For the sixth straight summer, our granddog Winston has summered in La Jolla. We just pretty much expect that Winston will arrive with our younger son when he comes down for the La Jolla Half Marathon in late April and stay until early October. My son and daughter-in-law tend to have a lot of weekend trips in the summer months — weddings, etc. — and it’s far easier for them to just leave Winston here rather than for my daughter-in-law to make multiple trips from L.A. with tiny kids in the car to drop him off and pick him up. Never mind that Winston hates being in the car. He made a special point of that one trip by having a severe case of lower intestinal instability in their back seat.
Aside from the fact that we truly adore Winston and are happy to house him, we just wouldn’t put Winston in a kennel. Not even the Ritz Carlton of kennels. The ostensible reason is that Winston is not reliably friendly with other dogs and we’d hate for him to be on lockdown because decided to eat a Chihuahua. But even more so, if we’re honest, neither his parents nor we could bear for Winston not to have the amenities, the love and attention, and the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed. He definitely gets it at Camp Grammy and Grampy.
We admit it: we are total suckers for our pet (in this case, surrogate pet). This still doesn’t keep us from laughing at some of the sacrifices that other people make for theirs. A friend was recently telling me that she couldn’t wait for the hot weather to be over as it was stifling in her bedroom. She hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks. But, I said, don’t you have ceiling fan in your bedroom? Yes, she said, but she can’t use it. It annoys the cat.
At a party recently, I spoke with a woman who makes homemade fresh food for her dog (he eschews frozen or dried.) The dog is particularly fond of green beans, but he only likes them cooked in certain ways (not microwaved; he can apparently tell) and with a light gravy of hamburger drippings. She rarely travels anymore, she lamented. No matter who she hires to come in and care for the dog, she’s convinced they don’t make the dog’s food the way he likes it. She’s especially suspicious they’re microwaving.
In our case, Winston likes to play a game that my husband refers to as “reverse fetch.” Instead of our throwing a ball and Winston going to get it, Winston delights in batting the ball under pieces of furniture or in inaccessible corners then whining piteously until we go and get it for him. A minute later, it’s back under there again.
We tell ourselves that we can easily dissuade him from this game by ignoring him. Let him whimper and whine all he wants. But Winston is nothing if not persistent. If action is not forthcoming, he ratchets it up a few notches, instinctively whining especially loudly when it’s a crucial play in a baseball game or a key point in a movie. We cave. And we’re making fun of the friend with the fan-averse cat?
One issue we have with Winston in La Jolla that he doesn’t have at home in L.A. is that he seems to be allergic to a multitude of things here that he is not subjected to at home. It totally baffles us: what’s here that isn’t there? Inquiring minds want to know. Even pumping him full of Benedryl twice a day and regular applications of the Frontline flea stuff, the poor little guy seems to be perpetually itchy. Our vet here (with whom Winston is on a first name basis) has prescribed a regimen of products with which Winston’s ears, skin folds, and toes must be cleaned daily. Preferably two — or even three — times daily. Cleaning between the dog’s toes the other day, I observed to Olof that it helps that we have no life.
Several times this summer, despite our heroic efforts, the allergies have turned into nasty ear or skin infections. When we had him at the vet again this week, they recommended that we might want to take Winston to a dermatologist. I said, “I don’t think our dermatologist sees dogs.” The vet said, “No, a doggie dermatologist.” I know what our dermatologist charges so I can’t even imagine what the services of the canine version cost. It’s both the good news and the bad news that anything you can do for a person, you can now do for a pet.
Fortunately for us, there’s a cheaper solution: Sorry, Winston. Time to go home.