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It's a Dog's Day When the Master's Away

February 05, 1989|BOB O'SULLIVAN | O'Sullivan is a travel writer based in Canoga Park

When my wife and I first started traveling, we still had offspring at home who took care of our pets. So, at first, our problem had an easy solution.

That didn't last. It wasn't long before our children were out on their own and we had to find another answer.

"It can't be that hard," Joyce said. "What do other people do when they go away for a few days?"

I checked with a friend who travels a lot.

"It's no big deal," said Burt, stroking the big gray cat nestled in his lap. "I just run old Tom over to this hotel for cats. He loves it. Don't you, big fella?"

But when Burt brought out his "kitty carrier" to show me how he transports the big fella to the "hotel," Old Tom, who had been relaxed and purring, suddenly went as rigid as if somebody had stuck his tail in a wall socket. The big gray went straight up in the air and then almost instantly disappeared under the sofa.

"Loves it, huh?" I asked.

"Wonder what spooked him," Burt said. "Would you hand me that broom out of the closet? Here, kitty, kitty."

Three-Legged Dog

When I left, Burt was still trying to fish the big fella out of the couch springs.

Joyce was disturbed by my report.

"Maybe it's different for dogs," I said. Since I'm allergic to cats, we didn't have any, but we were sure long on dogs. We had three.

Actually, that's a slight exaggeration. We really had 2 3/4, one of our daughters having brought home Kubro, a mixed shepherd who had only one hind leg. It was this particular animal that posed our major problem.

As the lowest common denominator in our herd, or pack, we figured that if we found a kennel that could cope with Kubro, our other two dogs--Snickers and Josie--wouldn't present any problems.

Kubro had lost one back leg and had a few stabilizing steel pins inserted in the other as the result of a driveway accident he suffered as a puppy.

Catherine, one of our daughters, said he followed her home. When nobody seemed to be buying that, she admitted that she got him from a musician friend who was just no longer able to cope.

She also announced, chin quivering, that "we just have to take him because he hasn't got anywhere else to go and somebody's just got to turn this dog's luck around."

Bark Worse Than Bite

"Well," Joyce said, "is what we see all that's wrong with him?"

Catherine looked up at the ceiling. "There is just the slightest touch of arthritis when his bullets bother him?"

"His bullets?" I asked.

"Yes," she explained. She scratched the dog behind the ears. "And he has an unusual bark, but he's sweet. Aren't you?"

As if in answer, Kubro barked. It was so loud and sharp, the dog himself shook his head as if trying to clear the ringing. Then, to prove it was no accident, he did it again and pawed his ears. I also pawed mine; it didn't help.

"I think his mouth is too close to his ears or something," Catherine said.

Joyce is a "mark," a sucker for anything small and furry. And a double mark for anything small, furry and hurt, but she put on a show of firmness. "You'll take care of him? Feed him, bathe him and take total control?"

"Of course," Catherine said. "Naturally. I promise."

Amorous Nature

Two years later, she got an apartment closer to her work . . . and Joyce and I got Kubro.

Besides having a short count in the leg department, Kubro also had one lop-ear, indeterminate coloration and a shaggy coat that came out in clumps in the presence of dark clothing or carpeting. If you combed that dog once a week, you'd get enough fur to make another dog.

Kubro acquired his bullets when he was shot by someone for raiding garbage cans in the alley in the middle of the night, also in his puppyhood.

There were, however, two other problems. First, he was possessed of an amorous nature.

But we figured that a dog with only one back leg would be playing the game of romance with enough of a handicap, so we kept putting off having him fixed.

Then there was the lightning.

But I didn't even consider telling anyone about Kubro's problems with lightning when I started checking around for a kennel.

Seller's Market

In the Yellow Pages there were listings such as The Pet Hotel, Waggin Tails Pet Resort (I figured that had to have a dude-ranch motif) and The Barking Lot.

The kennel search was surprising. First, I found that most of the operators considered it a seller's market. They had lists of requirements regarding would-be clients.

Potential "guests" had to have shot records indicating they'd been inoculated against rabies, distemper, parvo (which I had always thought had something to do with kosher foods), kennel cough and another affliction that sounded like the name of a Mafia family.

Most of the kennel operators cared not a fig if Fido was a barkaholic or stone crazy, as long as he was in perfect health and could come up with $10 a night (which would be 70 in doggie dollars).

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