Monday, September 22, 2014

Puppy dog tales and falling by the wayside ~ Leah St. James

Recently my writing life has taken a definite fall to the wayside.

My son has been house/dog-sitting for the past few weeks at a friend's home at the Chesapeake Bay. I should clarify. Her home is ON THE BEACH. For a transplanted Jersey (Shore) girl, the word "beach" is a homing beacon. I'm at peace at the beach. I can think at the beach. More, I can breathe at the beach, and that salt air smells so good.

So when my friend said it would be okay for me to stop by and enjoy her beach house while she was gone, I said, "Okay, thanks!" Inside I was already planning long walks while watching gulls soar lazily overhead, maybe a weekend afternoon snooze in her back (beach) yard lounger. (Sigh.) Maybe I could even take the dog, an adorable 18-month-old collie, for a walk now and then. (Dogs and beach walks -- perfect together!)

For the first week or so, I indulged my beach need with evening walks with the dog, about a mile altogether up and down the beach road, with a few pit stops. Then I'd drive home, shower off the salt air and doggy slobber, and sit down to an evening of TV with the hubby, leaving the dog to my son's care. How lucky was I?

Then my son got called out of town unexpectedly, a must-do trip. But what do to with the house/puppy-sitting?  I, in full self-sacrificing mother mode, said, "I'll get the okay to work from home and spend the night and next day there."

Little did I know how different an evening walk would be from full-time puppy care.

Wednesday evening, my son passed over the keys and took off for parts south. I kissed hubby goodbye and headed to the beach, weighed down with a quick overnight bag and all the stuff I would need to work from the beach house for the day.

That night was fine. Puppy was sufficiently exercised from the day's activities and went to sleep without a peep. The only thing keeping me awake was the steady shooshing of the waves (one of my favorite sounds) and the blinking of a lighthouse, somewhere far out in the bay. (Yes, my friend's bedroom overlooks the beach. Double sigh.)

I woke rested and alert, ready to face my DAY WITH THE PUPPY. I fed her, took her out for a long morning walk--probably a mile and a half--picked up after her when she did her business and headed back home. Then we played fetch and tug-of-war for about 30 minutes, until she tired of the game, found a comfy spot and sat down to gnaw on one of her rawhide/puppy-approved dog bones.

Rolled up tug toy. I tossed, she fetched, we tugged...
then did it all over again.

The day went on like that--playing, resting, playing, resting, with me working in the rest periods. My friend had wisely installed baby gates, so the dog was confined to the living room/office area where I was working. Still, I remembered my sons' toddler phases enough to know to keep an ear tuned for noise, or lack of.

It was a sudden quiet moment that alerted me to trouble. I had gone into the kitchen for a quick snack (hiding is easier than eating in front of her) and climbed over the baby gate to the site of something white and shredded strewn around the living room.

Slobbery toilet paper...woo-hoo!
Then she pranced into view, a huge wad of white in her mouth. At first I thought it was the stuffing of one of her toys (she likes thrashing them around quite a bit). But no. It was toilet paper. I had committed the cardinal sin of leaving the bathroom door open, probably hours earlier.

I suspect she knew it and was just waiting me out. Because in a few short minutes she had that living room decorated like Mischief Night.

What followed was a 15- or 20-minute game where she did her best to rip the entire roll into pieces while I chased and did my best to pick them up. In the end, she stood there grinning around the soggy, chewed remnants of the tube in her mouth. Somehow I managed to extricate it before she could fully ingest it. Then it was time for a walk.

When my son relieved me around 9 that night, I don't think he could have paid me to stay.

Don't get me wrong. She's a loving, fun dog and wonderful companion. But good grief, the amount of energy packed inside that one critter who is less than half my arm and leg muscles are still aching!

When I woke Friday morning, I realized that not only had I not checked my own email during that 24-hour period, not only had I not worked on any of my writing projects, but I'd been too exhausted from puppy-sitting to even think about it! Not a single thought. I was shocked. How could I not even think about my beloved characters and their troubles?!

Obviously the puppy pushed them out of my head.

I've always been a little envious of today's authors who can share cute parts of their everyday lives--whether it's stories about young children or grandchildren, or adorable puppies or kitten. Now I wonder if I'd be writing about them anyway! I think I'd be too exhausted!

Happy writing and reading to all. And to all of you who care every day for young children or least you don't need a gym membership? :-)

In her normal life, Leah works full-time in a busy newsroom, and in her spare time writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the redeeming power of love. Please visit her on, friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or check out her writing storyboards on Pinterest.


Alicia Dean said...

Oh my gosh, I can imagine how exhausted you must have been. I'm with you, I can't imagine chasing after young children and trying to write at the same time. My focus and energy just would not be there. The setting sounds fabulous for some peace and writing time, though. I bet it's beautiful!

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I have a picture of my grandson at the toddler age, doing the same thing to a roll of toilet paper. Toddlers and dogs tend to wear you out. I love both, but don't want one on a permanent basis. Great, descriptive post.

Jannine Gallant said...

Too funny, Leah. Well, you might not have found it funny at the time! Make your next trip to the beach be more peaceful!

Diane Burton said...

Leah, you sound like Hubs & me after baby-sitting our grandkiddies. LOL What an adventure! But the view had to be worth it.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Perfect example of pro versus con. Love your line about how the puppy - was waiting you out. One question. Did she take a long nap after that game? ;-)

Barbara Edwards said...

How familiar this sounds. We adopted a dog and he is very insistent that we play anytime he wants-which is always.
Aren't they great?

Leah St. James said...

Hi, everyone! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your similar stories. My apologies for my absence! (Yes, it has taken me THIS LONG to recuperate.)

To answer Margo's question, yes, she did take a long nap, right next to me where I worked at the desk. I said, "I can't believe I've finally tired you out!" Ahhhhhh.