Monday, October 1, 2012

Bella's Excellent Vacation

Jan and I haven't gone away on an actual vacation since we were married in 2004. We've had a few long weekends here and there but mostly we stay home and work in the yard - which hardly counts as a restful vacation. I don't remember why we didn't go away more often when we had Beau. People would have been lining up to take care of him he was such a good and easy dog.

It's been more difficult with Bella though. The only person who can touch her besides us is my mother. But Bella is, obviously, a bit of a handful so we don't like to ship her off to mom too often. (Not to mention the last time we did, Bella's separation anxiety resulted in us picking her up a day early because even mom said she was inconsolable without us.)

So cue 2012 and Leslie decides it's time to take a vacation. Apparently I have been reading too much Go Pet Friendly because I thought it would be good for everyone if we had a vacation and actually took Bella with us. I won't put her on a plane unless absolutely necessary. She's not welcome on the train or a bus so we had to find somewhere we could drive to easily enough.

I knew just the place.

I grew up in Rhode Island and, despite what the tourism board suggests, the best time to visit the Rhode Island coast (in my not-so-humble opinion) isn't the middle of summer when the place is crawling with tourists. It's in the early Fall when the beaches are empty, the prices more reasonable, the days are warm and the nights just right for sleeping.

The one big caveat to visiting in the off-season is that some of the sites one might like to take in are closed. Like three of the places we had planned to have breakfast, a couple of places we had planned to have dinner and Theater by the Sea, for example.

But when you have a scared-y dog, quiet is what you're looking for and private is a necessity.

I spent some time looking for just the right location - waterfront, away from the hustle and bustle of the more popular destinations. Even in the Fall, certain spots can be busy. A little research and I found a house with a private beach, neighbors who weren't too close and attractions not too far away.

Welcome to East Matunuck, a small village on the shore of South Kingstown, Rhode Island.

I went up first to move us in, had dinner with Mom and was back at the house to meet Jan and Bella when I discovered I had lost the only key I had to the house. We were off to a great start. Three trips back and forth to the restaurant where I had met my Mom and I finally found the key. (The key that was attached to a black strap lying on the black parking lot in the dark of night - the gods were smiling upon me for sure.)

I hurried back to the house where Jan and Bella were waiting for me. Bella was already taking in all the new scents the shore has to offer. She could hear the waves but we didn't bring her around to the ocean side that night, we wanted to capture her first view of the waves on video in the daylight.

Bella did great. Although she was obviously anxious that first night, she was busy exploring every corner, closet and cupboard. We set up her crate which I dropped on the big toe of my right foot while carrying it in - ouch and - doh!

Bella began to get more comfortable seeing her beds and toys and bowls unpacked. We didn't do much more than settle in and get acclimated that first night. She finally succumbed to sleep and curled up on her bed for the night.

The next day, she saw waves for the first time. If you haven't seen the video I posted Saturday, you should go check it out. Bella had a blast. But she underestimated the effort required to run in sand and by the middle of the first day, we were calling her behaviorist to check the interactivity of her medications with the aspirin she was now desperately in need of. (Bella has an old injury in her left front leg that acts up on her occasionally and she was really limping after her romp in the sand.)

Leslie also found herself limping later that night when she broke a toe on her left foot after slamming it into the leg of a couch. Darn thing jumped right out in front of me, I swear! So yes, now I have a black and blue big toe on my right foot and a broken rather-less-important toe on my left foot.

Who's bright idea was this vacation anyway?

That's okay - it would still be worth it to watch Bella run around and chase the seagulls, happy as a clam (sorry, couldn't resist). She slept very well that second night and I, surprisingly, found her curled up in her crate around midnight sound asleep. Color me flabbergasted. We had only started crate-training Bella in August when we learned that she would have to be crated as a requirement to rent the beach house. She did incredibly well and we were very proud of her.

Another caveat about visiting the New England coast in the fall is that the weather doesn't always cooperate - it is still hurricane season after all - and our week away was no exception. We had strong winds and rough surf for most of the time that made it tough to enjoy dinner on the deck but gave us plenty of cool surfers, sail-boarders, paddle-boarders and para-sailors to watch.

Threats of thunderstorms also dampened some of our plans. We weren't able to leave Bella nor would we be able to take her with us in the event of storm. We were lucky that there was only one real clap of thunder (which Jan conveniently managed to sleep through) that sent Bella scurrying and trembling into my arms in the middle of the night. I got up with her, put her in her Storm Defender Cape and sat down to wait out the storm. Surprisingly, she sat down next to me just like she does at home and soon let out heavy sigh and closed her eyes. I was both grateful and amazed.

The last day had us all longing for home - Jan had had enough of the sand that tracked in on everything and Bella and I were looking forward to a good night's sleep. We packed up pretty early and called it a week. We had a great time, Bella got a lot of attention and a healthy dose of exercise but she seems happy to be home again. I think she's going to sleep for a week.

Before I say goodbye to our great 2012 vacation adventure, allow me to share just a few of the more entertaining stories of the week:

Anyone who follows Bringing up Bella on Facebook (and if you don't - you should - just click here to do so) knows we had a bit of a mishap on Thursday when Bella locked me out of the beach house (making for the second time in a week I had been locked out.) Here's how that happened:

It's not like I did it on purpose...
As the week wore on, Bella began to see the house and beach as her very own private property and was getting more and more vocal about letting people and dogs on the beach know they weren't welcome here. One afternoon while Jan was off antiquing in Providence, Bella and I sat out enjoying a little sun on the deck. When a group of people with a lovely long-haired Dachshund happened by, Bella, embarrassingly, went ballistic over their presence. So, I did what I had been doing all week if she barked - I put her inside. If she was quiet, she could come back out again.

Only this time, Bella was jumping up in her agitation to make the little dog go away and I was afraid she would tear the screen door so I closed the sliding glass door instead. Bella continued to jump at the door. From the other side of the door, I told her to get down and she did. That's when I realized things had gone from bad to worse. I went to open the door only to find that, when she jumped up, she had hit the locking mechanism on the door. I was locked out. Again.

Kicking myself for not having a key with me (but honestly, who takes a key with them to sit out on the deck?), I spent the next 45 minutes trying to find a way back into the house. Knowing Jan would be back in 3 or 4 hours alleviated my panic but Bella was getting increasingly frantic about being on the side of the door which I was not. Of course, I was also locked out of my car that had a small assortment of tools I might have been able to use to get in so I began hunting through the recycling bins to see if there was anything that could be fashioned into a makeshift unlocking device.

Luckily, I had discovered earlier that morning that the lock on the sliding door has a locked, an unlocked and a "somewhat sort of locked" setting and I could see through the glass that Bella had only knocked it to the "somewhat sort of" setting. My search through the recycling bin afforded me with a plastic fork and a little jiggling and a whole lot of patience ultimately won the battle of the "somewhat sort of locked" door.

I was in and Bella was much relieved.

Earlier in the week, we enjoyed a visit from my sister and brother-in-law one afternoon and, even though the wind made it too loud to have nice quiet conversations, we did get one really good laugh out of the visit. My sister, Donna, and I were walking Bella by the beach closer and closer to the waves to see if we could get her to dunk her foot in just once. (She never did.)

But Bella is faster than all of us as my sister soon found out when she got Bella very close to the surf only to have her run away at the very last moment leaving Donna alone in the drink. Soaked up to her ankles, Donna never saw it coming.

I'm not sure Bella was actually gloating but Donna and I were doubled over laughing at the little stinker.

One of the things I already miss from our vacation adventure is the fact that Bella was so tired from all the running and salty fresh air that she and I got into a habit of taking an afternoon nap together. She would sleep the day away but allowed me to join her for a little while snuggled up with my arms wrapped around her.

This is something she rarely tolerates never mind sleeps through. It was a little slice of heaven. As was the first night when she fell asleep with her head on my lap.

We have pictures. We wanted evidence.

One more story and then I'll finish up. We took Bella out to Narragansett Pier Monday afternoon which offers a lovely walk along a rocky shoreline - only a sidewalk and low rock wall separating you from the crashing waves and beautiful ocean view. When Jan and I stopped to look out over the ocean, we turned to find Bella standing next to us with her front feet up on the wall apparently also enjoying the view. She looked for all the world like just one of the rest of us tourists and garnered a few smiles from people passing by.

The Rhode Island coast is surprisingly pet-friendly and the villages of Wickford and Watch Hill bill themselves as particularly so. In Watch Hill, the shop-keepers even set out water bowls on the sidewalks for visiting pups. I can't speak for the accommodations because we didn't stay there but dogs are welcome in the parks, on many of the beaches and even at some of the restaurants. Going in the off-season made for fewer dogs and a great opportunity to get Bella out and about in public. We did learn that we have to work more with her dog reactivity outside of class. Just like we had to teach her to conquer her fear of the tunnel outside of her reactive agility class, we now need to put in the time help overcome her fear of dogs.

Lesson learned.

Snoopy's Dog Blog


  1. Broken toes, aching paws, and lock outs aside, it sounds like a wonderful vacation. I hope you and Jan don't wait so long to take your next trip together. Certainly you'll need to keep it up so Bella can benefit from the practice of staying in a new place. I bet if you went back in the spring or fall, she'd settle in much more quickly.

    I'm very impressed with the way you McGyvered the door open with a plastic fork from the recycling bin. I nominate you for the person I'd most like to have on my team for survival exercises. :)

  2. Even with a mishap here and there, it sounds like a good vacation! You are making really great strides with Bella. I think she enjoyed it as much as you did.

  3. Bella - what a vacation!  Broken toe sounds a lil painful though.  Hope the peep gets better soon! 

  4. An eventful time to say the least!  

  5. Well I think it sounds like you had a good time! Glad Bella loved the beach. We spent more time trying to find a place that was good for Dec than we would ever spend looking if it was just for us! We have to accept that our boy is never going to be a beach bum... he's more of a tree hugger! 

  6. Sounds like all and all (except for that pesky key) you guys had a great trip. And how nice that Bella got so comfy in her crate, I guess maybe it was so familiar to her, it was like a home away from home. I like the image I have in my head of her looking over the wall with you guys like a regular old tourist. :-)

    Meadow did surprisingly well when we took her on our vacation in Florida too. We thought she would be a lot more terrified, but she settled in surprisngly well and took it all in stride. Dogs constantly surprise us, don't they?

  7. Snuggling with the puppies is one of life's great joys. I'm glad this vacation gave you an opportunity to do some more Bella snuggling and that Bella obviously had such a great time.
    I hope your toes are better soon. When I broke my pointer toe, I had to wear a not enclosed boot thingie for a few weeks- in northern NV- in the winter- thank goodness for layers of warm socks.

  8. Glad you all had a good, or mostly good, vacation! It's great that Bella likes her crate.
    Sorry about the lockouts and your poor toes. Seriously though, are we related? I have to wear shoes in the house so I don't break any more toes. I broke the last one on the tray holding the dogs' dishes; at least you have the excuse that you were in a new place and weren't totally used to the layout. :)

  9. I just luved seeing Bella doing beach zoomies! Wheeeeee! :D
    Wonderful vacation you all had. You had Mom and I laughin at your lockouts BOL! Good use of the garbage in gettin back in :) The photos of a tired Bella are priceless. Thank you for sharing your vacation!
     Waggin at ya,

  10. It really sounds like a wonderful vacation - I'm glad that you had a good time (and that being locked out didn't last too long). :)

  11. Yeah!! I'm so glad your vacation with Bella turned out to be a success - with the exception of your toes, of course. Traveling with our DWI (Dogs with Issues) may take a little more planning, but it's a lot easier and more fun than leaving them behind. And just look at all the new skills Bella got to practice. The next time you're ready to hit the road things will get even easier.