I think he might be a cat

I keep trying to figure out how to tell you all of the cool stuff about our trip in some sort of logical way (i.e., in an order that makes sense, and also in such a way as to not sound like a privileged asshole, because HEY fun family vacation my dad paid for, that’s some serious good fortune right there), and I still haven’t figured it out. To at least begin, I figured it might be best to start to start at the end.

Actually, first let’s go to BEFORE we left, then we’ll talk about what happened when we got back.

Back when we decided to adopt Duncan, part of the impetus came from this incessant anthropomorphizing I engage in, which led me to believe that Licorice really “needed” a “sibling.” (Both of these words in quotes to acknowledge that I’m ridiculous. I KNOW. Shut up.) Anyway, I’m mostly home, but EVERY NOW AND THEN we spent a whole day out of the house or… we go on vacation. Wouldn’t it be nice for Licorice to have another dog with her for those rare occasions? Like, say, when we go to Colorado for 10 days and leave her at the kennel? Surely it would. One dog alone at the kennel might assume she’s been abandoned and be stressed out in unfamiliar surroundings, while TWO dogs at the kennel would cost an entire mortgage payment be comforted by one another and be less stressed. Surely. Right?

So Otto took the dogs to the Puppy Spa before we left, and verified that they could share a run, and then because our kennel is specifically designed for deranged dog lovers like us who dote on our precious schmoopykins, we had to also decide on the menu of “extras” we wanted the dogs to have. Most kennels will offer a walk for boarding dogs, but at this place they call it a Nature Walk (and you can pick your timeframe), plus here you can opt to have them receive Frosty Paws every afternoon, if you’re that sort of sucker. (I am.)

Otto asked for Licorice to get a walk every afternoon.

“Just Licorice?” asked the nice lady behind the desk, clearly exercising restraint but wondering why Otto was the kind of monster who didn’t want Duncan to also have a walk.

“Well, you’re welcome to take Duncan along, too,” he continued. “But that would make it a Nature Carry instead of a Nature Walk. He’s not really much of a walker, and he has bad hips.”

[Given the caliber of the Puppy Spa and some of the other folks who board there, I think she was probably just relieved that we were okay with him being left behind and didn’t demand they carry Duncan around every afternoon.]

So the dogs were left and we went on our trip. A few times during our vacation—I cannot tell a lie—I did turn to Otto and say, “Maybe we should just call the kennel to check on them.”

“They’ll call us if there’s a problem,” he would always say, somewhat bewildered.

“Well, sure, they’ll call if one of the dogs DIES,” I said. “But what if they’re just SAD? Or HOMESICK? Why don’t they have a puppy cam at a place this expensive, so that we can peek in on them??”

Then Otto would shake his head, probably wonder why on earth he married me, and wander off after assuring me that the dogs were FINE.

We got home from Colorado too late at night to pick up the dogs, but such is my canine-related mental illness, we left the house at 7:30 the following morning (which felt like 5:30, because we were still on Mountain Time) to be at the Puppy Spa the minute the doors opened, to fetch MAH BABIES. I pictured a heartwarming reunion akin to every viral “a soldier comes home and his dog is happy to see him” video I’ve ever seen. It would be epic. Probably both dogs would refuse to let me out of their sight. (Or, you know, in Duncan’s case, out of the sight he would have if he wasn’t blind. Details.)

We walked in, asked for our dogs, and the call was sent back to bring them up. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. FOREVER! Or for at least three minutes. (I was feeling a little anxious….) And then… both dogs were carried out.

Licorice spotted us immediately and began whining and yipping, and the moment the worker put her down, she commenced leaping into the air, wagging so hard she kept falling over, and licking every available bit of skin she could access on Otto and me. Have you ever heard a dog CRYING WITH JOY? It’s a terrible racket, actually, but sort of heartwarming once you get over the fact that your hearing is being damaged. Licorice was BESIDE HERSELF, so delighted and relieved was she to discover that we had not, in fact, abandoned her. This was exactly what I had pictured.

Duncan… well, he didn’t bite anyone. That’s good, right? Duncan sort of wandered around the kennel lobby while Licorice spazzed out, allowing us to pat him a little, but seemingly unconcerned about our presence either way. I guess maybe he wagged a little.

It was a pretty stark contrast, is my point.

Because I am me, I subjected Otto to a verbal barrage on the drive back home. “Do you think he’s okay? Why wasn’t he more excited to see us? Do you think he’s mad? Do you think he even REMEMBERS us? Maybe he was so traumatized by past mistreatment he just has some sort of attachment disorder?” To his credit, Otto never once just turned up the radio to drown me out. He listened patiently and reminded me that Duncan and Licorice are very different dogs, and assured me that everything was fine, and that maybe I shouldn’t worry so much.

We got home and let the dogs loose on our (sleeping) children, and Duncan did seem to perk up a bit, then, so I tried to believe what Otto said, that everything was okay. Duncan is just different that Licorice, that’s all.

Well. Since then, Otto has diagnosed Duncan with PTSD—Post Traumatic Spa Disorder. Duncan continues to be his usual, low-key self… but he is also stalking me around the house. Mind you, he’s not any more affectionate or anything—if you want to pet this dog, you basically need to sneak up on him (a family favorite: scratching under his chin until he rolls over, then squealing, “I am rubbing your belly against your will!” while, y’know, rubbing his belly against his will)—but he no longer wanders off to nap on the couch. If I’m in my office, he’s about a foot away from my chair.


If I go into the bedroom to work out on the elliptical, he follows me in. If I shower, he lies down on the bathroom threshold. If I go out to work in the garden, he trots along after me.

It’s very weird. I mean, Licorice’s version of love is a lot… slobberier. She wants to be in my lap and licking me, when she wants attention. Duncan’s MO is a lot more sort of, “Oh, don’t mind me. I don’t need anything. But I just want to know you’re here.”

This morning Otto was getting ready to head out and do some yard work, and after a couple of calls to Duncan, managed to get him to get up off the floor to report for a quick ear rub. “I don’t care what anyone else says, Duncan,” Otto said to him. “You’re a pretty good dog.”

Indeed he is. He’s a little weird, and maybe a little broken, but so are the rest of us. He fits in here just fine.


  1. Brigitte

    Awww, he WUVS you, in his own fuzzy little way! :-)

  2. Sharon

    Yep, he missed you. Classic introverted response, just making sure he knows exactly where you are and that you know he’s still there ~

  3. Pat

    I TOTALLY understand your wanting to call and check on your babies. I have a Chihuahua that sleeps with us & is on one of us at all times when we are home. We are taking an 8 day vacation next month & I am so worried about her. She will be with our son & dil but she is Mah Baby too! I worry about her anytime we have to leave her for more than a few hours. Good to know I am not the only neurotic doggie mom.

  4. Alice

    Well, he’s acting just like our cat whom we secretly think is a dog, so I feel you. (Sasha will (often) come when we call, is rather trainable with snacks, and does the whole “turn around 3 times before laying down” thing that I’ve only seen with dogs before. And does the “I want to be near you, but none of this cuddling stuff” when we’ve been gone. It’s cute, if a bit bewildering.)

  5. Candee

    My pup goes to a fancy “pet resort” (they get offended if you call it a kennel) where he gets a massage and gourmet, organic homemade cookie at bedtime each night.

    The resort offers door to door pick up / drop off service, and when the Resort dropped Huckleberry off, he tried to follow them out the door.

  6. Cheryl

    Nubs now cries as soon as we pull into the lot. I try to tell myself it’s because she knows we’re leaving and she’ll miss me, but really, the tugging my arm off as we exit the car is harder to explain. That and literally jumping into the arms of the girl at the desk. I say she does it to make me feel better about leaving her, but my husband says that they must dote on her more there than we do at home. It’s enough to give a mama a complex.

  7. js

    I need to get Frosty Paws for our buddy, Jackson, now!

  8. Jeanie

    Awww. I love dog stories.

  9. Daisy

    Oh, sweet doggie knew you missed him, too!

    My rabbit was like that – wouldn’t leave my side – but she hadn’t gone away. I had! She was my shadow when I came home from the hospital after surgery. I called her my service bunny and wished I could have trained her to open the fridge or to make coffee.

  10. Lindsey

    I had two dogs, and the that one passed away a few weeks ago used to follow me around like that: no matter where I was, there she was, like a little shadow. After almost 10 years I got used to it. My other dog is much more self-contained (read: not needy! :) ) and although she generally likes to be in the same room as me, I haven’t yet gotten out of the shower to find her sitting on the bath mat waiting for me. And you know, I really miss that.

    I loved having two dogs – they were half-sisters, but SO very different from each other! I don’t trust anyone who thinks dogs don’t each have their own personalities, needs, desires, and ability to love their people and other furry siblings. They TOTALLY do.

  11. Dawn

    We left our dogs at their fancy costs-a-mortgage-payment doggie spa for a week while we were out of the country last month. When we got home, one was all over us. The other one walked out of the family room and very pointedly lay down in the kitchen facing away from us. He ignored us for HOURS. We got the hint.

  12. Lucinda

    Maybe his real name is Eeyore.

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