Every year, Kira and I get away from the rain and dreary weather of Seattle to travel down to Santa Monica, CA for an Ultimate Frisbee tournament called Lei Out. There, we join thousands of other Ultimate fanatics for two days and three nights of sun, sand, Ultimate, and debauchery.
(I have to get this out of the way. If you don’t know Ultimate, watch this)
We go every year to take in some mid winter sun and to stave off the cabin fever of being stuck inside on the cold days of January and February. We usually don’t give it a second thought, taking off an extra day of work and enjoying the three day MLK weekend in style. This past weekend, however, was a bit different in that we had something else to worry about.
What were we going to do with Pickle?
We had never left our pup with anyone else, and in the four months since we got her, I’ve never been away from her for more than 6 hours. Seriously. So when we were planning on leaving for four days, I didn’t know how I was going to react.
We are lucky to have friends who love dogs. We didn’t want to leave Pickle at a kennel or with just any friends, and a good couple of dog owners were willing to help us out. A little bit of worry was lifted from my shoulders.
But not all of it. The days to our flight drew closer, and Kira and I were making sure that Pickle had all of her belongings. I began to get more and more anxious, trying to cover all the details. How much food would she need? Where would she sleep? Would she get along with my friends’ dogs?
The night finally came to drop Pickle off. Kira had homework to do and it was up to me to leave Pickle and her gear. I hauled her kennel, her blankets and favorite toys, and two weeks worth of food up the stairs in my friends’ apartment building, unconsciously slow, suddenly wondering if I should just turn around, cancel the trip and stay home.
What was I thinking? Surely one weekend would be fine.
Or would it? What if she didn’t sleep? What if she drove my friends crazy by not sleeping? Would she miss us? Would she pee in their apartment? Would she eat? Would she get scared and run out the door and escape down the three flights of stairs to the street and run out into the road and get hit by a bus?
I snapped back into it as my friends opened the door to their apartment to let me in. I was greeted by their two border collie mixes and a reassuring sense of comfort. I found myself going into way too much detail about her bathroom schedule, and giving them hints as to what her favorite chew toys are. I was the nervous parent leaving their baby for the first day of kindergarten. Yes, I was that dad.
We were all set. I said my thank you and walked out the door, but not without pausing on the outside, waiting to hear a whimper from Pickle’s little voice. All the way down to the car, I caught myself pausing, waiting, talking myself out of turning around.
I can’t explain it. I knew Pickle was going to be taken care of, she would be loved and exercised and would be happy. But I never thought I would wonder if my dog would miss me, or if they would be happy to see me when I came back.
We went to Santa Monica and had the best weekend we could hope for. We partied, hung out with most of the Seattle Ultimate players and made some great memories (and lost some). Yet, come Monday morning, as we headed to the airport to return, I was excited to see my baby girl. I was that dad.
Of course all my worries were swept away when we returned. Pickle was thrilled to see us, she was healthy and looked like she doubled in size. She was a ball of excited energy, jumping and licking anything she could get her tongue on. All of my time in a dog kennel and I finally understood why a dog was so excited to see their owner after only four days away.
But more so I understood a new part of dog parenting that I never knew before. When you are responsible for a pet, you learn to love them like a child. You raise them, teach them good habits, provide them with food and healthcare, and they become part of your everyday. Every minute is about keeping them entertained, making sure they don’t pee in the house or shred a sweater. When they are gone, even for a few days, there is a hole left behind. I grew up with a dog, but I don’t remember raising her as a puppy. I remember being sad when I left her for weekend trips, leaving for college, but this was a whole new feeling. This was what parenting felt like. As much as I wish for days off sometimes, when I finally got one, all I wanted was my puppy.
Love your puppy and they will give unconditional love in return. All it took was one weekend for me to see how important that all was.