If you are expecting a weekend guest, you will want to make sure you have a nice clean bed ready, that you have plenty of whatever they like to eat on hand, that you have time to spend with them to make sure that it’s a memorable experience. Everyone has his own special formula for creature comfort, and a gracious host anticipates those things that will make the visit perfect.
When Abby showed up on Friday afternoon, we were ready. Special dietary requirements? Check. Preferred meal times? Check. Favorite toys? Check.
Abby is a three year old part-Labrador with soft, white, slightly wavy fur. The last time we saw her she dwarfed Indi by a good six inches and 20 pounds. When Indi greeted her at the front door, the relative sizes had switched, and Abby looked up at Indi with a good bit of nervous suspicion.
Without hesitating, both dogs were de-leashed and set free to get to know each other in the fenced back yard, and within ten minutes of rolling and running and sniffing, both were ready to settle in to shared quarters.
You can and should plan ahead for a weekend dog guest, but you can’t anticipate how you will feel about the dog once he arrives. The biggest lesson we learned from the weekend is that we are not cut out to be foster parents of a dog.
“Could we hide her when her family comes to retrieve her,” I asked. “Tell them she ran away?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Bill said. “That family with three young children loves Abby and can’t wait to get home to her. And she can’t wait to see them.”
Of course he’s right. But the swiftness with which you can bond with the right dog is startling, and Abby will leave a hole in the house when she heads home on Sunday afternoon. We hope she’ll come back to visit often.
Here are some practical suggestions to ensure a perfect visit if you already have a dog in the house:
- When the owners arrive, make the transition time swift and clean. This is not a good moment for a long-catch up.
- Feed the dogs at the same time – but in separate rooms. Even if they are eating the exact same food, each is likely to think that the bowl of the other is more interesting.
- If your dog eats special treats, like marrow-bones, or licks the spoon when you are baking a cake – don’t share that treat with the guest unless you have cleared it in advance with the owner.
- Make sure that you show the same level of affection and attention to your own dog – don’t “share” your attention – double it.
- Keep the routine that you have established with your own dog so that the visitor doesn’t interrupt his sense of normal.
- Get phone numbers where the owners can be reached – and where the visiting dog’s vet can be reached – and don’t forget to ask about any special medical conditions or medications.
- Plan some fun outings. A dog park is perfect. But don’t assume that the guest dog will “play” in the same way at the park… he may be overwhelmed by the dog pack that greets him, or may be more aggressive than your own dog usually is.
- If you walk your dog off-leash, don’t assume that you can walk your guest the same way. It would be sad to have to tell the owners that their dog really did get lost while they were gone.
- Prepare yourself to say good bye.
Abby, you are welcome at our home anytime!