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NEUROTICA: The Story of a Dog and her Sitter

Sometimes in life we are dealt hands over which we have no control. The hand that I was dealt - was being the daughter of Spanish parents.  In my family the word guilt was used in every other sentence.  Even the slightest implication of guilt would send all of us into nosedives of endless proportions.


A fourteen year old black and white cocker spaniel.  The product of countless generations of inbreeding. 


Gracie is my mom’s dog.  Mom, who is seventy five years old, has now decided to take trip after trip with the excuse that, “I DON’T HAVE MUCH LONGER TO LIVE.”  Riiggghhhhttt.  Now. I used to let mom take Gracie to the kennel, but with each time I felt guiltier and guiltier.  Particularly when my life was made up of, “Remember when you were seven and lit matches in the sewer and were teaching the neighbor boy to say sh**?” and, ”Remember when you were seventeen and didn’t come home until two in the morning?

Eventually, albeit reluctantly, I began offering to take Gracie for mom and keep her while she was gone.  Now, just as women forget the pain and agony of childbirth and keep on having more babies, I had forgotten what Gracie was like.  Again. kob generisk viagra kobe generisk levitra

Labor Day weekend.  Mom going to Miami.  “I’ll take Gracie for you”, I foolishly say thinking I could move up on the guilt meter a few notches.  I don’t even ask my husband if it’s ok as I’m sure he won’t mind.  “Oh Rob, were taking Gracie this weekend.” I state casually. “But its Geckofest!” he yelps.  Too late.  The dirty deed had been done.  I knew at that point that Rob was not going to be involved in the care and watering of Gracie for three days.  It was all going to be me.

Now, of course, it was not a situation of mom bringing her down to us in Gulfport.  Too far to drive from Clearwater Beach.  So we went up and got her.  Being a cocker spaniel, Gracie has all the ailments and multiple infections they are famous for.  So I got the eye drops, (eye infection), “MMM EYE GOO ON THE RUGS” I think. And of course, the prednisone, half a pill every other day crushed and disguised in a spoonful of peanut butter, ( Gracie is famous for delicately removing a pill from anything you might wrap it in and leaving it on the floor).  I usually step on the slimy thing.  That’s how I find it.

“Now here’s the dry food”, (special formula, no beef, no chicken, no potato, just rack of lamb with asparagus spears in a delicate hollandaise sauce that can only be gotten at Hill’sFeed.  This is about the 100th specialty food this dog has been fed over the years, and, “Here’s the wet food.  She likes to eat at 4:00PM on the dot.” Then mom hands me one of those little rectangular gourmet dog cans that run about $5.00 for two ounces.

“What’s this for?” I ask.

Mom looks at me with disgust and says,”She’s OLD Theresa.  She needs a treat. Give her one teaspoonful only, understand? Only, One, Daily.  Oh and don’t forget the doggie treats.”

“Thank God!” I think. “Milk bones, just milk bones this time.”  I remember the days of slaving over a hot oven making homemade treats for Gracie that she just couldn’t do without.

“Anything else?” I ask.

“Just her pee-pee pads and her leash and her bowls and don’t forget,  two baths with the special soap.  Rub it in and leave it on for at least ten minutes.”  I was packed and ready to go.

A twenty pound bag of stuff and Gracie.  I kissed my mom goodbye and the nightmare began.

We arrived at our house.


As usual she made a beeline for the cat food, which I invariably forget to put up, and hogs it all down.  She dispatched the cat with a growl and a quick snip. Kitty went flying out of the house.  She then rubbed her eye goo vigorously on the carpet,  bit at her paws until tufts of hair flew out, did a couple of turns, promptly vomited, and then settled down in the hallway between the kitchen and the rest of the apartment (we spent the next four days gingerly stepping over her).

“That’s it!” I vowed.  Never never again am I taking this dog  I don’t care what the circumstances, what guilt trip is laid on me or how much my mother whines,  Never again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gracie and I spent the next four days in a power trip of gargantuan proportions.  When I tried to feed her, she refused t eat.  When I was cooking, she would follow me hypnotically around the kitchen waiting for a crumb to fall until I would step on her.  Needless to say any bump, any nudge, any close encounter would elicit a scream from her as if she were being stabbed.  Is it possible for a dog to have fibromyalgia? I’m sure if it was ever diagnosed in animals, Gracie would be the test dog.

One of the problems I have had with mom in the past, and was certain it was a cause of Gracie’s neurotics, was the fact that my mom was always having screaming conversations with her.  I repeatedly asked  why she screamed so much at her and even considered it a source of dog abuse. I always just thought the screaming was residual behavior from when my grandmother was alive.  The woman was deaf. A conversation with her was always a screaming match.  I should have known.

Cooking dinner.


Here I am innocently chopping onion for dinner. Suddenly I’m aware that I’m being stared down.

I look around and there she is panting, panting and licking her chops as if I had a filet laid out in front of me.  I chose to do the ignoring behavior as I do with my students at school.  Normally quite an effective tool.  Not with Gracie.  Within a few minutes she brought out the whine and eventually the howl as if she is being starved to death.  I let her smell my fingertips so she understands that its onions. What’s the deal?

“She can’t fool me” Gracie is thinking, “time to howl!”  and boy did she let loose!

I finally reach the end of my rope and scream, “What do you want from me Gracie?  Why are you doing this to me?  For chrissake, what do you want?”  “It’s ONION!!!!” 

“Here, take a piece!”  “Find out for yourself!!”

I throw a piece of onion at her.  She sniffs and turns away in disgust.

Ding, ding, ding!  What’s happening???? My chest is hurting. Uh-oh “That’s it!  I’m my mom !!! I have turned into my mom!”

This dog is turning me into my mom?  How could she possibly be so clever?!!  How could she manipulate me like that?  I’m smarter than her. Aren’t I?

Night time……………….no kennel for Gracie anymore………….she just howls and pants all night anyway.  I put out two pads as last night she missed the pad and peed all over the carpet.

Quiet night. What’s that smell?  I stumble out to the kitchen and see that Gracie has had a bout of diarrhea.  Smells like the dickens but at least she hit the pads.

There are several quarter sized drops of doggie poo in a little row on the pads. Gracie is what is referred to as a poop-walker. Poop, walk, poop, walk, poop walk.   I step over to pick them up and “squish”.  Right between the toes. Gross! Yuk! I gag.  Gracie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I’m out on the back porch at 4:15 in the morning washing her poo off my foot.

Day three.  Three days of in and out and in and out.  You see, Gracie gets a reward every time she pees or poops.  Consequently every time I open the door, she’s out. A little dribble here, a little dribble there, etc. and, boom…………….a doggie treat.

Gracie!!!!!!!!!!!!  Stop going in and out! No more treats. Understand? No more treats.


All quiet and tranquil in the house. Suddenly I’m startled. No sound, no panting, no doggie gas, no chewing, no scratching.

Danger!  Sirens start going off in my head.  Only one reason ever for Gracie to be that quiet.

Garbage Can !!!!

I rush into the kitchen and there she is.  Ever so quiet, surreptitious, sneakily, and delicately dissecting the garbage and spreading it out on the floor in a five diameter circle.

“Gracie!” I scream.  Nothing.  Not a flinch, not a twitch. Grubbing at the garbage as if I weren’t there.

“Gracie!” I scream again.  She finally turns around and looks at me with this dull eyed stare as if to say, “What? I’m busy.”

She doesn’t budge until I walk up to her and give her a nudge in the Butt with my toe.  She howls and goes running as if I had shot her.  Nuff said………….you know what follows. Clean up time.

Day four and I realize that I had shirked my duty as a dog-sitter and a daughter. I hadn’t bathed Gracie.
Now have I mentioned that Gracie has a chronic skin condition with warts that grow all over, dry up, and then fall off? Yummy.

I choke down a swallow and in surrender, start the bath. Aside from having these warts all over her body, Gracie has grown a huge one right in the middle of her forehead. I’ve suggested, to my mother’s horror Compound W.  “NO!” Or just giving me a shot at cutting the darn thing off.   But my mother wouldn’t have it.

So I begin scrubbing her vigorously. Really working the soap in, feeding her doggie treats every thirty seconds to keep her still, (Gracie has never liked a bath), when I turn her to face me and, holy crapoly!!  Gracie has blood running down the center of her forehead!!  Mixed in with the soap!

Oops, I guess I was too enthusiastic with my scrubbing and scrubbed the giant wart right off.  There it was on the ground at my feet.  “Uh-oh, I’m in trouble!”  I groan to myself while preparing to up-chuck. “Pressure, put pressure on it!”  I frantically say to myself.

Which I did.   And after all was said and done, she actually looked better.  I don’t want to mention how Ilooked after that scare!!!!!!!!

Last day.  Mom should be home at some point.

“Rob” I say. “I don’t care what time mom gets home.  We are taking that dog home to her tonight.  I don’t care if she doesn’t get home until midnight.  Not one more day!  I have had it! I’ve used up my quota of xanax!!  Remember last time we kept her for three more days waiting for mom to come and get her?”

Rob just grunts quietly.  He looks like a victim of PTSD.

I call mom.  “What time are you coming home?” I ask firmly.

“Oh I don’t know.  We are really tired and haven’t stopped by the Cuban bakery yet.”

“OK” I say while grinding my teeth to nubs. 

Rob and I wait the day out and five hours later I call mom again.

“Where are you?” I ask with conviction.

“In Sarasota. We had to get something to eat.  It’s late.  Maybe we could get her tomorrow.”

“Just call be when you get to the Ulmerton exit and we will meet you at your place.” I say desperately.

Oh I don’t know.  Maybe we really should wait until tomorrow.”Says mom vaguely.

“CALL ME WHEN YOU GET TO ULMERTON OK???????????” I’m shrieking by then.

“Oh alright Tere.  What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing mom”, I say wearily.  “Just call me OK?”

An hour and a half later we get the call.

I spring into action!  “Rob! Get the car going she’s outta here!!”

We rapidly pack her in and get going.

Forty five minutes later, we perform the hand off.

“How was she?” mom asks.

“Just fine mom, just fine.” “No problem at all.”


Rob and I do a jig in the parking lot and head back to Gulfport grinning from ear to ear.

Several months go by and Thanksgiving is quickly approaching.  I begin to have fleeting thoughts in my mind……..and quickly remind myself of my vow.

Ring- Ring

“Oh hi mom”

“Tere, I need to ask you a favor but its ok to say no, really.”

A small hand of fear begins to clutch at my heart.  My breath comes out in a harsh whoosh.

“Yes mom?”

“Well, your sister and I are going to Tallahassee for a week and were wondering if you could watch Gracie for us.  I’ll pay you”

Suddenly the room grows dark, my heart rate skyrockets. I hear a loud scream in my head


Memories flood back into my brain. The time I lit matches in the sewer, the time I was teaching Ronnie Therina bad words, the time I poked a hole in the air mattress camping , the time I flicked ice cream on my father’s forehead at dinner with a spoon, (a direct hit by the way!), the time I got caught skipping school two days in a row, the time I got suspended for two weeks for smoking in the school bathroom, my three divorces, all the money spent bailing me out of financial trouble and on and on.

A pregnant pause

“Wh- What did you say mom?”

“Gracie Tere, can you watch Gracie for me?”

“It’s only for a week.”

“Say no say no say no, say no!”………My planned mantra
A stranger’s voice comes out of my mouth.

A very  small voice says, “When do you want me to pick her up mom?”



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