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Monday, June 14, 2010

Canine Challenges

Mid-June is a really lovely season to be in France--fiery poppies fill the fields; the cherry trees droop with the weight of their fruit; the weekly markets groan beneath the volume of so much fresh produce, not to mention myriad cheeses, breads and meats; and sailboats dot the lakes everywhere you look.

Just over two weeks ago, Tilly and I set off for Lake Annecy in the French Alps, along with her brother, Finlay, and my friend Innis. Here we’ve spent two weeks in Veyrier-du-lac in a lakeside house taking care of two other Coton du Tulear dogs, Sky and Chip, for whom I’ve housesat before.

The excitement began before we’d even left, when we realized to our dismay that Tilly appeared to be entering her first season, her first heat cycle. Not only is Finlay, her brother, not yet neutered but neither is Chip, the other male dog we’d be living with for 16 days. Not to mention that our dogs have the backseat to themselves during these long drives!

The vet shook her head ruefully. No, there was nothing to do but keep them separated or risk Tilly, who’s too young to get safely pregnant anyway, getting ‘caught’ by one of them. And since Finlay is her brother, the genetic complications only make things riskier. The vet assured us, were it to happen, that if my sweet, innocent Tilly turns out to be Tilly the Tramp in disguise, it would be soon enough when we return that we could give her the canine equivalent of the morning-after abortion pill, a series of two injections, each 24 hours apart, with, she assured us, no side effects. Despite my misgivings, we set the appointment for the day after we would return.

Two rather stressful weeks have passed with Tilly donned in little black elastic sanitary pants. Chip has hounded her every possible chance, with us shooing him away constantly, and Tilly showed no interest in rejecting his amorous advances—that is, until the one brief moment our vigilance wavered and he caught her under the table, hidden beneath the tablecloth. Tilly shrieked and squealed like a piglet as we shot up out of our chairs and raced to attempt a rescue. Alas, too late. Any hesitation Innis and I have had about neutering our dogs and giving Tilly the shots vanished in that moment.

We’ve spent an exhausting few days now trying to isolate them, each of us taking a pair of dogs and walking in opposite directions because Chip’s been single-minded in his pursuit of his Juliet. But things are quieting down now, just in time for the next leg of our road trip, a leisurely two-day jaunt into Italy, where we’ll spend five days with new friends (former housesit clients) relaxing and exploring. I suspect that, although at this writing they’re completely without bath and toilet facilities due to a renovation project, that will prove far less vexing than frantic, barking, randy dogs. Time will tell.

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