a bicycle. (Hint: Throw food at Tootsie whenever a bicycle rides past. Like lots of it. Like American portions. Soon, she will learn to… be fat, and slow, and drowsy. Haha, no! It’s Pavlovian association – read a book!)

Whenever Tootsie sees another dog, however, she gets really excited. Think of the biggest Star Wars’ geek meeting Harrison Ford in person, or a Belieber going out on a date with the Biebs, or a Bindi Irwin fan (guilty) meeting her in person. Now take the same intensity and heartswell and multiply it by a hundred times, and you get Tootsie whenever she meets another dog. Her head perks up, her tail turns into a speedboat propeller, and she starts to pull on her leash.

‘Let’s play! Let’s be friends! Let’s play, let’s play, let’s play!’ she yells at the other dogs, as she snaps and lunges at them in kindred eagerness.

Of course, to the other dogs (and their terrified owners) it sounds a little more like this instead –

‘I’m going to kill you! And then I’m going to kill your family! And then I’m going to enjoy all your bones! And then I’m going to poop you out and sniff you!’ which is why the owners have always pulled their dogs away in fear while casting us dirty looks for raising the next canine Hannibal Lector.

Mirror image of silhouette of black dog on white background.

So yes, whenever we go out for walks now, we bring a pack of what I’d like to call the Doggie Trail Mix – an assembled mixture of shredded boiled chicken, kibbles, dried liver snaps and some Schmacko (Jingle: Dogs go absolutely wacko for Schmacko’s!) naughtiness.

These are what the trainer has described as high level treats for our dogs – the only treats capable of distracting them from another more intense stimulus – ie bicycles or other dogs. Armed with this arsenal of distraction, we walk our little suburb, trying to desensitise Toby and Tootsie to other dogs.

We try our best to ration these treats so that it will last the whole 45 minutes or hour that we are out. With the weather getting better, however, there are more and more owners walking their dogs out nowadays, which means that the treats do not last as long they should.

Just the other day, I was walking them by myself and we were on the home stretch going back to my house. I had exhausted most of my treats that day trying to calm Tootsie down whenever dogs approached. And there were a lot of dogs. Everywhere we turned and walked there seemed to be a dog and their owner, and most of my ‘ammunition’ had been spent in the last 5 minutes prior to the home stretch.

The home stretch itself is usually an uneventful straightforward 200 metre walk home where dog activity is anywhere from minimum to non-existent.

That day, however, I spotted a group of four adults chatting away behind a parked car in the distance. Now, as a dog owner looking out for other dogs, you sort of develop a sixth sense for whenever a dog is in the area – the owners are talking but their heads are down, tracking something moving on the ground. Either they are admiring each others well-defined ankles, or more likely –

Yup, sure enough. A white and brown beagle appears.

I turn and walk the other way with Tootsie and Toby into a back alley lane and try to approach my house from the other side. I was busy looking at Toby when suddenly I felt a lunge from Tootsie’s leash and I looked up a little too late to see this tradie coming out of his house with his miniature dog. Tootsie went into full Ballistic Barking ™ mode, wanting so badly to just play with the little dog (until it died, or that’s how she made it sound anyway).

To my annoyance, the tradie in his bright orange vest challenged Tootsie’s death threats by walking towards us instead of away. I threw the last of the treats at Tootsie but it wasn’t working – the morsels on the floor wastefully ignored as she continued her playful barking/death threats towards the little hairy potato walking towards us. I had to pull her away to a corner until the little minx was out of her line of view before she would settle down.

I looked at my doggie trail mix bag – ah, crap – I was completely out of food save for one last kibble. I had to make a run for it.

I waited until the small dog was truly out of sight before I hurried them along. I turned the corner and I could see my front door about a stone’s throw away when suddenly I spotted a lady approaching in the distance busily looking at her phone, and although I couldn’t see her dog, I noticed immediately the tell-tale leash hanging from her hand.

I turned around with the dogs. One treat, no way out. This was it.

Gentlemen, this is what we’ve been training for.

black silhouette of a hand on a white background

I looked around. My mind whirred at a hundred miles a minute – what do I do now?  I couldn’t turn back now – the place was crawling with other dogs.

I looked up and I saw the parked cars lining the street. I hurried Tootsie and Toby across the road, and then lunged and rolled (or that’s how it played in my head anyway) towards a parked car just in time as the other dog pulled into view on my right. I got Tootsie Galore to Sit! and then look at the last kibble in my hand.

Seconds that seemed like a lifetime passed – with the car obstructing the other dog from her view and Tootsie Galore staring intently at my Last Stand Kibble, I manage to distract her enough until the dog passed completely out of sight.

I heaved a sigh of relief, fed Tootsie the kibble and dashed the last ten metres home without any further event. Whew!

The name is Cheok. Heng Cheok. Professional Insane Dog Walker.

(*Parked car explodes. Roll end credits with sultry Adele singing and silhouettes of  leggy female dogs.*)

The ‘Poo’ In Poodle.

Sweet chocolate cream in bowl on table close-up

Sweet chocolate cream in bowl on table close-up

If you are a pet owner, or if you have a child, there is a singular, uncomfortable but undeniable truth – you have eaten their poop at some point in your life.

Yup, whether it is dog, cat, bird or little Tommy, you would have eaten their poop at some point in your life. Oh, it’s not like you’ve smeared it like Nutella over your morning toast or topped your ice cream with it. I am saying that at some point in your parenthood, a small amount of the faeculent particles of your beloved pet/child would have made its way down your mouth, into your gullet and into your digestive system.

Think about it. Your pet/child poops everywhere and at different times of the day, whether you are awake to watch them or otherwise. You have to clean up the surprise mess, then the pet/child’s bottom, and then throw away the paper towels or wet wipes, all without trying to touch your hands or your kitchen surface.

Even if you successfully maneuver this Mission Improbable, your pet/child will sometimes scamper around with unwiped bottoms, putting their butts onto every possible surface in your home – coffee tables, couches, wall corners (what? it was itchy!). Your hands would touch these surfaces then grab that apple, or chocolate (haha!) or make dinner.

‘Oh no!’ you protest. ‘Not in my house.  My pets are toilet trained, I triple-wipe their bottoms after every evacuation, and the house has a coating of Glen 20 on it – that’s how much I use it. There is no way I could have ever eaten poop, ever.’

Curious! For someone who doesn’t eat crap, you sure talk a lot of it.

(*mic drop*)

No matter how clean you would like to think you are, you cannot be eternally vigilant, ergo, you have eaten their poop at some point in your life.

So far, we have been pretty lucky with the dogs with regards to poop. Apart from the initial dumps in the house while they were still feeling out the place, we have yet to deal with many other faecal-related incidents.

Urine, on the other hand, I think we have earned ourselves a Division 1 Certificate of Peepee Handling and Removal (an actual college diploma course) in.


Coming home everyday when we’ve left the dogs alone for hours is always an adventure. Opening the door is like opening the garage door in American Beauty or being a contestant in a game show I’d like to call Schroedinger’s Dogs – you never know what awaits you.

Will you open Door No. 1, revealing relative peace and quiet, with everything in its place? Or will it be Door No. Poo, where there is chaos – ripped up toilet rolls, devoured treats carelessly left on the bench top, or worse still, what Karen and I christian as ‘gifts’ – little packages of poop and pee that the dogs left for us.

The way we have tried to hedge our bets is to crate the dogs. Crating, as I understand it, is an American concept of putting the dogs into crates which will settle them – a man’s cave or a ladies’ den, if you will. The idea is that the dogs remain calm in the crates as it is their safe space.

We first bought a crate big enough for both Tootsie and Toby, and although it did have a settling effect for them initially, the peace started to unravel as they realised that the only time they were being led into the crates was when we were going out. This led to a lot of crate-hate developing, resulting in the both of them fighting within the crate sometimes or whimpering to be let out. No man in a proper cave has ever whimpered to be let out.

We then had the bright idea of buying a second, smaller crate for Toby. Toby loved the idea so much he ripped a hole in the top of the crate, for him to up periscope whenever we try to sneak out of the house. I think if he could jump in the crate and come after us, which would be both a terrifying and a cute sight, he would.

IMG_5185 (1)

Anyway, last Thursday evening, we came home after a night out for several hours. We opened the door to the unmistakable waft of eau de merde de chien (Fragrance of Dog Poop), which caused us to groan, because it meant that one dog (or both?!) had pooped in their respective crates.

We immediately went to Toby’s crate with a disappointed sigh – ‘Tobyyyyy….!‘. Walking the dogs earlier today, Toby had semi-squatted mid-walk and pooped an unnaturally soft mushy poop, so we thought he had done it again in his crate. We unzipped the flap door, and to our surprise, Toby’s crate was spotless, with the innocent occupant giving us a puzzled look. (You want bibimbap?)

This led us to the immediate horrible realisation that it was, instead, Tooootsie! and we had not yet finished yelling out her name when she bolted out of her now unzipped crate and ran all over the house, her paws stained with the mushy poop she had been sitting in.

Tootsie, poor thing, had sat in her diarrhoea-ish poop for who knows how long, and was doing her typically excited scamper around the house. Except, you know, this time she was Poopcahontas, and was painting our mostly white home with the Colours of Her Poop.

‘You think you can crate me when you want to,
The crate is now my prison and my loo,
But with my footsteps I will teach you, 
The things you never knew, about my poo!

Have you ever heard the….’ she sang as she danced across the house, wind in her hair.

Beautiful girl in style of the American Indians dancing in the rays of the autumn sun. Western style. Jeans fashion.

Crap! Like literally! In my mind I was like ‘Ohshitohshitohshit’ while trying to catch her. Never try to catch Poopcahontas. She is a free spirit, and must  dance across the face your living room, spreading her colours everywhere.

Karen, the eternal pragmatist and Voice of Reason in our relationship, kicked immediately into action, and told me to clean up downstairs while she showered Tootsie, who was now Vector No.1.

And so with much convincing, we got Tootsie into the shower, and Karen started washing her down. Meanwhile, I surveyed the carnage downstairs, trying to decide where to start the clean-up after Typoop Tootsie had blown through. There were pooprints everywhere, and it is hard to think straight when you have the smell of eau de merde de chien caressing your nostril hairs.

I got a large bag and threw away the poop-filled blanket that had lined her crate, and started taking antibacterial household wipes and Glen 20 to every possible surface in the house. If you are a parent, antibacterial wipes and cleaning products are your best friends. Stock up these things like there is an apocalypse coming. Because the apocalypse is already here.

Whenever I am overwhelmed with a seemingly insurmountable task like this one, I always pay attention to the little inner voice in me which says ‘Be calm. This, too, will be over soon. Do what you have to do, and before you know it, you will be sitting down on your couch, sipping tea and laughing at this.’

I looked at my couch.

And sure enough, at the end of the night, we were both sitting in a corner with a fresh smelling Tootsie, our eyes wide and unblinking in traumatised fear, while we gently rocked to and fro, while whispering over and over again ‘Dogs are our friends, dogs are our friends, dogs are our…’

Haha, no! The couch was spared, thank God! Man, it certainly made for a very long night and a lot of cleaning, both of Poopsie, erm, I mean, Tootsie, and the home. But yes, this too, did pass – we just had to patiently push through until we got to the other side.

Apple cider vinegar discourage dogs and cats from chewing on furniture

We no longer crate Toby or Tootsie nowadays when we leave the house, and we always make sure they have access to the Backyard Toilet when we are away. So far they have been pretty good, fingers crossed, although Tootsie from time to time has done small re-enactments of her favourite Disney princess.

Every friend of ours who has ever owned a dog or a pet would tell us this one truth – poop does not faze them anymore.

I am certainly beginning to see that now – just this morning I spotted two more mounds of poop that either Poopsie or the Notorious To-B.I.G. Business had made. Luckily, there were no trailing pooprints anywhere else.

I shrugged, a no big deal pout flashing across my face, and bent down, plastic bag in one gloved hand and a ton of household wipes in another, to Take Care of Business.