The guilt is crushing me a little

By Mir
June 5, 2010

We flew to Miami today; tomorrow we’ll board the cruise ship, and I predict Chickadee will be hurled overboard by Wednesday at the latest. (Um, did I mention she’s on her second course of Prednisone? Hell hath no fury like an itchy tween on steroids. Mercy.)

Last night Otto and I were up until midnight, doing the things one does the night before a big trip (no, not THAT): Packing, trying to finish up last bits of work, cleaning the kitchen, and whatever else seemed important at the time.

Licorice leapt onto our bed and curled up on Otto’s pillow, worriedly watching him as he finished packing his suitcase.

The truth is that Licorice has been freaked out even since the first suitcase came out of the attic, which was about a week ago. The suitcases came out; Licorice turned back into the sweet but clingy dog she’d been when she arrived at our house back in the Fall.

And lo, it was pitiful.

For a week I have been tripping over the dog. On account of she leaps into my lap if I sit down, and follows under my heels the moment I move anywhere in the house, and cries at the door most piteously if I dare venture outside without her.

Not knowing Licorice’s true origins, we have been what-iffing all week. What if she once had owners, and then they packed for a trip and left and NEVER CAME BACK? What if one time she saw a suitcase somewhere and then IT EXPLODED? I mean really, clearly SOMETHING has traumatized her about suitcases.

Anyway, I was working in my office, Otto was packing, and the only reason Licorice was bugging him instead of me was because any time anyone was DEALING WITH THE SUITCASES she needed to be there. So she watched him pack. And eventually I finished in the office and came into the bedroom and lay down on the bed with my angsty puppy and snuggled with her and told her that we love her and will be back very soon. And then I asked Otto if he would take her outside and put her to bed, and he said yes, and I got up to go get ready for bed, myself.

I was closing the bathroom door when I heard Otto calling for Licorice. And then I heard him calling her again. And again.

I laughed and opened the bathroom door. “She isn’t coming?” I asked.

“I don’t know where she IS,” he answered. “I headed for the back door and then she DISAPPEARED.”

It’s true that sometimes when it’s time to put Licorice to bed, she becomes what we call Low Puppy, and lays very flat and still on our bed as if she thinks maybe we won’t be able to see her, and then she’ll get to sleep with us all night. But generally if you approach her when she’s doing that, she’ll (grudgingly) stop. However, this time, she wasn’t on the bed.

Or anywhere else.

About five minutes later we found her huddled UNDER the bed. And it took quite a bit of coaxing to get her to come out.

Apparently when I got up to pee, she decided that she’d been abandoned again and had some sort of PTSD flashback. I wish she could tell us what was going on there. Or that I had a flask small enough to offer her. Poor dog was freaked OUT.

Once we got her out from under the bed, though, she went outside and into her crate without further incident. This morning she was VERY excited to see us, and even after everyone was ready to go and we were packing up her crate, she didn’t go hide.

She did become boneless, though. Just like the old days. The kids and I sat down with her on the kitchen floor and passed her limp, nervous self around and gave her lots of belly rubs and kisses and promised her that we’ll be back soon. And then I had Otto deliver her to the friend who’s keeping her for us this week. He reported that she was “nervous but exploring” when he left; the friend has a dog, too, and that MAY have been enough of a perk to distract her from the SHEER AND UTTER ABANDONMENT she was experiencing.

I’m hopeful that all will be forgiven when we return. Barring that, I guess I can start looking for a doggie therapist, so that Licorice can work through her issues.


  1. carolyn

    We just got back from a week at the beach. Doggy came back from my sister’s house, lay down in his regular spot and carried on as usual. Kitty has been slinking around the house SCREECHING at the top of his lungs. At first I thought there was something wrong, but now I think he was just happy to see us – or mad that we left.

  2. Margaret

    Just before my family moved cross country, our cat somehow managed to get up into the kitchen cupboards and hide waaaaaay in the back corner. We though the landlord had accidentally let her out when he came to inspect the house.

    My mother, sister, and I were sure the cat was dead, and all three of use were either crying or on the verge of tears when someone finally found her in the cupboard.

    Anyway, that cat has moved from NC to CA and then from CA to England and then from England back to CA. I’m shocked *she* doesn’t have suitcase PTSD.

  3. Karen

    Just think of the pure joy you will see on her face when you return. It’s the best part of coming home. Bon Voyage!!

  4. Crista

    Oh my gosh. The poor thing. She really knows how to pile it on, doesn’t she? ;) She’ll be fine. We have a (rescue) dog with separation anxiety and every time we go away he mopes for the sitter and he doesn’t eat and he is very “poor me.” When we come back, he is so excited he can’t even bark, and he has to run in circles for about 15 minutes. Yeah, he’s got issues ;).

    We also have a rescue cat and we had her for about 6 months before we moved from our apartment to a house. Once I started packing, the cat started freaking out. If I was packing somewhere and went off to do something else, when I came back the cat was *in* whatever I was packing from–a dresser drawer, a shoe bin, a bathroom cabinet, a bathroom drawer…kinda like she was telling us “Don’t forget to pack ME!” We figure she must have been abandoned or lost when her previous owners moved. I know, genius of us to figure that out, huh? lol.

    Anyways, have a great trip! What an awesome experience for all of you. I hope to hear lots of great things when you get back!

  5. Pam

    Poor Licorice! I go away a lot and our Labrador gets depressed even before I appear out of the bedroom with my suitcase. She knows the signs. So do the cats, who sit on the bed and frown, and when I come home again curl themselves into tighter balls and won’t speak to me for a couple of days.

  6. KarenP

    Our two youngest cats know we are leaving when we start packing the suitcases too. We got them from the pound when they were two months old. They just seem to sense something is going on. We leave them at home and my son comes over and feeds them while we are gone. They always seem happy to see us when we get home.(they are indoor cats due to coyotes in the neighborhood). Our oldest cat won’t come in the house while we are gone, even for my son. So he ends up sleeping in the garage on the water heater and coming and going through the cat door. As soon as I come home and call him he comes running.

    Have a wonderful time. Licorice will be happy to see you when you get back!

  7. Heather

    Aww! Poor little Licorice. She’ll be alright though, I’m sure of it. The ecstasy when you return will be immeasurable – though just to be sure, I think you should most likely videotape it ;) Have a fantastic trip!

  8. heather

    I have a cat that I know was left behind when her people moved. When I moved she freaked out. She kept jumping into the moving truck with every piece of large furniture. She finally got in my car and refused to come out until we moved her too. We tried to tell her that she was always part of the moving plan but she wasn’t going to rely on us remembering her. She also has suitcase anxiety.

  9. meghann

    Our dog is the same way, and we are currently on vacation, and we boarded her. It’s her second time though, and she seemed no worse for the wear after her first time, so I have confidence she’ll be alright. The poor woman at the boarding place had a heck of a time with her though, because she was playing boneless too, but unlike Licorice, Chip weighs 50 lbs. It makes it a little more challenging.

    Our cats on the other hand seem THRILLED when we’re leaving. I think they enjoy how quiet the house is when we’re gone.

  10. Megan

    No one does guilt like a dog. Our total master of the art would have broken my heart a lot more if I didn’t know he also had the memory span of a gnat and would, two hours later, be happily snoring on a forbidden surface somewhere (it’s true, dat, caught him myself once when we had forgotten a rather important sleeping bag and I looked through a window on the way to the garage!). Just as the others have said, the reunion will be fantastic!

    Also, it’s good for Licorice to learn that while you might go away, you also come back.

  11. Nelson's Mama

    Nelson lurks around and waits for someone to open the car door; then he sneaks in and hides in the hope that he won’t be discovered. Nearly breaks my silly heart…

  12. elizabeth

    My in-laws are in health crisis mode (ovarian cancer for her and brain tumor for him) and I am going to go join my husband in caring for them–just for the weekend. Leave Friday, home Sunday. I feel more guilty about leaving my dog, who also has cancer, than I have felt about anything I can remember. Oh, maybe my divorce. I felt guilty about that. This is a close second.

  13. myboyzach

    Poor Licorice; you could have stowed him in your carry on, no one would notice !!!! Wait, you could have stowed me too !!!
    2 ideas for future dogless trips: doggie calmers–‘herbal’ tablets that have always worked for Zach, t-shirts from each of you that you can put in the crate. They carry your smell so she’ll have something to snuggle with.
    And hopefully the reunion will be wonderful. We’re always prepared for Zach to be snotty for the same number of days as we’ve been gone. I know he can’t count, but….it seems that way!!!

  14. Mare Martell

    Doggie calmers? Where the heck do you find those? We travel from TN to SC quite often. Sometimes we leave our dog home because her trip anxiety is horrendous. Four hours in the car with a whining, crying dog makes me glad I didn’t have a baby with colic. I probably wouldn’t be writing this as a free woman if I did. (I’m kidding.) I’ve used Benadryl which calms her a bit, but it’s still high stress for her. Weird thing is, she likes to go bye-bye.

  15. JennyM

    We have to be strategic about packing the car once the suitcases are ready, because Mabel will dog (ha!) your footsteps and as soon as you open the door to take a suitcase you, she zips past you and leaps into the car (front seat, back seat, trunk) as if to say, “I am also ready to go. You see I have helpfully put myself in the car for you. Where are we going again? Whatever, it doesn’t matter, because you see that wherever it is, I am now ready to accompany you. See, I fit right into this corner, you’ll hardly know I”m here. Except that I am. Here. With you. Going with you, that is.”

    Kills me.

    But, like Megan says, we have documented proof that when she doesn’t go with us, she recovers very quickly.

  16. Bri

    We have a hundred pound old english bulldog with separation anxiety who has been with my boyfriend since infancy so we have NO IDEA why he cries every time we go to the bathroom. He is usually ok if we leave the house and he’s in his crate, though occasionally he yipes like a puppy. Don’t feel guilty, it’s good for her to see that you can leave and come back again. I’m just glad my dog doesn’t try the limp dog trick. ;)

  17. Jenn

    My husband and I are saps. Our dog was in a shelter for 3 or 4 years before we adopted him and I just don’t have the heart to leave him with anyone, so he always comes with us. We still wait until the last minute to get the suitcases out because he’s so afraid that he isn’t coming with us that he will get in the car and refuse to get out, and have you ever tried to forcibly remove an 85-pound dog from the back seat of a car?

    I’m sure we could leave him with my parents if we had to and I’m also sure that we would get him back weighing 110 pounds because my dad is a very liberal with the dog treats. And pizza crust. And cheese.

  18. Katie in MA

    Pooooor Licorice! Maybe her family moved away and left her to roam the streets. Sharks or Jets, Licorice? Sharks or Jets?

  19. Margaret's Mom

    Margaret at #2: you forgot when the electric company guy came while we were hunting for her, he ‘joked’ that he’d hit a cat in the road. I was traumatized, but I don’t recall you girls being upset. Oh, wait, maybe we didn’t tell you what he said…


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