Tessy’s Christmas Vacation

by John Delach

To refer to what happened to Tess, our newly adopted Yellow Lab, as a vacation is a stretch. Trial by fire, being hazed or being introduced to an alternate universe are more appropriate analogies to describe what she endured from December 24 to January 6.

Tess only had nineteen days to adjust to living with Mary Ann, Max and me before she experienced several versions of a three-ring circus – lots of chaos and confusion. Fortunately, we came to understand that Tessy is an amazing adaptable dog who quickly analyzes the new circumstances that confront her and adjusts her behavior accordingly. Tessy’s training as a seeing eye dog enables her to recognize and deal with problems and unusual developments.

We set off for Michael and Jodie’s family home in Fairfield, Connecticut on Christmas Eve afternoon for dinner and the opening of gifts on Christmas morning. I drive a 2014 GMC Arcadia loaded with our luggage and the gifts going to New Hampshire. We wanted Tess to ride with Max in my truck’s way-back but, previously, whenever I drove Ria to various destinations Ria would sit “shotgun,” and Tess would jump into the free space at her feet.

We trained Max to ride in the way-back forcing us to face a dilemma, would Tess join him? I tested her one evening, opened the hatch, held out a treat, patted the floor and asked her to jump in. Without hesitation, this ten-year old girl leapt into the Arcadia with an incredible spring in her rear legs.

The dogs had plenty of room as I had already delivered the gifts including their biggest items size wise; three light-weight rolling Samsonite suitcases for Drew, Matt and Samantha for their upcoming cruise.

Jodie’s parents, Tom and Dale are taking the immediate family on a Caribbean cruise to celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary. You may ask, why is this relevant to this story? Because we will be boarding their two dogs, Max’s sister, Ruby and their two-year-old, miniature Golden-doodle with the incongruous name, Jumbo for ten-days beginning December 27.

We knew chaos would prevail once we arrived. Any plans to restrain or impede Max from tearing loose once we opened the hatch were useless as our grandkids took it upon themselves to release him to join Ruby and Jumbo. Tess didn’t hesitate and joined the stampede.

Rock and Roll, we’re all dog people and little Jumbo, the only youngster, initiated play fights and got the party started. Ruby, Max and Tess all joined in and, at times, Tess led the crazy play.  Our girl fit right in. At one point that night, Matt, the consummate dog lover coxed Tess onto his lap and declared that she was his. I woke just after Jodie on Christmas morning allowing me to witness each arrival, dog and person; the perfect Christmas greeting!

Back in the Arcadia, we four headed north on wide open roads through Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont on the Merritt Parkway and I-91 – then into New Hampshire, destination, Little House in the town of Marlow.

The Brooklyn Briggs greeted us – our daughter, Beth, son-in-law, Tom and grandchildren, Marlowe and Cace. Tom’s brother, Michael and his two sisters Linda and Debbie also preceded us having driven up from just outside of Springfield, Mass.

Dog wise, Max and Tess had to meet and greet Sampson their young, lively but unpredictable boy.  They had rescued him from the streets, so nobody is certain of his breed, but he is most likely a Shih Tzu in whole or in part.

Once again, all went well demonstrating how adaptable Tess is. The dogs enjoyed the freedom of being in open the country without roaming or becoming lost. The retrievers get it and stay close to home. Once again, Tess understood the order of march and jumped right in. She took long walks and romped around our cleared property with the others as if she did this all her life. (Everything but swimming that will have to wait for next summer.)  

The last chapter of our NH stay involved Beth’s best friend, Rachelle and her husband to be, Paul. They arrived with two seven-month old sibling Portuguese Water Dogs, Allie and Denali, more like teenagers than pups, Denali’s male sex drive became apparent when he decided to take an interest in Tess. Our girl cut this behavior at the quick deciding enough was enough!

Silent all her life, she turned on this interloper with a sound that began as a rumble, progressed into her first bark ever! Case closed, he got her message.  

After NH, we had one last chapter remaining in this saga, return to Connecticut and bring Ruby and Jumbo back to Port Washington the next ten days, the duration of their trip and cruise. The ride down was “interesting.” Four dogs, lots of traffic but we managed to make it still in relatively good humor.  

Ten days – four dogs. OMG. Again, we all adjusted and survived although feeding, exercising and cleaning up forced us to admit we were operating a de facto kennel.

Finally, Sunday, January 6 arrived, and we returned Ruby and Jumbo to Fairfield while Tess and Max rested at home.

Dear reader, please don’t express the obvious. We did what we agreed to do, and we survived. Just don’t ask us to do it again any time soon.