Pet Sitting on a True-Crime-Addled Brain
I wouldn’t say I’ve always been into true crime. When I was younger I couldn’t stomach it. But a few years ago someone introduced me to the podcast “Serial” about a boy in Baltimore that was put in prison for killing his girlfriend with virtually no substantial evidence. At this point I had never delved into podcasts before. This podcast though, and the way the story was told, the music, cliff hangers, the fact that I didn’t have to wait for new episodes, was so fascinating, I couldn’t stop listening. Then I discovered the podcast “Up and Vanished” about a teacher that went missing more than 20 years ago, a cold case. The host of that podcast moved to that city, talked to her friends, family, neighbors, and even suspects. Eventually. because of the podcast, the killer was revealed. It was so fascinating! After that I fell away from podcasts all together, but whenever I was out with friends or family and a podcast came up I would write it down and tell myself to listen.
This is where the story gets interesting. I discovered on my short list of podcasts one called “Morbid.” I don’t know who suggested this to me or why I had it written down, but it’s one of my favorites now! It’s two girls from Boston area just talking about serial killers, crimes of passion, true psychopaths, mysteries, and even a little paranormal stuff. They cover one subject per episode so you get more details. These details are why I spook myself at least once a day, and being a pet sitter and traveling a lot, ideas get stuck in my head! These are my stories.
Once, I was trying to read the book “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” by Michelle McNamara. If you’re interested in true crime at all you know this book. It’s about one woman’s obsession with finding out who the “golden state killer” is. Skipping all the gory details, this guy would stalk his victims days in advance, learn their routine, break into their homes when they were gone, learn the layout of the house, hide weapons and so on. I was reading all of this while (dog sitting) on the couch in someone’s living room, it’s dark outside, and the room is covered in windows so I couldn’t see out but anyone could see in. So I only made it about 20 pages in that book before I double checked every lock in the house and went to bed. I never did finish that book.
Picture this: It’s 4:30am, I’m in bed with 2 medium sized dogs at their house. I’ve watched them many times before and rarely have any issues. Anyway, these dogs wake me up out of a dead sleep barking their heads off and run downstairs to the front door. I’m paralyzed in bed, making the decision to just ignore it, everything is fine, they’ll stop, nothing bad is happening. They keep barking here and there for a solid 45 minutes. I try calling them, they ignore me. Eventually I work up the courage to just go peak out the front window to see what’s going on. The dog’s are super excited and I’m super terrified. I look out the window and I'm satisfied with the nothingness I see. There was even a light dusting of snow with no footprints, so I’m happy there are no trespassers but confused to what they were barking at. I let them outside and they didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. So I thought, ok let's go back upstairs to get a few more hours of sleep. I get settled in and I can very faintly hear a dog barking outside! All the pieces just fell into place, they were barking at another dog barking! Oh! The barking moved around so I think it was a stray or someone got out of their yard, I’m not sure. But that was too much spook for me for one night!
Another time, a similar situation. I’m in bed with 4 dogs, but it’s only about 11pm this time. We’re all settled in, everyone is quieting down, getting comfortable. I hear what sounds like a door inside the house closing. Closing with a purpose. This is an older house, where the doors are wooden, maybe they’ve expanded a little and take a little bit of elbow grease to shut. Those doors. And the dogs go nuts. And I’m inside my head ‘what was that, there’s no way someone is in here, it was just a car door on the street’...I’m trying to convince myself. I sit frozen in bed listening for any other sound and if someone was in the house, I would hear them moving around for sure, even sneakily. I get all the dogs quieted down and back in bed. It took about an hour for my heart rate to get back to normal, but I was able to sleep through the night.
I’ve done meet and greets with mace in my pocket, I’ve gone on walks with mace in my pocket, I’ve put my keys in between my fingers if I see someone park near me or if someone is walking toward me. I’ve had to reschedule a visit so I could do it during the daytime instead of after sunset. The spook is real and you just never know.
You may be thinking, if these podcasts are scaring me everyday and making me carry mace and sharp objects on walks, why do I do it? I’m actually glad that I’ve listened to some of the horrible stories I’ve listed to. In the back of my mind I really don’t believe I’m going to be attacked in a strangers house, or on a walk, or during a meet and greet, but they have taught me to be more aware of my surroundings, and to stay vigilant. I also feel safe because I’m with a dog friend. I travel a lot, and stay in other peoples homes a lot, so there's always a twinge of fear when I see or hear something, but it’s important to be safe in any line of work. My dogs’ booming barks in the middle of the night are almost comforting.
Stay safe out there, whatever it is you do!