I’ve had more than a few letters lately asking me where I’ve been. Truth is I haven’t been anywhere. The problem is where everyone else went. Without telling me. I mean, the folks have gone away before without consulting me and though I’ve never much liked it I was always pretty sure they’d be back, usually sooner than later. And they were. This time it was different.
It started with the Big Tree. I knew I was in for a bad night sometime soon after it showed up. I had a very good idea exactly when that was going to be when Mom and the Doc pulled out the weird vest and strapped me into it. We were having dinner, or at least they were, and I was taking a nap near the Doc’s chair. Mom stood, no big deal. She does that a lot, to bring stuff back and forth from the kitchen. I looked up for a minute in case there was going to be something in it for me, but when I realized there wasn’t I put my head back down and got back to Snoozeville.
A while later, probably not much of a while but I’m not sure because, like I said, I was sleeping, Mom comes back and wakes me up.
Then I saw it. Right away I got the shivers and tried to make a run for it. No luck. I’d managed to get on my feet, which actually made it easier for them to put the vest on me, all the while telling me everything was going to be “O.K.” Right. If everything was going to be so O.K. we wouldn’t be going through all this, would we?
Anyway, there I was, all suited up, and a few minutes later the fireworks started. I wasn’t happy, but I have to admit I wasn’t a total basket case, either. Maybe the vest helped, or maybe I just don’t care as much anymore. Whatever. I got through it without making a complete fool of myself. You know, no puddle of drool on the floor.
A couple of days later the Big Tree got taken away, the furniture went back to where it usually is, and life seemed to be back to normal. Good. Time to get back to work. But then the suitcases came out. They did it the way they always do, while I’m not looking. I’m on my way to bed one night, and there they are. Sitting on the bedroom floor, acting like nothing’s going on. I know better.
Generally when this happens I start working on the folks to make them feel bad. I mope. I look depressed. I AM depressed. It doesn’t change anything but I have to do it. Clothes start going into the suitcases. I take notice. Nothing weird, none of the stuff from way back in the closet. And I realize it’s the small suitcases, the ones with wheels. Putting all this together I figure they are not going to someplace exotic and are not going for very long.
The next morning Jenny came to take me for my walk and I knew this was the day the folks were going to leave. It’s the same every time. I mope, they put stuff in the suitcases, they tell me it’s going to be O.K., (it’s one of their favorite lies), they say Jenny is going to take care of me, Jenny shows up, and off they go.
And it was O.K. For a while. I like Jenny and she likes me. She takes care of a bunch of other dogs but I’m pretty sure I’m one of her favorites. Plus she sleeps here so I’m not alone at night. I don’t think she does that for just anyone. But days go by and I’m still hanging out with Jenny. No sign of the folks. More days pass and I’m worried. Then I’m more than worried.
I start having thoughts I’d never had before. I try to dismiss them but eventually I have to face the possibility that Mom and the Doc might not be coming back this time. I don’t know why I started thinking that way, but once I did it was impossible to get my mind on a happier track. And Jenny, as nice as she is, isn’t big on conversation. When I ask what the deal is she pretends she doesn’t understand.
Finally I just accepted the fact that life wasn’t going back to what it used to be. They were gone. I was miserable but there was nothing I could do about it. I started sleeping in the room with Jenny instead of in my own room, the one I shared with the folks.
I’ve had some of my pals go away. A few of them would come back once in a while, so even though they were gone, they weren’t completely gone. But others disappeared. My friend Annie was like that. She lived with Roxie’s folks before Roxie moved in. I met Annie a short time after Mom and the Doc adopted me and saw her pretty much every day at the park for years until one day she didn’t show up. I didn’t think much about it until a couple of weeks went by and she still hadn’t made an appearance. I didn’t understand she was really gone until we went to her folks’ place one day and she wasn’t there, either.
Same with Jack. He lived right down the stairs from our place. We’d go visit some times. Other times, on our walks, I’d stop at his place to say Hi for a minute. Then one day I made a move toward his door and the Doc pulled me away. “Jack doesn’t live here anymore,” is all he said.
So for some reason I decided the folks were gone, just like Annie and Jack, and that I’d have to learn to get over it. I don’t think you get over things like that. You just try to learn how to live with them.
A few nights later Jenny went out, leaving me alone at a time she’d usually be getting ready for bed. This was strange. No folks and now no Jenny. I went out into the yard and lay down in my spot under the orange tree. I don’t like being in the house alone, with all the noises it makes. It seems harmless, but still. I needed time to think.
I probably fell asleep because the next thing I remember is hearing car doors closing and noise inside the house. People noise. I ran inside, not sure what was going on, and there they were. Mom and the Doc. All happy to see me. Like nothing happened. And I was happy to see them, too. Or at least part of me was.
There was another part, a part I didn’t even know I had, that wasn’t too sure about the whole situation. I mean, they’d left me alone, or at least alone with Jenny, and they were gone long enough for me to think they were gone for good. It had been a bad experience, maybe the worst I’d ever had. Worse than being tied to that tree in that other park when I was a puppy.
I guess when you’re a puppy you don’t think about bad things so much. And I thought maybe that was part of the problem now. I’m not a puppy any more. I can still make new friends, sure, but I’m attached to the ones I’ve had almost all my life. They can’t just go away and then come back and expect everything to be the way it was. It’s not like that. I needed more time to think. Once I understood it was really Mom and the Doc and that they were really back I went outside and lay back down.
Over the next bunch of days things got better. They knew something had changed and they tried to be extra nice, but this was something that was going to take time to fix. What if I allowed myself to take things for granted again and they took off again? Or maybe I should know that it’s what they do, they go away once in a while, then they come back. But what if they don’t?