For the second year in a row we packed the dogs in the car and drove down to Washington DC, to see my great aunt, to celebrate her 98th birthday. She is, if anything, sharper than she was last year. She loves to tell a good story, or to hear one, and she loves to laugh. I’ve seen pictures of her father, and she has his smile, and his almost giddy capacity for joy in the little things. She’s up on the latest political news in Washington and on the latest gossip from family and friends. She writes emails and reads newspapers and stays up late watching TV. And she loves, and is loved by, her grand dog (and of course by her human grandson as well).
Zoe is the lovey-doviest dog I’ve ever met. She is the granddog, and the doggy daughter of Mom’s cousin/honorary little sister. Zoe is a red-haired Cockapoo, twice Cricket’s size, with almost none of Cricket’s angst.
My great aunt doesn’t travel anymore, so we only get to see her on these yearly visits. For the trip this year, Mom bought a GPS thingy, called Tom-Tom. She was mostly worried about driving in Washington DC, and getting lost on all of the one way streets and complicated highways, but we turned the GPS on as soon as we left our parking lot, in case Tom-Tom could give us a better route off of Long Island. Except, Mom being Mom, she didn’t want to take the route Tom-Tom had planned out. She didn’t want to take Tom-Tom out of commission either, though, so every few blocks Tom-Tom’s female voice would give us a new way to get back to the “correct” route, by taking a u-turn, or a side road, or a left turn into traffic when she really lost her patience with us.
Eventually, we gave in, and listened to her advice about upcoming traffic and alternative routes. Tom-Tom said it would be a four hour trip, but it ended up taking six hours. Maybe Tom-Tom doesn’t take bathroom breaks into account, or screaming and vomiting puppies, or rain.
Butterfly only vomited once on this trip, which is an improvement over the seven times she threw up in the car last year. I still had to clean up her dog bed, and the blanket spread out across the back seat, and use up half a roll of paper towels and a lot of dog-odor-vanishing-spray, but after that one clean up, at a rest stop in the rain, she was okay.
Cricket was another story. Each time we stopped for a pee break, the girls got soaked and had to be covered in paper towels, which Butterfly liked, and Cricket disdained. Cricket much preferred drying herself on my jeans and then crawling behind my neck to finish drying herself on my hair. She was fidgety, and antsy, and trying to steal food and tissues through the whole trip. Ideally, I would have walked Cricket to the point of exhaustion before putting her in the car, but my point of exhaustion and hers have drifted further and further apart as my walking has become more labored.
It was a relief when we arrived in the Capitol Hill neighborhood where we were staying. First of all, they have dog friendly parks every few blocks, with benches, and outdoor garbage cans, and trees to sniff, and other dogs. Second, it’s all flat ground instead of hills. I’ve been living in hilly neighborhoods my whole adult life and I miss the flat ground where even I feel like I could walk forever.
If it hadn’t been raining for most of the trip I would have done more walking, because there are always benches to rest on. They need all of the benches, for the homeless people to sleep on. It’s a strange feeling, to see such wealth and upward mobility and achievement right up against a huge and obvious homelessness problem.
It rained all that day and the next, so that everywhere we went we brought puddles with us. It was embarrassing. We had to put our clothes and jackets in the dryer at the hotel just so that we could go outside again. Suffice it to say, this was not a sightseeing trip. It was a visiting trip. We were there to see Zoe and her mom and her grandma. A few glimpses of famous buildings was nice, but largely beside the point.
The dogs have taught me the importance of these visits. They know that you need to use all of your senses, and especially smell, to figure out where you are and who you love. You need to see and hear and smell and touch people in order to feel the connection instead of just thinking it.
When we rode in the car over to my great aunt’s apartment, Mom and her cousin sat in the front seat of the car, and the three dogs sat with me in the back. I had Cricket standing on my shoulders, at first, and then on my lap (guarding), and Butterfly and Zoe squashed against each other, and me, along the seat. Butterfly was wearing her plaid jacket, and with all of the squishing and cozying somehow the jacket came undone and ended up under her on the seat.
Butterfly did so much better this time. She didn’t pee once in my great aunt’s apartment. She even calmed down and relaxed next to Zoe during dinner. She followed Zoe to the kitchen for American cheese (Zoe’s favorite), and then they begged for food together at the table, and then napped tushy to tushy on the floor. Eventually, Butterfly slept under the piano while Zoe and Cricket hogged the scratchies.
Being around Zoe makes me dream of a three dog life, especially if Zoe could be the third dog. I don’t think I could sneak her out of DC, though, without helicopters and police cars coming after me. She is well loved.
Overall, the trip went well, though I do wish I could have visited with Sunny and Bo before we left. But I’m pretty sure Tom-Tom would have had something snide to say if I’d tried to program her to take us to the White House; something along the lines of “U-turn! U-turn! U-turn!” GPS thingies don’t like being chased by secret service agents any more than humans do. So touchy.