Sometime last summer Brenda and Kevin were planning a winter cruise right after Christmas, and Brenda asked if I would look after the five pets, who live with them and our two granddaughters downstairs. In a rash moment I said, "Sure, of course!"
Eventually far off events become present reality, and somewhere in the blur that was the run up to Christmas I realized that they were all leaving any day.
On Boxing Day we hosted our big and wonderful, exhausting family Christmas melee--I mean "celebration"--and the very next day, the girls went off in one direction for two weeks with their dad, and Brenda and Kevin left to drive to Buffalo, from there to catch a plane to Baltimore and on to Florida, where they were boarding the cruise ship: Carnival Freedom.
Carnival "Freedom." That has an ironic ring to it. :)
An unaccustomed silence fell over our house; a house that had been humming with activity for weeks. Presents had been wrapped and hidden all over the place; then wrapping was torn off again and the paper gathered up; people came and went; parties of all sorts happened; far too much food was consumed and the leftovers hidden in the freezer.
Suddenly the house seemed so empty.It would be just Paul, Brenda's five pets and me for the next eleven days. If I could just keep them all alive and not lose any of them, all would be well.
I was grateful that I had the next week off work as I had about a million things that I wanted and needed to do in those days. I was glad I'd be home for the pets: Blossom the chinchilla; Sunny and Disco the cockatiels; Hazel the cat--and of course, Molson the beloved golden retriever.
I didn't quite know how it would all go. I love Molson dearly but Hazel is a new addition to their family and a shy cat. The birds and chinchilla didn't seem too much of a worry.
It soon became apparent though, that there were a few critical pieces of information that Brenda omitted to pass on to me.
I discovered this right after feeding time for Molson. I let him out to do his business in the snowy back yard. He peed close to the house and then trotted down to the end of the garden where we have a small forest of fir trees. I understood--he needed to do "number two" and likes to sniff around down there first.
To my dismay, he sniffed around all right, then he turned to the right and off he went across our neighbour's backyard. I called, he heard, he ignored.
I quickly ran upstairs and put on my boots and coat and ran down the garden after him. As I stepped out into the field at the bottom of our property, I discovered that frozen rows of ploughed ground hidden beneath snow, does not make for elegant running.
He came back when he saw that I meant business, looking like he meant to do so all along and it had all been a misunderstanding. Right!
I sympathized. He is a large dog and needs exercise. It seemed to me that he was just taking what he needed, in lieu of being taken for enough walks in our chilly Canadian winter weather. I couldn't be mad at him. After a couple of chilly chases across the neighbour's lawn, I decided to stop the spontaneity and be prepared, with boots and coat on, ready to take him for a quick run around the block after each meal.
Molson loved every minute of that and the rolling around in the snow that is his winter ritual before going back into the house.
Brenda had worried most about Hazel, their pretty little calico cat. She is very social, although shy, and she thought she would be lonely. It took Hazel very little time to get over being shy and fall passionately in love with Paul, who has allergies, doesn't care for cats, and likes to lie on the couch when he watches t.v.
Every time I ventured into the t.v. room, there was Hazel, draped all over Paul, front legs gripping him around the neck in an adoring embrace, purring loudly. Paul smiled in bewilderment at his apparent "animal magnetism."
Every day I would work at exhausting Molson, changing water, emptying the litter box, topping up bird seed and giving Blossom the chinchilla yogurt treats, and Paul would endure Hazel's passionate lovemaking.
I found myself counting down the days and talking out loud to the flock of five pets, saying, "Only so many more sleeps and she'll be back!"
And yes, at last, "eventually far off events become present reality!" Joy of joys, late on Sunday night, Brenda and Kevin came home. I was almost as glad to see them for their sakes as I was for mine. :)
When I described Molson's antics to Brenda, she said, "Mom! You should have let him out BEFORE you feed him. I thought you knew that."
And as far as my dog herding went, she shook her head and said, "Mom--you never run AFTER a dog. You are the pack leader. You are supposed to run in the opposite direction, then he'll follow."
THAT would have been nice to know ahead of time. :)
I was so glad when everyone came home. I hear they're all leaving for a family vacation again in July. But now I have the two "golden" rules: Pee first--feed second; and run in the opposite direction. Can't wait to see how that works out. :)