The Week Before Graduation

For the last year and change, I have had one of the most interesting jobs of my life. When I lost my previous job, I knew I had to find something else fairly quickly because I can’t just be out here getting poor. My brother is a groomer at our local Petco, and when he said to me “we need a Dog Trainer,” I said yes, okay, I’m in.

I started on my Dog Training journey pretty much immediately, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I learned a lot about dog psychology—behaviors, rewards, reactions, motivations—and I like to think I was able to help the pet parents who came to my classes have better relationships with their dogs. Unfortunately, after about 6 months, I was involved in an incident where I got bit in the face. I was very lucky, it could have been much worse than it was, but it shook my confidence entirely. I felt like I could no longer give my classes what I had been able to before, and I was extremely nervous, so I stepped down as a trainer.

…and stepped up into management. I was already comfortable in the store, I knew the daily routine, and we were without a General Manager and sort of flailing around just trying to get through every day (I liked to say “the kids are running the show”), so I was happy to take a leader position and help out. And that’s the position I’ve been in ever since.

I know people complain about retail a lot, but I’ve stayed because for the vast majority of the time I put in, I really enjoy myself at work. I’ve had the privilege of being on one of the most knowledgeable, friendly, personable, and cohesive teams I’ve ever seen in a job like this. I have made legitimate friends that I hope to keep always, and I think that’s what it boils down to—if you have coworkers that you can turn into friends, work isn’t so bad at all. It’s more like going to a place and doing productive (or not) things with your pals. While getting paid!

But alas, all good things must come to an end. Right before Christmas, we found out that our store was being closed due to lease agreement issues (or something along those lines), and we only had one more month in the building. The month went very quickly, and now I’m here with only 3 days left before I have to leave forever. Let me tell you, I am SAD.

I’ve never closed a store before so I didn’t fully know what to expect and I anticipated the surreal feeling, but I knew at some point it would get Too Real. It didn’t start fully hitting me until the shelves emptied out, and now we are in the mode of just shifting what’s left closer to the front while the rest of the store is basically a ghost town. We had a VERY chaotic couple of weeks where it was worse than Black Friday and we had lines to the back of the store every single day. But now that we have hardly any merch left, it has mellowed out significantly and become what I’ve been referring to as The Week Before Graduation.

It’s like that period of time when you’re not officially done yet, but you know you don’t have any work left to do so you spend your time goofing off with all the friends you know you might never see again—the last hurrah before it’s all over for good and you have to move on to other things. 

I have certainly made the most of it; I have laughed more and been more present this week than I maybe ever have in a job before because of the value I place on my coworkers and the time we spend together, and how much I’m going to miss this slice of life.

A brief highlight reel:

  • Actually literally falling on the floor laughing and unable to breathe with two of my favorites because of a picture one of them sent to us
  • Coming up with an entire video game idea (complete with a story, mechanics, and DLC) while sweeping the store
  • Putting these cases of mustard that our boss brought in to work to give to us out on the sales floor and marking them 50 cents each… and actually selling them
  • Using dog beds to create a Zen Cabinet that we could hide in under register 1; then when the dog beds got discovered and taken away, printing out pictures of ourselves and of memes and taping them to the walls instead
  • Creating a balance-based, very impressive, modern-art-style tower of random objects and trash on the counter between registers out of sheer boredom
  • Planning to turn the cat litter refill bin into a ball pit or a duck pond
  • Trying to lock pick and break into the fuse box for 20 minutes, just to later find out there is a simple lever you press to open it
  • Cramming e-learnings at 6am and slowing down the audio in order to better mock them
  • Shouting HEY PET LOVERS! Every time we heard one of the “Hey pet lovers” variations play over the loudspeaker
  • Just chilling and talking about life and commiserating about the state of things; mutually complaining about being bored and having nothing to do while secretly having an actual great time

There are so many more things I could talk about from my entire time spent at this Petco; things like Tortoise Time, lizard up a pole, secret ferret tube, Tequila, truck morning therapy, meemaw, bathroom guy, other bathroom guy, hoodie rats, nerf gun black eye, being haunted, the truth about corn. I have endless stories that have all contributed to the fondness I feel for this place, and the sadness I feel having to say goodbye.

I’m not here to write a novella so I won’t tell every tale; I only want to express my gratitude to everyone who has contributed to the functioning of the store, everyone who has come and gone, everyone who has stayed, and everyone who has come to mean quite a lot to me. To the friends I have laughed with and cried with and shared so much of myself and my time with. You guys are the real deal and I will miss you all dearly. Thank you for an amazing ride.

Here’s to graduation and whatever comes next.

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