Grandparents can go to the dogs these days

July 10, 2012

As a grandparent, you have an important role in your children’s well-being and are an integral part in their everyday life. You will lend guidance, wisdom and a certain philosophy that comes from your own experiences. Really?

To be politically correct you have to be transparent today, so in other words, your main function is to act as an ATM machine, baby-sit grandchildren and take care of an assortment of family pets.

This past week, my grandparent duties kicked in and I found myself taking care of a black Labrador retriever while everyone else went on vacation. It’s not like they went to a Third World country, but to take the dog, well, you have to pack all that extra stuff. In this case, it amounts to one whopping tin bowl.

I have to tell you, I love my chore in this case, particularly because the dog and I have a lot in common. We are both continuously on a diet; people talk about our weight behind our back, usually referring to us as big butt; neither one of us can fit into our clothes, and we both love mojitos.

Now, the black Labrador is what I would call a real Jersey Girl. If she were human, she would be wearing tight jeans with stovepipe-thin legs, killer stilettos that would give a reasonable person a nosebleed and teased hair so high even Superman couldn’t fly over it.

Believe me when I tell you I know dogs. I’ve had them as pets all my life. Growing up, we had a dog which was called the family pet, which means that everyone took care of it.

Dogs had old-fashioned names like Lassie, Spot, Old Yeller and Martha. If fact, for years I believed Lassie was human because the veterinarian we took our dog to had an autographed picture of Lassie on the front desk.

Dogs in those days reacted to commands like sit, fetch, come and stay, just by the tone of your voice.

They hung out car windows and occasionally walked with you to the ice-cream parlor where they staked out the nearest child under 3, waiting for that nice big plop of vanilla ice cream to hit the sidewalk.

But I have to say, times have changed. I was mildly surprised at how casual the environment was when I arrived to pick up the Jersey Girl and bring her down to the beach. For one thing, no one in the house seemed to know where she was, how long she been gone and when she would be back.

There didn’t seem to be any great urgency, since the whereabouts of the dog didn’t involve any cellphone message, text message or the menu for takeout Chinese food.

The surprise wasn’t too great though, since they subscribe to a philosophy of training the dog under someone named Helmut, who comes to the house, charges a couple thousand dollars and hasn’t succeeded in anything but making the dog run in circles every time the phone rings.

Apparently the modern thinking is to only use hand signals, so as not to upset the dog by your tone of voice, thereby necessitating the services of a dog psychologist, who just happens to be Helmut’s brother-in law.

In order to communicate with the Jersey Girl, I ended up resembling an airport worker signaling a plane to land on the runway; either that or I was telling a baseball player to steal second base, but only after the count was three and two.

I’m not saying we did a better job back then, but I don’t remember a dog that wouldn’t come when called; this is the tried and true school of holding out a treat, much like holding out the remote to your husband if he would put just one glass in the dishwasher.

Dogs love to visit Delaware. It’s an old-fashioned holiday place. It has the ocean, clear rules, lot of treats stuck to the sidewalk and best of all, someone to hide under the bed with during an electrical storm. Just saying.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.

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