Weekend Wanderer: Leaving Pets After a Pandemic Is Hard

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camping, kid, father's day

The dreaded camping trip has arrived.

This may be hard to believe, but I have a problem bigger than the paucity of plumbing.

I don’t want to leave Pete.

If I was a better parent, Pete would be my kid — a child I’m reluctant to leave. But Pete is my beagle.

We kennel him when we travel. The kennel is lovely. It’s with his veterinarian. Our aunt works there. She sends us pictures of his big smiles as he runs in the yard.

“He’ll be fine,” my husband tells me each time I whimper about the kennel. Some might say my husband is more practical and less sentimental than I. But he doesn’t like Christmas. Should we really be trusting animal management to a guy cloned from The Grinch?

Also, how practical can he really be when he’s so willing to ignore modern luxuries like walls and mattresses?

That I’m not eagerly anticipating two days in the wilderness does not help my reluctance to leave Pete. Complicating my feelings is that Pete is a rescue, surrendered to a shelter when he wore out his usefulness. Surely, he thinks I’m abandoning him too.

At least, that’s what his face is clearly saying each time he looks at me this week.

When the pandemic hit — horrible as it was — I was thrilled to have a reprieve from kenneling Pete. But to quote Don Henley, those days are gone forever. I should just let them go.

“Are we supposed to never go on vacation?” my husband asks. Which is ridiculous on two fronts because yes, we should never go on vacation but also camping is not a vacation.

But then the only reason he doesn’t tie antlers to Pete’s head is because he doesn’t decorate for Christmas. When your heart is two sizes too small, you think leaving your pets so you can wallow in a tent is perfectly acceptable.

Even if you don’t have pets, wallowing in a tent isn’t acceptable. But one problem at a time here, you know?

A kennel owner in Massachusetts says if we want our pets to be happy when we’re not around, we shouldn’t encourage anxious behavior as we’re coming and going.

Is the opposite true? If our pets want us to feel secure in leaving them, should they refrain from encouraging anxious behavior in us? Because each time I walk through my door, Pete “hugs” me like I’ve been gone a lifetime. If my Starbucks run sparks that kind of reaction, what is a weekend absence going to do?

“There’s nothing to worry about,” my husband insists, as though he’s just met me. Baby, there’s always something to worry about. If I worry about Pete in the kennel, he’ll be fine. I hate to think of what would happen if I didn’t worry. Catastrophe, probably.

“Don’t you have Christmas presents to steal?” I mutter, the looming kennel visit making me grumpy.

“My heart is not two sizes too small,” he grins. “The rest of you just have cardiomegaly.”

He reminds me of how far I’ve come — that I didn’t even want a dog. But when our son spent two years obsessing over beagles, I challenged him to an assignment. I had twenty questions about beagles. He needed to write me a report answering those questions. Do that, you’ll get your beagle.

And this kid — the one who failed gym in virtual school — wrote me a two-page report on beagles.

So now I have a beagle. A beagle I love. A beagle I hate to leave.

A Boca Raton therapist says my attachment to Pete is good for me.

It’s just not that great for my marriage.

Any dog owner knows having a dog means your — what should we call it? Couple time?

Sure. Let’s go with that.

Your couple time is peppered with whimpers from a dog begging to be allowed through that locked door, or a kid knocking to tell you the dog wants to come in.

“That won’t happen when we’re camping,” my husband says.

Funny. I can think of another thing that won’t happen when we’re camping.

Who does that kind of thing in a tent?

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