by Betty Zubritsky
I”ve loaded lots of dogs on lots of haulers. Bye bye honey. Be good and I love you. There were tearspots on their heads when they disappeared into their compartments, and they carried my heart with them, where-ever they might be going. I have loved them all, and I would never see them again.
This time, it was different. I suspect the folks who do seasonal venues are used to this, but it was a first for me. I was going where they were going and we’d meet up in a couple days. No tears. Not a single one. Just patient hands and encouraging words and the promise that “I’ll see you on the other side”. The hauler dudes stood aside while I transferred my precious dogs from their beds to the trailer, carefully choosing who could ride with whom, who had to ride alone. It was going to be a long trip, and I needed them all to arrive safely. No squabbles in the trailer, please.
I didn’t WANT to double Muffin with anybody. My special boy, the love of my life (keep in mind that lives are short and I have lots of them), I wanted him to have a compartment all his own. But the heathens had already gobbled up all the single spots and my Muffin had to share. I paused beside the hauler dudes, Muffin in hand. “This is my Boyfriend. If anything happens to him on this trip, I will hunt you down and hurt you.” The hauler dudes nodded their understanding, with just the right amount of fear in their eyes. They believed me.
Ok, it wasn’t fear. Stupid little me wasn’t going to cause any bodily harm on these guys, and they knew it. But they got the message.
And I loaded ObNob with Cheeze, delivering the same threat. One hair out of place, you guys are toast. “How many of these are there???” the hauler guys asked. Well, they’re all important, but that’s all the Boyfriends. Drive safe.
I kissed my fingers to the departing rig, and begged all the ancients to watch over my babies on the trip.
My own experience on the way to Daytona was something less than delightful. Just the fact of having a travelling companion made it a challenge, and I worried (again) about my dogs. If I was having trouble with the much-too-close-ness of this extra person in my space, I could only imagine the stress my babies were suffering. Be good, my darlings. Please, oh please be better than me.
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I was exhausted when I walked into the kennel at Daytona. I was in thorough and complete hate with my travelling companion. That all melted away when I met up with My Dogs.
Sometimes, I can close out everything else, just to be near them. They are the center of my world, the very soul of me, and my fingers ached to touch them. “Where’s Merlin???” and I was directed to his crate.
I saw him before he saw me. Indeed, he was pouting and not the least bit interested in whatever was happening around him. “Muffin? Honey???”
Ear twitch. Eyes open. Saw me.
He got slowly to his feet. Achy from the trip, I supposed. And that’s ok. Time for full-out stupid delerium when we both get rest. I popped his crate and sat with him. It’s ok, darlin’. You sleep, I’ll sleep. We’ll play tomorrow. Kisses on his sweet face. I love you, son.
I walked my new kennel. New kennel, old kennel. I had to see my Tucson dogs, just to connect again. I had promised them. Promises are important. I’ll meet the rest of you later. I need to find my kids. And the dogs were quiet as I made my round. Happy and expectant, of course. But quiet.
Strange. A new person in the kennel always, always, always creates a mighty fine commotion. The routine is interrupted, this person is an alien, YARPYARPYARP, WTF is going on! But they were still. It didn’t register then. I found Duck and Little Bird, ObNob and Uggie. Delivered my kisses. There was blood on Obs face. No wounds. I checked.
I scoured my poor tired brain to remember who he had been doubled with. Before I had it all put together, Jimmy told me. “Chaser got his ear nipped”. My Cheeze. I hurried to find him.
“Oh honey….” and I surveyed the damage. Really, it was minimal. Ears bleed like crazy, and the mess is scary if you don’t know that. I kissed his precious face. I’ll clean you up, honey. You’ll be beautiful again. I promise. I promise.
Fatigue won out. I needed to sleep. I’ll see you all tomorrow, and I’ll be better than I am now. Time to learn you. Time to know you. Time to touch you again.
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The following afternoon (I was given the morning off to sleep from the trip), I went to do the turnout. Most of the dogs were foreign to me. I would learn them. Turnout is the best time for that. And I held out my hands and delighted in the new ones who came to me for cuddles. Hi sweetie. Aren’t you lovely? The trust in them was obvious. These were well handled dogs. I’d been told of 2 that were timid, and I made a special point of finding them. Play a bit of BobbleHead, and leave them to sort it out. When there’s a hundred and 4 dogs, there is a time constraint. We’ll work on it, babies. Bobble, bobble, bobble. I love you.
I found Muffin in the yard. He was strangely aloof, and I called him to me. Here, honey. What’s wrong?
He laid his face on my hip, and I kissed his sweet head. I’d had my hands on every inch of this dog while we were in Tucson, and I confidently swept my fingers down his neck, across his chest, along his back.
And he snapped at me.
There was a growl deep in him and I pulled my fingers away. Honey? His love for me kept him beside me. His pain stilled my hands. What’s up, darlin’? I was out with the kennel and couldn’t risk a conflict, but I HAD to know what was wrong. This was my Muffin.
There was a new scab close to his spine, right behind the saddle. I pondered it, and left it alone. Tickled his chin, kissed his face. I love you, son. I would never harm you. And you don’t know the words, but you know this is true. Fingers as soft as linen, I swept down his neck, across his shoulders, and he tensed for the assault. Along his back, and he snapped.
Ok baby. That’s all. I won’t torment you further.
I found Cheeze and inspected his ear. Really, it was a tiny little thing. He leaned into me and really didn’t want me to touch it. I know, honey. Ears are private, especially when there’s a chunk out of them. Just let me look. Yes, I DO use my fingers to see.
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We determined that Muffin was achy, and he recovered well with an aspirin in his breakfast for a couple days. He became my precious boy again, and there was no further grumbling when I touched his back. Or anyplace else. I touch my dogs all over. Ya don’t know them unless ya do.
Cheezes ear granulated all up, and he’s all clean again. I took his collar and his turnout muzzle to the sink for a much needed washing. Easy stuff. ObNob suddenly has space issues, but that’s ok. It was a long and challenging trip for them and if the only bad thing was a chunk out of an ear, it’s all very very good. Way better than 2 peoples doing the same trip. When I met up with the hauler guys, I told them about the troubles. They pretended to be afraid. I pretended to be furious. In the grand scheme, they had transported 36 dogs safely across the country. One ear chunk doesn’t a disaster make. I shook their hands and thanked them.
I wonder if they know, I wonder WHO knows, how incredible it is… what they do. The safe and timely transport of these dogs. Except for an achy back and a bitten ear, my babies arrived exactly as I remembered them….. after a 30 hour trip. No filth, no bugs, no trauma. That is phenominal. It describes the dogs, of course it does. They are little geniuses at adaptation. But it also describes the hauler. His rig was clean, he and his alternate driver took every precaution to get my dogs to me. It wasn’t because they were afraid. It was because it matters.
For all the horror stories that the Grey$K people will barf up, for every single one…. there are these. People who care deeply, and do their jobs with professionalism and compassion. You will never see them in the media because good things don’t make the news. The only thing that will ever be “news” is the stuff that will sicken you. Make you watch, because we’re fascinated by the horrible. Good things do not sell ad space, nor boost ratings, and you will not see them. But I am here to tell you how much love there is.
Don’t believe me. Seriously, don’t. I’m just a voice on the net and I might be as much a liar as anybody else. But then… so might anybody else. I found out the truth for myself, and I encourage you to do the same. First hand. Up close and personal. Doing the job.
I love my dogs.