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Published June 20 2010

Swift: Family visit no holiday for pooch

Everyone loves visiting Grandma.

Grandma doles out cookies and hugs. She thinks everything you do is wonderful.

Yes, everyone loves Grandma – with one exception.

That exception is Jake, the most neurotic dog in the world.

We don’t know what Jake’s beef is with Grandma’s house. He gets pampered whenever he goes there. He enjoys romps in the park and long walks through town. My parents make a big fuss over him. And Mom never forgets him when we’re doing dishes: “I have a bunch of bones left over from those steaks. Do you think Jake would like these?”

Are you kidding? Does Justin Bieber like swooshy hair?

But Jake turns into a whiny, high-maintenance wreck the minute we get there. He morphs from a calm, borderline-lazy Eeyore to a hypercaffeinated Tigger.

Maybe it’s because he has faint memories of my parents’ old dog, A.J., a scrappy and domineering terrier. Perhaps it’s that snootful of porcupine quills he collected during one of those trips to my hometown’s park. It could even be the neighbor’s cranky basset hound he rumbled with as a pup.

Whatever the case, he turns into a basket case.

He unveils a litany of baffling, embarrassing behaviors. I find myself apologizing like the parent of a particularly ill-mannered child:

“I’m sorry he ate that flower arrangement, Mom. I’m sorry he scooted across your light-gray, professionally steam-cleaned rug. I’m sorry he won’t stop whining. I’m sorry he keeps barking at that ceramic hedgehog. It must remind him of the neighbor’s dog. He never does these things at home. Really.”

In moments of desperation, I’ll find myself hissing at him: “Why can’t you be like your sister?”

Kita, you see, is a dream traveler. Although mischievous at home, she turns into a highly trained police dog at Mom’s.

She perches on my lap like a little statue. She doesn’t yap or bark. She sometimes curls up on Mom’s lap.

“She sure is a good little traveler,” my Mom will coo. “I sure don’t mind when she visits.”

And then, as if suddenly remembering her grandparently diplomacy, she’ll turn to Jake. “Oh, you’re a good dog, too, Jake. You’re just, um, nervous.”

In fact, Jake can only tolerate a stay at my parents’ house by spending most of it in our car. During one holiday break, he spent several eight-hour days in the backseat of the Taurus, leaving his sacred rolling kennel just long enough to go to the bathroom and eat a turkey leg.

In his dog-like mind, he had it all figured out: “I am in the human-conveyance device. They go everywhere in the human-conveyance device. So as long as I stay in the human conveyance device, they cannot leave without me.”

The only flaw in his brilliant plan is when we catch a ride in someone else’s car. There’s nothing quite like the look in Jake’s eyes as he peers at us from the Taurus while we back out beside it in another vehicle.

Doggone it. Foiled again.

Stupid Grandma’s house.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525 or tswift@forumcomm.com