My parents took a five-day trip to Las Vegas last week – they flew out of Milwaukee Feb. 15 and returned home Feb. 19. I’ve never been, but according to my dad, visiting Sin City involves a lot of walking in roundabout ways where a destination that seems only a short walk away actually requires a more complicated path resulting in many more steps. There are also no 25-cent slot machines on the strip’s sidewalk where you could win a car; thanks for building up false hopes, National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation.
With my parents out of state, I was tasked with taking care of River – my four-legged fur brother. He’s a long-haired dachshund with a bit of Chihuahua mixed in his breeding. River is a rescue from Texas who was brought to Wisconsin through the organization Paddy’s Paws; he and his siblings, Joaquin and Rain, were brought here not from a puppy mill but to prevent the canines from going to a kill shelter in their home state. He’s what would be considered a “good boi” in doggo speak. Sure, River barks unnecessarily at times and gets jealous of my nephew but overall, a great pup.
Taking care of River is pretty simple – let him outside a few times a day so he can have a bathroom break, make sure his food and water bowls are filled, give him a Greenie treat every morning, spend some time playing with him, and pick up any fluff that may come out of his toys when he’s a bit too rough with them. I’ve done it on occasions when my parents have gone to Cranberry Fest or camping at one of the state parks.
I forgot to factor in one element; this was the longest time River would be home alone. He is used to spending the nights snuggled up with either one of my parents as he sleeps and having someone at home with him most of the day. Sure, River has gone three days without my parents at home but I’d forgotten how clingy the canine can get.
The first couple days went fine; River would go outside when I came to let him out then want to play with his stuffed pink rabbit toy for a bit. If he was on his best behavior, the canine would get a Pupperoni.
Then Tuesday happened. I’m not sure why the dynamic shift but when I tried to leave my parent’s place after the morning bathroom break, River decided he needed to come with me to work. At first, I assumed he was jumping by the door because he needed to go outside again. (Sometimes, River is smart enough to let you know when he absolutely must use the yard.) I opened the door to let him outside and River just stood on the deck as if saying “Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s go.” while I stood just inside the doorway. It seemed the loneliness was starting to wear on him to the point River would much rather come with me than stay by himself.
I was able to convince him he needed to stay at home by putting a couple pieces of Pupperoni in his food dish while I quickly made my escape. Sorry, River, you just can’t come to work with me. He’s a good pup, but would likely spend much of the morning yapping at everyone in the office until they paid attention to him.
River decided to pull the same shenanigans at lunch. I let him out and as I prepared to return to the office, he felt it necessary to put his front paws on the screen door as if letting me know he was ready to come with me. Instead of diverting his attention with treats, I threw his pink bunny down the hall and while River scampered after it, I escaped.
After work, I decided to spend more time with my fur brother. Surely, River just felt deprived of human attention and by playing with him for more than an hour, he’d be fine being home alone. Even after nearly 90-minutes of playing and getting belly rubs, River wanted to come with me. Or maybe he thought we were playing a fun new game where he’d come by the door, get let out for another bathroom break, stand on the deck and wait for me to come, come back inside when I didn’t follow him outside, then chase after the bunny when I tossed it to lure him away from the door. I’d prepare by leaving the door slightly open but putting it in the locked position; this way, I could just step outside and not worry about the door not locking. But I worried I’d accidentally lock myself out, so I had to make sure my keys were in my pocket right before I shut the door. By that point, River had returned his bunny to me for another toss.
We went through a similar routine Wednesday morning and noon. But when I went to let River out at a bit before 6 p.m., I reminded him my parents would be home in just a few hours. The dog was cuddled up on the couch with my mom’s sweatshirt, looking completely content and cozy after being let outside. Finally, River had reached the maximum chill level where he understood it would only be a few hours before his humans were back home. Or so I thought.
As I tried to leave at 7ish, River bounded off the coach as soon as he saw me put on my coat. I tried to let him outside and thought maybe, just maybe, he simply needed another bathroom break after drinking a lot of water. Nah. After acting so well behaved, River felt the need to attempt to go with me. Honestly, this little game was becoming a minor frustration especially because I was ready to go home. At a certain point I was almost ready to say “Fine, get in. You’ll come to my apartment where I have no dog food or treats and certainly no outdoor area.”
However, River must have decided staying inside was a much better option because after 15 minutes of this new game, he settled back onto the couch, as if he hadn’t just jumped off in an attempt to escape, quietly curling up and waiting patiently for my parents return in a few hours. But, the dog may have gotten the last laugh because when my mom and dad were back home, they were welcomed to large piles of stuffing from his toy. At least I was off the dog-sitting clock by that point.