Bucking the Universe – Part 3

September 13, 2018 12:40 PM

So far in my story, (read part 1 here and part 2 here)I have survived a claustrophobic flight in a small airplane to Philadelphia and I discovered that the swim spa I was convinced would work, would not. Dennis and I spent a lot of extra time trying out more expensive pools at the sales showroom, which meant we did not get to tour a defunct prison, try a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich or visit a Wa-Wa (a gas station/convenience store recommended to me by a nun I met on the shuttle to the rental car office.)

After a grabbing a hamburger at a drive thru, Dennis and I made our way back to the airport to drop off the rental car. Traffic wasn’t terrible, we breezed through security lines with our TSA PreCheck and our flight was still on time.  The weather was now partly cloudy and warm. Still good weather for flying. The day had been long, and disappointing in many ways, but it was almost over. All I had to do was fly home in a nice large plane, with normal sized aisles and bathrooms. I even had my aisle seat assigned. No extra leg room, which meant a bit more tight quarters than I’m comfortable with, but it’s only a 90 minute flight. I’d be fine.

I was concerned our flight could be delayed, because I know east coast airports are very busy and sometimes have more delays than we see in Milwaukee. I continued to check the status throughout the afternoon and it was not. This was great news. It was crucial that we leave on time, because I had the pet sitter scheduled to pick up the dogs from the kennel about the time we would be taking off.

Officially, I was paying for two nights of boarding at the kennel, because the dogs were being picked up 1/2 hour before they closed, so they charged me for an extra night whether I picked them up that day or the next morning. This was fine with me. It was a bit more expensive, but it also offered a buffer if my flight should be delayed. I could leave the dogs there an extra night and get them in the morning if our flight was late. We were supposed to leave around 5:10 PM, the pet sitter was scheduled to the pick them up around 5:30. Should there be a delay, surely, I’d know it in advance to her picking them up.

We were due to arrive back in Milwaukee around 6:50 PM, which meant we’d be home no later 7:30. The pet sitter was going to bring the dogs home from the kennel and give them dinner. This arrangement meant that the dogs would be alone for about an hour between the time the pet sitter left and we returned home. I knew that Sammy would probably bark the entire time. Not the greatest, but I figured the cats could deal with the barking for an hour, so the dogs didn’t have to spend another night in the kennel.

The time came to board our plane about twenty minutes before it was scheduled to take off. As we settled in, I noticed there were two babies sitting behind us with their parents. One was a toddler age, in the window seat, Mom sat in the middle seat and Dad was on the aisle. Mom and Dad were juggling the infant between them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-baby by any means.  I understand that families have to fly with babies and I understand babies cry. It was just unfortunate that I happened to be seated in front of babies on the one trip where I didn’t have my noise-canceling head phones. No matter how limited carry on space is, I will never, ever fly without them again.

While we waited to take off, the Mom of the babies realized that the lady across the aisle from her husband was traveling to the same funeral they were. Which she and the lady discussed at great length. Very loudly. Around this time, I also noticed that it was getting a bit cloudier outside. I started to get a little nervous. A storm could mess up my entire plan with the pet sitter, and the short window I had to contact to her to tell her to leave the dogs at the kennel instead of picking them up was rapidly ticking away.

The time to take off came and went. It got cloudier outside. The baby started to cry forcing the mom to talk even louder so the lady across the aisle to could hear her. I kept expecting Mom to change seats with Dad, who was on the aisle, so she could more easily talk to her new-found friend. It never happened.

At 5:20, ten minutes after we were supposed to take off, the captain came on over the intercom saying there was some rain in the area and our take off would be delayed for a short while.

I panicked. My carefully orchestrated schedule did not allow for a delay that I found out ten minutes after we were supposed to take off! Dennis and I quickly discussed our options. I decided that since it was so close to when the dogs would be picked up, I’d call the kennel and tell them they had to stay another night. I’d text the pet sitter once I reached the kennel.

I made the call, cupping my hand over my free ear to block the crying/loud talking behind me. When I reached the kennel, they told me I was too late. The pet sitter had picked up the dogs already. Okay, no problem, I can deal with this. I’ll have to ask the pet sitter to bring them back.  I confirmed with the kennel that the dogs could  have their room back, if I needed it, and I told them I would let them know in five minutes whether the dogs would be back. Then I called the pet sitter to discuss options. Around this time, the toddler started whining and crying which meant Mom needed to talk even louder to her new friend.

The pet sitter was already at our home with the dogs when I called her. We discussed options of her staying the night or bringing them back. Since she had other plans early the morning the next day, I opted to have her bring them back to kennel. At this point it started to rain. Torrents of rain, all at once. It literally went from a couple of rain drops to a deluge.

I called the kennel to confirm the dogs would be returning and they told me they now could not take them. What? I just called. I paid for two nights. What do you mean you can’t take them? I never did get an answer why and I didn’t have time to dig into at that point. I hung up and called the pet sitter again, and told her the dogs had to stay home. I was completely at a loss of what to do. Other than something happening to the people in my life, having my animals not cared for is my worst case scenario when traveling.

I have a really awesome pet sitter. She worked it out that she would spend the night if we needed her to, and would leave very early in the morning. I was so relieved. How wonderful to have someone to rely on like that who isn’t family. I promised her I would text her as soon as I knew anything since we were still hoping to fly home at some point that night. The dogs would be alone, worst case, for three or four hours that night until she returned. As long as we could get home by early morning, all would be fine.

The rain continued. And the winds came up. Hard enough to shake the plane. Afternoon showers don’t last long, right? They move through in twenty minutes or so? Wrong. This afternoon shower hung over Philadelphia for hours. We were watching the radar on our phone. One little storm cell, surrounded by many big storm cells, just sat, swirling around Philadelphia, not moving.

In addition to the rain and the wind, came the thunder and lightning. I wondered what happens if a plane gets struck by lightning? I decided not to ask Dennis. It didn’t really matter because I was stuck on the plane, no matter what. At some point in the storm, they made us taxi to a far part of the runway. I suppose to get out of the way of flights still trying to get in? I’m not sure. But I know we were in no-man’s land, and that’s not a good place to be when you’re stuck on a plane. I tried to count my blessings. At least the plane I was stuck on wasn’t the tiny one from earlier in the day. And the bathrooms were still working. I’ve heard horror stories about passengers being stuck on the tarmac with no bathrooms.

I have to say, after the initial crying for maybe ten minutes, the babies were really good.  They were quiet and seemed happy. Way happier than I was, by far. The Mom, however, continued her across the seat and aisle conversation with her new BFF for most of the three hours were stuck there. It was very unfortunate that the plane was not serving alcohol. We got water. Water does not help to calm nerves or sooth annoyances. I will never, ever, travel without my noise-cancelling head phones again. Did I say that already?

As we sat, with the plane rocking in the wind, Dennis and I began discussing worst-case scenarios. We’ve both been in situations where we’ve waited out a weather delay, only to find out the flight crew has been working too long, and the flight gets cancelled anyway because the crew can’t fly anymore that day. This doesn’t happen that often for early morning flights, but it’s a lot more common for evening ones, like ours.

We started researching driving home (assuming they ever let us off the plane). It’s thirteen hours from Philadelphia to Milwaukee, driving straight through. Assuming we didn’t sleep, and didn’t stop except for gas, that would put us home mid-morning (leaving an hour or so to get the rental car and leave the plane). Except it had already been a long day, we were both up at 4 AM. We’d need to sleep a few hours. This would put us home early afternoon. Not good, but it was the best we could do. We booked a rental car as our back-up plan and waited.

We started to get hungry but we hadn’t pack our usual snacks in our carry on because of the limited space.  Stupid, stupid, stupid. I did find a still wrapped blueberry muffin that was only kind of crushed that I bought in the Milwaukee airport that morning. We considered selling it to the other hungry passengers on the plane to pay for the rental car.

At the 2:25 minute mark, which was well past the time we should have been home, the Captain come on the intercom and said we were taxing back to the gate. We figured that was it. The flight is cancelled and we’re driving home.

Once we reached the gate, the Captain came on the intercom again and said that we still couldn’t deplane because the lightning was too bad to bring the bridges in to get us off. We’d have to wait until it died down. Oh, goody. I resisted the urge to Google what happens if a plane gets struck by lightning.

After another fifteen minutes or so, they finally decided we could deplane. As we got to the gate area, I noticed the Captain was at the check in kiosk talking to a customer service agent for the airlines. We stopped, and Dennis asked him how much longer he had in his shift before he wouldn’t be able to fly. Finally, we caught a break! He and the rest of the flight crew had just come on for this flight. They had thirteen hours left in their shift! Hooray!

We thought it was unlikely the storm would last for ten or eleven hours, which is what it would take before this crew couldn’t fly anymore. We canceled the rental car and I hung out close to the gate and listened for news, while Dennis ran to the closest fast food place and got us hamburgers. Really bad, cold airport hamburgers. They were a very poor substitute for the Philly Cheesesteak I’d been hoping for.

After only about twenty minutes at the gate, the crew said there was a break in the storm and they were going to try get us out. We quickly boarded and the crew did all the safety procedures super quick. No one wanted to lose the window to fly.

I composed a text to the pet sitter telling her we had taken off and she didn’t need to spend the night and I sat, with my finger on the send button, until I felt the wheels leave the ground. Given how the day had gone, I didn’t trust that we were really, and truly leaving Philadelphia until that point. Once I felt the wheels lift, I clicked send and turned my phone off.

Thankfully, the rest of the flight was smooth. If there were bumps flying up and over the storms, I didn’t feel them. I was too happy to be in the air and too anxious to get home to my animals.

We got home that night about 10:30, a little over three hours from when we planned. It seemed longer. Probably due to the stress. Sammy was barking and probably had been for quite some time, based on how the cats were acting. Everyone was back to normal the next morning, though, thankfully.

I debated calling the kennel to find out what the hell happened. Why, when I paid for two nights, did I lose my room because I chose to have my dogs picked up early? However, by Monday, when the kennel was open again, I calmed down and decided to let it go. My kennel is affiliated with my vet, and I like my vet. I also like the manager of the kennel who has gone out of her way help me in the past when my dogs stay there. I will never again tell them I am picking my dogs up in the afternoon, however. If I pay for two nights, I’ll tell them I’m picking them up the morning of the third day, even if I plan to get them earlier. Fool me once, and all that.

So, after all this, am I getting a pool? Maybe. I’m still not sure, and I’m waiting for a few weeks to see if the Universe cares to weigh in on the decision. This time, if it does, I’ll listen.

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I had these exact head phones at home, charged and ready to go. Why, oh why, didn’t I bring them?

1:42 PM

 

One Step Closer

July 28, 2018 8:49 AM

I did something earlier this week that I never thought I’d do voluntarily. I booked a trip to New Jersey.

Not that I have anything against New Jersey, per se’; okay, I really hate Newark, but there are parts of New Jersey that are very nice. I used to work for a company who had its headquarters in New Jersey, in the same general area where the Real Housewives of NJ is filmed, and I’ve traveled there plenty of times on business.

Dennis works for the same company, and several times we were on the same business trip. This allowed us to extend our time there to do some sight-seeing when the work was done. We spent a weekend in New York once, and visited the top of the World Trade Center on August 10, 2001.

We’ve been to Ocean City, where I bought a cool hat that Dennis has since procured as his lawn-mowing hat, and we went to Atlantic City twice. Once was a planned trip and the other was impromptu when we found out our flight was delayed for an unknown amount of time. (In my experinece this happens a lot in Newark). Dennis and I had already checked our luggage, so we rented a car with only the clothes on our back and drove to Atlantic City for the night and caught a flight back to Milwaukee late the next night.

It was fun to be spontaneous and see where the road took us so to speak. In this case, however, the road took us to a really seedy, not-so-clean Days Inn in a scary part of town. It was the first (and last) time I slept in a motel with bars on the windows. We saw drug dealers on the corner when we pulled into our motel. I know they were drug dealers because I saw a guy hand off a packet of something and take money in exchange. There were also prostitutes hanging around the exterior of motel, at least I assume they were prostitutes. I didn’t get official confirmation on that one. In spite of the unexpected environment we found ourselves in for the night, it was still a fun experience and one I’m glad we did. As a bonus, our luggage, which traveled to Milwaukee without us, was still there waiting at the airport for us in airline storage.

Some of my favorite memories of New Jersey is the food. They have, hands down, the best Italian food anywhere. And the New York Pizza. Ohmygod. There was a little pizza place that delivered to the hotel I always stayed in. I’m hoping it’s still there (and that I can remember the name.) While it’s tempting to book a trip to New Jersey just for the food, that is not the reason I am going.

Nor am I going to Atlantic City this time, although, it was tempting to tack an extra day on trip and stop there for a night (with a reservation in a nice casino hotel, of course). The reason I am going to New Jersey is the next step on my quest for the swim spa.

Dennis needs to go to New Jersey for a couple of nights in July for his job. The main swim spa manufacturer I’m interested in has its main show room in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is not far from New Jersey. I’m basically, piggy-backing on Dennis’ trip so I can visit the swim spa store.

Instead of flying out the evening before he needs to be there, Dennis and I will fly out the morning before he needs to be there. We will drive to Philadelphia and I will try out all the varieties of Endless Pools that are in our price range. I have the sensible, secure one-piece suit all ready for the test swims. (Click here to read about what happens when you use a swim spa in a tankini).

After we try the pools, I’m hoping we can find a place to get an authentic Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. (Please leave me your recommendations for good places in the comments). Dennis and I are planning to drive to northern New Jersey that afternoon, in time to have an Italian meal that night. And another Italian meal the next night. (Okay, so maybe the trip is a little about food).

During the day, I am planning to enjoy eight plus hours of uninterrupted writing time in the hotel.  That just doesn’t happen here at home very often. And I’m hoping to find that New York pizza place again and have them deliver pizza for lunch at the hotel. (I’m going to need that swim spa to get installed pronto with all the weight I’m going to gain on this trip!)

While we will have a car, and I could drop Dennis off at the office in the morning and keep the car myself during the day, I don’t think I will do that. I drove in New Jersey once, up into the Catskills in NY, to an outlet mall with a girlfriend from work. This was before google maps and GPS’s on our phones and in our cars, and I managed to get us horribly lost on the way home. Instead of ending up in northern New Jersey where our hotel was, we ended up in Newark, circling the George Washington Bridge for an hour. I finally decided to drive away from the George Washington Bridge because I knew I didn’t want to cross into New York. However, I had no idea where I was going, and we didn’t bring a map. All we had were some handwritten instructions to the outlet mall given to us by a co-worker.

Driving west, away from New York, landed us in a super bad part of Newark. We saw a guy running full-bore down the street being chased by another guy. We were afraid they had guns and we’d get caught in the cross-fire. It was 11:00 at night, and we were the only car around so I ignored all speed limits and stop signs in that neighborhood. I was too afraid to stop and I figured if there was a cop around, he had more important things to do than to pull me over for a traffic violation.

Eventually, I got my bearings and we started to go north, toward the hotel. Gradually, the neighborhoods got less scary. When it felt safe enough, we stopped at a convenience store and bought a map which guided us back to the vicinity of the hotel. We ended up having to call the front desk at the hotel to have them talk us in the last few miles.  It took us forty-five minutes to drive to the outlet mall and three and half hours to get back to the hotel.

I suppose with technology, driving in New Jersey this time wouldn’t result in the adventure it did the last time I drove there. But I’m not taking any chances. Dennis can have the car and if I get stir-crazy in the hotel, I’ll Uber to a Starbucks. Or an Italian restaurant for lunch.

I never liked traveling to New Jersey for work, but then again, I never much liked traveling anywhere for work. I’m looking forward to going back to New Jersey, this time as a tourist. I always seem to come back with a story whenever I visit there. Who knows what adventure I’ll find this time around?

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Whenever I drive out of the Newark airport the theme song from The Soprano’s always runs through my head.

9:41 am

 

Fight Like Cats and Dogs? Not in Our House!

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 9:40 AM

It is a commonly held belief that cats and dogs do not get along. We’ve all heard the cliche’ “fight like cats and dogs”.

Personally, I’ve never thought that is the case. When I grew up we always had a cat and a dog and they never fought. When I was newly married to my first husband we had a cat and dog, too, before we had our son. They never fought either.

Naturally, when I brought in Sammy a year and half ago, and then Charlie nine months later, I had the expectation that the dogs would not fight with the three cats.

And they do not. They actually play together which we need to monitor because the dogs can get a bit loud and overbearing; but they never fight. Maybe I’ve just been lucky.

There are vast differences, though, in cats vs. dogs.

After a vacation where you lock a dog in a 5 X 8 room in a kennel for four days, they will greet you with unbridled love and enthusiasm. Their joy in seeing you will be boundless and there will be much licking, tail wagging and maybe even a little excited piddling. The fact that you were the one who left them for four days in an uncomfortable situation will never occur to them. As soon as they see you, you will be best buds again.

Cats are a bit different. After leaving them at home when you go on vacation, without barking dogs, and a pet sitter who visits and feeds them, pets them and plays with them not once, but twice a day, they will, in fact, ignore you when they see you. They know that you abandoned them and they will  look at you as if you are the lowest, most insignificant, non-entity they have ever seen. Until they decide they forgive you and insist on cuddling up on your head all night.

Nights. That is one thing I didn’t consider when I added dogs to our household. Dogs sleep schedules are much like human’s. They sleep at night and are up during the day. They are diurnal beasts. Cats are nocturnal beasts. The sleep all day and are up at night.

With three cats and two dogs, this combination of animals pretty much guarantees that some animal will want attention from Dennis and/or myself every hour of every day. This causes problems as we would enjoy uninterrupted sleep for at least five hours a night.

And then there’s that magic time of year that we are in right now, when the days grow long and the sun rises earlier. When the sun rises, so do the dogs. When the sun rises in the vicinity of 5 AM there is an overlap between the nocturnal beasts’ nighttime playtime and the diurnal beasts’ daytime playtime.

This is not good news for the humans in the house who now have two species cavorting at the end of the bed instead of just one.

There is now a competition for who gets to wake us up first. Will it be the cuddly cat who knows he only needs to purr to get me to pet him or will it be the dog who thinks licking whatever skin happens to be exposed will bring him attention? It could also be the cat who nibbles my nose to wake me. At least she’s gentle. Usually.

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Lucy, the nose nipper as seen on our web cam from when we were in Las vegas

Lately, it’s been the whining, barking dog who insists he has to go outside because it’s light out who has been getting us up. (This is the same dog who will refuse to go outside in winter until the sun comes up which is a good two hours later than it does now.)

I’ve heard there are people who lock their animals out of the bedroom at night. We’ve tried that and have the shredded carpet outside the bedroom door to prove it. Cats do not like to be locked out of anywhere. Dogs don’t like it either.  That’s one area that they are both the same.

I believe this dichotomy between sleep schedules is the real reason the combining of the species has been discouraged throughout the ages. It has nothing to do with them fighting.

I am probably the only person in the state who is looking forward to the days growing shorter.

10:38 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights from Vegas with some help from Jimmy Buffet

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018 2:45 PM

Dennis and I spent four days in Las Vegas this last week. It’s the first time we’ve been away for the that long in two and half years since we last visited Vegas. I will be scoring this blog post with snippets of Jimmy Buffet songs because there is a Jimmy Buffet song appropriate for just about every occasion. (And we spent a lot of time at Margaritaville in Las Vegas).

Vegas has changed in two and half years. The hallways between the hotel rooms and elevators are longer. And the casinos are bigger, too. Everything is farther away and we did much more walking this time which is the reason that I was so stiff on Saturday that I could barely walk. I’m growing older but not up…

I really need to get that swim spa and start getting into better shape.

Seriously, there have been changes in Vegas since we were there last. Uber is now the way to get around. We did have a car, but we found it easier and cheaper to Uber between casinos on the strip. Especially since most hotels are now charging for parking (another change since the last time we were there).

Buying pot is now legal in Las Vegas. We ate pizza in a restaurant across from a very upscale strip mall that had a pot store next to an Einstein’s bagels and a gourmet popcorn shop. Coming from a state where having pot on you will at least get you fined, if not arrested (depending on how much you have), seeing a thriving pot store out in the open was a bit surreal to see. …I’ve run my share of grass/Made enough money to buy Miami …

Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville restaurant now has a casino as part of it. They have actual Jimmy Buffet slot machines (Dennis won on them!) and they have Coppertone suntan lotion scent dispersed into the casino through the air vents. Even the carpet looks like an aerial view of islands in an ocean. For a guy that sings about chilling and living the easy life he sure has an aggressive and amazing marketing presence. Bet he didn’t build that by spending his life sailing, fishing and drinking. Wasting away again in Margaritaville…

Speaking of drinking, I discovered a drink called a Bloody Maria at Margaritaville. I’m sure this isn’t a new drink, but it’s new to me. It’s basically a Bloody Mary made with tequila instead of vodka. I hate vodka but I like tequila! What a happy find that was. Why don’t we get drunk…

We also discovered gourmet cheese burgers and milk shakes at a restaurant in our hotel called the Black Tap. They were the best burgers I’ve ever had. Cheeseburger in paradise…

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The milk shakes were something to see. Dennis had Oreo Cookie and I had Cake Batter. His had a full Oreo Cookie ice cream bar and mine had a large piece of cake on top of the shake. They were humongous and fun. And expensive! Holy cow were they expensive. It was a good experience, but unlike the Bloody Maria, I think this will be a one-time experience for me.

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Our massive shakes. We didn’t even eat half of them they were so big and so rich.

One of the most serious changes were the many security guards with German Shepard dogs in the casinos on the Strip and also walking around Fremont Street downtown. I’m not sure of the exact reason, but I’m assuming they are trained to smell for explosives or gunpowder? One morning,  I saw a security guard in our hotel down on one knee rubbing the belly of her German Shepard who was rolling on his back and clearly enjoying the attention. The guard dogs have an important job to do, but they’re still dogs at heart. I was glad to see there was real affection between the guard and her dog. Somethin’ ’bout your dog sittin’ by your side…

There are some things in Las Vegas that have not changed and probably never will. It is hot. Ninety degrees and above every day.

You will lose. And I did. Every bit of cash I brought to gamble I lost. Dennis didn’t lose all of his so I guess that’s kind of like winning.

There are unusual people. Mainly in downtown, but I have also seen them on The Strip, too. Fruitcakes on the street/Struttin’ naked through the crosswalk in the middle of the week…

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The guy in green was a street performer. I’m not sure about the other guy.

Fifteen years ago, it used to be easy to pick out the “ladies of the evening” but now it’s not. They blend in with the other young women dressed for a night on the town. Apparently, styles for the party crowd have evolved to the point where many of the women dress in short, tight dresses with stilettos. This is not a condemnation nor an approval, merely a fact. And maybe a little awe and envy on my part at how those women can actually walk in stilettos when my feet were hurting in cushy Skechers. I go for younger women/ Lived with several awhile …

It was a good trip. One of the best since we got married in Las Vegas over ten years ago.

It was different, though. In the past I’ve worried about my mom when we were gone. I didn’t have to do that this time. Her 89th birthday would have been last Wednesday on the 30th. I was glad to not be home on that day. I think it was better to be in a different place. Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes…

I always worry about my animals when we’re away but this is the first time I’ve had dogs and been away for that long. Charlie and Sammy both survived kennel life well and Charlie the Survivor actually did better than Sammy. Sammy was very nervous and had to be checked out by the vet on staff to make sure there weren’t any bad issues with him (there weren’t, thank goodness). Charlie, being the survivor that he is, just rolled with it. I think that maybe because he’s old, he’s lived through a lot and nothing much phases him anymore. …some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic but I’ve had a good life all the way.

Not a bad place to be in life, that’s for sure.

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Both dogs were very happy to see me and insisted on lap time.

So which Jimmy Buffet song are you humming now?

3:47 pm

 

 

I’m a Survivor

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018  12:50 PM (for Monday, May 21st)

I have a writing helper today.

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Frankie wants to help.

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Isn’t he a handsome boy?

A writer less dedicated than myself might interpret this as a sign to play PS4 instead of writing. Probably Tropico 5. Or maybe Assassin’s Creed-Origins. Maybe even both.

Thankfully, I’m not that writer. Really, I’m not.

Yesterday’s snap shot is actually a culmination of an event that occurred over the weekend. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that in addition to three cats, we also have two dogs. Sammy is a year and half and he’s full of energy.

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Sammy getting ready for bed. Yes, he sleeps in our bed.

We also have Charlie, who was my mom’s dog that we adopted when she passed away last July. He’s almost 13.

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You’re not seeing double. Our neighbor dog, Louis is on the left. Charlie is on the right.

Charlie has led a very sheltered life. My parents rarely went anywhere so he was always with people. He’d never been alone for over 2 or 3 hours, much less overnight, when we got him. He’s a pretty nervous guy in general.

When we got Sammy as a puppy, I was determined I would raise him differently than my parents had raised Charlie. My dog would be well-socialized, well-trained, and independent. I wouldn’t be tied down because of him. We have a fabulous dog sitter we trust with our cats when we travel. We’d just add a few extra visits to let Sammy out when we were away.

Easy-peasy, right?

Except for the part where I discounted Sammy’s own personality, sense of will and independence. And not the kind of independence I’d hoped for. He’s perfectly happy doing what he wants, how he wants and when he wants independent of what we want him to do.

I had a similar goal to raise my son differently than my parents raised me. Thankfully, I was more successful with him than with Sammy.

We’ve tried to socialize Sammy, but he is not at all friendly with people and does in fact bark at my son and his girlfriend every time they visit, no matter how many times he’s seen them. Our latest problem with him is in the past six weeks Sammy has developed separation anxiety. He will bark, literally from the time we leave the house until we get home. This went on once for five hours. (We have camera’s in the house we use to watch the animals when we’re gone).

A few weeks after all the barking I noticed that Frankie, one of our cats, was downstairs with us less and less. He was nervous and jumpy. I feared all the barking was taking its toll on him. I knew I had to do something. And fast, since Dennis and I have short trip planned to Las Vegas in the near future. I’d arranged for the pet sitter to stay over night so the dogs would have company, but I couldn’t let Sammy bark for the entire day when she wasn’t there.

I spoke to the vet and he suggested putting Sammy on Prozac, which we did. Sammy’s behavior became more subdued and controllable. The cats returned to visiting us downstairs more and Frankie stopped cowering and slinking around the house. All good signs!

After two weeks on the medicine (the doctor said to give it a good two weeks to build up in his system) we tested leaving Sammy and Charlie alone for five hours. Sammy was quiet for about three of them and the barked for the other two. Better, and good enough for everyday life, but still not good enough for us to be able to go on vacation.

The vet then suggested a sedative with the Prozac. We tried that, but we were afraid to leave Sammy alone after he took it. He was woozy and dizzy. We were afraid he’d fall off the couch or a chair. And it made him kind of sick. It was a long eight hours until the sedative wore off. That wouldn’t work either.

It’s ironic that Sammy is causing us the problems because I really thought Charlie would be the problem child when we brought him in. He’d never been around other dogs, and the few times he was around Sammy he didn’t like him. He even snapped at him a few times.

However, once my mom went into the hospital it was as if Charlie knew I was his only option. The dog who had to have a set routine and a house all to himself breezed into our home without a stutter. It was as if he’d lived here all his life. He bonded with Sammy immediately and Sammy bonded with him.

My mom didn’t believe Charlie was so happy so I brought her videos I shot of Charlie playing with Sammy. She still wasn’t convinced until I brought Charlie to visit her at hospice. Charlie ignored her and followed me around. He didn’t want to sit by her on the bed, and when he finally did, he watched me the whole time to make sure I didn’t leave without him.

My mom said she was happy that he’d bonded so strongly to me and she was relieved that Charlie was happy. All of which I believe is true, but she had to have been hurt that Charlie didn’t greet her or care to be near her after them being constant companions for eleven years. I told her that I thought he was probably mad at her for the change in his life. She called him a survivor and said it didn’t matter as long as he was happy.

In the months that passed after my mom died, I never saw Charlie look for my mom, even when I’d take him back to my mom’s house as I was clearing it out. I’ve read about dogs going through depression when their master’s die, but there was never any evidence of that.

Charlie, the survivor, could teach a thing or two to Sammy, the barker.

With the Prozac only partially working for Sammy, I came up with two potential options to save our impending vacation: 1. Hire what amounts to a babysitter to stay in the house with the dogs for four days. 2. Put the dogs in a kennel.

I’m not sure I could even find someone willing to stay with my dogs for four days, so last weekend I opted to test out option 2, put the dogs in a kennel.

I chose the kennel All Pets Inn in Pewaukee which is affiliated with Charlie and Sammy’s vet. I figured if something was radically wrong with Charlie while he was there, at least there’d be doctors around.

Saying I was nervous about leaving them on Saturday morning is an understatement. I never in a million years thought I’d be leaving one of my animals in a kennel, much less leaving an elderly dog who already has stress issues and has never been away from home, or been alone overnight, in a kennel. But Charlie is a survivor, right?

We stayed close to home all weekend even though it was a good opportunity to get away. I received updates from the kennel. It was a struggle to get the dogs to eat, especially Charlie. They did hand feed him and get him to eat eventually, though. Charlie shook for the first day. I nearly went and picked him up but kept remembering my mom telling me “to what I had to do” with Charlie. She said this before she got sick under the context of putting him down if he didn’t adjust to my house should she die unexpectedly. But it applies to this situation, too.

It’s not fair for me to deny Dennis from taking any vacations because of the dogs, so I stuck it out and left them in the kennel. By Sunday morning, Charlie stopped shaking. Neither dog was barking constantly and they were both friendly with the workers. Even Sammy who doesn’t really like anyone other than his immediate family and the pet sitter. Charlie had to be hand fed Sunday night again, but at least he ate.

Finally, Monday morning came and I was able to pick them up. The small lobby of the kennel was crowded with people picking up and dropping off animals. I was so happy when I saw Charlie and Sammy being led out on their leashes.

Sammy made a beeline to me, jumping up and tail wagging. Charlie made a beeline to — the woman standing next me! I was surprised and I glanced over at her for the first time.

She was an elderly woman, probably in her mid-seventies, with gray hair. Her height, stature and even style of shoes and clothing was very much like my mom. I did an involuntary double take myself when I saw her.

When Charlie sniffed her leg he immediately looked surprised and confused. He rushed to my side and greeted me. I felt so bad for him.

Charlie is a survivor. A survivor with a good memory as it turns out. And though he may not outwardly show it, I’m betting he feels the loss of my mom, too. I couldn’t help but wonder if he thought back to when he ignored her at hospice, angry that she’d left him alone but never fathoming it would be his last chance to be with her. I hope he isn’t living with regrets.

Of course, he isn’t. I know he’s a dog not a person. But still. I’m convinced that animals understand more than we give them credit for. They just process and understand life in different ways than we do.

Thankfully, my mom was right and Charlie is a survivor. I know he might not be happy with kennel life, but he will survive the three days he will be there and our much-needed vacation (we haven’t been away since before my mom died) is still a go. I will rest easy in Las Vegas knowing that my cats aren’t enduring constant barking, but I may need to have a few more cocktails than I normally would to calm my nervousness about the dogs being in a kennel. I think I can live with that, though. I’m a survivor, too.

Now if I could just get Sammy to stop barking.

5/22/18 2:00 pm (Missed it by 10 minutes today)