Yesterday was the final weekday of an extended time at home for 3+ weeks. I was home to assist my wife as needed following her second knee replacement surgery in two months. As she gradually was able to do more and more on her own, I decided to take my final vacation day and do something I’d never done before – have a Daddy-Doggie Date Day.
Lots of parents make the very smart move of having special one-on-one outings with their children. In fact, my son, Jason, wrote about it last year in a two-part series on his blog at OrdinaryParent.com. As you might suspect, my boys have long since flown the coop, so the closest thing I have to a live-in child is my dog, Callie – a three-year-old Lab/Border Collie mix with whom I am extremely close.
So I thought it might be fun to forego my usual routines for the day, work less than I otherwise would, spend less time online, and devote as many waking moments to Callie as she seemed interested in (which was a lot). I want to share with you what we did and what some of the lessons learned were for the day, especially since they apply to human relationships and not just pets.
First, how did we spend the day? I started the night before by sleeping on the couch in my man cave so Callie could sleep with me. We don’t allow her on our bed and she really likes waking me up by climbing on my chest, putting a paw on either side of my head, and licking my face until I get up. She even softly strokes my cheek with her paw which cracks me up. All of that is only allowed if I’m on the couch, so that’s how the day started.
After the obligatory trip outside to do her business, I fed her and then we headed back outside to play with the Frisbee. She’s fast and excellent at catching it, and it’s a good prelude to taking a walk with her because it wears her out a little bit so that she seems calmer on the walks. After a 1.3 mile walk, my wife, Linda, needed to do a little shopping, so Callie and I took her to the store. We came back and played more outside and inside, throwing balls, playing with her tug toys, having her chase other things I’d throw, and generally having fun.
It was necessary for me to be on one conference call for work yesterday, so I took an hour to do that and clear out some emails before resuming the focus on Callie. She napped while I took my work interlude.
The temperature was going to get hot as the day wore on and Callie does not handle heat well at all, so we only did one more 2.6 mile walk late in the morning. By the end of that, I already had 10,000 steps in for the day according to my pedometer and it wasn’t even noon.
I made her entertain herself while I ate lunch, then we played some more and I gave her a good brushing and bath before taking a nice, long nap together in the afternoon on the couch. Since we were almost out of dog food, we then took a trip to the pet supply shop, roamed around to see the other critters and let her enjoy the sights and smells, purchasing the food and a couple of new, tough, ball toys.
Before coming home, I thought no Daddy-Doggie Date Day would be complete without a trip to McDonald’s, so we went through the drive-thru, purchased a large order of fries, and then shared them on the drive home (pictured above). This is a periodic occurrence for us, so she knows what to expect when we hit a drive-thru. I’d hand one French fry over to her in the back seat and then eat 2-3 myself, repeating until they were gone. When she starts paying for them, we’ll change the ratio to be in her favor.
Once home, she was obsessed with the new balls and we’ve played a lot with them since then. Some rain and storms kept us inside the remainder of the day, but no less active, rotating among the many toys and chasing her around the basement in another daily tradition.
Eventually, she gave out in the evening and we called it day. I still slept on the couch again last night so she had the full 24-hour attention I intended to give her. She rewarded me again this morning with a wake-up licking long before i would have preferred to arise on a Saturday morning.
As I ponder Daddy-Doggie day, I can think of several lessons learned, most of which apply to other relationships as well:
- I know when I’m focused on spending time with someone and when I’m not. Because it was predetermined that the day would be given to Callie, I did not see her constant requests for attention as a nuisance or a hindrance stopping me from getting other things done. Spending time with her was the whole point of the day. How many times do we see the expected requests of those under own own roof or with whom we work as a bother rather than a significant reason for why we are there?
- Unless you carve out time to spend with others, you probably won’t. Callie and I spend some time with each other every day. I know we have a good relationship. Still, never in nearly three years of having her have I devoted a day to her like yesterday. It was, frankly, the most enjoyable day I’ve had in these recent weeks at home. I suspect it was for her as well.
- Most people prefer the gift of your time over material gifts. Callie would’ve been just as happy to be with me if I didn’t buy the new toys for her because she had me all day. Beware of those who seem more interested in your presents than your presence.
- Unless you plan something different, it’s easy to fall into the same old routines. Even before yesterday, I had thoroughly enjoyed my weeks at home. I still worked about half-time, but that was my choice. I like my “staycations” at home as much as I like traveling elsewhere for a more elaborate vacation. It was important, though, to change up the routine for at least one day – ditching the normal daily goals and task list items – just to have fun. I need more of that.
- Relationships with pets can be very special, indeed. I’ve had pets, especially dogs, all my life. I can say, though, that I have never had a relationship with a dog like I do with Callie. We just somehow “get” each other and thoroughly enjoy being together. I started reading this week the book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home because of the bond I have with Callie. It’s nice reading about other stories of inexplicable bonds between some pets and their owners.
So that’s the report on my first ever Daddy-Doggie Date Day. I’m sure it won’t be my last – it was a very good day. The bonus at the end of it all is the list of lessons learned, some of which serve as good reminders for other key relationships.