In late February, eager to escape winter’s gloom, my wife Judy and I took a quick trip to Florida. We were gone four nights. Albie, our rescue dog, stayed home with our younger son, Noah, and the 20-something daughter of friends, Katie. Left to his own devices, Noah, a high school senior, would likely have forgotten to go to school, eat, sleep, and otherwise do the minimum necessary things needed for human survival. About the third day it might have occurred to him that Albie hadn’t been outside in a while. Hence Katie.
We also engaged the services of Decadent Dog, a local dog walking service that, for reasons that will become clear, deserves 10 stars on a scale of one to five. Since Noah was going to be in school, and Katie at work, we needed someone to take Albie for a mid-day walk.
We loved our short visit to the warm, moist air of the Gulf of Mexico, but we spent a great deal of time pining for Albie. Honestly, I don’t know what’s become of me. A year ago the idea of having a dog was about as appealing as owning an iguana, and now I’m Jell-O when it comes to Albie. It didn’t help when we learned Albie was pining for us, too: He spent the first 24 hours on the window seat looking out the window for our return. I wish we could have explained to him how long we were going to be away and assure him that we were going to be coming back.
Each day, Bob or Sam, the two dog walkers, sent us reports by text plus photos to assure us Albie was OK. They also kvelled about Albie; they swear they’re not just flattering us when they say he’s one special dog that they, too, have fallen head over heels for. Each day, they reported, Albie seemed a little happier, a little peppier and a little less despondent about our absence. Noah, based on the single word responses we got to every text we sent him, seemed to think we were still home. This, of course, is part of why Albie has become such a big part of our lives: he needs us – much more than the kids do.
When we arrived home, it’s hard to know who was more excited to see the other, Albie or us. He hardly knew what to do with himself. His body quivered, he ran in circles, rolled on his back for a quick tummy rub, and started dropping various dog toys at our feet as if we needed to make up for lost time.
It gets you to wondering what dogs make of our absences; how, if at all, they measure the time when we’re away, and if the feeling of “missing” another is experienced as we experience it. So much of a relationship with a dog is deducing what’s going on in that head of theirs, or projecting our feelings onto their emotional palettes. But where I was once dubious about a dog’s ability to love as we understand it, I’m now a believer. And where I was once skeptical about how much a dog could mean to me, well … you know.