Cover: Baptiste Virot
Pre-pandemic, Margaret Cho was a stand-up comedian, podcaster and actor. Now, she is a slave to her dog and cats: spending her days walking them and cleaning up after them. Here she discusses her new working life as an animal sanitation officer, and how she is unable to leave other people’s dog’s poo alone.
Comic by Baptiste Virot
My new career is cat sitting my own two cats and my 4lb chihuahua/dalmatian (I know, it’s an uncommon mix. She’s very long for a chihuahua, like a supersize chi. 33% more dog!) I have other jobs, like being a stand-up comedian, an actor and sometimes even a songwriter and a podcaster, but cat and dog sitting is truly my life calling. I have never felt more fulfilled, even though it’s hard sometimes. They never laugh at my jokes, they’re the toughest crowd ever.
Being my own cat and dog sitter is not just a job, it’s an adventure, mixed with a bit of sanitation work, and being both a germaphobe and a clean freak is a huge undertaking. I hate moving, I hate touching anything dirty, but with this occupation, it is all I do.
I walk my dog on a harness and my cats in a baby pet stroller because the cats are very anti-harness/leash. They’re like young social media influencers in that they feel the harness is ruinous to their image. They “really can’t” with a breakaway collar either. I keep trying, but they find the bell dehumanizes them. When I remind them they are not human, they hiss back, sounding like a kettle just starting to really boil. Then they just go back to staring at their phones between their paws.
These are tyrannical bosses. I thought I’d been knocked about by showbusiness, but it’s nothing compared to working around animals. You want to say working with animals is bad. Get real. I work FOR animals. They are my bosses and I’m never off the clock.
In addition to this, when we are on our daily walks I’m always sort of half expecting for one of them to come across a dead body, since I watch far too much true crime on tv and I am addicted to true crime podcasts (aren’t we all?). They did actually find a body once in the park I walk in, down in the LA River wash. It was a young man who had been stuffed into a suitcase and thrown into the muddy sewer runoff. I don’t know if the crime was ever even solved. I tried to find information, but there are no documentaries or podcasts about it. It was just one of those mysterious Los Angeles deaths. It’s very sad to me, that you could die and be put in a suitcase and no one would know what happened, so until the case is solved, I am going to be down there looking for clues, and poo to pick up.
You see, one of the most challenging parts of my job is picking up poo from my dog. It’s not that she has that much to pick up, but if I have a bag in my hand, I am not going to be so extravagant to use it for only one dog’s poo. I must pick up all the poo in the park. And it’s a lot! I have to fill up the whole bag. It is kind of obsessive. I guess I am the poo fairy.
Confronting my deep-set fear and revulsion of touching the dirtiest of dirty things – in this case, poos from butts I am unfamiliar with – is seriously the suckiest part of my job. It conflicts with the deepest need of mine (to clean) with my deepest hate (moving in general.) All in all, it is the toughest occupation I could ever even imagine myself having.
Some of these animals have very large anal expressions. They are impressive and smelly and it makes me wish I could get them all on a raw diet like my own pets. Sometimes they are still warm when I get to them, which I tell myself is just like getting warm socks out of the dryer, even though I know it is not.
I don’t understand people who don’t pick up after their dogs. There was a time where I tried to ignore the other poo and just do my own dog’s mess, but then those orphaned poos would haunt me in my dreams and the next day, when I would see them on my walk, I would have to pick them up lest the sun and the rain bleach them white. There is nothing I hate more than an aged white poo, lonely and forgotten on the grass. No poo is left behind on my walks. Never a poo shall lay forgotten on that damn grass.
I must have some kind of blossoming poo fetish, because I can’t leave the litter boxes alone in my house either. My cats have two personal litter boxes each, along with one litter robot they share. They seem to enjoy the litter robot the most because it sits directly across from my toilet and we can sometimes lock eyes when we are both dropping our little bombs which, frankly, is spiritual. We become one in our defecation. I don’t let the litter robot work automatically because I must see the poo as it drops into the space-age chamber to feel like I have really done my job.
I press a button and the litter magically turns to one side then the other, sifting the clumps out and returning freshly scooped litter into the chamber. It is a serious convenience, but I also take great pleasure in scooping out the boxes myself. When I lift the litter into my scoop and I pan for that gold, I feel like a prospector and it’s often I strike it rich! There’s gold in them boxes. It is the height of disappointment when I scoop a big clump of litter to find it falls through the tines. Nothing at all.
Once a week I put the boxes outside and clean them thoroughly with a garden hose and let them dry in the sun and I feel like I am on some tropical beach getaway and I want to put a flower in my hair. Yes it sucks, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Every day in my work, I confront my greatest fear, do my least favorite activities and then am smothered with love from beautiful creatures. It is the worst, best part of life. This work is WORK but also PLAY but also LIFE. It sucks, but it’s worth it.