Pooping to Communicate
Traveling with your pet, no doubt, has its challenges and rewards – Stan does it, takes his Jack Russell terrier, Isis, around the world with him. But I have three dogs and a cat. So most of the time, when we travel, my husband and I need to hire someone to come hang out with them while we’re gone. We’ve been blessed to have a good friend nearby who loves dogs and is happy to be here when we’re away. She has her own dog, Bailey, who she brings with her when she stays with our dogs.
We just got back from a 5-day trip to Franklin, Tennessee, for the Tribe Conference. Things went a little more smoothly this time for Donna than they did when we went to Pacific Grove, California, in August. On day 3 of a 6-day trip, I received a phone call at 6:45 a.m. A neighbor back in Phoenix was calling because she had my dog, Sugar – meaning Sugar had escaped without Donna knowing about it! We’ve lived in our house for 2+ years at this point, and as far as we know, the fence around the backyard has been well dog-proofed. No incidents of escaping, to date. So maybe Sugar got out of the house when Donna left, and Donna didn’t notice? Possible, but unlikely. She’s similar in size and breed to Bailey (pictured).
I immediately called Donna, and she didn’t answer the phone. I sent a text message: no response. So I started to worry. The person who found Sugar was very nice. She had gone by our house and said everything appeared to be locked up – meaning Donna wasn’t there at the time. We went to breakfast, texted Donna again, and tried not to fret. About an hour later, Donna called us. She had been in a meeting and was rushing over to pick up Sugar and take her back to our house. She got there, looked around the yard, and didn’t see an obvious places for an escape, so how the dog got out remained a mystery.
Until the next morning, when Donna called me at 7:15. Sugar was missing, again. “I was just feeding the three dogs, and then I turned around and Sugar was gone!” She felt so bad about it, too – like somehow it was her fault. This time, however, Sugar came home on her own – within 20 minutes, Donna heard her scratching at the front door. Donna again headed out to the backyard and saw a spot she thought must be the place where Sugar was getting out. She shored it up with some trellis and brick, and we’ve had no further incidents. But what a scare – for both Donna and us!
No such episodes occurred during this most recent trip. Until last night. We’ve been home since Monday night (see my last post about that), and at about 10 p.m. on Wednesday night, I found a pile of poop in the hallway. Deliberate poop – not “almost made it to the dog door but missed” poop. These dogs are well trained. They have a dog door, which they use every day. There was no reason or excuse for poop in the hallway, except to tell us that someone was upset about all our recent galavanting.
When I asked, “Who did this?” I could tell immediately it was Molly because she ran into the bedroom and cowered in a corner. She’d never done this before, either. I felt bad – not at all angry with her – because I’m pretty sure I understand why she did what she did. Dogs don’t have human words – so they tell us how they feel with the tools at their disposal. And because they don’t have words, we can’t use them explain why we’re going to be away, that we’ll be back soon, that we’re leaving them in good hands, and that our travel doesn’t mean we don’t love them.
The third dog, Lucy, is very vocal when we come home – almost like words, but not quite. And then the cat … well, she’s a cat. She comes around when she feels like it, eats, and leaves again. Although she did sleep on top of me last night.
If I had just one small dog, like Isis, I think I’d be quite inclined to take her everywhere with me, too. Given that our pet family is quite a bit larger, we’ll make do, for now, with a pet sitter and trying to keep our trips further than 3 weeks apart.
Laura’s first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World is forthcoming in early 2018. Watch here for updates – and prepurchase your signed copy here.