The past couple of years, I’ve traveled more than I ever have. Things such as minor family emergencies, work conferences, and a major college football game have required me to hit the road. Most of the time, I travel by myself, leaving my husband at home to take care of our dogs and cats.
Even when the reason for travel is a fun one, I miss my little family while I’m away. Well, mainly I miss our pets. It’s not that I don’t miss my husband. I do. Honest. But at least I can call and chat with him when I want to. However, no matter how many times I ask my husband to put the phone up against one of our dogs’ ears while I chat happily away, telling them how much mommy misses them, they have never once barked back at me.
On my last trip, however, I noticed a funny thing. My dogs were with me. In fact, they’d accompanied me on every single trip I’d ever taken since we adopted them. I just hadn’t realized it.
How so? Glad you asked!
Even when my dogs aren’t physically with me, that doesn’t stop me from constantly looking down at my feet when I walk, just like I do at home. Even a short trip from the hotel bed to the bathroom requires me to glance down to make sure I’m not going to trip over a dog. Not only that, I’ve even caught myself slowly cracking the door when leaving the hotel room so my phantom dogs don’t make a break for it.
My dog Ranger loves to burrow under the covers, and it’s amazing how he just kind of disappears under there. On more than one occasion, I’ve plopped down on a blanket-covered couch to find I’ve landed squarely in the middle of a Rat Terrier. So I’ve developed the habit of always patting down any type of bedding before having a seat. I do the same thing in hotel rooms. Each night, I find myself going through the obligatory “pat, pat, pat” of the comforter before climbing into bed. Wouldn’t want to squash my phantom dog.
Before any trip, I wash the clothes I plan to take and then meticulously run a pet hair roller over them. Of course, it never eliminates all the dog hair but it’s good enough that anyone looking at me won’t automatically put me in the “possible dog hoarder” category. Once I get to the hotel, I unpack and hang up my clothes. And inevitably, the next day as I slip into a new shirt or sweater, there it is: a tuft of dog hair. After the first couple of times, I learned my lesson and began traveling with a pet hair roller. Who would’ve thought that even phantom dogs would shed so much?
Every day, my dogs get breakfast at 6 a.m. No matter where I am — even when there’s no reason to get up early — my eyes pop open at promptly 6 a.m., and my first impulse is to jump up and make my phantom dogs breakfast. I haven’t gotten out of bed (yet) but it still feels strange lying around instead of putting together their meals. And that’s not the only way my phantom dogs try to keep me to a schedule. At 11 a.m., I feel the urge to walk them. At 4:30 p.m., it’s dinner, of course. And by 10 p.m., it’s time to put together their bedtime Kongs. I never realized how strict and regimented phantom dogs could be.
I find this maybe the oddest phenomenon of all. I’ll be sound asleep or taking a shower when I’m convinced I’ve heard one of our dogs bark. Sure, sometimes it is another dog barking. Because of the nature of my business, dogs attend many of the same conferences and events I do. But there have been several occasions when there’s no rational explanation, yet I’m still convinced I hear a bark. Obviously, I need to do more work with my phantom dogs on the “quiet” command.
The nice thing is, my phantom dogs keep me company and keep me amused while I’m traveling. I mean, I can’t help but laugh when I catch myself stepping over what I absentmindedly assumed was a dog only to realize it was a scarf I dropped. And these experiences are a sweet reminder of how deeply my dogs are ingrained in my mind and heart. Still, when my trip is over, I’m always glad to trade in the phantom dogs for the real ones. After all, phantom dogs are terrible cuddlers.
Your turn: What dog-related habits follow you around wherever you go? Tell us in the comments.
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About the Author: Amber Carlton is owned by two cats and two dogs (all rescues), and is affectionately (?) known as the crazy pet lady amongst her friends and family. She is a freelance copywriter and blogger for hire and also acts as the typist and interpreter for her dog’s musings at Mayzie’s Dog Blog. Amber encourages other crazy pet people to connect with her on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.