He's just 75 pounds of pure love . . . HOME ALONE!
December 19, 2012 10:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm visiting my family for the holidays in Boston. My senior German Shepherd dog cannot come with me. How can I make sure that my house is not destroyed and neither my dog nor my roommate are traumatized by the experience?

The current plan is to have the usual dog walker come twice a day and take care of walking and feeding, and my roommate will be home and will hopefully play with and hang out with him. I have a cheat sheet with feeding instructions, emergency numbers, tips and tricks, and I will be checking in with the dog walker and/or my roommate every day.

And I am a fucking nervous wreck.

-My dog has a history of digestive problems, and I think we're pretty much out of the woods now, but I'm still worried that he will have a diarrhea attack when I'm out of town. I have the special sensitive stomach food the vet gave me and a week's worth of antibiotics if necessary, but I'm mostly crossing my fingers. His last shit-all-over-the-porch incident was last week, and I think the one before that was at the very end of October. Is there anything else I should do?

-My roommate last night offered to "take him to the dog park sometimes." How can I communicate to her that I don't trust her to take him out without saying that explicitly? My dog is kind of a pain in the ass, and my roommate is nice but a little clueless about some things. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I also want to make sure nothing bad happens.

-After a panic-induced emergency trip to the vet last night - he ate some tinfoil - my poor old dog peed on the floor. First time ever. Now I have something else to worry about. Is possible that he just had a weird accident, and I should forget about it?

-It's not that cold in LA, but he's old and used to sleeping inside. If my roommate forgets to bring him inside or isn't home, are temperatures in the forties going to hurt him? He has a dog house/crate with lots of blankets, but he doesn't go in there that much.

-I don't want to stress him out when I pack, so my current plan is to leave my suitcase lying around from now until I leave on Monday. Will he get used to the suitcase, or is this a stupid idea?

-He currently can't get on my bed. (Or rather, he can but is afraid to jump that high inside. That's fine by me). Should I get him some pet stairs? I kind of like the idea of not having to worry about coming home to a chewed up mattress, but I also feel guilty about leaving him and want to make his week without me as pleasant as possible.

I figure that whatever happens, he's better off at home with people he knows than kenneled at the vet's office. He's a sweet, mellow old boy, and he will probably sleep most of the week and handle all this better than I will. But still, Hivemind, what are the best practices for leaving a dog for a week?
posted by ablazingsaddle to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
Okay, I'll give it a go.

1. Digestive-- he'll probably be fine. I'm sure your instructions to the roommate say "if poop happens, feed him this and these pills with cheese." Obviously, make sure roommate has your vet info.
2. Dog Park-- just tell her he doesn't like the park and he was attacked by another dog who goes there all the time. Some easy lie will work here (it's not like the dog will say otherwise.)
3. Peeing on floor-- probably to be expected. Also, he's a dog, that'll happen sometimes.
4. Puppy It's Cold Outside-- Can you have the dog walker make sure he's inside after the 2nd walk? It depends on your walk schedule, but if the first is in the morning maybe the 2nd can be around 6/7 pm. That way you don't have to worry about Roommate.
5. Suitcase-- My mom used to do this with her older dog and it just made the dog more nervous because she knew what the suitcase meant (MOM IS LEAVING FOREVER). YMMV.
6. Stairs-- not a bad idea for the bed and may come in use later, as he is an older dog.

Your dog is (probably) going to be fine. He will probably be sad because he loves you and will miss you, but he'll be okay.
posted by Flamingo at 10:33 AM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

What a very handsome fella.

I am 100% with you on this. How long are you gone for? I'd warn the roommate that you're feeling separation anxiety and you may be texting to check in a few times a day. When I've traveled without my old-timer, friends have texted me photos and videos of how my dog's doing, and that's gone a long way to making me feel better.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:33 AM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

How can I communicate to her that I don't trust her to take him out without saying that explicitly?

I would say that the dog is not reliable around other animals and you appreciate the thought but if would be safer if he stayed home. Make it about him and not about her.

And sometimes old dogs have accidents. If this is really a serious issue, do you have a friend that lives nearby that will be home who loves you enough to come over and clean up if the dog has an accident? Perhaps the dog walker will be willing to handle it for an extra fee. Though I can't see your roommate just walking around the accident site in her own living area, that seems a little off.
posted by crankylex at 10:34 AM on December 19, 2012

he's better off at home with people he knows than kenneled at the vet's office.

You explicitly said that you don't trust your roommate to look after him. So he probably is better off kenneled, if not at the vet's office, than someplace else that is a nicer environment for your dog.
posted by deanc at 10:34 AM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

No. I would not leave him home. Board him at a boarding facility/dog spa rather than the vet.

This is good roommate practice, good old/large dog practice, and good sanity-saving practice. Use Yelp to find a place near you. A lot of those places will boast their daycare features, but I wouldn't prioritize that over comfortable indoor accommodations and the ability to go out either by himself or in very small age-and-size-appropriate groups.

This isn't your roommate's job. Let professionals care for him, and you'll probably get bonus webcam access to ease your mind.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:36 AM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

What a pretty puppy.

Your roommate is super-nice to be taking care of your dog. Go ahead and tell her that it's probably better that she not take him to the dog-park. Chances are she was offering to take him to make you feel better.

One thing you might do is have some little treats that you can have your roommate give him. A new toy, a chewie, whatever he might like. It gives him something fun to do, and let's him see that roommate is a pretty cool chick.

Call home for updates, and encourage your roommate to send you pictures.

You'll be fine. He may pine for you a bit, but you'll be back and he'll be happy to see you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:37 AM on December 19, 2012

Response by poster: You explicitly said that you don't trust your roommate to look after him. So he probably is better off kenneled, if not at the vet's office, than someplace else that is a nicer environment for your dog.

I don't trust my roommate to walk him or take him to the dog park, but she's good with him and he knows her and likes her. The dog walker is providing the lion's share of the care; she is providing companionship. He also knows and loves the dog walker. If I could afford fancy boarding, though, I'd do it. But I can't, so please don't tell me to put him in doggie dark care. I'd be looking at least $300/week, and I can't afford that. He also is not great with other dogs and doggie day care really stressed him out the last time he was there.

Sorry to threadsit, but I don't want this to turn into another MetaFilter-style "Stop being so poor!" thread. I found this dog on the street, I love and take very good care of him, and no one else wanted him. Constructive suggestions within my budget are great - admonishments to do something I can't afford are not helpful.

To be fair, I did not say in the OP that I'm pretty poor, but let's just accept that and move on. Think <$35,000/year in LA.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:41 AM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: One thing you might do is have some little treats that you can have your roommate give him. A new toy, a chewie, whatever he might like. It gives him something fun to do, and let's him see that roommate is a pretty cool chick.

That's a really good idea! Thank you! I've been approaching this with my roommate as sort of, "You know, if you're watching TV, just let him hang out on the couch," and anything that can help her deal with him that isn't inconvenient or unpleasant is great. And if she forgets to give him a new bone, it's not the end of the world.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:50 AM on December 19, 2012

Also, for the boarding, its probably too late for the OP to get a reservation for the holidays, especially at places that yelp would recommend.

re 3) If the vet isn't worried you don't need to worry. It was probably just a nerves thing since you were freaking.

re 4) He'd be fine for the temperatures, but he probably would want to come inside if he's used to it. I'm sure your roommate will be nervous about making sure it goes smoothly and would let him in, esp if he asks to be let in.
posted by Feantari at 10:51 AM on December 19, 2012

What a handsome - and lucky - boy! As a fellow fretful dog mom whose first dog could not be kenneled when she was older, I empathize with your concerns, and think you have taken care of all the important things at this point. I'd agree with the folks suggesting that you just tell your roommate that your dog is uneasy or unreliable at the dog park - hopefully she'll understand but your dog's safety should come first. Another possible suggestion is to have a can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) on hand in case any diarrhea happens, that stuff is magic ... and be sure to bring your roomie back a little thank-you present for keeping your dog company while you're gone.

Finally, consider leaving a nightshirt you've slept in or some other article of clothing that smells like you (and that you don't mind getting doggy) where your dog sleeps - maybe it's more psychological on my end, but I always felt like that helped my dog feel a little better when I was away.

He's going to be fine - just keep thinking about how happy he'll be to see you when you get back!
posted by DingoMutt at 11:00 AM on December 19, 2012

For any diarrhea incidents, you can preemptively get some meds from the vet. I can't remember what they're called off the top of my head but they're basically puppy Pepto.
posted by radioamy at 11:23 AM on December 19, 2012

As far as doggie coming in at night, you could just text/call your roomie to ask how he is doing and use that as an opportunity to ask if the dog is inside.

I would just make sure you have tons of paper towels, Nature's Miracle (or whatever you use) and some disposable gloves to make it as easy as possible for your room mate to clean up any accidents.

You could also do other things to ease care--like use sandwich baggies to pre-package each meal with the correct portion and any medications in the pill pockets or whatever all bundled together. This way, AM and PM, she just pours the baggie into the food bowl and all meds are in there too.

Pet stairs have been great for us, my dog has hip displasia and the vet said it was a good idea. I felt sort of stupid buying pet stairs but my dog is happier now, so I guess I'm happy too. Just make sure you buy ones that will work for a big dog. Mine are for a 20 lb dog and the steps are little.

If you ever do need to board in LA, I have had a very good experience with K9 loft. They have a webcam and handled my special needs dog very well for a week. As you said, it is pricey.

Your doggie will be fine! He survived life on the streets, he will survive a week with your roomie. :)
posted by dottiechang at 11:30 AM on December 19, 2012

You're absolutely right about roomie not taking him to the dog park. As you know, LA dog parks are a maze of snottiness and aggressive owners and nobody but the owner should take a 75 pound senior dog there. Tell her that explicitly, don't leave it to chance. Say straight up that half the people there are insane.

To me it's been cold these last few nights but I'm from here and we don't have seasons so yeah...he looks like he has a nice warm dog bed in the sleepytime photo. Ask roommate to keep him in as much as possible and bring her back a nice bottle of wine from vacation.

Sweet pup :)
posted by last night a dj saved my life at 11:31 AM on December 19, 2012

Do you know how your dog reacts when he hears your voice, but doesn't sense your presence (ie over the phone)? You might want to do a test run before you leave, but if he is soothed by your voice, a "good boy... now who's a good boy?" spoken over the phone might make you both feel better.
posted by oceano at 11:59 AM on December 19, 2012

I'm a nervous wreck whenever we leave for vacation and have to board our dog. She's young and healthy, but being a French bulldog, there are very specific things that we do to make sure that she's always in tip top condition (cleaning her after each potty break, cleaning her skin folds, slowing her down when she eats etc.), and I don't think a lot of people, apart from my partner, understand that 100%. So when we leave her at her fancy daycare/boarding place (which I have to say, does a good but not *great* job of taking care of her) or with other people, I print out a manual for her carers to refer to. It includes her meal times, her medications, vet information, grooming requirements, potential health issues like allergies etc.

This may be completely over the top, but it makes me feel better, and I hope it takes away some of the guesswork of watching our dog. I don't leave my dog in the care of people who have no experience whatsoever, but every dog is different, and our beloved puppy is a little more special needs. When I'm away but my partner is home to care for her, I leave Post-It reminders on doors, and when she was on a special diet, right next to the bed, which he's found very helpful. If you're worried that your roommate may forget to let your dog in at night, perhaps you could stick a reminder where she'll definitely see it in the evening?

Good luck! I totally understand how nerve-wracking this is, but your dog will be fine and you will be home to take care of him in just a week!
posted by peripathetic at 1:57 PM on December 19, 2012

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