“Colorado Rocky Mountain hi-igh…” I belted at the top of my lungs, cranking up the volume. Sorry, Uncle Jesse, but this has to happen.
All right, so maybe I wasn’t actually driving through Colorado, but close-a-freaking-’nuff.
“I can’t believe you’re already in Wyoming!” Jenn texted.
“My ass can,” I fired back.
After leaving my home state, New Jersey, last Friday to embark on my very first (…and last?) cross-country road trip, I was starting to feel the burn. I was also starting to feel like I was living on borrowed time, having survived three extremely questionable roadside motels and one AirBNB in a town where Uncle Jesse and I bumped the population to 750 for the night.
Elmwood, Nebraska. …Wow, you’ve never heard of it. Huh. …What? No. I didn’t say anything. …Wait’ll Kristen at the post office hears about THIS.
As part of my latest Grand Caper -which involved quitting a very stable job and selling all of my stuff- I decided to move to central Oregon because I heard they had good beer and I still wouldn’t have to pump my own gas. Unfortunately, since they haven’t perfected teleportation and don’t ship Labradoodles who only drink ice water and hide in bathrooms because they’re scared of the dark, I was forced to drive myself.
Maybe if someone around here could pull his weight…
All in all, though, I’ve hit the jackpot. Sunny weather, friendly people, working car. I hit a few snags in Cheyenne, but my Maine road trip in April prepared me for all of that and more.
Things I’ve learned so far, having covered New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and (partially) Utah:
The (giant, giant) bugs on I-80 all have a death wish.
Some stereotypes are…well…
Gary, Indiana is NOT what The Music Man will have you believe.
You can fit way more into a 4-door sedan than you might think.
Photos of Cheyenne, Wyoming are invisible until an old-timey filter gets applied.
Three days on the road turns me into a person who wears socks with sandals.
The world is as big or small as you make it.
As I hit the scan button on my radio for the thousandth time and massage my neck, the same thought I’d been having for days pops back up: Holy sh*t. I’m DOING THIS. I’m DRIVING -AND MOVING!- ACROSS THE COUNTRY. I remember all of the winding roads that led me to this moment and laugh. Jiggling my right leg and checking my odometer, I suddenly feel like I earned every mile and every view.
Before I make the big move out west next week, two of my closest friends and I decided to spend Memorial Day weekend in one giant love fest.
We picked New Milford, Connecticut because Jenn told us to and everyone should listen to Jenn. Apparently I’ve never actually spent any time in the place just two hours from my home state, New Jersey. With Mother Nature on our side, I was shocked to discover Connecticut had it all.
Congratulations! After careful review, you have been selected to oversee my 8-year-old Australian Labradoodle, Uncle Jesse, while I’m away. Given the exceptional taste you’ve demonstrated by reading this blog, I feel marginally concerned certain you’ll be able to accommodate my dog’s daily demands.
Because I’m so confident in your abilities, I’ve attached only the abbreviated version of my 137-step guidebook. If at any time you find yourself doubting your caretaking capacity, please call one of the nineteen numbers I’ve listed in the back of this manual.
STEP #1 – HYDRATION
It’s imperative that both you and Uncle Jesse remain hydrated at all times during his stay. This includes, but is not limited to: chilled, Brita-filtered water, refreshed 6-30 times per day, washing and drying the bowl after each rotation. In a pinch, you may provide tap water; we strongly discourage the use of bottled water.
STEP #2 – NUTRITION
Uncle Jesse insists upon an on-demand supply of V-Dog kibble. If any kibble goes uneaten for more than 12 hours, please sample before deciding whether to discard.
Each time Uncle Jesse reenters your home after his mandatory nature bathings (see Step 3), he will expect a “treat” for his willingness to return to your humble dwelling. Acceptable treats include homecooked, plant-based items, arranged on a ceramic plate as follows:
Should you question your ability to select a permissable food item, I’ve drafted this reference card:
STEP #3 – EXERCISE
Uncle Jesse has grown accustomed to 5 miles of brisk walking out-of-doors each day; however, this can be broken into 2+ segments as we understand your employer refused to provide a leave of absence for this visit.
As with hydration, stretching is paramount before each session. If you find he is panting for more than three and a half minutes upon returning, please encourage him to lie down and point your fan directly on him:
STEP #4 – ELIMINATION
Assuming you’ve strictly followed steps 1-3, you can expect an impressive number of bowel movements per day. These occur in varying volume and composition during the aforementioned 5-mile walk, so carrying an array of multi-sized “poop bags” is prudent.
STEP #5 – SLEEP
Uncle Jesse is deeply committed to “total wellness” and therefore insists upon 12+ hours of uninterrupted rest time per day. Please leave your bedroom door ajar at all times. I noticed you had extra pillows on the couch. I suggest moving these to the bed while he adjusts to sleeping in a new location.
Placing towels on the bed to protect your linens will only arouse his rancor.
STEP #6 – PLAY
You’ve probably heard that most dogs enjoy fetch. Being of a highly sensitive nature, Uncle Jesse would rather remain indoors for playtime, with you sitting on the ground and tossing his toys directly into his mouth while he perches on the couch.
If you fail to amuse him, he will notify you by placing the toy between his chin and the pillows that I’m sure you have remembered to return to the couch before beginning this exercise.
STEP #7 – INTERACTION WITH LESSER BEINGS
Uncle Jesse and I are still reviewing the finer points related to the presence of any…well. You know.
At this stage in our discussions, we would both prefer if you locked any “Others” in the basement for the week as we believe it will reinforce the natural balance of things and keep all parties safe from psychological harm. We’re just looking out for your well-being here.
To maintain this intellectual agility, we enjoy practicing shake, stretch, sit, lie down, paw, other paw, little speak, big speak and “Watch the hair, huh!” on a daily basis.
Please also feel free to pass by our local Catholic church at 7:00am, 8:00am, 9:00am, 12:00pm and 6:00pm so that he might work on his pitch.
STEP #9 – GROOMING
Do not, under any circumstances, tamper with his hair, nails, ears, or teeth. If he appears standoffish, remember to say “please” before asking to pet him.
STEP #10 – TRAVEL
Should you need to chauffeur Uncle Jesse, please leave the back passenger side seat free (he will not tolerate the other side), and leave the window rolled down fully, provided the speed does not exceed 45 MPH and/or the temperature remains above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
And not to worry, dear reader – those new lights in each room are simply CIA-approved surveillance cameras.
When I got a dog, I vowed never to leave him home alone for more than a half a day, tops. “It’s not fair to him,” I said. “I’ll be his whole world, the side pony to his elastic hair band, the ‘stache to his wet nose, the Kelly Kapowski to his Zack Morris.”
And for the past six and a half years, I’ve been pretty successful.
This week, I took my dog with me on a trip to Maine, and for the most part, the scene out and about has looked like this:
RANDOM PASSERBY 1: Is that a Labradoodle?
RANDOM PASSERBY 1: What’s her name?
ME: His name is Uncle Jesse.
RANDOM PASSERBY 1 (smiling): Dukes of Hazard?
ME: Full House.
RANDOM PASSERBY 2: Adorable!
ME: Thank you!
RANDOM PASSERBY 2: Is she a puppy?
ME: Nope, he’s six.
RANDOM PASSERBY 2: Wow, she looks like a puppy.
RANDOM PASSERBY 3: Oh my god. She’s so cute.
(Repeat above to infinity.)
On Wednesday, I took Uncle Jesse to Jordon Pond in Acadia National Park, and just as we set foot on the trail, a shout stopped us.
“Hey! Hey! Can I see your dog?”
A thin, middle-aged man took his foot out of a red kayak and jogged over.
No! Shut your eyes and turn around, madman! I thought.
Uncle Jesse squatted and pooped.
“Goldendoodle?” the man asked.
“I have a Goldendoodle. I couldn’t bring her today because I’m going kayaking.”
“Yeah… well… that makes sense,” I offered.
“Here, let me show you a picture.”
Kayak Man pulled out his phone and took three minutes to bring up a blurry photo of a giant Goldendoodle in front of a tent.
A park ranger who’d been within earshot approached. He stared at Uncle Jesse.
I’m not sure you’ll recognize that today is special, when we shower you with gourmet, organic treats, long walks and hour-long massages. Or when we coo over and over again, ‘He’s a good man. That’s a good man. Who’s the best man?’
But it’s true!
Today’s your 3rd birthday!
Already you’ve been with us for 2 years, 9 months and 28 days. Now’s not the time to talk of my guilt over your silver-spooned upbringing, but rather to praise your genetic superiority and extremely reputable entry into this world thanks to your mother’s tireless research and your father’s stubborn allergies.
We named you after John Stamos’ character on Full House because we knew you were destined to be the cool one. And have great hair.
Here are just a few of the things we love about you, Uncle Jesse:
You fetch your Hot Pocket toy when we sing the jingle (“Ho-ot Pocket!”).
You dry your tongue on our pants after you take a drink.
You have access to your kibble all day, every day, and only eat it when we sit down to dinner; then you nosh lying down.
You help Dad tune the guitar when he gets to the 4th string, every time.
You learned how to do Full House-themed tricks at 9 1/2 weeks old.
(If people don’t believe the last two, they should play thE video!)
If you disapprove of someone’s petting methods, you lick them aggressively to correct the faux paw pas. They mistake this for affection. I’m sorry we blew up your spot, but you do it to us, too, you ungrateful bastard well-bred specimen.
Your legs are super long and your paws are incredibly fancy, especially when you tuck them under, or cross them just so.
You’re convinced the bedroom ceiling fan is possessed and/or omnipotent. If it’s been too quiet for too long, or something is otherwise amiss, we catch you staring at it dubiously.
I hope you enjoy this birthday tribute video I made especially for you:
Your doting and equally adorable mother
So what do you get for the Australian Labradoodle who has everything? Well, you can make like a Shel Silverstein tree, and give. Please join me in helping friend and fellow blogger, Valerie from Nikitaland:
Note: The ad below the Pledge for Pets button is not part of this post.
And I was convinced Uncle Jesse, my 2-year-old Australian Labradoodle, would too. After all, he’s not afraid of startling noises; his [human] father has perpetual allergy sneezes and coughs that could wake the dead.
So, brimming with an overconfidence usually reserved for Spring Breakers and Donald Trump’s hairstylist, I headed out on 4th of July with Uncle Jesse and Mr. Sneeze in tow.
Here’s what happened:
Have you ever scarred your own pets or children for life?