Non-adventures in dog-sitting, part 7

July 18, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 18, 2017

I’ve already told the story of how, during the week or so I spent dog-sitting for friends in Northern Virginia, I went to play pinball on Tuesday night and headed back to the house earlier than expected because I was disappointed by the games on offer.

What I haven’t yet explained is why I didn’t go to (as I call it) Massive Marvin’s on Monday evening, when I’d originally intended to visit. There were two reasons: A self-induced fiasco of an early-afternoon walk and a mild panic following an early-evening outing.

The dog and I headed out at 10 minutes to 1 p.m. The day before, workers had cleared away a bunch of vegetation on the property where I’d encountered the possible poison ivy vine on Saturday, so I wasn’t concerned about exacerbating my rash. Nor was I worried about losing something vital — at least, not at first…

When we reached one of the driveways that tie into the network of sidewalks, R— stopped to sniff something. I often indulge dogs’ aromatic sidebars, but my patience has a limit. That’s especially true on, say, hot days when I’m eager to make a 25-minute-or-so drive and get some lunch. So I tugged on the dog’s leash.

R— stood her ground, resisting. When I finally coaxed her to come along with me, I saw right away that the metal band that holds her identification tags had gotten caught up in the leash. This was obvious because the ends of the band were now askew, leaving a sizable gap. I bent down and tried to wrest the band back into shape, but the metal resisted my fingers.

I hesitated. The opening was big enough for both of R—’s tags to slip off rather easily. (They actually may have slipped off right as I noticed the band was awry.) I asked myself whether I should pocket the tags and reattach them back at the house or if I should put them back on the band and hope for the best.

Reader, I made the bone-headed choice: I put the tags back on the band and hoped for the best. We’d just about reached the point where I wanted to turn around when I looked at R— and noticed that her ID tags were gone.

A chill ran through my veins. Oh, lord, I moaned to myself. Now I’m going to have to search for the tags. I hope they’re easy to find…

The larger tag, in fact, was easy to find; it was just a few steps from where we were when I saw they’d slipped off the bent band. But I scoured the nearby land in vain for the second tag.

This was potentially a big problem, I thought, because the second tag was some kind of town license. All sorts of nightmare scenarios began bubbling up in my head as I began speculating about the difficulty and expense of getting a replacement for this tag. Even worse, I started to wonder if the dog might be impounded, or even put down, if she got into a scuffle with another dog and the authorities got involved. I envisioned the two of us spending the next four and a half days on her owners’ property to keep from getting involved in an incident that would call us to the attention of local animal control officials.

Now, R— might have been a little stubborn when it came to walking, but she was a sweet dog. And I certainly didn’t want to subject my friends to the heartbreak and disappointment of learning that someone they’d trusted to watch their dog while they vacationed had managed to bungle things to the extent that the animal was euthanized.

As you can tell, I worked myself into quite a state. It occurred to me that replacing the license might just involve a quick run to a town or veterinarian’s office and a modest replacement fee, but, well, when I don’t how things work, I often persuade myself that calamity is lurking just around the corner. (Much later, by the by, I thought that the owners might have had a spare tag at their house.)

So I kept scanning the ground in front of me in hopes of spotting the tag. After a while, it became evident that I wasn’t going to find it while dragging around a reluctant doggie. We returned to the house and, after letting R— off her leash, I drove most of the way back to the spot where I’d noticed the license had vanished.

Having resolved to conduct a systematic search, I marched alongside the curb where R— and I had been strolling. I kept on turning my head — left, center, right, repeat — but I just didn’t see the missing tag.

I reached that oh-so-fateful turnaround point without finding it. I began making long, slow passes along the grassy island where the tags had gone missing, but (to paraphrase a popular Irish band) I still couldn’t find what I was looking for. I compulsively began picking up sticks and leaves and whatnot to make sure they didn’t conceal the missing tag.

By this point, I was muttering desperately — nay, angrily — to myself about my failure to do the smart thing and put the loose tags in my pocket before they got lost. Some men were working in a nearby yard; I was self-conscious enough to wonder whether they could hear me, and whether they thought I might be nuts, but I wasn’t self-conscious enough to stop. The heat and humidity were almost as punishing as my self-flagellation.

About 15 minutes after I’d stepped out my car, and some 10 minutes after I’d come to the island, I started zig-zagging randomly across the grassy knoll and boom, there it was — the missing tag, lying a few yards away from where I’d found the first tag.

Sighing with relief, I scooped up the dog license, returned to the car and drove back to the house. A few minutes later, I put the tags back on their band, bent the ends back together with some pliers and returned the restored dog collar to its rightful canine. Color me relieved.

By this point, it was past 2 p.m., and I was hot, sweaty and tense from my self-induced fiasco. I was also acutely hungry. This was no time to be making the 25-minute-or-so drive to Massive Marvin’s, so I began boiling some water and cooked a batch of pasta. I resolved to make the trip in the evening.

That didn’t work out either. First, R— flopped in the grass and refused to come back in the house when I took her out in the early evening prior to my intended trip. Then, I happened to notice a suspicious nodule on what would have been her right cheek, if she were a person. I picked up a pair of tweezers, gave R— a yak chew to distract her, and got to work pulling out what seemed to be a dead tick.

R— was a trooper throughout this ordeal. I stashed the bug in an empty bag of treats and carefully labeled it. That turned out to have been unnecessary; Mrs. O— later told me that the dog had been vaccinated against Lyme disease.

By the time I finished this work, my nerves were once again shot, and I was once more suffering hunger pangs. I made dinner at the house and postponed my pinball trip until the next day.

Which brings us back to more or less where I started this series of non-adventures in dog-sitting — and I think that’s where I’ll leave things.

~ fin ~

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