I hope you enjoyed last weeks interview with Claire Croxton. If you missed it, just drop down and check it out. It's a fun interview with a wonderful writer.
Now, we continue with the adventures of two clueless gringos immigrating to The Republic of Panama with two giant service dogs in tow. You know the drill. If you missed a post, just drop down and read what you missed. Sort of like demand television. To catch you up on story, my husband, Jack, and I have sold our house in Arizona and are flying to Panama with two service dogs in cabin with us. Yes, in fact, I did say IN THE CABIN WITH US.
Read on, this just gets better and better:
My best friend Mona drives us to Tucson on Halloween. We’re scheduled to fly out the next morning at what Jack calls dawn-thirty. I hug Mona good-bye. She takes our picture. Two beat-to-crap suitcases, two scared leather daypacks, two large bright-eyed dogs, and two old fools standing in front of the Day’s Inn, as ready as we’re ever going to be for yet another adventure.
I can see Mona crying as she drives away. I’d love to join her but I need to concentrate on getting safely to our room with my suitcases and Rocca, the dog for whom I’m responsible. Jack and I have worked daily with the dogs. Their behavior has improved, but mostly, they’ve trained us on how to handle them in tandem. Rocca has transferred some of her allegiance from Jack and to me. This is good. It means she now looks to me for guidance instead of to him. Most of the time. We’ve learned to seat the dogs, whenever possible, back to back, not facing each other.
This is the move that all parents recognize as the old, “You look that way and you look the other way. Don’t even look at each other!”
The problem with this solution, as all parents know, is that, sooner or later, you’re going to hear the dreaded words, “He’s looking at me!”
In our case, we would hear a low rumbling growl that sounds more like the noise an enraged lion makes than anything that should come out of the throat of a dog. This would be Rocca. Chesty would be peeking over his shoulder at her. Every time. His stubby tail jerking away, his eyes round and sparkling. The boy loves this game. I have learned that once we hear the sound of the ground shaking with Rocca’s warning, we have less than two seconds to prevent her from jumping up and into the middle of Chesty, giving him the exact feedback he seeks. You’ll notice I said, “I learned.” Jack, on the other hand learned that my nervousness and insistence on anticipating problems is causing the dogs to misbehave.
All right, so for now, we’ve gotten the dogs through the lobby and into the room at the Day’s Inn in Tucson without incident. Jack wants to take the dogs and go down the street to Burger King for dinner. I’m not leaving the room with both dogs unless I’m forced to do so. We compromise. We do it my way. He goes and gets burgers, I stay in the room with the dogs and attempt to convince myself that the shaking that overtakes me periodically is probably just excitement over the trip.
Cane Corso mastiffs have been bred as guard dogs for centuries in Italy. Our two have been raised on a five acre patch of desert with the nearest road a mile away. People walking past their front door in the night, bumping suitcases into walls or doing that loud whisper common to all drunks are the equivalent, to Chesty and Rocca, to a band of trained guerrillas sneaking in to execute us in our big queen size hotel bed. Rocca, like me, is a light sleeper. I spend most of the night sleeping with my hand on her head, ready to grab her snout and whisper “No! Enough! Leave it! Stop! SSSSShhhhhhh! No!”
It feels like I never close my eyes, but truthfully, the snout grabbing thing probably didn’t happen any more than a dozen times in this, our first of a long line of nights in hotel beds. Jack and Chesty, both able to sleep through a mortar attack, wake bright-eyed and bushy tailed and ready for the day. Rocca and I shake ourselves into a blurry sleepwalk and away we go.
The dogs fall into formation in a heel beside us as soon as we buckle their working capes on them. Jack leads with Chesty, who’s trying already to turn his head to look at Rocca, and Rocca lumbers along beside me, she and I grumbling at each step. Onto the shuttle bus we go and are delivered to the terminal just as the sun’s light is beginning to reveal the silhouettes of the many armed Saguaro Cactus and desert palms around the airport. Inside, at the Continental check-in desk, the agents don’t even blink at the dogs. Jack has spoken with the manager several times and also, as luck would have it, Randy Todd, who works in air traffic control and is the breeder from whom we bought Chesty, is at the check-in counter.
Besides this lucky occurrence, many people at the Tucson airport are familiar with both Chesty and Rocca as we’ve brought them here often as part of their training over the years. Several of the security guards come over to say good-bye. Chesty takes all this attention with wiggling dignity until the stewardesses arrive. Then he throws himself on the floor, rolls over on his back, and presents his best side for rubbing. Rocca and I stand back and watch this foolish display of unprofessional behavior while Jack’s voice booms around the terminal announcing to everyone that we’re moving to Panama. Yes, the country, not the city in Florida.
This is as good a time as any to tell you that while Jack loves to be the center of attention, I am happiest when I can come and go and no one even notices I’ve been there. Taking the dogs with us everywhere, puts us firmly in Jack’s glory and my discomfort zone. Having taken not one, but two giant dogs with us every single time we’ve left the house on absolutely every errand and excursion for the last month in order to accustom them to working together has left me a tad grumpy. All right, let me modify that self-assessment, I’m already a flaming bitch and we haven’t even gotten on the plane yet.
By the time we line up at the boarding gate, it’s full daylight and I’m saying a silent goodbye to the clear blue desert sky under which I’ve lived for the last six years. Jack is explaining to the passenger in front of us in line about how he’s going to breed these dogs in Panama and sell them to rich Latin Americans who will pay any price to get them as guard dogs. Chesty is prancing along in full handsome working dog mode.
Rocca is looking up at me and asking with her big ole eyes, “So, last chance. Are you absolutely sure this is a good idea?”