Bailing out on duty never acceptable

By Anita Doberman: PNT Columnist

This past week, I took a short vacation with my children and some relatives visiting from Italy. We headed to Disney World for one of the hottest and fun-filled weeks of our lives, and greeted Mickey, Pluto, Shrek and the many characters circulating the amusement parks.

While I was gone, I made arrangements to have someone stay at the house to watch our pets: two dogs and a cat. My baby-sitter, a trustworthy young woman who I have known for more than a year, mentioned that her sister could watch the dogs and would gladly use some extra money because she just moved out on her own.

I met with this young college girl and gave her basic instructions for feeding, letting the dogs out and cleaning the cat litter. I also left her a generous check for the week. I made it very clear that our dogs have destructive behaviors if left alone for long periods of time, and that if she couldn’t sleep over our house I would kennel them. She assured me that it would be no problem to sleep over, she would be glad to.

She seemed a responsible young woman, and when I left for our vacation I was confident the pets would be well taken care of.

Three days into our trip, I received a call from a neighbor telling me that the dogs were constantly barking, the trash hadn’t been taken out, and it appeared no one had been at the house. I immediately called the young woman and to my shock she said she hadn’t slept at the house, but had gone over to let the pets out. She added that she didn’t feel comfortable sleeping at my house and didn’t know how to tell me.

I was speechless. This girl took advantage of me and I paid her in advance for it!

I sent a friend of mine to the house to assess the situation. She found 14 dog poops and several pees all over the house, a couple of broken kitchen cabinets (because of the scratching), and chewed up couch cushions. The dogs and the cat seemed to be OK, but there was no water or food in their bowls.

I cut my vacation short and came back. I felt betrayed and disappointed. This woman was not only my baby-sitter’s sister but also a dear friend’s niece. If I couldn’t trust her, then whom could I trust?

Perhaps this college girl simply didn’t think about the consequences of her actions, and had no malicious intent. But I realized that commitment and responsibility meant very little to her, while they meant a lot to me. Especially as military families we live out our commitments every day and don’t have the option to bail out when we feel “uncomfortable.”

This experience will not change my belief that there are many trustworthy people out there, but it will make me work hard to instill in my children the importance of honor, responsibility and respect, or else they will have to deal with a very angry Italian mother.

Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. The family expects to be moving to Cannon Air Force Base in the next year. Contact her at:
anita@anitadoberman.com