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  • Becky

What I Learned on my Summer Vacation: Part 2

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

With both of us unemployed (for awhile), and with COVID-19 infection rates climbing across much of the United States, a 2020 summer escape seemed like a luxury of the past.

Still, thanks to a birthday gift from my son, Sam, and his partner, Eva, a getaway became reality last weekend after we booked a tiny apartment in Northampton, MA. On Friday afternoon, we piled luggage, cooking supplies, pet food, and three dogs in the car for our ninety-minute drive to the other side of Massachusetts. We hadn't traveled since last fall, and it seemed impossibly exotic to actually GO SOMEWHERE, even just for 48 hours.

Stanley, our brand-new JRT rescue, jumped in the back seat alongside Hank and wagged his tail. Hank wagged back. Annie, the smaller JRT, sat on John's lap. I put the car in gear and we were on the road with three dogs (!), looking forward to the adventure ahead. We knew it wouldn't be a "normal" vacation (we didn't expect to actually go to a restaurant), but we were excited to discover this funky, legendary college community in the Pioneer Valley.

About ten minutes before arriving at our destination, the dogs stirred and looked out the window. They know: when the car slows at traffic lights, the end is near. We were inching down a busy highway in Hadley, MA, with big box stores and strip malls on either side of us, the traffic oddly heavy. And then it happened. "John, do you smell something... not right?"

He did. I took a quick peek in the back and Hank, our 80 pound lab/hound mix had, as they say, shit the bed. Hank is one of the few dogs I've owned that -- I swear -- would explode before giving in to an accident.

He exploded.

I pulled over into a parking lot with a plot of grass between the asphalt and the highway. The dogs, panicked by our frenzy and, perhaps, the stench, fought to escape the car. Hank, dragging his poop-encrusted tether, jumped into the front seat. John, bless him, grabbed all three dogs' leashes as he exited the car. Bits of Hank covered the upholstery, John's shoes, shorts, and assorted body parts.

Imagine an 80 pound baby's diaper after too much applesauce. You get the picture.

Oh, and it was 90 degrees.

But wait! The plot thickens! Like most dogs, Hank and Annie hate fireworks. HATE THEM. They'll shake and pant and look for another planet where they don't have to endure the aural torture. Once we exited the car, what did we hear? Loud boom/pops of some kind erupting at regular intervals on the other side of the parking lot.

The town's motto? "Welcome to Hadley! Your dog will hate us!"

So - in review - we have gunshots, 90 degree temps, three filthy leashes, distraught dogs, and a boyfriend standing outside a car, its interior covered in poop. A true shitshow.

I jumped into cleaning mode because I am a mom and have some experience with explosive events. The only cleaning supply with us was a package of Windex Wipes. They'd have to do. So while John tried to calm three, wild-eyed, poop-covered dogs, I attacked the car. I used the wipes to haul pieces of Hank's intestinal distress into the parking lot, dumping them beside me. One wipe turned into ten, and that's when I noticed a pickup truck pulled up next to John. The driver rolled the window down. Meanwhile, I'm a machine. Fifteen or twenty stinky wipes got tossed on both sides of the car, its hatch and doors flung wide open.

That's when I heard John tell the guy, "our dog had an accident and we're cleaning it up."

Someone stopped to help! How GREAT! Maybe they'll bring us a bottle of water and some paper towels, right? Maybe they'll hold a leash and help calm one of the dogs? I smile in his direction, my faith in humanity buoyed by this fantasy of kind strangers. As if. This guy accused us of turning the area into a "Dog Shitting Park" (his words) and asked us, huffily, "You gonna clean up that mess?" The redneck, big bellied, baby-daddy wagged his Skoal-stained finger, spat on the ground, and adjusted his MAGA hat (okay, I exaggerate). He parked his truck nearby. Was he watching us, two environment-minded hippie-types who he feared might leave TRASH in a parking lot? Are you effing kidding? He certainly felt no empathy for John, who was desperately trying to keep three dogs from bounding down the highway, or me, a woman busily scooping piles of poop out of her car.

The rest of the weekend had peaceful moments. The Airbnb apartment sat on the edge of town, right next to the bike path entrance and near the center of Northampton. The five of us settled into our weekend home, where we were welcomed by a dog-friendly owner who kept bags by the door (for the dogs) and treats in the cabinet (for us). The tree-covered trails stretched for miles, and the town offered a wide array of hippie fun. We walked and ate ice cream. Our 48-hour escape ended sooner than we would have liked.

We headed home this morning. Hank and Stanley snoozed in the back seat and Annie rested on John's lap. The three slept comfortably as the window wipers flip-flipped all the way home. The ride back seemed somehow much shorter -- and we commented on how uneventful our trip home had been. Yay.

And as we rounded the corner into the neighborhood, I turned to John and said, "do you smell something... not right?'

Stanley, the puppy, threw up.

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