I have a lump in my throat – the kind that grows large when you’re holding back tears, when you know everything is okay, but still, your emotions get the best of you.
I used to get this feeling when I dropped off my now eight-year-old at daycare, back when she was two-years-old. On good days, she cried when I turned her over to her teachers. On bad days, she threw tantrums. I would kiss her, tell her I loved her, and leave. Then, as I’d drive to work, that familiar lump would form; my eyes would burn, but I didn’t cry.
You see, I knew my daughter was in good hands. I also knew – because her teachers told me repeatedly – that as soon as I was out the door, the crying ceased. Indeed, at day’s end, I always picked up a smiling, happy child.
With Galen, it’s different.
I dropped Galen at my mother’s house this morning, because my family is going away for the weekend. Galen loves my mother and loves swimming in her pool. But she doesn’t love being away from her family, and she’s not so enamored with my mom’s dog, Loki, who overwhelms her with his energy.
Today, Loki swatted Galen across the head with his right paw, before she crossed the threshold into the house. He was ready to play; she was not. She cowered, tail between her legs, right cheek brushing the welcome mat.
I stayed for just a few minutes, talking with my mom. Galen didn’t leave my side. She pawed my leg with her sharp little nails and gazed at me with her big brown eyes. “Please don’t leave me here,” they pleaded.
My mom is running a boarding house this weekend. In addition to Galen, she’s watching my sister’s dog, Bear; he’s there when we arrive. Bear is a thirteen-year-old black Lab, who lives his life like that tortoise from the classic children’s tale, The Tortoise and the Hare. Bear is a “slow and steady wins the race” kind of guy, which, despite the decade-large age gap between him and Galen, endears him to her. Galen’s tail wags when she sees Bear.
In the kitchen, I patted Galen’s head and gave her a kiss. I told her I loved her, walked out the door, got in my car. I’ll call my mother in a few hours to check on my little girl. But if the past is prologue, that lump will remain lodged in my throat until Monday, when I see Galen again.
My canine daughter is not as resilient as my human one.
Galen will likely spend her weekend hiding under the coffee table in my mother’s living room – I think she believes Loki doesn’t see her there. Perhaps Bear will lure her out, perhaps my mother will.
As for me, I will have a wonderful weekend with my family, but it will be tinged with the sadness of knowing that Galen isn’t happy, despite being well cared for (read: spoiled) by my mother.
It’s been said, “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child.” I don’t know who said it first, but I would like to believe she was including her canine kids in that sentiment.
Ok, I have tears in my eyes after reading this. Funny, because I just read an article by a mother complaining about folks who treat their pets like children. But for me (and granted, I don’t have kids) the hardest part about a situation like you’ve described is that you can’t EXPLAIN to the dog that you’ll be back, and that they’ll be in good hands. Hope Galen had a good weekend, and that you did, too. She’s obviously one very loved dog.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Galen got through the weekend; I’d like to think she enjoyed it, but alas, she’ll never say. But you are absolutely right — the hardest part is that I can’t explain I’ll be back. I do tell her, but I know she doesn’t understand, because her big brown eyes look so sad. She’s smart enough to know I’m leaving, but her cognition conks out when it comes to knowing I’ll return.