Monday, February 6, 2012

On the Move with Chesty and Rocca

Back to your regularly scheduled programing.  If you're just tuning in, you might want to scroll down, and read the previous four entries or so.  The gist of the story at this point is that my husband and I are selling our house in Arizona and immigrating to The Republic of Panama with two, count them two, giant service dogs.
                                                                     Here we go . . .

   Ten days on the market and no one has even looked at the house when the realtor calls and tells us a woman has called from Scottsdale. She’s seen the house on the internet visual tour and wants to buy it. We immediately envision 100 dollar bills overflowing the pockets of some fool who wants to live in the high desert. Two hours later, the house is sold. The only catch is that the buyer wants to move in on November first. Just under a month away. Jack feels this is providence as, what a coincidence, that’s exactly the date of our tickets for the planned reconnaissance trip to Panama. I, on the other hand, am starting to feel the definite rumblings of danger in the landscape.

   I vote for putting the dogs in a kennel for two weeks, making the planned trip with just the two of us and then, having set up a place to live temporarily, returning for the dogs. This is how that conversation went, to the best of my recollection.

   “I’m not spending another $2,000 on round trip tickets to come back and get the dogs.”

   “But, if we have the dogs with us, how are we going to explore the country?”

   “I can take those dogs anyplace.”

   “You can take them in a taxi from the airport to a hotel?”

   “Won’t be a problem.”

   “You can get a room in the city with two giant dogs in a country that has never heard of a service dog or the concept of taking an elephant-sized dog with you everywhere you go?”

   “Won’t be a problem.”

   “How are we going to fly them from Panama City to Bocas del Toro?”

   “We’ll buy them tickets if we have to. It won’t be a problem. Why are you being so negative. Trust me.”

   Except I don’t and Jack knows it and his reaction to that is to get angry and my reaction to his anger is to get more frightened and increasingly anxious. So, you can see where this is going, right? Can you almost hear the shifting of that rosy boulder?


   The dogs are accustomed to working one on one with Jack in any public situation, but they have never worked side by side. Jack is, predictably, sure this won’t be a problem. However, former Marine, big tough warrior, whatever, like all intelligent men, he’s a little afraid of his wife so he humors me by bringing both dogs with us when we go out. I have Rocca, he takes Chesty.

   For our first outing we go to the coffee shop where both dogs have been dozens of times. All the waitresses and regulars know them, this is familiar territory. This little trip should be a breeze. Both dogs act like untrained jackasses. Chesty shows off for Rocca by being hyper-alert to every little spoon drop, cough, and loud voice. Rocca, trained to protect Jack, isn’t happy about being next to me instead of within touching distance of the object of her devotion. She growls to intimidate Chesty. Chesty jumps up, stubby tail straight out and wagging, and barks. Rocca leaps up and growls and jumps in the middle of Chesty to show him who is the real working dog around here. We leave the restaurant in disgrace.

   Well, actually, I’m the only one with her tail between her legs. The dogs have no regrets whatsoever and Jack is impossible to embarrass. So, now we know. Working the dogs in tandem is a completely different deal than working them individually. Jack is pleased that we’ve found this out while we still have, let’s see, 24 days before we lead them into the passenger section of a plane and fly to another country.

   Did I not mention that these two dogs, because they are service dogs, will be flying in the passenger section of the plane with us? Take a minute and picture that. How would you like to be the passenger next to us when we board the plane with these two massive dogs? U.S. law dictates that a disabled person can bring his dog on the airplane with him. Because both Chesty and Rocca are service dogs and because I will be flying as a designated trainer/helper, both dogs will walk right up the ramp and board the plane with us. Jack is delighted with this, I am less so.

   The next twenty four days go something like this:

   I lie awake all night listening to Jack and both dogs snore, and imagine all the ways this adventure can go terrible, irretrievably wrong.

     The airline can, once we’ve arrived with the dogs at the check-in counter in Tucson, announce they’ve come to their senses and, of course we can’t board the plane with two monstrously large dogs.

      The dogs can break away from us in the airport in Tucson, or Houston, or Panama City and run amuck through the terminal, frightening old ladies in wheelchairs and spilling Starbucks coffee on men in business suits talking on cell phones with those stupid little earphone things.

     On arrival in Panama, customs can refuse to clear the dogs and take them away from us, where someone will steal them and enter them in dog fights. Chesty will be killed in the first fight as he tries to play with his opponent and misses completely the concept of the whole fight to the death idea. Rocca will become the heavy-weight champion and we’ll hear rumors of her from time to time as we search ever more frantically for our furry baby girl.

     We’ll be unable to find a hotel in the city that will take the dogs and we’ll be spending our nights on the mean city streets of a foreign country, cuddled together in a big wadded mess of fear against a moldy cement wall.

   Each dawn I’m just about asleep when Chesty wakes me up.

   “Did I hear a rabbit in the yard? I’m sure I heard a rabbit. Open the door quick so I can catch him and play with him. Hurry! Get up! Get up! Come on. The rabbits getting away.”

   And another day begins.

   Time to get rid of more earthly possessions. Salvation Army, friends, rummage sale customers, they all help us empty the house. We need to get rid of this crap and fast. We will be leaving with two suitcases each and two dogs. The biggest suitcase is already packed with dog food, dog harnesses and leashes, vitamins, glucosamine for their joints, and a couple of their favorite toys. My carry-on bag has liver treats for the plane to keep them entertained and to help with clearing their ears at take offs and landings. Every day is the same -- keep moving toward the goal. Plenty of time at night to review all the things that can go wrong.

   Here. Right here, is where an interesting thing begins to happen.

   I edge beyond worry and begin to think, somewhere in the back of my overtaxed brain, that if I can anticipate all the things that might go wrong, I can prevent them from happening. This is when the jagged rocks directly above us begin to shift. You know the boulders I’m talking about, all those ordinary bits of life supporting that bone crushing chunk of pink granite just waiting for gravity to instigate its descent.

   If I hear it at all over all those wheels turning, turning, spinning faster and faster in my head, I interpret the rumbling of all that shifting rock as the grumbling of a nervous tummy.

   Miss the warning completely and take a flying leap directly into that chasm named Obsessive Anxiety.

   At this point I mostly travel this rocky path in the dark. During the day I do all the things I have to do to rid myself of all the stuff I thought I couldn’t live without at varying times over the last six years when I accumulated it. By the way, standing at an airport in the pre-dawn hours with nothing to your name but two small suitcases, a day pack, your confident and smiling husband, and two large dogs, is an incredibly freeing experience. It’s also absolutely terrifying.


  1. Oh, Pam, I would've lost my mind! You got more guts than me, woman.

    1. Who says I held on to my mind until the end?
      By the by, thanks for sharing the link.