One daughter and her family are in Paris. Another daughter and her family just returned from the New Jersey shore.
Their dogs, who (stage whisper) weren't invited on these vacations, packed their bags and stayed with us. As each arrived, we greeted them with schedules and daily agendas:
"Welcome, guests, to your cozy, multinight stay in the country with us, your experienced, responsible dog caretakers. Relax and scratch an ear with one hind foot while we describe the many fun activities in store. When you've returned to your families on an altered eating and sleeping schedule that will take days to correct, consider giving us glowing reviews on the mobile app dogs prefer -- Yelp, of course."
Our current guest, as an example of customer satisfaction, has spent most of his vacation sleeping in doorways. Dogs who prefer threshold sleeping are delighted with our accommodations, which include five doorways in the kitchen alone, not counting a closet whose door usually is closed because we weren't born in a barn.
A discerning threshold-lying dog will appreciate that from any of our kitchen doorways, he can observe everything occurring in the room, from food preparation to serving to eating itself. Our live-in dog personally will demonstrate how to successfully disrupt every one of these activities by bringing several squeaky toys into the room and pouncing upon them provocatively. Growling, tussling and wrestling free-for-alls are sure to result, increasing the incidence of dropped food
A word about the food: Unlike, say, a cruise ship, where food is available pretty much around the clock, we keep it classy with a single-seating-only arrangement. Morning and evening, we serve our guest in one room, the live-in dog in another. Dogs who dine a deux, we have found, care more about the other dog, the other dog's dish, and what interest the other dog has in food that isn't his than he is in eating his own darn dinner. As a result, dinner parties quickly disintegrate into roughhousing and general rowdiness. Isolation works best.
Exercise is a vital component of any dog vacation. We offer many outdoor pursuits, including several outbuildings previously -- and possibly still -- housing rabbits, groundhogs, raccoons, foxes, skunks and the occasional stray cat. Any dog worth his olfactory receptors can track down and identify these animals. Try to find them all!
Over at the compost, those same receptors can be used to identify what the humans had for dinner last night and may have again tonight. When the live-in dog and the guest put their noses together, they can eke out a tasty, vegetable-based snack and possibly even throw up.
Elsewhere on the property are trees, bushes, rocks, something the humans laughingly call "grass," pachysandra (if you ask nicely, the live-in dog may show you the dead bird he visits in there) and wildflowers, also known as "just a bunch of stupid weeds."
Indoors, you'll meet your personal trainer, also known as the vacuum cleaner. Pay no attention to the live-in dog, who ignores its angry roars (though in your ear, we'll confide that one rumble of thunder as far away as Toronto will wipe that nonchalance off his face). For best results, dart frantically from one spot to another to escape the terrifying machine while constantly striving to put yourself directly in its path. After 20 minutes of this aerobic activity, dogs will nap the rest of the morning, usually directly underfoot.
No vacation is complete without a visit to a famous site. Our canine guests usually make a pilgrimage to The Place in the Dining Room where legions of long-gone pets relieved themselves. The first dog chose the spot -- so the legend goes -- and every dog since has found and anointed it, even after the original carpeting was ripped out and replaced with a new subfloor, a hardwood floor and a rug purchased for that purpose. No wonder dogs call this spot sacred, and humans call it "that gosh-darned place in the dining room."
Write to Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.