Don’t Dog Sit If You Want To Be a Brain Surgeon

In my first year of medical school, we had a fantastic course on neuroscience. The teacher was totally engaging and the material was beyond enthralling. Cranial nerve disorders, gait abnormalities, apraxias—oh brother, don’t get me started! Interesting stuff, amiright?! Oh… well…you’re going to have to take my word for it. It was completely cool. I was hooked.

Even though I was just at the very beginning of my medical career (if you could call it that–I had never even seen a patient at that point), I found the class so fascinating that I was entirely sure I would become a neurologist [I made Lisa use the term “brain surgeon” in the title because I thought it was funnier. Let’s face it, there is nothing funny about neurologists. -Ashley]. I was so certain, in fact, that I chose to do an elective month in the Neurology Clinic during my second year of med school the minute I had the chance.

It would be my very first real interaction with actual patients! Well, if you didn’t count the class we took where we learned to do physical exams. Who would count that? Those “patients” totally knew we were learning and practicing. Some of them were even paid to let us palpate and prod them. My time in the Neurology Clinic would be different. I would be paired with a neurologist and follow him around as he saw patients all day. I would be a part of a team–a real medical team!! Β I was thrilled to be placed with a neurologist named Dr. Kirshner. He was brilliant, soft spoken, and a great teacher. He was also wonderful with patients. I couldn’t have been more excited.

Indeed, when it was time to move on to my general surgery month I was really sad–and not just because you have to wake up really, really early in general surgery. I had truly loved the month I spent in neurology!

A few weeks later I got a call from Dr. Kirshner asking if I could dog sit for him and his wife at their house while they were away for a few days. ARE YOU KIDDING?! Of course I could! Now, you might think a person would be picked to dog sit merely because they seemed somewhat capable of remembering to feed and water a dog. Ha! I knew it wasn’t just that! This was a sure sign that Dr. Kirshner knew I would make a rocking neurologist. My career was already taking off!

There was just one hitch. At the time, I happened to be dating a guy who lived about 2 hours away. He was a senior at my former college, and he’d drive down to Nashville as often as he could for visits. He was scheduled to visit me the weekend of the proposed dog sitting. Now I was absolutely crazy about him, but this was dog sitting for an actual neurologist’s dog!! It was so upsetting.

Was I going to have to pick between love and career so soon?

No, I was not! The Kirshners didn’t mind if my long distance stud stayed with me that weekend! Whoo hoo! (For those readers with delicate sensibilities, don’t panic. I was 24 and he was 22. We were both adults.)

I got to their house on a Wednesday. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to be able to spend time in a beautiful home instead of my teeny tiny cramped 1st floor apartment in a shady neighborhood. It was heaven!

Now, you may remember I am not a very good housekeeper or actually tidy in any way. My plan was to make all the mess my normal living required (which, frankly, could be extensive), but clean everything up on Sunday afternoon before the Kirshner’s arrived home late that evening. Dishes piled up, crumbs accumulated on counters, and my stuff was generally thrown willy nilly about their lovely home. I wasn’t worried because I was definitely going to have their home in perfect condition long before they returned.

In the mean time I went to school and in the evenings did what any self respecting medical student does while on a surgery rotation:Β I practiced tying knots and suturing stuff together. I had to improvise a bit since I wasn’t at my own apartment. I decided to take every one of the Kirshner’s dish towels from their kitchen drawers, and proceeded to suture them together into a veritable quilt that took up most of their kitchen table. Every so often I’d also tie a chain of knots for good measure. It was awesome. I was really getting good!

By the time my boyfriend arrived on Friday evening, the place was a total mess. Luckily, he didn’t seem to view housekeeping as an essential quality in a long distance romance. YAY! We had a blast on Friday and Saturday playing house. There was even an adorable dog to complete the fantasy! I thought it would go down in my memory as one of my top 10 weekends of all time. It was just that perfect.

Saturday night I set my alarm for 9 AM. That would be plenty of time to sweep, vacuum, do dishes, throw the sheets and kitchen towels in the laundry, and have everything looking great by 2 PM–long before the Kirshners were due to arrive home that evening.

On Sunday morning about 11 AM, my slightly hungover self awoke to the dog barking and what sounded like voices several rooms away. Naturally, I got out of bed to investigate. Future neurologists may sleep through their alarm clocks, but they do notice when the dog they are charged with caring for is upset!

When I reached the kitchen I froze. There before me stood a shocked looking Dr. and Mrs. Kirshner. They were dressed in their nice traveling clothes. I was wearing only a lavender ADIDAS t-shirt that barely reached the top of my bikini underwear. They quickly explained that they’d decided to come home on an earlier flight. They’d left me a message on their answering machine. (Of course I had not been listening to their messages. They were not supposed to be for me!) I tried pulling my t-shirt down to cover my legs but that just caused more scandalous things to happen at the top of my shirt. I just sort of stood there, dazed.

That’s when it hit me. I had left my 6’3″ half-naked boyfriend sleeping in their master bedroom. (I typed “half-naked” for those of you with delicate sensibilities. He was totally naked.) This thought propelled me into action.

I excused myself from the kitchen and sprinted into the bedroom yelling a frantic WAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUP!!!!!!!!!

My boyfriend gazed back at me disoriented as I literally pushed him out of bed and onto the floor. I quickly got myself dressed, stripped the bed, and began hurling clothes and toiletries toward the general direction of my duffle bag. I was running on adrenaline at that point and resembled a Tasmanian Devil.

I then promptly instructed my boyfriend to sneak out of the backdoor.Β He tried to argue that it was better for him to go out and meet the Kirshners like an adult and then walk out of the house like a normal person, but I was having none of that. Yes, they knew he was there. Yes, they even parked next to his car in the driveway. But somehow after standing there in my undies in front of them, having my boyfriend do the walk of shame out the front door was not an option. Out the backdoor he scampered.

When I got back to the kitchen, my humiliation was complete. After traveling all morning, Mrs. Kirshner was standing at her own sink with her sleeves rolled up doing my dishes from the preceding 5 days. I have never wanted to die on the spot as much as in that one moment. I turned my head to the right and saw Dr. Kirshner, scissors in hand, dutifully cutting apart all of their dishtowels I had sutured together. Okay, turns out THAT was the one moment I most wanted to die on the spot. I begged for them to sit down and rest and let me clean up, but they declined.

Driving back to my apartment, I realized that my career in neurology was definitely over. There was no way I could ever face Dr. Kirshner again. Working with him was obviously out of the question. In fact, I spent the next 2 years of medical school (and the 4 years of residency after that) completely avoiding him. If I saw him walking down the hall, I’d veer off in another direction. Once I had a near miss by the elevator, but thankfully I was able to duck into a patient’s room at the last minute. Thanks to a dislike of long nightgowns coupled with slipshod housekeeping, not only would I never become a neurologist, I would hardly have contact with one for years!

One final note for those with delicate sensibilities. Don’t worry that my husband will be scandalized while reading this despite the fact that it includes a naked former boyfriend. We’ve been married for 18 years, and he knows this story well–because he was actually there. And now he *always* sleeps in boxers.


Don’t Dog Sit If You Want To Be a Brain Surgeon — 119 Comments

  1. Oh man, that was a GREAT story to kick off a new week! I love the visual of a string of towels sutured together (I don’t know why that one thing sticks out more than all the other hilarious visuals).

  2. This is a fantastic story, Lisa! I loved it.

    I really was worried about your husband reading this – until I read the last few lines, which makes this post even better πŸ˜€

    • Thanks, Xae! πŸ™‚ I had to out him as the former boyfriend. It was only fair that he should share in my shame since he was there, too!

  3. Too funny……well, now it’s funny – I am certain it was not 18 years ago! Did you ever have interaction with him again – ever discuss that weekend?! I would have prayed for the earth to open and swallow me on the spot! Great story!

    • I actually never said another thing to either of them about it ever again. That would have been a very reasonable and adult thing to do. Unfortunately, it was beyond my abilities.

      You are not going to believe this, Debbie, but THEY ASKED ME TO DOG SIT AGAIN ABOUT TWO MONTHS LATER!!
      Can you imagine how many people must have turned them down before they got to me on their list! (Of course I told them I had become allergic to dogs so I was out of the dog sitting business permanently)

    • Oh, Ginny! It totally offended my medical sensibilities to use a term that was technically inaccurate, and I resisted.
      Ashley is going to feel so vindicated. There might be no living with her now. πŸ˜€

  4. Great story, at least they were nice folks. They also should have known it isn’t allowed to listen to other peoples’ mesages on the answering machine.

    • I was really lucky they were nice…and EXACTLY! I wouldn’t listen to their messages! (And this was way back in time before everyone had cell phones so it was destined to end badly)

    • Bwahahahahahahaha. That is the *perfect* line. The good ending that never came!

      There *was* a silver lining, though…wait…no there absolutely wasn’t.

  5. I am so glad I decided to check out your linked in comment you left on my post. This was definitely worth the read! I was cringing along with you. Thanks for the giggle this morning.

  6. This is better than any comedic movie scene! Only because the level of “OMG I would die” is just so very through the roof! And just look, you lived to tell the tale πŸ™‚ I love that your husband is part of it!

    I hope it’s as hilarious in the past tense for you guys as it was for those of us reading about it!

    • Well, it’s a lot BETTER in the past tense for me…but I can report that my husband has ALWAYS found this story a hysterically funny. He laughed about it immediately. He’s so irritating like that!

  7. I just KNEW what was coming!!! I just KNEW IT!!! Oh. My. Gosh!!! Such a great and horrifying story to read while I sit here eating popcorn and ruffles chedder chips…(great combo by the way) I could picture EVERY single scene play out. Awesome post! Sorry it’s at your expense πŸ˜‰

    • I’m glad to provide some laughter at my expense, Chris!! What are friends for after all! (Someone’s got to be the cautionary tale!)

    • Thanks so much, Stephanie! My heart was racing that day, too (and my face was red just typing this up yesterday!) I’m so glad the horrifying quality of the day came through because …yikes, it was awful!

  8. This is a great story Lisa. You did exactly the right thing, accept that your career was over and hope you never see him or his wife again. That’s all you could do.

    • Hahaha. Exactly, Bill! What else could I possibly do?
      I just had to leave it up to the other, better dog sitters to become neurologists.

  9. So funny–I loved your sensitivity to our delicate sensibilities and the sweet twist of your husband! I liked picturing that doctor patiently cutting apart his dish towels.

    • Oh, Marcy. Seriously, his sweet wife doing MY dishes and him cutting apart my dish towel suturing…ugh, just the worst. I swear I can still see in my memory as if it just happened yesterday. ugh.

  10. I totally wanted to be a brain surgeon until I realized the long hours. I’m sad you didn’t get to realize our dream for us.

    That story is hilarious! At least they didn’t see the naked boyfriend/now husband.

    Did they pay you for your dogsitting?

    • Oh, he wouldn’t have thought the whole thing was so deliriously funny if they had seen HIM half (or fully) naked!! πŸ™‚

      Those kind people did actually pay me in full for the time I spent there. (Not that I deserved it) I would have tried to refuse payment, but that would have required a conversation and I was in no shape to have one of those. They gave me my money before I left their house, and I never looked back. SHAME SPIRAL!

      • Hahah oh man, I wouldn’t be able to return it either.

        Okay, how funny would it be if you tracked them down and sent them some random Christmas card and were like remember that time? And buy them like a gift card to a housekeeping service for a day or something.

  11. I was reading and laughing quietly and then I got to the part with the picture and laughed so loud, my kids jumped. I can just imagine the panic. This is one of the funniest stories I have heard in a long time. Love that the twist was your hubby.

    • Thanks, AnnMarie! Panic is the operative word. That’s exactly how I felt!
      It’s a good thing that I went on to marry him and not just because he’s a great husband and a great dad…who would want some random guy to have known this mortifying story all these years??!!

  12. Oh my goodness!!! That is the worst scenario imaginable! The only thing that could have made it worse is if the dog had died (of natural causes) while you were asleep and they found him. I’m so glad that wasn’t the ending.

    This makes me feel better about the time I was asleep on the couch when the parents got home (that I was babysitting for).

    • I’m really glad it didn’t end that way either, Robin! My mortification is a much better than a dog tragedy!!

      Yes, I totally have you beat compared to merely falling asleep on the couch. (unless you were naked, then maybe we are more evenly matched)

    • Thanks, Paula!
      You’re also exactly right. In order to ensure his silence, I had to marry him. I couldn’t leave it to chance!!

    • Haha! Thanks, Ellen. It was definitely one of the more eventful weekends he came to see me. He wanted to make sure it was obvious in the story that I *made* him leave out the backdoor against his will—because he felt THAT was the most embarrassing part of the whole thing. Sheesh.

  13. The screaming Tasmanian Devil picture is hilarious!!! The fact that you are in nothing but your tshirt/undies and then your honey slips out even though they know he is there just kills me!!! SUCH A REAL LIFE Gray’s Episode!

  14. This was truly awesome and totally cringed right to the end. Glad to hear that you and your “boyfriend” are happily married though for 18 years!! Yeah, I am a sucker for those types for happy endings πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for linking up, too!!

  15. Aw! I was hoping for a double happy ending where you got the guy AND the job. Oh well, at least things worked out in the end. πŸ™‚ Congrats on 18 happy years!

    • It was probably for the best that I didn’t get the job, Terrye! I never could have stood having to be around him all the time!! Too humiliating!! πŸ™‚

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  17. That is absolutely hilarious! I could not stop laughing. I have to share this on my Facebook page…it’s just too funny! I house sat once and I actually did keep the place clean (ok I didn’t dust)…turns out they thought I was going to be a housekeeper AND pet sitter while I was there and they told my parents they were upset that the place was not cleaner when they returned. It would have been nice if they told me this ahead of time, I would have declined the job if I realized I was supposed to do a huge deep clean on their place. All dishes were done, counters wiped, nothing out of place, bed sheets changed and washed, but I definitely didn’t dust or deep clean in any way. I was only there for a long weekend. Seriously, people? My babysitters left dishes in the sink and I never thought a thing about it. And I could tell you about a lovely babysitting job I had to quit too…but we won’t go there.

    • Can you imagine how your house owner would have felt if I had been house sitting for them?! They would have had a stroke. They didn’t know how great they had it!!

  18. This is good to remember because inevitably our children will do something like this! Even our grown children!

    Don’t worry too much all these years later. I work for an MD and she’s always getting the cheapest, closest warm body to cat sit for her. And she doesn’t pay well so there’s sort of a revolving door of cat sitters. I bet your Dr. was not that traumatized after all–probably it was par for the course with med school dog sitters! πŸ™‚

    • Bwahahahahaha. Good point, Katy! I was probably on par with the quality of house sitters on the market in Nashville. Still….STILL! GAH!!

    • You are so right. I have blown it for all house/pet sitting in the foreseeable future! Nobody will trust me now!! πŸ˜€

  19. Hahaha! So my sensibilities are not so delicate and I found this hilarious – tinged with some romance at the end there! The fact that he stuck with you after you shoved him out the back door shows you how much he loved you…awwww! πŸ™‚
    This would be an awesome story to share with your kids – one day – in the far future…

    • So true. And the thing is, he was TOTALLY right. His idea to go out the front and meet them like a grown up was *so* much better than mine of throwing him out the back door and having him scamper away in disgrace.

      Oh, man…I’m not sure I can EVER tell the kids about this!! Maybe when they are in their 40s or something!!

  20. Ok so this confirms it. We are definitely related. This is my life. Absolutely typikel. Delighted, no ecstatic, that you reposted this so I could read it and take comfort that there are others out there like me. Shall share everywhere. Bless you! I’ll do a post soon about the time I catsat for my boss. Her cat was recovering from surgery and required meds she refused to take. Just delightful.

    • Oh, MAN!! Trying to give a cat medicines is tricky. Having to give your bosses cat medicines…I can’t even imagine the pressure!!

      We were meant to be sisters, Kelly!!

  21. OMG…I am so embarrassed for you and laughing at the same time. I laughed really hard at the “sensibilities” too funny. A wonderful memory for you both to have.

    • My husband thinks I UNDERESTIMATED the amount of mess in their home for this post…so you can imagine how awful it was. It’s a good thing we got married in the end. I’d hate for some random guy to have that kind of memory of this weird and messy girl he dated.

  22. My husband embraces your housekeeping approach. When I go away, I know the “stuff” piles up, and then he does a mass cleaning before I get back… typically, the dishes are still dripping. Makes for a great story, though, right?

    • Bwahahahahahaha! He is my people!! Don’t be too hard on us. We tend to feel *really* bad about it if we don’t get a chance to clean up! πŸ˜€

  23. OMG I am embarrassed for you. Too funny. The only time I came close to this was in college when my boyfriend (now husband) and I forgot it was daylight savings time so we didn’t vacate his friend’s dorm room where we were staying before he got back. With his parents. Ew! Still get chills of embarrassment over this.

    • Oh, I SO get this! Horrible!! You can take solace in the fact that at least you hadn’t sewn all their dish towels together! πŸ˜€

    • Oh, Mo! You are so right!! If only texting had been a thing back then, they would have texted that they were coming home and all would have been well. I didn’t even have a cell phone then!

  24. Oh, this is hilarious!! I can’t imagine coming home to this – I would have done exactly what the DR’s wife did and started washing dishes immediately because I have issues like that.
    I’m glad that at least the boy friend thing worked out!!!

    • I know. The shame of seeing her get home and start doing dishes haunts me to this day.
      The boyfriend and I have now been married over 20 years!

    • The only problem it is people would think it was unrealistic!! Nobody would believe it! The truth is stranger than fiction sometimes!! πŸ˜€

    • No dogs were harmed in the making of this post. The dog was really the only one who came out completely unscathed!! πŸ˜€

  25. I like to think that Dr. Kirshner tells this story every year to his colleagues: of his shining star student that dog sat for him and to his amazement, upon his return, his dish towels were tied together in what could only be called the most perfect sutures he’d ever seen and he sat there enthralled as he took them apart. To this day he wonders what ever happened to her and who IS that woman that keeps ducking and hiding from him in the hallway?

    • I honestly cannot stop laughing!!! Bwahahahahahahaha. BEST.SCENARIO.EVER!!!!
      I was the one that got away! (instead of the one they threw back in disgust!)

    • Me too, Tamara. It killed my career as a neurologist forever. I’ll sink into a shame spiral if I think about it too long! πŸ˜€

  26. Oh. MY. GOD!!!!!!! I just can’t. I don’t even know where to begin. This may be the best thing you’ve ever written. I’m horrified for you. I just can’t even imagine!!!! And I loved the ending…well, the part about your husband anyway….

    • Oh, Allie. It was SO horrifying! It’s good we ended up getting married. I can’t imagine I’d have had the courage to tell another man that story. At least my husband knew what he was getting himself into!

  27. Oh my gosh!!! I am just feeling how embarrassing it had to have been standing there in front of them. And the embarrassment continues every time you see or hear them. Hopefully you invited them to the wedding, LOL

    • NO WAY!! Not only did I *not* invite those truly lovely people to the wedding, I never spoke a word to either one again. (And I only ever saw Dr. Kirshner if I wasn’t fast enough to duck down a random hall and hide).

  28. Great happy ending…that you ended up together! But I have to say, when they said you could bring your boyfriend along, what did they THINK you would be doing? They shouldn’t have come home early if they didn’t want to get a surprise!

    • You know…that’s a good point, Stephanie! Maybe I feel better about the whole thing after all! Yikes…no I don’t! It’s still humiliating! πŸ˜€

  29. That sounds like an episode on a sitcom! Thats why I don’t really like housesitting… I feel like I should be spending the whole time sitting quietly in the living room without even the TV on, incase they happen to walk in the door!

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