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Visiting the Boys

 

Before our most recent visit to my brother’s house in New Jersey, we gave Cricket some doggy Xanax, to see if it could make her a little better behaved. The occasion for this visit was my youngest nephew’s eighth birthday, and my brother insisted that the dogs were invited. He’s terse, but he seemed to be clear. But, Cricket is terrible in the car. Harnesses cannot hold her and she ends up climbing behind my neck, and then trying to insert herself behind her grandma’s shoulder. My job, in the passenger seat, is to make sure that Cricket keeps her paws off the steering wheel.

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“Squirrel!”

Butterfly, on the other hand, slept peacefully in the back seat. She was so quiet that I had to aim the camera over my head to catch a picture and make sure she was still alive back there. I couldn’t turn around far enough to see her, what with Cricket balancing on the back of my neck.

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If you listen carefully, you can hear her snoring.

By the time we got to a gas station in New Jersey, Cricket was losing her marbles. We always wait until Jersey to fill up the gas tank because they have no gas tax, so it’s significantly cheaper to buy gas there, even if the roads are a bit extra bumpy. Cricket seems to think that gas station attendants are closer to the devil than even Mailmen. She shrieks and throws herself at the car window and scratches the glass in a terrifying fever of activity. Sometimes the guys laugh, but it’s that nervous laugh that means they’re trying very hard not to pee in their pants.

When we were back on the road, I had hopes that Cricket would be calmer, but no. She climbed behind my neck again and then started hyperventilating when she recognized my brother’s neighborhood. When we turned onto their block, she started to whine and dig into my shoulders with her toe nails. We were in the car for two hours, and the Xanax still had not kicked in.

My brother’s driveway was empty, and the only family member in evidence was cousin Lilah – the black lab – standing behind the front door, barking at us. I didn’t have the patience to stand on the stoop and wait with Mom for my brother to appear, so I took the girls on a walk around the block, passing all of us single file through a shovel’s width of clear space in the snow. I’d already done my exercise for the day (ready for birthday cake!), and I was a bit wobbly on my feet, but adrenalin got me through, and as we neared my brother’s house again, the littlest nephew (aka birthday boy) came running to see us, or rather, to see the dogs.

It turned out that they’d been away in the Poconos for five days, and were just returning. Don’t ask me why this did not come up in the planning with my brother. As I said, he’s terse. Lilah had been dropped off by the pet sitter an hour earlier and that was why she was so agitated to be home alone. As soon as my brother opened the front door, to drop off five days’ worth of laundry in the front hall, Lilah raced out to greet the rest of her humans in the street.

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Lilah and Cricket

I assumed that this was all preparatory to the whole family going inside, but the minivan was still running, and it turned out that sometime during their drive back from the Poconos, it had been decided that we would be going out for pizza instead of eating at their house. The dogs would have to stay home. My girls would be given the basement, and Lilah would get the rest of the house.

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“Are you talking about me?”

I tried not to look into Butterfly’s big brown eyes as we closed the door to the basement. I was angry at the change in plans, and confused about the right thing to do, and feeling guilty because I was actually considering staying behind with the dogs and missing my nephew’s pizza party. Cricket stood on the other side of the basement door and barked her frustration clearly and succinctly, and I had to agree she made a good argument.

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“Mommy?”

When we returned from pizza early (because littlest nephew missed the dogs), Cricket was still standing right at the top of the basement stairs waiting for the door to open (she left drool behind as evidence of her plight). Meanwhile, Lilah had eaten the rabbit food in one human brother’s room, and pooped all over the floor in another brother’s room, to let her family know how she felt about their decision making priorities.

After some screaming and cleanup, we finally ate birthday cake and watched my nephew unwrap his presents. Out of the pile of gifts tottering on the table, partially opened, three boxes contained toy guns, and this inspired the older boys to go and find their own favorite toy guns – bright blue and orange and yellow guns that could not be mistaken for the real thing, but filled with marshmallow sized bullets that actually sting quite a bit when they hit you. My niece was, unsurprisingly, missing from the action, holed up in her bedroom with her iPad.

I held Butterfly on my lap, because she was shivering, and I had to hold Cricket’s leash to keep her from starting a fight with Lilah. I also had to stay alert, because guns kept being aimed at each of our heads.

Cricket finally did calm down, when we returned to the car at the end of the visit. She curled up behind my neck, with her feet shoved behind my back, and fell asleep within minutes. Halfway through the trip, she was snoring into my hair. On an efficacy scale of one to ten, doggy Xanax, zero, house full of boys, ten!

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Exhausted puppies.

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

107 responses »

  1. That sounds so stressful! I understand the nervewracked travel dog; my youngest dog, Patience, gets carsick plus she’s twitchy in new places…it’ll be “fun” when she stays with my parents over Easter while I go out of town!

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  2. Goodness! If they’d wanted pizza, it seems to me it would have been a lot less stressful to have it delivered.

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  3. Wow am I lucky. My cat just finds a cozy place and sleeps while we travel. My dogs go to sleep like babies. Of course they are old dogs and they have travelled all over North America with us.

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    • You have a cat who travels well?!!!! I’ve never heard of such a cat!

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      • He is a very weird cat. But there are cats who are very happy traveling in boats and RVs and cars. The important thing is cats have a sensitive period between 6-9 weeks where if you introduce stuff then they will never again be upset by it. If you take a kitten that age into the tub with you, they will happily swim and never minds swimming for the rest of their life. It is a lot harder to get them to get used to something after that sensitive period.

      • Okay, the image of a kitten swimming in the bathtub has just made my day. Thank you!

  4. ramblingsofaperforatedmind

    Oh, NO! So sorry the puppers were unhappy. Not cool. Makes me glad I’m an only child–no parties to worry about!

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  5. My sympathies. I gave notice to my siblings at Christmas that I didn’t want to spend any more holidays with them (or family time either) because of similar ‘lack of planning’ on their part and a casual attitude toward my anxiety about it. And I can’t take Huny, the last time (at Christmas) she pooped in their dining room in full view of me and a room full of people. She never goes in the house, so I think the stress and the fact that my brother’s dogs aren’t well house trained gave her the idea that it was appropriate. I’m glad that you had a plan for Ms. Cricket though..maybe try giving her the Xanax earlier and then it will have time to kick in before you go on any car trips. And as usual, the pictures are DARLING and Cousin Lilah is beautiful! ❤

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  6. ramblingsofaperforatedmind

    Boxita is terrified of the car rides…..I just stay home and snuggle pups.

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  7. Haha – oh my goodness! I’m glad my dogs handle card rides ok – loved your telling of the account and the pictures make it even better!! 🙂

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  8. I know what you have gone through. Some dogs just do not like car travel at all because it means change. When we drove from Victoria to South Australia (9 hours), I had my Priscilla helping me drive most of the way with her paw on my arm. We are moving back to Victoria and won’t it be a “fun” trip with three cats, two dogs and a sparrow with attitude in the car with us? Oh, I forgot – a pet sheep and poultry in the big covered over trailer. They will be comfortable on a thick bed of hay. At least in the trailer, they won’t be listening to the cats’ yowling chorus …..

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  9. oh wow- sounds like a rather stressful trip!! One of our dogs also hated the car and drooled and whined anytime we had to take in it. The other loved it to end. Love your photos!

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  10. Anti-anxiety meds are notoriously unreliable in dogs. There’s also Benadryl and Acepromazine, which might work as effectively as the Xanax.

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    • She takes the Ace (I just thought Doggy Xanax sounded cooler), but we haven’t tried Benadryl on her since she was a puppy. Maybe it’s worth trying again.

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      • Benadryl should only make her sleepy, not less anxious. Talk to your vet to see if it is recommended in her case. I’m not a vet. 😀
        Ace sometimes has the opposite effect on dogs. But now you know that you have to give Ace hours before the desired effect. Maybe you already knew that and it wasn’t the drug working, it was the aftermath of the exciting visit.

      • I’m pretty sure Cricket saw the medicine bottle waiting on the counter and found herself an antidote before I ever dosed her. She’s too clever by half.

  11. What an outing! No place like home…

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  12. Oh, Rachel–this sounds like the birthday visit from hell. Preparation was not part of the planning was it? So glad you all got out alive. Poor Cricket!

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  13. Yipes! Sorry. I found a homeopathic product called Licks that helps Sam travel better in the car. It made a big difference when we drove to California. At least he wasn’t hyperventilating and quivering for 400+ miles at a shot. 😉 ♪ღ♪░H░A░P░P░Y░ B░I░R░T░H░D░A░Y░░♪ღ♪ greetings to your nephew.

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  14. Sounds like an exhausting day, but you all made it through. Whew!

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  15. That sounds so stressful! I can’t drive the car when Chicki starts to whine – it’s so nerve-racking, and she knows whenever we deviate from our normal course. I hope that you and yours have recovered from all this…

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  16. Wohh quite frantic visit.At least the journey home was peaceful.x

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  17. I feel for you travelling with a restless dog. Maggie’s predecessor was terrible and in the end, we had to leave him behind. Her ladyship can be tiresome though, but we have found that if we are moving at a constant speed above 40mph, she is content, but sometimes likes to come across to curl up on my lap in the passenger seat. After a while, she goes back into the back and either snoozes away the rest of the journey, or stick her head between us looking straight ahead.

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  18. House full of boys is indeed ten😊

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  19. Oh, Rachel! Good to know mine is not the only family where a plan, thoroughly understood at outset, can change completely!!!

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  20. Wonderful story telling, as always! Thank you for another enjoyable read.

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  21. Sounds hectic, but also sounds fun! My traveling companion, Reddog, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, has passed away, but, when I think of him–every day, I think of the miles we logged together and what a good listener he was.

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  22. I would have been inclined to stay behind with the dogs also. If it was only adults I probably would have advocated (retrospectively) that you did but your nephew probably wouldn’t have understood and he’d have been disappointed. On the other hand how stressful for Cricket and Butterfly not to mention yourself. A change in plans when one’s dogs are involved is not always fair and reasonable. It sounds as though your dogs made it through unscathed and only a little weary for the experience.

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  23. A good time was had by all-NOT!

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  24. When I visit my daughter, she and her husband put the big dogs downstairs and the cats in a bedroom. The little poodle is sllowed to stay upstairs with my Poms and all is well. BTW, Connie has nine dogs, three cats, one turtle, four daughters and a grandchild on the way in 10 weeks. They live on a farm, so there are many other animals as well. Little Dogs come first.

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  25. Poor you. Poor doggies. I simply hate taking my doggie out of his routine. I feel so guilty. I’m already stressing because my daughter is walking with her graduating class for college in May and I really should attend. But I just moved here in September and have no reliable dog helper/sitter and really don’t want to kennel my pup. I’m in such a quandary. It’s months away, but I’m torn-who will care more? My human child or my furry child? Ugh.

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  26. Gotta love family gatherings! Hope you are all recovered by now!

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  27. I hate when stuff like that happens.

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  28. oh those puppy dog eyes! i would have claimed spoony crash and stayed behind, and i’m sure you were very tempted to do that too! but my family already hates me so i would’ve taken the hit for the dog lol

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  29. Hahah, how cute! I’m as exhausted as the girls just from reading this story! 😀

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  30. Ariel doesn’t like the car either. I’ll have to remember the house-full-of-boys trick.

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  31. Jeebus, Cricket sounds exactly like how our old dog Toby (Bichon/Maltese mix) used to be. No form of sleeping pill could ever work on him. He always fought it and whined the whole way through unless dad held him, lol. And even then, he’d tried to stick his head out the window and attempt to become The Rocketeer causing dad to return Toby to the backseat with me–then rinse, repeat. Gidget and Buddy don’t seem to mind the car rides but once we dare to leave the car [for gas or whatever quick errand] the panic ensues until we return to console them. And I would’ve felt just the same having to leave the furbabies behind in the house when the plan was to celebrate within the house.

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  32. Wow, what an adventure for those two little pups!

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  33. Oh that just sounds so very stressful and frustrating! I would have wanted to stay with the dogs myself- LOL! We frequently take our dogs with us when we go out (they loved vacationing in Mexico!), but their comfort is our #1 concern. Thankfully they’re both good in the truck. Actually, we often plan things around them, like trips to Beaver Creek, hiking in the mountains, camping, and often staying at pet friendly hotels. Basically, if our dogs are happy, we’re happy 🙂

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  34. You had me laughing to tears again with these girls car antics, dogs are not always the best travelers. Our dachhound once chewed entirely through a seatbelt on a long trip to go camping. Unfortunately it was not even our car., but a relative’s. Oh that little scamp, however it was not amusing to the car’s owner. Please keep your wonderful stories coming , they never fail to make me laugh out loud,

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  35. Lu also loves the NJ gas attendants. The only difference is – she waits and watches. Once the nozzle is inserted, and they have relaxed, she hurls her snarling self at the back window. As they leap back in fear, I swear she turns and grins at me!

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    • I’m imagining a Busby Berkly type musical number where each of the cars surrounding the gas pumps has a dog at the back window snarling at the attendants. In sync.

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    • Too funny! Ziggi lures people close to the window by looking all cute and friendly, then when they get close enough he starts snarling and barking like he’s possessed. And he’s a big dog, so he’s really scary when he does that! One thing for sure- no one will ever mess with our truck with Zig in it!

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      • Same with Cricket! People see her from a distance and say, Aw such a cute puppy, and then they hear the low growl and see the teeth, and they still don’t get the message, until the crazy is unleashed!

  36. I think I would have had to put Butterfly back in the car if I had seen those eyes x

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  37. Your nephew looks so much like you!

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  38. I guess its only when we are placed in social situations where someone else is in control that we realise how much we mould our own lives and routines around our pets. And they hate any variation, for whatever reason. Honey does not rule our house, but she sets the routines, is only comfortable in certain situations, and is particularly concerned wither position in the pack. She gets wildly excited on car journeys, but that’s only because she sees a different walk on the end of it. And that’s one department where she welcomes variety!

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  39. You paint a very vivid picture, I’ve been there as well. I always have such conflicted loyalties in those situations.

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  40. Oh must have been hard to leave them behind, especially Butterfly…And I love “how” Cricket finally got some sleep!

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  41. Restaurants should really be more dog-friendly

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  42. Ugh! I can relate in a way. We have told our families that our dog, Emmit, will no longer be visiting because kids are scary to him. If family comes in town to see us, Emmit goes elsewhere for a play date. It has taken the stress out of family visits.

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  43. I didn’t realise I had it so easy with my dogs! You did great by the sounds of it. My problem is getting them out of the truck so I can go to work, otherwise Harold will happily sit in the front seat for hours just in case I don’t notice and bring him along! Happy travels…

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  44. Thanks for liking my poems. I appreciate the support.
    Sounds like with Cricket around you will never lack material to write about.

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  45. I love how you can read the minds of dogs and know exactly what they’re thinking … and would be saying if we understood Bark.

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