Ah, the joys of vacation. Long walks on the beach with family, splurging on a meal out, returning to the hotel with sand glued to our butt cheeks. We rescue-dog moms love our summer vacations, don’t we?
(Insert sound of crickets chirping).
Ok dog lover. Be honest. Any time spent away from our dogs is neither relaxing nor recreational. The guilt, the worry, the heaviness in our hearts can make vacations … well, not fun, and oftentimes not worth it.
“We never go anywhere.” I’ve heard my fellow rescuers say.
And I get it. I really do.
But if you insist on staying home, you run the risk of alienating your family, disappointing your children and depriving your spouse of much-needed connection time, a spouse who has already (and loudly) declared himself a rescue-volunteer widower. Vacations are the one time we can put aside our dogs, and our rescue responsibilities (yeah, right) and give our loved ones some much-deserved undivided attention.
So why do vacations feel like such a burden?
Dogs understand an awful lot, but when their Buddha-like mindset keeps them fully engaged in the present moment, how can they understand our attempts to tell them we will be back? Do they instantly feel abandoned as they watch us pull out of the kennel driveway, or does it take a couple hours to sink in? Does it take 3 days? A week? This, by far, is the worst part of going on vacation.
No. Wait. Know what’s worse? Those of us who care for senior dogs know all too well the heart-wrenching pain associated with saying goodbye to a grey muzzle and innocent, cloudy eyes. Especially when the elderly dog happens to be in declining health. (Never mind that you have found a foster whose experience is light years beyond your own).
When my fearless terrier trembles the entire drive to the kennel, then puts his little paws on my leg when we arrive, and gives me that “pick-me-up-mommy” look, I’m ready to chuck the ludicrous idea of leaving half of my loved ones behind to spend time with an entirely different set of loved ones. Yeah, that’s definitely the worst part of going on vacation.
But know what’s really the worst? On arriving to the North Carolina shores, you see that everyone else has procured a beach house that allows dogs. In Duck, at least, there are vacationing dogs everywhere. And so I spend my vacation both missing my own sweet loves, while terrorizing those who have not left their dogs behind by squealing and begging to be introduced.
No. Wait. This is THE worst. Not letting your kennel owner have a moment of peace as you plague him with questions about how the babies are doing. Are they playing? Are they pooping? Are they being nice? Eating their vegetables?
Tom (our kennel owner) tries, God love him, to placate my worries by sending photos every day. And this is his downfall, this going above and beyond to show me they are fine.
“The Augster dodging rain drops!” Tom, the kennel owner texts.
Along with the caption is a photo of my beloved looking slightly startled. Under the photo it says, “He’s been very good.”
But, I wonder why my Augie’s eyes are so round? And why is he out in the rain?
I come up with a chirpy response, but worry for the rest of the evening. Augie is afraid of rain.
At night, I zoom in on Augie’s wuzzy face to tell my little boy sweet dreams. Then I notice something that makes me feel like I’ve swallowed a golf ball.
I text anyway.
“Tom, did something happen with the top of Augie’s head?”
It looks like he’s got a huge hank of hair missing. Did another dog scalp him? Did Liebchen, his best friend and kennel mate, get angry at him? Did he stick his head through the chain links and get it stuck?
A wretched hour passes before I get a response, and another photograph.
“I didn’t see anything on his head. Maybe the different colored fur?” Tom texts.
Tom has illuminated the top of Augie’s head with a flashlight. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with my doggie’s head.
And so it goes for two long weeks of worry and punishing our kennel owner for sending me photos meant to make me feel better.
We tried to get someone, a stranger recommended by a friend, to dog sit in our house while we would be away. Two days before departure, the sitter begs off claiming a family emergency in the next state. I am relieved not to be leaving my dogs in the care of a stranger, but angry for the short notice, and anxious that my dogs will not have the comfort of home while we are gone.
So we rely on Tom, a personal friend who has a great facility, and an excellent reputation. He is also two hours away. But I mean, if you can’t leave your dogs with a retired police detective, who can you leave them with?
And what is the alternative to not going on vacation? There is your spouse, your kids, and your extended family expecting your full participation in a vacation that took them a year to plan.
So brace yourselves family; next year I’m pulling for a dog-friendly beach house. After all, everyone else gets to bring their kids on vacation.
Next year, I will be the one fending off dogless vacationers trying to get their furry fix by chasing Augie down the boardwalk.
And I won’t be the one asking, “Honey, why don’t we ever bring our dogs on vacation?”