HOUSE SITTING: THE DOG THAT ESCAPED ON OUR WATCH
The house sitting location was perfect – just five minutes away from Papamoa Beach on the North Island of New Zealand. There were two dogs, a young black labrador named Prince and a small Shiatsu named Maggie. The owner’s husband was away working in the mines of Australia and mom was working and looking after three Kiwi kids. Our bedroom was very clean and comfortable and the rest of the house was typical of a regular home. When we arrived the kids were putting their toys and personally belonged away while mom was doing the last-minute cleaning. All this was fine with us and we really respected a hardworking mom with very polite kids.
Our first introduction to Prince gave us a wake up call. Prince was highly strung who liked to jump up on everyone. He was extremely loving and affectionate – too loving for his size and weight. The owner apologized and stated that she had tried several times to get him into obedience school, but there was dance lessons and sports tournaments after school.
“Don’t let him drag you on the leash, he is really strong!” Within minutes a van pulled up and the entire family piled into it. We were graciously given the family car. We were happy for this family going on a cruise and the dad joining them in Australia.
We brought our cases into our bedroom and shut the door. There was whining from Prince outside and then a running sound. We partially opened the door and there was Prince bounding off the arm chairs and couch with a toy in his mouth. “He’ll settle down,” Trish told me and I so wanted to believe her. He didn’t settle down – he had a quick rest (me holding him on the couch by the collar) and then letting him go. The little dog just watched. I think that if she could have spoken it would have been to apologize.
We decided that if we need a tea or coffee, we would place Prince and Molly outside. We looked over the notes that said ‘Prince has a habit of escaping, but he just goes around the block and comes home.” We made sure that the front gate was locked.
Prince Needs to Be exercised
Prince seemed to notice that being in the garden was not a very family gesture on our part.
He sat quietly by the outside glass door and didn’t budge. We cooked our first meal.
“He is settling down,” Trish made this pronouncement and against I wanted to believe her.
I suggested that we take both dogs for a walk on the beach. What a mistake! Both of us took turns at having our arms yanked off. There was no way we were going to let a dog off the leash that ran away. I thanked Trish for her initial thought of bringing the car – just in case…….
Both dogs were put in the car. Tomorrow, we would solve the problem. Tonight, we would open a bottle of wine.
The Long Easter Weekend
It was Good Friday and we thought we had a solution to the hyper-non-trained Prince. There was an enclosed doggie park. People would be there and Prince could run and run. We hoped that with treats in our pockets we would rein him in. The car was parked would be parked right outside the gate. The morning was spent with both of us taking objects that Prince was chewing – a kid’s shoe, laundry items, etc. I went out to check the garden gate and we decided we would eat lunch before taking Prince to the park. It was midday and the sun was hot. However, the gate offered shaded places and the dogs were running around and seeming to enjoy themselves. Prince would give the odd bark as there was a large park directly opposite the house and kids were constantly playing ball. After a while one of us stated that we had not heard Prince in a while nor saw his bouncing figure with various garden items in his mouth.
I went to investigate. To my horror the front gate was open. Did Prince open it himself? Did a naughty kid open it? I looked for Molly and saw her asleep under the table with an umbrella.
We put her inside – not knowing how long the search would be.
Lost Dog – Lost Dog!
I looked at Trish with her car keys in hand. “I’ll drive one way, you walk the other way.”
As she got in the car I called out, “The owner said that he constantly escapes. He’ll come home.” I had a foreboding feeling that he would not. I walked the block that he normally did before he returned home. Trish did a larger circle that included the large green park. We asked dog owners for the whereabouts of Prince.
Trish got home before me. Neither of us had seen Prince. I was hot and sweaty so it was decided that we would drive further afield and stop and ask people. “Have you seen a black lab whose intention is to run the width and breath of New Zealand?” Everyone we met was kind and sympathetic. We tried to reassure ourselves that Prince did this runaway thing and always came home. We drove to the house and left the gate open for Prince. He was not there, but Molly was welcoming us home.
After about a couple of hours, we did another long search. People were kind but no one had caught a glimpse of Prince.
Calling the Humane Society
Trish phoned the Humane Society. It was now late on Good Friday night and it was dark. (We were in the Fall/Autumn season). Trish gave me a thumps up sign only to hear her say, “Can you check that the dog is really a female as it matches the description and the place where it was picked up?”
More conversation. Trish beams and laughs. “We will be right around to pick him up.”
I was smiling, but Trish soon lost her smile. “Not until Tuesday. Yes, I know it is a long weekend. Can anyone release him to us?” Trish put down the phone. He cannot be let out until Tuesday. At first we were shocked.
We Feel Guilty – Then a Sigh of Relief.
Prince may have been a hyper-active terror, but NO dog deserved to be caged for four nights and three days. We were genuinely sad. Then, we convinced ourselves that it was NOT our fault. Then we rationalized, the gate should have had more bars and locks for a dog that escaped. It wasn’t our fault – some kind individual had found a lost dog and taken it to the Humane Society. It was not our fault that Prince got lost on a long weekend when we could not have dropped around and picked him up.
We started to feel less guilty. Then, we thought – “Wow, fewer worries for us.” Trish had even asked if we could visit, but the woman at the shelter thought it was not a good idea. Their volunteer staff could make him feel loved.
Picking Up Pesky Prince
We waited a few days before we emailed the owners. This would give everyone a chance to relax and not worry about Prince. Like us, there was nothing the family could do – Prince was safe and fed. We would pay the charge for his room and board.
The family emailed back – “No worries and apologizes for not having had that dog trained. They hoped our holiday had not been ruined. They were having a wonderful cruise. They would reimburse us with cash. They would be home in two days time. There was another unexpected bill. Prince was not registered and we had to pay that bill. We emailed again with the new bill and they would have extra cash for us.
Prince was Back to His Bouncing Around Self
We took him twice to the doggie park and he ran and ran and was very friendly to all the dogs.
This made Trish and I very happy. He made one particular friend, with a poodle named Mitzy.
It was Mitzy’s owner that was able to bring Prince back to us. She called Mitzy and yelled out “Treats.” Mitzy came with Prince and we offered treats as well. We arranged to met Mitzy and her owner at the same time on the following day.
In all fairness to Prince, he had not been trained. The owner upon returned promised that he would go to obedience school. I hope he did. He was a lovely dog with great energy. He had oodles of love for everyone. We now ask more questions when people state that they have a young dog.