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When I Travel Without My Dog, I Go Crazy With Worry About Him

I only leave Riggins with family members, and even then I stress about his well-being. Are you the same way? Or do you just relax and enjoy the vacation?

Wendy Newell  |  Nov 19th 2015


As a dog sitter, I take in other people’s pups on a daily basis. I always tell my clients that they can be as overprotective as they want to be because I am by far the craziest of dog moms when it comes to leaving my baby in someone else’s care.

I only leave Riggins overnight with my parents, my sister, or one good friend. That last one was only for a quick business trip that lasted less than 24 hours — 24 hours of worry and emotional torture! I suppose now that Riggins has settled down in his old age and isn’t a furry ball of pure energy, I’d be more inclined to leave him with a dog sitter like myself. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! WHO AM I KIDDING? NO I WOULDN’T!

Riggins lounging in my folks backyard. (Photo by Doris Newell)

Riggins lounging in my folks’ backyard. (Photo by Doris Newell)

I’m sure Riggins would be fine with a sitter. I expect he would even have fun. That doesn’t stop me from worrying! I’m embarrassed to admit that I just don’t trust many people to treat Riggins with the love and care they would a human child. To me, he is my baby, and I need whoever watches him to understand this.

It actually amazes me when people drop off their sweet pups with me, someone they don’t know, and take off on vacation. It’s why I take my job seriously and try so hard to take excellent care of the dogs staying with me. If I were one of my new clients, you’d have to pry Riggins’ leash from my hands before I walked away from the house without him.

Riggins pouts on top of my bag in an attempt to keep me from leaving. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins pouts on top of my bag in an attempt to keep me from leaving. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

The pain starts when the packing begins. Riggins knows. He knows something is up, and he does not like it. When I start shoveling kibble into plastic bags he, and I, understand that the next few hours are going to be tough. There will be pouting and puppy-dog eyes and one killer guilt trip happening. It hurts my heart to leave my baby, which is why most trips are planned to include him. When my parents’ motorhome pulls up, Riggins realizes he is going with me instead of being left behind. In a Sybil-esque change in personality, he goes from sulking to ecstatic within seconds.

When only his suitcase gets loaded into my car, on the other hand, he knows things are not going to go his way!

Dropping off Riggins, even at my folks’ house, is the worst. It should come as no surprise to learn that Riggins has separation anxiety — my fault, I know. I’m told when I leave him with my parents, he spends a few hours just sitting by the front door waiting for me to come back. It’s only after he realizes that his suitcase is in the guest bedroom for a reason that he settles in and forces his grandma and grandpa to give him attention.

My mom's Facebook update on one of my trips.

My mom’s Facebook update on one of my trips.

Riggins in my parent's bed. (Photo by Doris Newell)

Riggins in my parents’ bed. (Photo by Doris Newell)

I have no doubt that while he’s with my folks, Riggins is the king of the castle. I’ve heard the stories of the extra food my dad sneaks him even when my parting words are, “Riggins is on a diet.” During my daily check-in, I’m told how Riggins took my mom’s place in the bed and she moved to the guest bedroom, leaving Riggins snuggling with my dad. Riggins can convince my dad to get up at any hour to take him to the bathroom, but at my house anything before six gets a response of, “It’s too early, go back to bed.”

Riggins goes for a stroll with his sitters. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins goes for a stroll with his sitters. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

As spoiled as he is with his grandparents, I’m still ridiculously worried and miss my baby boy terribly. “Will they remember to use the walking harness?” “Do they remember he will lunge and try to run after neighborhood cats?” “Will they keep him far away from unknown children?” “Did they remember to put the light on him when walking in the dark?”

I’m plagued with questions and concerns. “What if Riggins finds a way out of the backyard (which he is never in by himself, so it would have to be a real clever and well-planned escape)?” Now, in my head, I know he would just go around to the front door, sit down, and cry until my mom opened it for him, but my heart worries he will run off with a broken heart and confused because I left him.

My parents arrange play dates with friends dogs while Riggins is with them. (Photo by Doris Newell)

My parents arrange play dates with friends’ dogs while Riggins is with them. (Photo by Doris Newell)

If you are traveling with me, you better get ready to hear about Riggins, look at his pictures, and know that I’m going to call and check on him. It isn’t uncommon for me to check my email, squeal with joy, and push my phone in front of my travel companion’s face demanding that she agree Riggins is the cutest thing she ever saw.

Usually the picture will be from my mom and of Riggins napping or playing ball in their backyard. She isn’t as seasoned a dog photographer as I am, so after the pictures she sends are shared I will flip through some of my older ones to find a better picture of Riggins to pass around. Some of my friends tolerate this silliness better than others. At this point, though, everyone knows that if you want my sunny personality with you on a trip, you have to put up with my Riggins tales!

I check my mom's Facebook page regularly for updates.

I check my mom’s Facebook page regularly for updates.

Rereading my story, I’m struck by three thoughts:

  1. I’m shocked anyone ever leaves a dog with new dog sitters! Thank goodness not everyone is as crazy as me, or I wouldn’t have a job.
  2. I’m REALLY lucky to have my parents as an option for my sitter needs.
  3. I am crazy. I should probably go back and rewrite this so I don’t sound as bad. … Nah!

Riggins is my baby boy, and I love him dearly. Leaving him is hard, but coming back to his cute face and loving pumpkin-colored eyes is the best thing ever. Maybe even the best part of my trip!

The holidays are coming up. What arrangements do you make for your furry baby when you have to leave her? Tell us in the comments!

Read more about Wendy’s life with Riggins:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.