I used to wonder at what point a person stopped being a pet owner and started being a pet parent. It seems that I crossed this threshold sometime prior to Thanksgiving because in the course of planning my drive to grandma’s house, I started to consider the relatively limited options available for the dogs. The neighbors were always willing to mosey over in the morning and afternoon to walk and feed them, but that was it. The dogs would be alone the rest of the time. On one other occasion, I’d left Eli with one set of friends, while Sophie stayed home and was taken care of by these neighbors.
On the first night, they said that Sophie cried so long and so loud that they finally just brought her over to their house where she and their dog evidently got along smashingly. There’s no way they could handle both Sophie and Eli, though, so that wasn’t an option now. Left alone, Eli, stoic that he is, would likely just lay on his pillow and mutter, ‘Well, death comes to us all’, and bravely wait for the end. It was likely, however, the thought of Sophie sitting alone in the dark, wailing with a gusto known only to the most forlorn, that became the catalyst for my transformation.
Although the dogs have done well on car rides in the past, the longest one to date had been ~4 hours. Not bad, but ~4 hours isn’t the more epic ~14.5 hours that’s required to be a good grandson. Nevertheless, I was unwilling to leave them and, therefore, threw caution to the wind, dropped the backseats to give them more room, and off we went rooma zoom zoom.
By the time we arrived at our destination, I was fairly certain that I’d had the finest dogs alive bestowed upon me purely by chance, because they were the most well-behaved passengers anyone could imagine. I’d stop and let them out; they’d do whatever business needed doing. Back in the car, they’d lay down and go to sleep or simply look out the window at the passing world. To say that they were better behaved than your average children is to insult the dogs with an unfair comparison. At the risk of stereotyping or painting with too broad a brush, children on long trips tend to eventually turn into banshees, screeching in the back seat and sending their parents to their emotional and spiritual doom. My dogs? Not banshees. I find it to be one of their more endearing qualities.
My grandmother has a long and distinguished history of forbidding dogs in her home. She made an exception for me because, well…..y’know. Some grandchildren are golden. ANYHOW. The dogs continued to be on their best behavior and within a short time, she was smitten. They sat when she told them to sit, laid down when the command was given, etc. And gracious me, our walks. My grandmother lives on what was supposed to be a golf course, but alas, was never finished, so there are acres and acres of open fairways. I let them off the leash and they ran and jumped and explored and were generally in their version of heaven. Sophie even flushed out some deer, though I lacking a weapon could only throw foul language their way in hopes of demoralizing them to death. This didn’t work, but that’s not the point. The point is that it was all very idyllic with the weather being perfectly lovely and, all in all, lacked only a soundtrack from ‘Peter and the Wolf’ or something equally upbeat and gleeful to be to make it scene worthy of Norman Rockwell.
At this point, your spidey senses should be tingling a little bit. ‘It’s all just a little too perfect’, they tingle, ‘dont you think?’ Well. Leaving Sunday morning, I stopped at the usual Starbucks in the usual area of St. Louis to relax a little prior to tackling the demoralizing next leg of the trip through Illinois and Indiana and, God, let’s not talk about it. I’d already let the dogs out; nothing happened. Okey dokey. I go in, get some coffee, read some of the paper, ho hum, go back out to the car, open the door, and boom.
Sir @ December 10, 2009