Still a puppy—Luke goes on his first vacation
Luke, “the cutest puppy ever,” settles in at the Green Mountain Suites in Vermont for his first vacation, and spends time with mom in Burlington, shopping.
By AMY LECLAIRE
Luke’s first vacation was everything expected—and then some. He sniffed out the plan on a morning that stated the obvious. Luggage piled up in the kitchen. His parents moved with a distinct haste. Something wasn’t adding up. “Is my family leaving me?”
A month prior, my husband had considered just that. “Why don’t we find someone to watch Luke? We’ll be able to do more. We deserve a vacation.”
We would have. We did. Yet there wasn’t a destination out there comparable to the look on my pup’s face when we shared the news. “We’re going to Vermont and Luke can come, too!” He grabbed his stuffed avocado to share in the joy that would be his first vacation. “Seriously? You’re bringing me?” He wiggled around the kitchen, his six month old frame resembling a small dog or a stocky puppy, depending on one’s perspective. “Hold on. I just have to go pee-pee!” His disposition favored the latter. He dashed to the back yard and returned to the garage in record speed.
Of all the dogs I’ve owned, Luke has been my easiest travel companion. This trip proved no exception. He sat regally in his travel crate with his head lifted out of a “sun roof” created by unzipping the top (nylon) section. Now tall enough to look out the car windows, he appeared a dog dressed in a jack-in-the-box costume. Then he curled up and went to sleep.
The Green Mountain Suite Hotel of South Burlington, Vermont sat tucked away in a parking lot surrounded by gladiolas and plush shrubbery. “We’re here!” As dogs do, Luke sensed our arrival before I stated it. Still, he awakened with a slowness that has led to one of many nicknames.
“Lazy Luke – we’re here. Let’s go check out the hotel.” I unzipped the door of his bed while he retracted so that I couldn’t quite reach him, a habit reminding me the day we picked him out of a litter of three males. “That’s him.” I knew Luke before I actually knew him. He was the bashful pup in the back of the hatchback, buried in the warmth of his brother.
After a moment of pause, I managed to coax Lazy Luke from the car before — nose to ground — he obssessed on new scents in the parking lot. The hotel’s front entrance boasted a set of secure (and massive) doors. “Who opened that door???” Spooked by the doors’ automation, Luke put on his puppy brakes. “This place is possessed!” Making matters worse, a staff worker maneuvered an enormous, screeching dolly on wheels into the same area. “Something is definitely wrong with this place!”
The incident reminded me of a Scooby Doo episode, wherein I played Shaggy and my frightened pup was about to jump up into my arms. His legs wobbled like a camel’s while I led him to a comfortable living room section, and my husband tackled check-in details. I pet my pup’s head and spoke to him with the reassurance of a caring Dog Momma. “This is such a nice place, Luke.” I cupped his frightened face in my hands and couldn’t believe what I saw. My pup’s entire head shivered as though he were seated in a freezer. “Oh, Luke. I promise it’s going to be okay.” Worse, his teeth chattered. “Poor thing. He’s unsure. Still a puppy.” A sweet elderly couple offered condolence.
We made our way up the elevator (another possessed door?) and Luke loosened up upon sight of a suite he couldn’t help but fall in love with. “A sofa! And pillows! And beds!” He raced from room to room. “There’s even a toilet here!” Room 225 was making sense. “Let’s play!” He grabbed his avocado and thrashed about the room. We relaxed, unpacked and enjoyed a night out on the town. Little did we know, Luke’s skepticism would return.
“Woo, woo, woo, woo, woo!!” My husband and I snapped awake. The digital clock read 12:30 a.m. when Luke learned something new. Hotels are full of people who make creaky noises on the other side of the walls. “Luke, you have to go to sleep.” We were so grateful for the Green Mountain’s Suite’s acceptance of our pup. We wanted to respect the privacy of other sleepers.
We hauled his bed, a plush dog mattress, to the foot of our bed. “Come sleep with us, Luke.” Satisfied, he slept soundly through the night and even waited for us to get up before we all had breakfast at the hotel’s outdoor courtyard.
“Can I pet your puppy?”
The question had a domino effect all week long. Luke greeted family after family. He posed for picture after picture, and accepted compliment after compliment with the grace of a movie star. “That is the cutest puppy I’ve ever seen!” Outdoor restaurants became a venue for his social circle. Servers brought him bowls of water “Does he want some ice to go with that?” Burlington, VT was as delightful as it was dog friendly. Shoppers put their bags down to kneel beside our puppy on vacation. “I love his crimped hair!” Hikers stopped hiking. “Luke Valentino has his own Instagram page?” Luke became the talk of a town that wined and dined him. The vacation was a score, yet as Luke was about to remind us, it wasn’t home.
We had gone for a stroll one morning, and approached the sidewalk of the front hotel lot when Luke stopped in his tracks. “What’s the matter, Luke?” Then I saw what he saw, and watched what he watched. Doors slammed. Parents unloaded bags. Children bickered. A new family had just arrived at the hotel and their van seemed suspiciously open to cute puppies. “I knew I shouldn’t have dug up the grass on Daddy’s lawn!” Luke did the math. “I can’t look at them. Please don’t leave me with that family.” He pulled me to the shelter of a shrub while I pondered his worry. On the day we took him from the breeder, we had also been in a parking lot. He was almost eight weeks when we had carried him in a basket from the trunk of our breeder’s vehicle to our own backseat. He sat up during the car ride, but was uncertain of his new family (us) and home at first. “Where are you bringing me? Where are my brothers? Whoa. The outdoors is so big.” He dashed straight for the comfort of his dog crate when we brought him inside our home.
Fast-forward six months. Luke has developed an obvious trust for us and now adores his home. He loves to sit out on the front steps, curl up to sleep beneath the kitchen table, and engage us in a game of “chase” across the kitchen floor, where he finally takes a flying leap over the step-down and into the family room.
Had Luke, as he studied this family unloading their van, subconsciously recalled the day he was taken from his puppy brothers? The vehicle sights and sounds were similar. Or do all dogs, like pups from a 101 Dalmation’s film, carry an innate fear of being taken away in a van by the Cruella Deville’s of the world?
I kneeled by my pup’s side. We’ve known each other for only six months, yet it seemed as though we’ve been connected for centuries. He snuck glances over to the family; then stared back up at me. “I just want to stay with you.” He licked my full mouth and chin. I wish I could pick him up and flatten him to my chest the way I used to, but he’s too big. Instead, I massage the soft fur behind his ears. “You’re stuck with me, Luke Valentino.”
Our ride home was smooth, though it felt long. After a fun-filled vacation, we all just wanted to be home. When we finally pulled into the driveway, one thought crossed my mind.
The grass is greener where you dig it.
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