Somewhere in the dark on a windy mountain road outside of San Luis Obispo, I heard light puppy snores coming from the backseat of my Prius. In preparation for our eight-hour road trip, I walked Westley nearly three miles before getting in the car to tire him out. An hour in, my normally quiet dog started barking. I quickly launched into “don’t pee on my car” mode and pulled took the closest exit, parked in a Denny’s parking lot, and jumped out, leash and harness in hand. When I opened the door, a stuffed turtle fell to the ground. Westley looked at me, down at the turtle, then barked again. He still got walked around the grassy strip, offered some water, and was about to be put back in the car when a woman parked two spots over and came over to pet him.
My puppy, attracting strangers for attention since birth, six short months ago.
In Northern California, we stayed with my parents and at my sister’s. Westley played with my parents’ dog, sneaking up on him and playfully attacking him on our daily walks around their neighborhood. He played with my niece and nephew at the park. Pushing my nephew on the swing, I turned around and found my dad surrounded by four-year-old girls who were taking turns hugging Westley. Westley looked at me with a tortured look in his eyes, but still let himself be hugged.
On Memorial Day came his reward. My sister, sister-in-law, niece and nephew went for a leisurely hike in the redwoods at Nisene Marks. We thought it would be leisurely, but that was before my niece decided she and my sister were wild bunnies and had to hop the entire trail. That was before Westley decided he was a trail-runner and demanded we run ahead of everyone. That was before we took a side trail to the creek which required my sister-in-law to take the stroller with my nephew off-roading.
At the creek, and Westley ran straight into the water. He tried to wade deeper and deeper into the water while I kept him on his leash in the shallow end. A golden-retriever ran over to play with him, ensuring that the top of him was nearly as wet as the bottom half of him. The water, dirt, and pine needles created a very dirty and happy dog.
He didn’t look as happy in the bath.
Everyone reminds me that consistency is key for training him and nothing demonstrated that better than on the way back. We stayed at my aunt’s house in LA, an event that made it clear we need to work on crate training more than sporadically. I curled up on the couch with him next to me in his crate. He cried, yelped and barked half the night. The only time he stopped was when I talked to him in a panic that he’d wake up everyone else. After I talked to him, he’d sleep for a while before starting again. It was a fun cycle that started at midnight, then 2am, 4am, 6am… Caffeine was required the next day for the final part of the drive back to San Diego.
As I came out to pack up the car, my dad was standing on the balcony above the driveway, looking out at the ocean. I asked him to bring his stuff down so we could get going.
“Stop talking Kendra!”
“What? Why? You know I like talking…”
“Stop! He’s following your voice.”
I looked up, confused, to find Westley squeezing himself through the railings to stand on the small ledge above me, wagging his tail, proudly looking down at me. Dropping everything, I tried to think of what I could do. He stood was nearly 15 feet above me, could I catch him? I ran back into the house, calling his name as soon as I got to the front door, hoping if he heard me from inside, he’d go back the way he came.
It worked. He squeezed back through the railings and my dad scooped him up. I took Westley and hugged him close.
Having time off now until I find my next job has proved perfect timing, giving us time together, to play, to travel, to bond. It’s only been four weeks, one short month, and he will follow me anywhere. It’s only been four weeks, one short month, and he made my heart drop in panic, I already have no idea what I would do without him.