Minding the Store

   Leader of the Pack

“Who loves me will love my dog also.” Bernard of Clairvaux

When Brian and I go on our vacation to Mexico my friend Kristen and her girlfriend Karen come over and watch the dogs. They stay at our house, living in. They hang out with the dogs. Kristen is a godparent to them. I’ve known her forever.

We go to Mexico in January, flying from Cleveland Hopkins Airport direct to Riviera Maya. It’s on the gulf, on the Caribbean, on the Yucatan Peninsula. There are all-inclusive resorts up and down the coastline. The beaches are everywhere white sand beaches.

When we’re flying there Brian sits in the seat beside the window, pulls the brim of his baseball cap down, and falls asleep. The next thing I know I’m waking him up. The next thing he knows we’re there.

Kristen has been watching my dogs for years. They know her. I was a friend with Kristen and her friend Janelle, but when they broke up I hardly saw Janelle after that. Kristen and Karen live in a Lakewood duplex, not far from us. Kristen works in a bank. She and Karen are going to graduate from nursing school soon.

I don’t know Karen as well as Kristen. She’s a little on the shyer side. Kristen is one of the nicest people I know.

When we’re in Mexico Kristen sends me pictures of our dogs.

“I sent these to you last night. Not sure if you got them?”

“Does my Baby miss me?” I asked.

“Yes, very much.”

When Kristen and Karen come over to watch the pack they stay at our house. They hang out. They love it.

“It’s like a little vacation,” said Kristen.

I leave food in the fridge and presents for them.

“You do too much for us,“ she said.

“You watch my kids,” I said.

My dogs love them. They puppy love them because when they’re here the rules go out the window. They know they will have full reign of the house.

Brian and I enjoy going to Mexico for our five-day vacation. “”You both look so relaxed and so happy,” said my friend Christy. One night we had dinner at the Brazilian Steak House. That was delicious.

”Who watches your dogs when you’re gone?” All kinds of people who have dogs ask me. I tell them about Kristen. She charges 30 or 35 dollars a night. Local dog hotels run about 40 or 50 dollars a night. The Barkley in Orange Village is a resort-style animal care pet hotel, recreation, grooming, and boarding. It looks like a harem from the outside.

But I don’t want my dogs sleeping in a crate at night, resort or no resort. It’s hard on dogs, their owner has gone away, and they’ve been shipped somewhere they don’t know anything about. I won’t do it to my dogs. I always call Kristen. I trust her and if she’s willing to come over and babysit, I’m willing to have her in our house, and pay her.

“You pay me way too much,” she said.

“I don’t think I pay you nearly enough,” I said. I don’t just leave food and drink for her and Karen. I leave wine, too. She watches our dogs and our house, she’s responsible, but she needs to kick back sometimes.

I take care of people who take care of me and mine.

Kristen has one of our rescue dogs. It doesn’t take much time or money to turn a troubled dog’s life around. They don’t come from breeders, so you can’t pick how shiny their coat is going to be, but you can pick their new environment. There’s no profit in it, but the profit you get inside is priceless.

Even though we don’t do a lot of stuff with the Animal Protective League anymore, I share a lot with the Cuyahoga County Kennel, and I have a lot of rescuers on my Facebook page. One woman, Barb Katzenmyer, does so much, unchaining, rescuing, transferring, re-homing. I admire her so much. She is someone I would strive to be, if I could.

Brian doesn’t let me go to kennels too many times because there ‘s always the danger I will come out with an animal. We were looking at a dog one day, but they said he didn’t get along with other dogs, and might be sick, so they couldn’t adopt him out, yet.

“Are you ready to home home now?” asked Brian.

“No, I’m not,” I said. “I’m going to look for another dog.” That’s when we found our little silver Lab, our cutie patootie. We have Grayson to this day, even with all his health problems, our little handicap boy.

Karen taught Baby how to slow dance. Kristen sent us a picture of Karen and Baby, our shaggy two-hundred-pound Leonberger, dancing in the kitchen.

We had a good time in Mexico. I wasn’t looking forward to leaving. The hardest part was saying goodbye to the beach. The sun shines everywhere, not just on beaches, but it shines best on beaches, salty, ocean sounds, ocean breeze. It was cold and gray and there was no sun anywhere in sight when we landed at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. It was January in Cleveland, Ohio, on the south shore of Lake Erie, so there being no sun in the sky wasn’t unusual, at all.

“How was Izzy when I left?” Kristen asked the day after we got home.

“She was fine, why?”

“I think she wanted to come home with me.”

“Don’t even try to steal my dogs!” I said.

Karen gave all our dogs different names. Izzy became Peach Nut. They all answered to their old names, but their new names, too. Only Pebbles stayed Pebbles. A good new name for Pebbles would be Oompa Loompa, although I already call her Fat Warthog.

A few days after we got back from Mexico I came down with the flu and had to stay in bed. Pebbles lay on the floor beside me. Fat Pebbles always does what is needed when the flu hits.

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