This is the grin of a puppy who has NO IDEA what it means when the family packs all their suitcases for vacation. A dog who has no concept of the "pack" doing ANYTHING that doesn't include her.
Way back at Christmas, when my husband surprised us all with a family trip to Mexico, the first thing I did was book the Deluxe Suite at the Kennel for my two younger dogs. I figured February vacation would be a busy time at the Doggie Inn, and wanted to make sure that Puppy had the biggest room in the place.
She needed the space to freak out.
As I made piles and packed our bags, she followed me around and smiled a whole bunch, wondering what all the excitement was about. Then I packed up the doggie beds and blankets, and she figured she was going somewhere.
When we pulled into the parking lot at the Vet/Kennel, she and Big Dog were happy and curious to sniff around the gravel parking lot and lawn. And then I tried to get her to go inside...
It was as if she suddenly realized where she was. And that she wasn't coming to Mexico. Her eyes widened and glazed over as the drool turned to foam at the edges of her mouth. She pulled away, slipping out of her collar and bolting around the yard like a crazed beast.
After ten minutes of coaxing, she started to head for the street. Panicked, I opened the car door and she slammed back inside the minivan instead, pressing herself against the far side and quivering with undisguised fear. She still didn't understand the whole concept of "kennel" but she knew she didn't want to be in this place, not with her luggage. No way. No how.
I took the Big Dog in to the front desk, and explained that Puppy wouldn't come inside. The Vet Tech gave me one of those looks... you know, like what a wimp I was and if only I knew how to control my own dog... She took Big Dog around back, and then followed me out to the parking lot, a thin lead in hand.
"She's afraid," I explained. "She doesn't want to come in the front door. Can we go through the back?"
"It'll be fine," she insisted dismissively.
I opened the car's sliding door, and slipped the collar back over Puppy's head, the leash still attached. I spoke in soothing tones while the vet tech rolled her eyes and slipped the lead over Puppy's head. Puppy jumped out easily, smiling at us both.
We started for the door and she realized what we were doing. Digging her heels into the gravel, she put on the brakes and started pulling us both backward, back toward the car. We had two leashes on her, pulling from both the left and the right, the vet lead starting to choke her. Foaming drool fell from her mouth in large clumps.
She whipped her strong neck around and pulled us back to the car. She started digging her way UNDER the car, as if she could hide all 127 pounds of her bulk beneath the minivan.
(Have you looked at a minivan lately? She couldn't get her head under that space, let alone the rest of her!)
We tried again. And failed again. Tried some more. Failed some more, the minutes ticking by. Realization slowly dawned on the vet tech's face. "She really doesn't want to go in that door," she told me. As if this were news.
I looked at her, just a wee bit exasperated at this point. "Can you open the back gate?"
She did. We went through the gate and in through the unfamiliar back door at a slight jog, thinking the momentum might keep her going all the way.
Puppy balked only slightly as we entered the kennel area. As I suspected, it was pretty full. Lots of dogs barking, pacing, questioning the new arrivals. We kept up the jog all the way to the end of the row - the tech running ahead to open the gate of the Deluxe Suite... extra large cage and private run would be another way to phrase it. In through the door to where Big Dog was waiting, and straight out into the open air run.
Her new "vacation spot" for the next eight days.
When we returned from Mexico and I went to pick her up, the reports were good. She'd enjoyed her playtime romps and extra yard time (that I'd requested and paid for) and was a fairly reasonable guest.
She was thrilled to see me and couldn't wait to hop into the car. She tore through the house to make sure all of her things were still just as she remembered them, hopping on and off all the beds and racing through the backyard to check fro marauding squirrels. She wasn't even afraid to get back into the minivan to go pick up the kids at the bus stop.
But I may have to change vets. I'm pretty sure she'll never go through either door to the vet's office ever again. Front or Back.