The puppies are almost six months old, and we really felt we needed a break. The big question was, could we leave these creatures that take up so much of our time? And yes, that is one reason we wanted to go on vacation—but don’t tell them.
This would be the first time we left Teddy and Sadie overnight. What I discovered is that from the decision to go, there is a step-wise progression to a dog-free vacation. The most important step is finding a reliable sitter.
We wanted our sitters to stay in our home, so it was a blessing that our two granddaughters, Rhyse (19) and Brooke (16), were available. The pups know and love these two. A bonus is that Brooke is an experienced dog-sitter. It only cost us extra groceries, plus sitting fees.
The second step is the destination, which includes certain parameters—for us, not too far away, easily reached by cellphone, and safe (from a COVID-19 point of view).
We decided to visit relatives who also happen to be close friends. Bill and Veronika live in Paso Robles, which is a good base for a lot of activities. Bill is an expert travel guide, and Veronika, a great cook. So we booked the sitters and the trip—and then tried not to get too excited.
Then came the third step (and the real challenge): writing out instructions for the sitters. This entailed trying to find some sort of eating, toileting, and sleeping routine for our pups. I made a stab at this, but from day-to-day, activities seem to drift. So I decided that a general idea would be okay. I mean, it is not like Brooke and Rhyse couldn’t go with the flow; unlike John and I, they weren’t taught by nuns in the last century …
I then decided to work on the fourth step: write all the behavioral stuff and, of course, the cautions.
This part took several days to compose as I considered everything about our puppy’s lives. It was while writing this that licks of anxiety tightened my neck muscles and I had doubts about our getaway. Doubts were heightened a few days later.
The sun was low in the west on this day as I looked fondly at the pups. They had been walked and fed and were snoozing peacefully, like little angel dogs … well, almost. John and I were on the deck, enjoying a glass of wine and watching the day fade into evening, when the large owls that live in the neighborhood started calling to each other. It was probably just two, but it sounded like a whole parliament. I had just finished my wine when the pack of coyotes that lives in the chapparal about 30 yards away started howling, making the pups stir. John and I looked at each other. No words were needed. This seemed like a good time to have a second glass of wine and maybe a few almonds …
The next day as the sun streamed into our kitchen, we reassured ourselves that our granddaughters completely understood the dangers of our neighborhood. After all, they lived close by. So now it was time for the fifth step: packing.
Since this was our first trip away, I didn’t think the sight of a suitcase would affect the pups’ behavior, and Teddy did ignore them. But Miss Sadie Lu stuck to us like glue. I wondered if there was a canine genetic trait that could equate suitcases with “They are leaving me.”
The day for our three-night trip finally dawned. The sixth step before walking out the door was going over the instructions with Rhyse and Brooke for the third time. And then we left.
At first, we texted the sitters frequently, but gradually those reassuring connections became less and less, until it was just a few times a day. I forgot to charge my phone, and it went dead, and I was okay with it. Of course, John had his. All was well, we were told, and photos of happy pups sunbathing with the girls reached us.
Then it was time for the final step: coming home. We had had a relaxing and refreshing time, but I was ready for some puppy loving.
I won’t forget our welcome. Sadie and Teddy leapt and pranced for joy, and we received many, many dog loves. Nevermind that our son Chris got the same treatment when he dropped by a few days later. It was still special.
The love fest lasted for about half an hour … then I noticed a distinct cooling. No one wanted to be held. Reproachful eyes followed our movements. This progressed to poop in our bathroom and pee right by the open door. The toilet paper was shredded, and the puppies did not want to sleep at bedtime. No one responded to the “Come” command—not even for a treat.
They were so naughty that I went online to see if this was usual behavior for returning dog parents. The number of articles told the story. A week seemed to be the usual, but thankfully, we got off easy. After only three days, Teddy and Sadie’s affectionate, energetic, and quirky behavior was back.
But then, we had only been gone four days. Our next vacation is a month in the desert. This time, they will be coming with us. We can’t risk it otherwise …