Not sure we’ll have the time for a family trip longer than a long weekend this summer ~ but we have our fond memories from last summer…
Ahhh, family vacations. Those wondrous, happy forays into uncharted places to experience 24/7 togetherness. “Why should it be limited to just the people?” we wondered aloud last spring as we were planning our summer vacation. “Let’s take the dog!”
“Let’s go bye-bye,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. At first, it is. Gracie loves watching Mama pack her bag with her favorite toy, her travel bowl, and snacks. Excitement supreme reigns as she watches her bags go into the trunk with her people’s suitcase-things. And she is beyond thrilled when Her Boy gets in the backseat with her.
But after a few hours, Gracie the dog is not amused.
What is to be gained from driving in the car for a whole day? Sure, there are multiple stops along the way, and it turns out this place called “Michigan” has some splendid roadside parks. But they all look — and smell — pretty much the same after a while. At the hotel, the family is split up for 2 nights. “Where did the boys go??” Gracie sits by the door, staring. Not moving. Occasionally she barks at any noise on the other side of that big bad door, and breaks into her happy dance when another member of the family miraculously appears.
This is what her people call a “vacation.” She doesn’t see the appeal. “Is this what you do every time you leave the house with those suitcases?”
Back in the car for just a “quick ride” to some big water her family calls “Lake Michigan”. She walks across the rocks, down to the water. The people wade in. She looks at her people as if they’re stupid. “C’mon in!” they coax. She very tentatively walks into the water up to her elbows. That’s it, that’s as far as Gracie wants to go. “Why are we doing this?” she wonders. “Will ‘vacation’ be over soon?”
Back in the car AGAIN and drive to a town where there are people, and dogs, and food, and cars, and parks with big trees. “Big deal. We have all that at home,” Gracie thinks. “But it makes my people happy, so I’ll go along.”
After one night, Mama makes her sleep in her kennel (something about Gracie’s barking in the middle of the night is annoying), then it’s back in the car and drive another long ways. But this time when the family gets out, there are BIG boats and LOTS of people. Gracie and her family walk on something Mama calls “a dock.” It MOVES! It bounces up and down a little bit when walk on! Then up some stairs and big engines started — Gracie can feel the vibrations through her paws. Then she gets bored, and lays down and goes to sleep for the 16 minute trip across the blue, blue water next to the big, very long bridge. But Gracie doesn’t take notice of any of that. She gets agitated, though, when she hears two little yappy dogs down below, and then it’s to bark back “You’d better not come up here. I’m not in the mood.”
Suddenly everyone is getting off the big boat, and there are EVEN MORE PEOPLE! And carts with suitcases! And DOGS! Gotta protect the family! Mama is pulling backwards on the leash. Gracie’s new harness grabs more of her body, and she is forced backwards. Then the family climbs up into some kind of car with open sides — Mama calls it a “carriage”. Gracie can see out both sides, and the SMELLS! Gracie gets in trouble for rolling in what that smells like at home. The car starts moving, but there is no steering wheel or engine.
Then she sees them. They are animals, she can see that, but they are coming closer. They are SO BIG! She has never seen any creature this big moving before! Bark! Lose it completely and BARK! “Horses,” Mama says. “Those are HORSES? They don’t look like the horses at Puppy Camp-Kennel! These are huge monsters!”
Gracie needs to get a grip, and she knows it. She’ll bark at some people on bikes. Look! More dogs!
“OMG! What do you mean, these monsters are DRIVING OUR CARRIAGE???” Hysteria. Complete and total lack of control. Gracie can’t comprehend this. “OMG, must save the family — there are MONSTERS driving us!”
Finally! Out of the carriage, and the boys take Gracie off to the grass (and away from the monsters) while Mama goes in a big white building. She finally comes out, and we go to a patio. Out of the big magic bag, Mama fishes out Gracie’s water bowl, a big bottle of cold water, and some doggie snacks. We’re sitting in the shade. Gracie takes a short nap while the people talk.
“A walk! We get to go for a walk! Ooooh, what’s that over there? No wait, what’s that? Ooh ooh let me smell that! Oh, now into a building and up some stairs! Into a much bigger room than that last one — oh look! There are two sleeping rooms and a bathroom and a little room that connects all three! This is MUCH better: I can see everyone’s beds. Aww, my people brought my bed and my dishes along from that other place! Oh, my family loves me. Gracie’s a good girl!”
This place has wonderful outdoor smells, and there’s a big patio outside so that Gracie can go outside and take a nap, just like at home! Gracie can smell the woods, and the water, and critters — and those monsters. Those monsters are all over this place! Usually in pairs. Gracie goes for lots of walks here since there isn’t a backyard with a fence to go potty like at home. But it’s hot and sticky outside, so we find shade whenever we can.
During some walks, Gracie crosses a bridge, and sometimes the great big monsters walk up and wait for people to get off and on their carriages right by that bridge. Being up higher than the monsters makes Gracie feel braver, and she sits with her head between the bridge posts and watches them from just above their giant heads. This is one of her favorite things to do on her walks now, and she does her best to convince the family to walk over to the bridge so she can look for the monsters below.
On one walk, Mama and Gracie find a new path. New smells! New people to greet! The path comes to a small road and then MONSTERS! The monsters are coming! Mama makes Gracie “sit” and “stay”. Gracie trusts Mama, but better keep an eye on her anyway to keep her safe. They watch the pair of monsters walk slowly by, leading a carriage with lots of people riding in it. These monsters clop slowly past Gracie, and she gets a good sniff this time. “Hmm. They kind of smell like the horses at Puppy Camp-Kennel,” thinks Gracie. “I suppose they could be Very Big Horses.” She doesn’t bark this time, but her eyes are big and round and she watches their every move.
Mama explains to Gracie that they are on an “island” and that’s why there’s water all around. And one day, Gracie decides she’ll wade in up to her shoulders. The family gets excited when she does that. But she has no interest in “swimming.”
Then comes the day it’s time to leave the island. Gracie can tell because everyone is putting things in those suitcase-things. She leads Mama around to be sure she packs the travel water bowl, bottle of fresh water, and snacks into Gracie’s very own travel bag. Gracie supervises the rest of the packing, and then there’s time for one more walk.
Gracie walks her family back to the big white building where they arrived, and they sit in the shade. Pretty soon two of the Very Big Horses come up, steering a carriage. They stop for a drink at the two big water holes by the flowers. Gracie gets up her courage and wants to go closer. Her Boy walks her over to the front of the horse on the left. Gracie is SO curious! The horse* lifts his Goliath-like head, and water drips from his chin. He bows his head to look at this smaller fawn-colored creature, and Gracie almost touches her nose to the Great Goliath’s nose, but she suddenly becomes shy and backs away.
Then Gracie bravely leads her family onto the carriage, and sits quietly this time to watch all the people and bicycles going by. At one point, she thinks she’d like to jump down and run alongside the carriage, but Mama very firmly says “No, you’re not a Dalmation.” As the Very Big Horses keep clop-clopping their way forward, more and more carriages begin to appear, and then we’re in the hustle and bustle of the middle of town again. We get off the carriage and walk along another dock — Gracie is certain she sees things swimming in that water! Back up the stairs and the big engines start again. The blue, blue water is jumping today, so this ride is bumpy.
And <sigh>, back in the car again. Mama says we’re in the Youpee now. People make funny names for things. Another long drive, but at least we stop at some beaches to run on! The big lake up here is SO much colder than the one by the island! Mama says it’s because it’s the biggest and deepest of these Good Lakes. Gracie is pooped when they get to stop and go to sleep. Another night where part of the family disappears. Gracie thinks she’ll be petulant and pushes Mama off the bed. Oops — back in the kennel! Another day, another drive. More stops, but this time in a place called “Wisconsin.” Are we forever doomed to move from place to place? Will Gracie ever see her yard again?
Gracie decides to lay down with her toy Moose for the drive, and maybe even pretend to be asleep when the car stops again. But, wait: could it be? “It smells like my park… it smells like my neighborhood! IT IS! IT’S HOME!” Gracie is even excited to see her cats. She checks the house — everything is just like she left it. She rings her bells to go outside. Then she rings them harder, louder, because everyone is upstairs taking things out of the suitcase-things. Once outside, she patrols the fence border at a trot, nose to the ground, ears up, checking and double-checking to be sure there was no breach by anything bigger or fiercer than a bunny.
Satisfied that the perimeter is secure, Gracie returns to the porch to recline and survey her yard. Milo, the dog from next door, runs up to the fence, wiggling and wagging, excitedly welcoming Gracie back. She is too tired to go back across the yard, so she barks a “hello” and Milo is happy, grinning his toothy doggy grin.
“Vacations are exhausting,” Gracie says to herself as she lay her head between her paws. “I hope I don’t have to take the family on one again any time soon.”
Yep, Toto said it best: there’s no place like home.
*Horsey conversation overheard in the stables later:
“Hey, did you see that four-legged, blond creature back at the hotel?”
“Yeah, was it a dog?”
“No, didn’t have a tail, and it’s ears were huge!”
“Too small to be a full-grown deer…”
“Too big to be a fox…”
“What do you think it was?”