A few years ago, I was asked by family friends to pet-sit their new basset hound puppy while they went away on vacation for a week. They promised food in the cupboard, the freedom to come and go, and even financial compensation. As a teenager craving independence, I agreed to the job. I had pet-sat before and I was confident in the skills and experience I had developed. I was ready for anything - or so I thought.
The first night I stayed over, my sister thankfully came to help. In hindsight, I wish she had stayed the entire week, considering the events that ensued. Walking through the front door on that first night, I immediately realized my work was cut out for me. Millie, the basset hound puppy, was holed up in the laundry room, behind a baby gate. If she had been sitting quietly, awaiting my arrival, our first impressions of one another might have been different. Instead, she was howling at the top of her lungs, barking repeatedly, stepping on her long, droopy ears and running in circles - all in a pile of her own feces. I tried to stay positive and tell myself that she was just left alone for too long on this particular day. I decided that Millie needed freedom! No sooner did I attempt to remove the baby gate, that she had knocked it over, trampled it and taken off running at lightning speed through every room of the house, depositing pools of saliva and other puppy fluids everywhere she went. I could feel my blood pressure rising.
We decided to entertain Millie for awhile, which might make her feel more comfortable. Thirty minutes, two bones, and one half of a chew toy later, it was obvious she was only getting more excited and we were quickly running out of entertainment. By this point, it was getting late. My sister took care of Millie while I unpacked my things and began to get ready for bed. However, the puppy quickly escaped my sister's watchful eye and took off toward the bedroom! My bag of clothes happened to be half open, lying on the floor next to the bed and she had already spotted it. I turned around just in time to see half of Millie's body inside my bag, rooting around as if she had discovered hidden treasure - paws kicking every which way, snout snorting and throat growling, while all caution was thrown to the wind.
"Millie!" I exclaimed. "What do you think you're doing?" I yelled, completely disgusted with this animal.
The rooting and grunting immediately stopped as Millie's body froze. My sister appeared in the doorway, since realizing the puppy had gone missing from her care. We both converged on the puppy in one, fluid, almost slow-motion, movement. But Millie had a plan. She zipped the front half of her body out of my bag and became a greased pig - there was no catching her. She ran under foot and, like a flash, had disappeared from the room again with a piece of my clothing. After countless, dizzying circles around the kitchen, I caught a glimpse of it. Millie had looted my underwear from my bag! And she was running all over the house with it in her sloppy, dripping jowls! I wanted nothing more than to catch and put an end to this dog that was creating such mayhem. Eventually, we backed her into a corner and I received my underwear back, somehow in tact. Sleep that first night was virtually impossible, considering all of the howling and crying from the other room. For the rest of the week, I always had one eye on Millie and one eye on whatever else I was doing. She was not to be trusted.
Over the course of the week, the puppy destroyed my toothbrush, some reading material I had brought with me, one of the remotes, and the blinds on the patio door. She also ingested toothpaste and a plastic Coke bottle. Coming home was terrifying, because the Lord only knew what I would find. Sometimes, I wonder how either one of us survived that week.
But there were a few sweet, precious moments that I cannot leave out. Even though Millie was a puppy, she was already probably 20 pounds. She loved to cuddle, imitating the lap dogs she saw on television. Even though I received bruises on my thighs because of this, I still enjoyed it. She also knew how to make you absolutely, positively cave into her every need and want. All she had to do was look up at you with those big, sweet, sad eyes - like all puppies do - and blink a few times. The world was Millie's oyster and she knew it. The bad definitely overshadowed the good, but I think the puppy had a wonderful week away from the family who made her obey so many "arbitrary" rules like peeing outside, sleeping in her own bed and not devouring an entire pizza off of the coffee table. I believe Millie had decided the joke was on me - she was acting out, doing what she wanted and not making excuses for it. I had to hand it to Millie. I was jealous of her inhibitions. After that week, I never pet-sat again and Millie was never left alone with someone besides the family.
A year or two later, the family had to put Millie to sleep because of her health. My sister was the one to tell me the news. When I heard it, my heart definitely sank. But as I recalled our crazy week of events, I could not help but smile. Millie only lived a few years, but her legacy will live on. Even though both of us barely survived each other, I am glad the puppy will remain safe in my memory and that she had her one week of absolute freedom and pure joy.
"Millie was a good dog," I concluded, with a smile. Because even bad dogs are good dogs.