If you have not guessed from the fact that we have a Labrador Retriever named Tinkerbell, my husband and I are Disney fanatics. In fact over the last seven or so years we have become full on Disney people and take every chance that we can get to go to Orlando.
We are the type of people who show up before rope drop and stay until the Kiss Goodnight, easily putting 20,000 steps on our Fitbits. We are the people who salivate for Dole Whip and Mickey pretzels when we are not there, who buy annual passes even though we live in the Chicago area because we know how to get enough trips to make it worthwhile, who whip out the Mickey waffle maker on holiday mornings and whip up all of our favorite Food & Wine recipes all year long. We are the adults who watch Disney movies even when the kids are not home and have Disney ring tones. In addition to our Tinkerbell we have a rescued cat named Nala. Jackson was born before the Disney addiction really kicked in or else he would probably be named Captain Jack instead of Jax.
Of course, no matter how much I love Disney World and spending time with my human family, going away from my dogs for any amount of time, let alone a week or longer, is difficult for me. We have a definite separation anxiety issue in this house, and it is hands down in me rather than the dogs.
The dogs don’t care one bit when we go away, perhaps because for several years we have been lucky enough to have a friend who will live in our house while we are away, sleeping here and spending her free time here when she is not at work. We pay her about the same as we would the kennel but the dogs get to stay at home and have minimal crate time, about the same as when I worked my corporate job. They love her and get very excited when she stops by when she isn’t staying with us and she sends me photos of them snuggling with her when we are away.
Because of our dog sitter and the fact that they get to stay at home, neither dog gets upset when the suitcases come out or when they see us putting things into them. Their greeting when we return from a trip is about the same as if we are gone for a full day; they are ecstatic for about five minutes and then go about their business as usual. They eat fine, stick to their potty schedule, and generally don’t seem to miss us.
I, on the other hand, need the human equivalent of a thunder shirt. I prepare better than if I was on Wife Swap before we leave, with every bit of information that our sitter could ever need relating to the house and the dogs.
When it is time to leave, I abandon the “do not hug and overly smother the dogs” rule of dog/human etiquette and cannot get enough hugs and puppy kisses before we leave. “Momma loves you very much” I tell them, “We will be back very soon. Be good dogs, I love you. Did I tell you I love you? Be good! Mommy loves you! I love you dogs,” is about how my pre-trip goodbyes go while my husband is waiting outside patiently. I swear Jax is thinking, “Just give me my cookie and go on your vacation.” I know that he heard the words “Kennel up” and stopped understanding me after that, although I do work on teaching them the word “love” by saying it often when petting them gently or laying quietly with them.
During our week at Disney there is very little canine contact since all of the dogs at the park are either security dogs or assistance dogs, unless you count Pluto or Dug. I am not embarrassed to report that even in my mid-forties I have stood in line to meet Dug, my all time favorite Disney dog. After seven days without my own dogs I have to use every bit of willpower to not ask to pet the dogs working the security line at the airport on our way home, so a human in a big dog costume will have to suffice and fill my need to pet a dog.
Then there is the Tinker Bell merchandise that draws me in. You cannot resist a collection of Tinker Bell t-shirts and coffee mugs when you have your very own Tinkerbell waiting at home, can you?
Of course no matter how much I miss our dogs while we are on vacation I still have fun once I check in a few times the first day or so with our dog sitter. I have gotten much better and no longer check in daily or look at my ADT app to make sure all is well at the house. Eventually I relax and I always marvel at least once a trip at how odd it is to be away for more than 6 or so hours without worrying about getting home for the dogs. On days when we aren’t opening the parks I sleep much later than the standard 6 a.m. wake up call that Jackson and Tinkerbell give me each day when we are home and I enjoy every bit of it.
Of course dogs can stay at the Fort Wilderness campgrounds but we have yet to fulfill my husband’s dreams of buying a camper and I would be obsessed with worrying that the air conditioner was working and keeping them cool and safe if we were at the parks and they were in a camper. I dream of a Dogs of Disney resort, themed out with all of our favorite dogs from Disney movies with a doggie daycare option for park goers and a list of fun human/dog activities like making Mickey shaped dog biscuits and taking swims in a Mickey shaped doggie pool.
Until we can sell the Disney corporation on that idea, though, my two loves of Disney and dogs will remain separate and I will tear myself away from my sweet babies a few weeks out of each year to do human things. Besides, I need all of those Tinker Bell coffee mugs for the 6 a.m. doggie wake up calls throughout the rest of the year!