Our three week stint of house and pet sitting has come to an end. Spike’s people are back on this side of the equator, and David, Kitty, and I are back home. Our final week was mostly calm, but there was just enough drama to provide material for another column.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the difficulty we had in tethering Spike one afternoon because a huge truck was spreading “natural fertilizer” on a hay field near the house. Because of Spike’s interest in rolling and nibbling, he wouldn’t come, even when tempted with a slice of bologna and a doggy treat. Only after running after the car for a mile down the road and back was he compliant enough to allow me to hook him up to his daytime spot by the covered patio.
For the next week, though, he was very good about coming when called. That obedience led to a false sense of security on my part. Monday morning, as I was getting dressed for work, I waited until the last minute to call him. For the last few days, all I had to do was say the word ‘bologna,’ and he was by my side, salivating into his food dish. That morning was different. He hadn’t been near his food dish, and he had no intention of coming near me. He stared off into the woods as I used my best sales techniques to coax him into range, and then, when I took a step toward him, he took off at full speed toward whatever had riveted his attention.
After watching my failure for a few minutes, David backed the car out of the garage hoping to attract the wandering canine. Unfortunately, the sound of the running vehicle didn’t have its usual effect. We finished loading the car and were almost to the gate before we saw him. He taunted us for a few seconds without coming close enough to be in danger of being caught, and then he disappeared again. David shook his head and pulled onto the road. We had gone about a hundred yards when Spike showed up in the rear view mirror. We had been creeping along at a snail’s pace, but when he saw that we had picked up a tail, David quickly sped up to Spike’s previous speed record of twenty-five miles per hour.
“I’ll tire his butt out,” he growled.
This tactic had worked well the week before, but today the cute little blonde cocker spaniel neighbor was outside her gate – and her much larger Irish setter companion appeared to check on her. I looked out my window just as Spike caught up with us, and I saw his ears perk up as he sighted the two potential playmates. I envisioned a three-way bout of snarling dogs, bared teeth, and flying fur, but David, thinking quickly, hooked a J-turn that would have done a movie stunt man proud and took off back toward the gate.
My husband’s quick action caught Spike’s attention before the little cocker set her hook, and he raced us back home. When, we pulled up at the house, he was already nose-deep in his water bowl. As I hooked the tether to his collar, he gave me a look that was a mixture of “okay, you got me again” and “do I still get the bologna.”
The rest of the week was uneventful, at least until the end. I began moving our things back home a little each day, so by the time Thursday arrived, we had plenty of room in the car for everything that was left. I set an alarm – something I hate to do – so I would have plenty of time to wash sheets and towels and still get to my part-time job at the church at a reasonable hour. I left a welcome-home note on the counter for our friends, made a final sweep through the house, and patted myself on the back for a job well done.
The problem was, Spike’s people didn’t arrive home until Friday. I texted several times Thursday evening to see if they were back yet, but I didn’t receive any responses. I assumed they had come in and fallen in bed, jet lagged and needing sleep above all else, so I turned off my phone and went to bed.
The next morning when I powered up my phone, I heard a series – a long series – of buzzes indicating that I had a number of texts and/or voice mails. I had a feeling something wasn’t quite right. The first text confirmed it.
“No, we’re still in New Zealand.”
The short version is, they were able to arouse the neighbors Thursday evening, and they went over and put Spike in the barn for the night. After I read through all the messages, I threw on a pair of jeans and drove over to let him out, put out his breakfast, and read for a while until he was ready to allow me to hook him up.
Shakespeare wrote that “all’s well that ends well,” and the final episode of our house-sitting saga ended well. Spike didn’t miss any meals, his people took the trip of a lifetime, and I ended up with lots of fun stories. I’m glad to be back in my own home and my own kitchen, though, at least until next time. I think they have a trip to Israel scheduled soon!