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The Yankee Express

Away to Aruba and a vacation closer to home for Luke

Apr 13, 2023 02:45PM ● By Chuck Tashjian

JoAnne and Pete DiTommaso create a happy family for Luke.


Plans to leave Luke for a much-needed Aruban vacation had not been easy. We needed the sun. We needed time away. We needed time to regroup. However reasonable, we also needed Luke to be safe and cared for by someone who truly wanted to be with him. Dogs lie at the mercy of people, preferably good people, who also happen to be Dog People. We knew Luke would love and trust another person freely. The only problem was, who would love him back in the same way? Who would take the time to embrace his Lukiness? 
“Amy, we would be honored!” My good friend JoAnne DiTommaso, a Golden Retriever enthusiast by nature, agreed to take him on. Since our initial plan to hire a Dog Nanny went sour, we couldn’t have been more grateful. 
The Dog Nanny, I learned during an interview, was a kind Dog Person. However, she was also a busy lady. “I get up at four a.m. but will be home with him as soon as I’m done with my first job.” 
“Your first job?” My mind saw a lonely Luke lying on the floor, head over paws. “I’m sorry I left the yard to chase after my girlfriend. I promise to do better.” 
“I work nights at the restaurant, but I’ll be home with him on the weekends!” I did the math. Eighty dollars for eight nights equals $640.00, a hefty expense, especially given that Luke would be a third job for this woman. 
“We’ve found someone whose schedule is a bit more compatible with Luke’s. Thank you.” Leaving Luke at home just wasn’t going to work out. Little did I know, Luke was about to embark on his own brand of vacation. 

Bruno lets his guard down
Luke first met Bruno, a nine-year-old senior Golden who once knew Lincoln (first protagonist for this column) when he was about twelve weeks old. “Hey, you look like me only your face is white! Let’s wrestle!” Uncle Bruno, who preferred humans, hid in the bushes. This pup was certifiably crazy. 
Now that Luke was nearly full-grown and stronger, the gap in age had me concerned. Certainly, my pup had matured. But he was un-neutered and had sometimes shown aggressiveness toward male dogs. Bruno, a Senior Pet, deserved peace and respect.
“Mom, why is this mini-me on my turf and how long is he staying?” Bruno questioned the decision during their first day together. He was tolerant but kept his distance. “Our family is fine just the way it is. Aren’t I enough?” Oblivious, Luke grabbed a stuffed turkey and paraded around the kitchen. “Let’s get this party started!”
Exuberance aside, days passed, and Luke had begun to earn the trust of his elder golden pal. He gave him space. He respected his boundaries. He even helped him bark at a suspicious dog outside of the property. “Woo, woo, woo, woo!!” 
“That dog’s odor is off. I feel ya’ Bruno. Let’s bark at him together. Woo, woo, woo, woo!!”
The two Goldens, young and old, had begun to synchronize. They walked together. They slept side by side. They sipped water together. They searched for each other in the yard. “Where’d you go Luke?”  Bruno became protective of his young pal. They grabbed sticks together. They checked out the birdfeeder and played soccer with a basketball. Luke helped Bruno stay young. Bruno helped Luke stay wise. 
“This is how you stay cool, little fella.” A fluffy Bruno, older and wiser, rubbed his back in the one patch of snow in the backyard. Luke watched intently from a high platform on the deck. “You are so good at snow angels, Bruno.” The two Goldens bonded. They had numerous visitors amid shared rest times and playtimes. JoAnne felt her heart swell with joy, having experienced a double shot of Golden love. “I am crying just thinking about leaving Luke.” I sipped a rum cocktail on an Aruban lawn chair and counted my blessings. My friend loved my dog just as much as I do. I perused the pictures she sent. He looked so happy. Luke was not only safe. He was also loved. By the end of the week, Bruno even shared the Orvis king bed once owned by Lincoln. “You’re not so bad, Luke.” He even let Luke hog the middle.

The Cat
“There’s a live paw coming out of the crack beneath the door!” A mystery that was a black cat behind a closed bedroom door captivated Luke’s attention. She sensed Luke’s presence and teased him with affection. ‘Love me. Love me not. Love me. Love me not.” She extended a paw from beneath the door and pulled it back. As though playing a game of Wack-a-Mole, Luke tracked her paw and covered it with his own. “Who are you? What are you?”
DiTommaso daughter Angela, equally as supportive to Luke’s stay at the house, finally opened her bedroom door. Exposed, Luke’s intrigue came to life. “A whole other animal lives here!!”  Regina, the mysterious black cat, hunched over and stared spookily at Luke, who stared right back. They even touched noses. “It’s love at first sight!” The DiTommaso family reveled at a first date that carried on with the world’s longest staring contest.  “You have the pointy ears of a fox. But you’re not a fox. You have a small nose, but you’re too frigid to be a small dog. Why so still? Want to play Chase?” Luke adored Regina.
Joanne sent me a picture of Cat and Dog staring at one another. Not having grown with cats, I confess to a mild cat fear. My heart stirred. Cats are unpredictable. I imagined coming home to greet Luke, one eye sewn shut. “The cat scratched my eye out, Momma. But I had so much fun!” Regina and Luke, I later learned, respected each other’s differences just as he and Bruno did.
Our vacation to Aruba, one that marked our first time away from Luke, turned out to be a success in more ways than one. We were happy to be on vacation and, equally important, Luke was happy to be with his second family, the very wonderful DiTommaso’s. He was loved and he knew it. 

Find Luke Valentino on Instagram @ livingwithlukevalentino 

Write to Amy at [email protected]