I went last weekend to a high school reunion — a very unusual reunion which I will write about at a later date. This event, which was to span three days, was planned last fall so when my little puppy, Harriet, came to live with me, I already knew that the middle weekend in May would require me to find some kind of care for her and for my old dog, Mayday. Mayday has always been content at the local kennel which sometimes calls itself “Luxury Suites,” with good reason. Each dog has its own room with a glass door and sheepskin beds, which are suspended off the ground. The little rooms look out on a kind of courtyard, a big room with several couches and a big screen TV that plays animal videos 24/7. This is about as different from my house as you could get. Mayday has enjoyed these accommodations at times but I wasn’t sure a three-month-old puppy was quite ready for that environment. I consulted with the owner of the kennel and she assured me that Harriet would be fine with them. Some of my friends had offered to take care of her but I was hesitant. I’ve had bad experiences in leaving my dogs with friends in the past, nothing to do with their care but happenstance has brought misfortune on more than one occasion. The kennels are not as wholesome as a friend’s home but they tend to be safer and more reliable. Unfortunately, as yet, Mayday and Harriet have not bonded. In fact, if a dog could hold its nose, Mayday would do so when she sees Harriet coming. I’m still hopeful that they will come to a better place with each other. Harriet’s all for it but Mayday is not to be convinced. To her, Harriet is nothing but a pest and an annoyance. Harriet’s sharp little puppy teeth aren’t very convincing, either. The kennel offers a lower rate if two dogs will lodge together but that’s not an option for us yet.
So, very reluctantly and with some apprehension, I took Harriet to the kennel on the Friday morning of my departure. I carried her in. She had never been there before but she dug her nails into my coat as I attempted to hand her to the lovely woman who always greets Mayday like an old friend. She was every bit as welcoming to Harriet but Harriet sensed something was not right with this hand-off. She began to wail. I have never heard her cry, in fact, she’s the quietest puppy I’ve ever had. But not at that moment. I gave her a little kiss goodbye and told her to be a good girl, that I loved her and all of that. Never mind. She cried like a little baby and as I walked out to the parking lot, I could hear her howling loudly as she was carried into the back room. I even heard her as I drove out, which gave me a very unsettled feeling, a shaky start to what was otherwise to be a joyful weekend.
Harriet is growing up, now all of ten pounds. I took her out in the truck one day. She sat on the seat beside me, attentive to the road and the sights all around us as we drove slowly into Peterborough. I wasn’t sure she would ride well. We’d been on two journeys so far and both times I had put her in a borrowed car carrier and she had gotten very sick inside the crate. A mess and an upset. This time, I decided to try her just loose beside me, see if she would behave. We got to town, so far so good. I went to the bank and waited in line at the drive-through. Harriet had been sitting tight against my side while we idled in line. I felt her nudging me and glanced down. In my jacket pocket, I had my cell phone, a set of keys and a five dollar bill, folded in fourths. Harriet looked up at me. Emerging from both sides of her mouth were the edges of the five. I gently removed the money from her grip. She released it without damage. At the window, as always, the teller put a biscuit into the drawer with my receipt. Mayday knows well what happens when we go to the bank but this was Harriet’s first experience at the bank. And since she was sitting so nicely beside me I decided not to rouse her with the excitement of a biscuit. So I put it into the breast pocket of my jacket. I’d give it to her when we got home. As we were leaving the bank, I spotted an old friend and rolled down the window to chat. Harriet came up onto my lap to say hello. We talked on. I suddenly heard crunching. Harriet had now picked my top pocket of the treat and was downing it. I wondered if, tough times being what they are, I might someday be able to use her talents as a pickpocket.
Once I arrived in New Jersey where the reunion was to take place, I refrained from calling the kennel, figuring if anything was wrong, they would call. Still, my mind kept wandering back there, in spite of the many distractions all around me. I had such a wonderful time, I realized that one of the few things that pulled me back home was the thought of rescuing Harriet from her little prison. But when I got there, the woman at the desk told me Harriet had made a fast friend out of Sadie, a Jack Russell terrier. “They’ve been playing together all day. She’ll probably fall asleep as soon as she gets into the car.” Sure enough, I put Harriet on the seat next to me and before we were out of the parking lot, she curled up and closed her eyes. I think actually that the next day, she wanted to go back to the kennel, where the action was.