I didn't get much writing done last week. This was partly because I spent the week at Amy's family's lake house in Michigan. But I think another reason is I didn't have my muse with me. Chester spent the week in doggy daycare.
People in the bay area are notoriously crazy about their animals, and this fervor is reflected in the amenities at Planet Pooch. There are no cages at Planet Pooch, just 40,000 square feet of climate-controlled indoor and outdoor playspace, equipped with webcams so you can watch your dog from anywhere. There's a pool, and a salon -- yes, a salon -- is opening soon. The dogs are segregated into play areas based on their size and personality. Chester was placed in the "Central Bark" area, which houses "dogs with puppy personalities and with a few grownups to chaperone." There's even a quiet lounge for the elderly dogs. I toured the old dogs' lounge, and I wanted to live there. It features several luxurious couches, a fireplace, and a large flat screen TV. I found out later that the TV is fake, which is somehow even weirder.
There was an assemblage of other dogs up at the lake house, and spending time with other dogs makes you miss your own. I found myself saying things like, Chester's head is not this big and blocky; Chester doesn't get this much slobber on his tennis balls; Chester is such a better swimmer than these dogs. I imagine this is what it's like when people with kids spend time with other people's kids (little Jimmy would never do that, Awh, don't you just miss him to death?).
When it was finally time to pick Chester up from daycare, Amy and I could barely contain our excitement -- and our anxiety. Would he still remember us? Would he be mad at us? He's such a sensitive little soul, did the other dogs take advantage of him? The owner of Planet Pooch, clearly used to this type of hysteria, met us at the door with some well-worn disclaimers: He's going to look skinnier -- they always look skinnier. He's going to sleep for a week when he gets home. That's normal. Again, that's completely normal. No, he was fine all week. No, he didn't seem depressed. I'm sure he's not mad at you. Dogs don't have the same sense of time as humans; he doesn't know how long you were gone. And so on.
Chester was excited to see us, but he was clearly exhausted. He barely moved for the first two days. It makes sense when you think about it. For a dog who spends most of his time alone in the safety of our apartment, going to a week of daycare must be like a person going through a week straight of job interviews -- where some of the interviewers want to kill you, and all of them want to pee on your stuff. I'd sleep for a week, too.
The daycare owner's disclaimers didn't allay our concerns. Every few minutes, Amy would look at Chester and ask me something like, He looks like he's in pain -- do you think they beat him? He has so many more gray whiskers -- do you think he has post-traumatic stress disorder? Look at all the water he's drinking -- do you think the other dogs wouldn't let him drink all week?
Three days later, Chester seems nearly back to his old self. Still, next time I think he'll fly with us.