Chapter 26

   When Steve and Thelma go on our vacation to Mexico her friend Kristen and her girlfriend Karen come over and watch the dogs. They stay at their house, living in. They hang out with the dogs. Kristen is a godparent to them. Telly has known her forever.

  They go to Mexico in January, flying from Cleveland Hopkins Airport directly 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, blue water.

   When they are flying there Steve sits in the seat beside the window, pulls the brim of his baseball cap down, and falls asleep. The next thing Telly knows she’s waking him up. The next thing he knows they are there.

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

   Telly doesn’t know Karen as well as Kristen. She’s a little on the shyer side. Kristen is one of the nicest people she knows.

   When they are in Mexico Kristen sends them pictures of their dogs.

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

   “Does my Baby miss me?” she asked.

   “Yes, very much.”

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

   “It’s like a little vacation,” Kristen says

   Telly leaves food in the fridge and presents for them.

   “You do too much for us,” Kristen said.

   “You watch my kids,” Telly said.

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

   Steve and Telly look forward to going to Mexico for their five-day vacation. “You both look so relaxed and so happy,” said her friend Christy on a FaceTime call. One night they had dinner at the Brazilian Steak House. That was delicious. They got more relaxed.

   “Who watches your dogs when you’re gone?” All kinds of people who have dogs ask her that. She tells 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. It costs a fortune, unless you’re rich.

   But Telly doesn’t want her 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. She won’t do it to her dogs. She always calls Kristen. She trusts her and if she’s willing to come over and babysit, Telly is willing to have her in the house, and pay her.

   “You pay me way too much,” she said.

  “I don’t think I pay you nearly enough,” Telly said. She doesn’t just leave food and drink for her and Karen. She leaves wine, too. She watches the dogs and the house, she’s responsible, but she needs to kick back sometimes. Telly takes care of people who take care of her 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 Steve and she don’t do a lot with the Animal Protective League anymore, she shares a lot with the Cuyahoga County Kennel, and has a lot of rescuers on her Facebook page. One woman, Barb Katzenmyer, does so much, unchaining, rescuing, transferring, re-homing. Telly admires her so much. She is someone she would strive to be, if she could.

   Steve doesn’t let her go to kennels too many times because there is always the danger she will come out with another animal. They were looking at a dog one day, but the vet 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 go home now?” Steve asked.

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

  Karen taught Baby how to slow dance. Kristen sent them a photograph by text of Karen and Baby, their shaggy two-hundred-pound Leonberger, dancing in the kitchen. The iPhone was too small for the picture.

   They had a good time in Mexico. Telly 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 they 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 they got home.

   “She was fine, why?”

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

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

   Karen gave all their 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 Telly already calls her Fat Warthog.

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

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