When you’re a military family stationed in Timbuktu, you can’t rely on relatives to watch your pets when you’re on vacation. Our military family has learned that trading pet care favors with friends isn’t always the best alternative.
Except for the time I completely forgot to feed a fellow military spouse’s cat over a long weekend (the kitty lived and somehow we’re still friends,) we happily exchanged pet-related favors with our military friends for many years.
That is, until we met P’Nut.
We we stationed at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, and P’Nut was a 7-pound pomeranian-chiuaua mix owned by our base neighbor, Tara.
P’Nut ate a quarter cup of kibble a day and Goldfish crackers as doggie treats. During the day, she lounged in a skillet-sized doggie bed, and thought a long walk was to the mailbox and back. At night, P’Nut was carried to a pink crib beside Tara’s bed.
By contrast, our labradoodle, Dinghy, was 110-pounds, with a perpetually dripping beard. He scarfed five cups of food a day, along with whatever he found while rooting through the bathroom trash. His four daily walks were measured in miles, and Dinghy was infamous for dragging his walker when he spotted a cat, lizard, sand crab, bird or butterfly. His favorite place to sleep was curled around the cool base of the toilet.
And as Tara learned the week she agreed to take care of him while we were on vacation, Dinghy had a surprisingly delicate digestive system. Apparently, Dinghy’s “business” was the consistency of Grey Poupon the entire week were were gone.
By the time we returned from our trip, our entire base housing neighborhood was talking about Tara’s ordeal, so when she asked me to walk P’Nut one afternoon, I jumped at the chance to return a favor.
Following Tara’s specific instructions, I opened her garage door and entered the laundry room at exactly 5:30 pm, then carefully scooped exactly one-quarter cup of kibble into P’Nut’s tiny food dish.
As instructed, I informed P’Nut that it was “time to go outside” and led her into the open garage. While making soothing noises, I approached P’Nut with the tiny, rhinestone-studded leash.
Just as I was thinking what a piece of cake this favor was turning out to be, P’Nut’s minuscule black lips peeled back from her needle-like teeth and she lunged for my fingers. I sprung backward and let out an embarrassing shriek.
Chalking the incident up to a fluke, I cooed, “Does widdle P’Nut wanna go on a wiky-walk? Oh, yes you do, you sweet little th…. AHHHHH!”
Relieved to find my fingers intact, I decided to ask the next door neighbors for assistance. I told them how sweet little P’Nut was attempting to sever my limbs with her razor-sharp teeth. The husband, a burley Navy helicopter pilot, stepped confidently toward P’Nut, declaring, “Oh, I’ll pick her up – how hard can it be?”
What happened next can only be described as mayhem. P’Nut flashed her fangs and dashed around the garage squealing like a pig while the pilot, his wife and I gave chase. When the dust settled, the pilot was back on his porch, yelling, “I don’t think she likes me!”
Considering P’Nut’s extreme obstinacy, we gave up the on the walk, and tried to get the little diva back in the house. For 20 more minutes, we ran around like the Keystone Cops. I feared that Tara would return to find her petite princess gone for good.
And then, I remembered the bag of Goldfish. I desperately grabbed a handful of the cheesy morsels from the laundry room shelf and, like a court jester who’s been sentenced to the gallows, I bowed before Her Excellency to offer the bribe.
Thankfully, P’Nut accepted.
The life-threatening nature of my experience with P’Nut had arguably paid my debt of service to my friend Tara. However, I decided that it was time for me to get out of the pet care business.
Next week, our dog, Moby, is going to a kennel while we’re going on vacation. It’s not free, but peace of mind is worth every penny.
[At each duty station, ask for “the gouge” on kennels and pet sitters. Get references from people you know to back up online databases like yelp.com, care.com, rover.com, or petsitters.com. Visit facilities before taking pets to stay. Many kennels allow dogs and cats to interact with other friendly pets, and only crate the animals during feeding or sleeping times. Take your pet’s food, medications, and a favorite blanket or toy. As always, ask for military discounts, and enjoy your vacations!]