The man and I took a much needed break last week, leaving Friday for Santa Fe and returning Monday. We rarely do this, and especially rarely when the getaway requires taking time off work, hiring someone to stay with the child (and the dogs, and the cat, and the gecko) and ignoring all that might have been done at home in favor of going somewhere else. We also cancelled something we had agreed to do because as it turned out, it was stressing us both out and we weren’t looking forward to it. It was as if prior to going away for a long weekend, we felt the need to also solve all pressing problems prior to leaving.
The Universe, in her wisdom, tested this approach with all her might. On Thursday, as I drifted joyfully about the house, choosing outfits and packing for the trip, I heard the dogs at the food bowls. Nothing unusual there, it’s just part of the background, their tags jangling against the bowls. Then, though, it turned into something else entirely, punctuated by the screaming of the very small dog and snarling from the large dog. The small dog is a Chihuahua named Boris (large Eastern European name for small Mexican dog), and he is at least 11 years old. The large dog is a mid-size Pit Bull named Trixie (for the girl sleuth, Trixie Belden), and she is the dog of my heart and about 5 years old.
I don’t know what happened exactly because I raced out of the room as soon as the screaming started and screamed myself at the big dog, who stopped (the small dog continuing to shriek like a smoke alarm that can’t be turned off). She stopped, she looked me in the eye, and then she swung around and piled right back into Boris, driving him into the wall, him still screaming as she had again gotten him by the neck. I did exactly what one is not supposed to do and dove into the middle of it, hitting Trixie in the face and screeching at her to stop. She dropped to her belly, hackles still up, and I grabbed Boris (who considered biting me, as he was scared and hurt) up off the ground and the child dragged Trixie to her crate.
So, problem number one: Canine Death Match. Gone was the joy of packing and in its place dread, fear and loathing.
Upon examination Boris appeared okay, but his neck was soggy and sore (we later found one small puncture wound, but that was all). We developed a plan to separate the dogs in our absence and revised the time we expected to leave, since Death Match precluded packing. We were very lucky that we weren’t taking one dog to be cremated and the other to be euthanized, and that fact shook us up.
The next morning we arose, again determined to have this weekend out of town. We promised ourselves we’d leave by 9:00 am. The child appeared and announced he felt like throwing up, which he proceeded to do. I felt robbed. I felt I was being cheated out of something I had almost gotten to grasp. This is not an uncommon ailment of this child, and it responds to stress, and it is always over pretty quickly. Sometimes mere hours after I’ve called him in sick to school, he is eating soup from a can and claiming to be starving. But then there’s the idea that I’d be a bad mother if I didn’t sit at home and watch him watch TV.
We arranged to have my mother check on him, and then the sitter would be there in the afternoon.
We went away. We felt a bit like we were escaping, we almost didn’t get out of there but at the last minute, we did.
It was entirely, completely, worth it. We returned to a child who hugged me at the door and waited an hour before telling me he wished I’d not come back with all my rules and demands. The dogs seemed to have buried the hatchet for the time being and were back to coexisting.
Sometimes, the harder it is to get away, the more you need to do it. If only to find that your absence won’t really devastate anyone, and the world will remain pretty much the way it was when you checked out.