Marshmallow or Birthday Cake?
“Have you worked in kennels before?” I asked the girl on the other end of the phone.
“No, but I have always wanted to work with animals.”
“Oh, I see.”
“I know I would be really good at it because I love dogs and cats.”
“Well, as a matter of fact, I do have a vacancy.”
“I will have to give a month’s notice.”
“Just a minute… You will need to come for an interview before we get that far. What sort of work are you doing at the moment?”
“I work in a Bank but I desperately want to work with animals.”
“Working in a Bank must pay better wages and will offer better prospects than working in a kennels.”
“Yes, I know but I really want to work with animals. I’ve wanted to ever since I left school but I’ve been stuck in this Bank for three years now. Please, give me a chance?”
“I tell you what I am prepared to do. As you have never worked in a kennels before and also before you give up a well paid job with prospects, I think it best if you come and work as a weekender for a couple of weeks to see how you get on.”
“Oh, yes, please, can I come this weekend? I know I will love it!”
Yes, okay, I do need another person and it will save me ringing round to see who is available. Be here for half eight on Saturday morning, don’t be late and wear sensible clothes and shoes.”
“Thank you so much. You won’t regret it I promise!”
“Okay, I’ll see you on Saturday.”
She sounds keen I thought as I cradled the phone but I didn’t get the impression that she really took on board how much of a drop in wages there would be as kennel work certainly couldn’t compete with working in a Bank. Still, if she is prepared for a significant drop in wages and she’s a good worker and really wants to work with animals then it might suit the both of us.
Saturday came and I am there in the office with all the youngsters who worked for us part time at weekends and school holidays. They did this to earn a bit of money while studying for their ‘A’ Levels. Anyway, I just happened to look up when I saw this vision in pink and white walking jauntily down the path towards the office. I could hardly believe it. We weren’t open to customers before nine so I knew this was the girl, Debbie, who worked in the Bank.
“Wear something sensible,” I had said. If this was what she considered sensible I couldn’t imagine what she would regard as frivolous.
The first thing I should say is that it was raining quite heavy and the girl was not only dressed in pink and white from head to toe but she was also wearing what looked liked a very expensive pair of pink suede boots. Her long blonde hair looked as if she had just come straight from the hairdressers as she had it in a Farrah Fawcett style popular at the time. As she entered the office I could see she also had beautifully manicured pink polished finger nails. Then, as if that wasn’t enough she had so much gold bling on her that I worried that should there be an undetected strong magnet in the office filing cabinet she might find herself suddenly attracted to it. For a start, she wore very long, gold, hoop earrings, several gold necklaces and two or three rings on each hand. She was also very carefully made up and she breezed into the office with a huge smile on her face.
Myself and all the others present stood open mouthed, no gob smacked comes nearer, as she said,
“Hello I’m Debbie, I spoke to you on the phone,” as she held out her hand for me to shake.
“Yyes…I remember” I said, still trying to get my head round what she was wearing and how she was turned out generally.
“You haven’t given your notice in yet, have you?” I managed to utter.
“No, but I feel sure I will after next weekend.”
“Okay,” I said, trying to gather my wits.
“I’m going to put you on ‘B’ Block,” I said. “We usually start new people there as it is the easiest block but I will put Adrian with you at first as he is the most experienced. He will show you what to do and stay with you until he thinks you can manage
“Okay,” she said brightly.
I took her through the big main security gate that led to the kennels and showed her where ‘B’ Block was before leaving her with Adrian.
The other week-enders knew to help her with feeding her block as all dogs had to be fed before they went for their own lunch. Before that, however, they had a thirty minute tea break because the work was very physical.
No one was allowed to go to lunch though until all the kennels had been cleaned out and the runs attached to the kennels and the courtyards were scrubbed, the dogs were all fed and the kennel kitchen was clean with all dog bowls washed up and put away. It was also a rule that if any one was behind with their work one or two of the more experienced people would help them get finished.
The afternoons followed much the same routine as the morning but usually the person doing ‘B’ Block would clean the staff caravan and the toilet though not if the person was new so Debbie didn’t have that to worry about.
At the end of the day she was running behind so two other members of staff went in to help her get finished before they all came to see me in the office.
“Hello Debbie, how did you find it?” I asked pleasantly.
“Yes,” she replied wearily, “I found it okay.”
“Good, I’ll see you in the morning then, and don’t be late.”
I watched her walk or rather stagger up the path and knew I would be sending her day’s wages on.
It had been raining all day and her beautifully coiffed hair was now sopping wet and stuck to her head. Her shoulders drooped, her back had gone and her knees sagged. She had two panda eyes where her mascara had run, her fingernails were dirty and broken and as for her lovely pink and white ensemble this was now filthy, wet and smelly. She looked every inch a broken woman as she fell, exhausted, into her car.
I was relieved that I had managed to talk her out of giving her notice in at the Bank. This was a girl who obviously loved animals but had no concept of what it was like to look after other peoples pets. She thought it would be all cuddles and walkies but the plain fact is it is bloody hard physical labour. One needs a strong back because of all the sweeping, reliable legs because of all the walking, physical strength to manage some of the more awkward or exuberant dogs and infinite patience with the more timid animals and sometimes, even, more than a little courage to deal with aggressive dogs.
As I waved goodbye to her as she drove off she barely had the strength to lift her arm to wave back. I still couldn’t quite decide what it was she most reminded me of in all her delicate pink and white ensemble. Was it a Marshmallow or a Birthday cake? The one thing she certainly didn’t remind me of was…a kennel-maid!