– Martin Buber
Four times in five days I’ve answered the phone and heard a telemarketer try to sell me a vacation.
“You’ve got the wrong guy,” I say sharply. “I can’t go on vacation.”
When they ask why, I answer honestly.
“I’m on dog duty.” Click.
Yes, my son’s in Florida at the beach with his friends. My wife is visiting her mother four hours away.
And I am home because someone has to stay with the dogs.
It is strange when I consider that a person of my advanced years, decades of supervisory experience and modest professional achievement can find his life governed by two short-legged cat-chasers who are afraid of the dark, thunder and slow buzzing house flies.
We used to plan summer trips and holiday visits around our child’s school year. Now we plan our absences around dog tending.
In the past when I have brought up renting them a nice room at the kennel, my wife gives me a look that suggests I would have once put our son in an orphanage for a week, just so we could go skiing.
The neighbors have provided some dog-sitting in the past, but they’re on vacation this week, too.
So I’m elected … chosen … nominated from the floor, seconded and all in favor say, “Bye.”
Besides, somebody has to give the dogs their medicine.
Yes, the hairy little hypochondriacs are on more prescription doses than anyone else in the family.
And they don’t like to take their meds, so they have to be tricked with cheese and treats and other deceptions.
My wife leaves a hand-drawn grid chart, and both dogs have those senior citizen dispensers with “M-T-W-TH-F-S-SU” on little lids.
Same breed of West Highland terrier. Same house. Different problems.
I think we soon figured out that they are both allergic to dog food, or should I say cheap dog food. Which is why we shop at the pet gourmet/health food store.
Naturally, both are required to eat different brands, and also, naturally, both want what’s in the other’s bowl, so you have to watch them when they eat like the gruff, old prison guard in one of those 1940 gangster movies.
They’ve both got multiple allergies, mystery ailments and human expectations.
One is their morning walk in the park down the street. Which is not to be confused with their evening walk in the park down the street.
Which is why they greet me at least twice each day at the back door with a prance in their step and a yearning, open-eyed look, that is as endearing and as heart-melting as a humane society adoption poster.
And when we get home, we’ll wrestle on the den floor or I’ll chase them around the furniture until I get tired, and then I’ll just lay there and pretend to be asleep on the rug until I feel the brush of a cold nose and those sweet, little, tentative licks on my face.
I don’t go on vacations. Don’t need to.