I am actually not a stranger to dog sitting ... I was the neighborhood dog walker / pet sitter growing up, and made my pocket money caring for the Fidos, Rovers, and Fluffys of my neighbors. This is a trend that has continued into my adult life. Every friend and co-worker with a dog, cat, fish, bird, guinea pig, or turtle knows that I can be counted on to pet sit if asked. It's just that now I don't get paid. And I draw the line at snakes. Yes, for the record, I know snakes aren't evil, that most of them are harmless and are more afraid of me than I am of them, but I still can't shake my instinctive antipathy for their species.
But I digress ...
The point I was trying to make is that I am not a dog-sitting neophyte. Bella, though, is not your average bear. Er, dog. She's definitely in a class by herself. You know how sometimes you meet a dog who is just so awesome that as much as you love your own dog(s), you halfway wish that he/she belonged to you? Bella ... well, Bella doesn't fall into this category. Don't get me wrong ... I love her. She's a hoot. She's also a little bit of a train wreck. I can't think of one single command that she obeys reliably, and neither does she exhibit any signs of having mastered basic canine social cues. The phrase bull in a China shop comes readily to mind, no pun intended. To say that Tucker & Phoebe were less than enthused about spending the weekend in her company would be a colossal understatement. Knowing what I already knew about her I wasn't super jazzed myself. But hey .... she's family.
And honestly, it wasn't that bad. My aunt & uncle left town early Thursday evening. I stopped over on Wednesday night to get the 411 on feeding, walking, and all things Bella. Then on Thursday after work, Tucker, Phoebe, and I moved into Casa Bella for the weekend. The first thing I did when I arrived was leash up Bella and take all three dogs for a walk together. I find that this is a great outlet for all the excited/nervous energy that is often present when dogs who don't know each other well, or at all, are suddenly thrust together. It had the desired effect, and by the time we got back home, everyone was much more settled. A water break and a treat and it was time to relax and chill for the evening.
We did a LOT of walking (in the early morning and post-sunset hours out of concern for Bella's bulldoggy intolerance of heat) over the span of the long weekend, especially because the home my aunt & uncle have here in Florida (their main residence is a lovely lakeside home in Alabama) is a tri-level townhouse with no yard. The walks calmed everyone (though it was mostly Bella who needed it) down, kept their energy drained, and ensured that when we were in the house it was more reasonable to expect everyone to keep things calm and relaxed indoors. I also brought the travel crate I use for Tucker & Phoebe when we go to stay in hotels or the homes of friends. They love their crate ... it's big enough for both of them to curl up together, and although I didn't lock them in it at all, sometimes they would retreat to it to get away from Bella's pushy behavior, in which case I would just close the door and let them relax while giving Bella a Kong or something else to occupy her attention.
The other thing about Bella is that she really only has two speeds. Stop and Go. What this means from a practical standpoint is that she is either tearing around at 100 miles an hour wheezing like an asthmatic trying to run a marathon in the desert or she is dead to the world and snoring. There is just not much in between.
So I got lots of pictures of Bella like this:
And of course the obligatory bulldog on a coffee table shot ...
On Saturday night my sister, K, stopped by with Cosmo ... and as they were a bit more of a size they were able to play together a bit. This shot below was in the first five minutes that Cosmo was there. I think they had fun, but Cosmo was glad to be going home.
Phoebe wore this expression quite frequently over the weekend.
It basically meant ... "I am ok with you if you stay where you are ... but please don't encroach any further on my personal space, and for God's sake don't DROOL on me! Thank you."
Fortunately, Bella is not the least bit aggressive. She is gentle and loving, just a bit effusive and bumbling and completely unaware of her own size and strength. Also fortunately, Tucker and Phoebe are not antisocial with other dogs, just a little unsure of a dog that much larger and stronger who keeps coming straight ahead without any regard for the usual displays of doggy etiquette. But by Friday evening they were all pretty relaxed with one another and once we got into a groove the weekend was really not that terrible.
It was, however, a bit exhausting. Tucker and Phoebe took a rather long Sunday afternoon nap when we got home.
Full disclosure ... so did I! Babysitting Bella is hard work ... especially when you don't get any sleep at night because a bulldog is sharing your pillow and snoring in your ear!