Carolyn White: Living the Good Life 7-4-11
Darby, our 7-month-old, 50-pound Rottweiler mix, and I went in to the Black Canyon Animal Sanctuary last month for a special event which was attended by 30 other people. I couldn’t wait to try out the used, pop-up camper that my husband and I had just bought and worked really, really hard beforehand to get the tiny space cleaned out, packed and organized. Frank, who kept hovering nearby, finally asked if I wanted him to fill up the water reservoir, attach the hoses, and hook up the propane tank and lights. “Not this time, Honey,” I replied. “It’s only for one night.”
Pulling a toothpick out of his mouth, he said, “It wouldn’t be any trouble.”
“Thank you, but no, this is only a test run. I won’t need any running water, a stove, or electricity – just a place to sleep. Don’t worry. It’ll be fine.” The truth was that I didn’t want him tracking dirt or grease around inside.
When we arrived at the Sanctuary, Darby was greeted by about 20 other dogs and within minutes had been completely absorbed within the pack. I checked on her several times in-between visiting, but for the most part didn’t see her again for nearly eight hours, until it was time for bed. Much to my surprise, she wouldn’t touch any of the food that was in her bowl. Later, I was to learn that she’d been wolfing down what the staff had served … and unfortunately, it was the only time that she’d ever been off puppy chow.
Shortly after I had taken off my slippers and robe, carefully eased up onto the extra-high mattress over the truck cab, and gotten covered up against the mountain chill, she started whining. At first I didn’t understand what the problem was, so simply told her to be quiet. When the “Eeeewwwwww eeewwww eeewwwww” sounds grew louder, however, I fumbled for a flashlight. Darby, who was standing at the entrance, looked over her shoulder beseechingly as the beam hit her. “EEEEWWWW EEEWWW,” she demanded more urgently. With outstretched toes, I cautiously felt my way down onto the bench below.
Digging through a supply bag I dragged out a chain, just barely managing to get her hooked up and out the door before her bowels started boiling over. She leapt into the darkness with a single bound, the chain clanking against the four metal stair steps – and instantly every dog on the property began barking. Struggling to gather up the slack and hold the light at the same time, I waited a few moments before whispering for her to come back inside. Just 10 minutes after we’d both gotten resettled, however, she started whimpering again. In an effort to be more quiet, I hooked her up to a nylon leash and held tight to the loop end while crouching against the open entryway, holding onto the frame and bracing myself while shivering in the increasingly cool air. Half an hour later, we were at it once more, only during that episode poor Darby, in her haste, nearly yanked me headfirst behind her as she lunged to squat further away. By then the smell of dog mess was floating all around the interior – probably because she’d tracked some in and out between her paws.
No sooner had she made it back inside but she spun around and hurled enormous chunks of kibble on the linoleum. Wailing, “Oh, Darby, stop, not inside!” I grabbed for the paper towels and scooped the contents up in both hands, using one foot to lift the lid of the porta-potty while wishing fervently that it could be flushed. Setting the flashlight down on the counter, I sloshed some water into a tiny bowl and did my best to wipe up any residue that remained before scrubbing up to the wrists. Settling her back onto her blanket and then wearily returning to the steep bed, I pulled the covers over my head and tried hard to stop shivering. By 3:00 a.m. – and at least a half-dozen more trips up and down – my teeth were chattering, so I pulled a jacket on over my nightgown and robe and tied the hood on tight, longing for a heater. After the final episode, I got under the spread without removing my slippers and curled up wide-awake, wondering if the night was ever going to end. When it finally did, it was an effort to stumble over to the main building in search of the coffee pot and gulp down what remained from the evening before.
After we’d arrived home, Darby flopped down on the kitchen floor and immediately fell sound asleep. “Looks like my dog is all tuckered out,” Frank observed. “You two must have had a really good time with the camper.”