The Adventures of Skylar Grey

Chapter 13: There’s no psychiatrist like a puppy licking your face

Steve, Skylar and Blue on the beach in Half Moon Bay

Steve and I met while I was the community manager for a company called eFrenzy during the first San Francisco tech boom. I say first because, as we learned in 2000, what goes up must come down — especially when it’s valued at 100 times earnings. Like most dot coms then (and now), eFrenzy had no earnings. I’d tell you what my job there entailed but to be honest I’m not even sure what I did as “community manager.” That lack of earnings eventually caught up to us and resulted in a short tenure for everyone at eFrenzy. In fact, Steve is the only good thing that came out of my experience there.

I do recall that part of my job involved surfing eFrenzy’s website to make sure everything worked and to monitor customer reviews. I happened to be looking for a housecleaner, so I decided to start there. Steve’s ad stood out to me because it said he had many years of experience, excellent references, and, most important, he loved pets. Plus, he had the same name as my cat. Yes, I had a cat named Steven. That love of pets was important because the last housecleaner I had didn’t understand “Please keep the front door shut” in Spanish or in English, and Steven, who was only allowed in the backyard, escaped on several occasions. So I sent Steve (the man, not the cat) an eFrenzy message, and after a few glowing reference calls I hired him. That was more than a decade ago, and over the years, we’ve become best friends. When Jazzy was sick with cancer, Steve was the only person I trusted with her, and Jazzy loved her Uncle Steve more than anyone on earth besides me.

Several years ago I recommended that Steve put an ad in the Marina Times listing his services, which included housecleaning, pet sitting, running errands, and working as a personal assistant. He’d done all of those things for me with aplomb. Because Jazzy and I loved him so much, I knew our readers would, too. Steve is intelligent, funny, honest, and one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Jazzy happily gave him the Jazzy Paw of Approval for the ad, and I let him list me as his reference. At first, people called out of curiosity, mostly about Jazzy. It took several months for Steve to get his first job, but after that came a steady stream that continues until this day.

Sometimes Steve took Jazzy to work because many of his clients wanted to meet her, even if she just lounged on the sofa while Steve cleaned around her. When Steve adopted one of my foster dogs, Blue, in 2009, she and Jazzy became inseparable, frequently accompanying Steve to work until Jazzy’s death in 2012. As I’ve often said in this column, I adopted Skylar Grey immediately because it didn’t bring Jazzy back or honor her memory to let another pit bull die in a shelter. Because only 1 out of 100 pitties gets out of a shelter alive, what really honored Jazzy’s memory was saving another life, so that’s what I did. Now Blue plays mama the way Jazzy did with her, and Blue and Sky are two peas in a pod. (Like Jazzy, Sky loves her Uncle Steve and was happy to give him the Skylar Paw of Approval for his ad.)

Some of Steve’s clients need help running errands, which means a few hours driving around the city. Many of them request that the dogs come along, so Blue and Skylar are working girls. One of his clients, Mary, is a bright, witty, elegant woman who has lived in the Marina for many decades. She enjoys having Blue and Sky in the backseat while she and Steve drive around town, and she particularly enjoys Blue’s famous stealth behind-the-ear kisses. “You sweet creature,” she will say, and Blue, also known as Wiggles McGee, wags her entire behind (something I’m sure she learned from Jazzy).

Another client, Krista, had knee surgery, which makes driving difficult. She and Steve do errands every Friday and, like Mary, she enjoys having the dogs along for the ride. Rain or shine, the day often ends with a trip to Baker Beach after dropping Krista at home, but one day Krista asked if she could come along. She wasn’t able to walk down on the sand, she said, but she would love it if Steve could park his car where she could watch the dogs playing. And so, one sunny Friday afternoon, Steve did just that, and Krista was able to watch as Steve propelled a tennis ball, and Blue and Skylar chased it — and each other — in and out of the surf. While recovering from knee surgery sometimes takes its toll emotionally, Krista said watching the dogs playing on the beach made her happy.

Just months before Jazzy passed away, I gave Steve a poster featuring a drawing of a pit bull that resembled her, right down to that signature patch over one eye. It reads, “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” Steve has the poster hanging in his apartment, a testament to the many people whose lives Jazzy touched during their trips to work, as well as to those still smiling at Blue’s stealth behind-the-ear kisses or the sight of Skylar’s Eighth Wonder of the World tongue flapping in the breeze as she pops her head out the window to see who’s getting in next.

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