We’re going away on vacation tomorrow, and so we had to drop the dog off at the boarder earlier this afternoon. Generally I think of my dog as a pretty dumb animal, like when I call him he rarely comes over, and I’ve never been able to get him to master any sorts of tricks besides “sit” and “give me your paw.” But he’s somehow developed this doggy superpower, that whenever we’re about to actually leave the house to go anywhere, he knows it. Before we ever even have a chance to make a move like we’re going to get our stuff ready to leave, he’s going crazy.
At first I attributed it to association. Whenever we go away, we inevitably bring our suitcases and bags downstairs. And so I thought, all right, maybe he just associates the bags with leaving, with getting in the car, and he gets all excited. But it’s got to be something more nuanced. Because a few days ago I went in the basement to look for our suitcases. And there was no reaction. He knew we weren’t leaving yet, and so he was just lying there on the couch, oblivious to the world and his surroundings.
But last weekend we brought the dog with us to visit my parents. After the initial surge of energy and excitement that always comes along with seeing a bunch of new faces, he quickly died down and commandeered both doggy-beds my parents have in the kitchen for their golden retrievers.
He’s pretty mellow. He doesn’t beg for food and, aside from occasionally shifting positions, he’s content to just hang out and watch everybody. But then at some point toward the end of the night, I looked at my wife, I made a motion to my watch as if to say, it’s kind of late, we should think about maybe making an exit soon.
And the dog knew. He got up and he started getting all antsy, gnawing at his leash, whining and crying. It was the same exact reaction when he knows that we’re going somewhere. And I’d barely said anything at all. Was he just sitting there watching us? Waiting for some sort of a subtle cue to get up and start acting crazy?
And then today, I dropped him off at the border. All I had to do was take out a Zip-lock back, as in, OK, I’m going to put some food in a bag for you so you can eat your own food for the next several days. And that was all it took. He started flipping out.
What’s really weird is, the boarder, definitely one of his favorite spots, a big space where all the dogs get to hang out in a pack, it shares the same building as one of his most hated places, the vet. And I’m telling you, he can tell where we’re going. I’ll park the car and take him toward that building and, even though there’s really no way that he should be able to divine which room inside is his destination, he does. If it’s time for a checkup or a vaccination, he’s pulling away, he’s struggling. But to the Dog House? Man, he can’t get inside fast enough.
Whenever I drop him off for a few days, there’s always a little surplus time where I have to live in this house without our dog. I can’t explain it, but it just feels dead in here. I went out to run an errand and when I came back, I instinctively called out, “Where’s my buddy?” even though before I had a chance to finish my sentence, my brain was like, oh yeah, he’s not here, I’m alone.
And I don’t get it. I don’t get how people live like that, without dogs to greet you when you come home, or to hide from you after they’ve gotten into the trash and made a huge mess strewing garbage all over the living room. Even though the space in between the two couches isn’t really a good hiding spot. And if you’re in there, I already know that something’s up. And so you can figure out when we’re going on a trip, but you can’t figure out how not to stay out of the trash?