“I swear I did not do this on purpose,” I tell my husband, Raymond. “It just happened.”

“Nothing just happens,” Raymond responds. “You planned it.”

“No, I did not.” I reply in my razor sharp voice that is more manly than feminine. Potential anger rising, I add, “The numbers grew organically, and I had no control over it.”

With a smirk on his face, my husband replies, “You know better, you always have choice. How could you possibly book five dogs overnight?”

Bently snuggling next to Blenda as she sleeps.

Bentley snuggling in next to Blenda for some pillow-talk

“Don’t worry,” I remember that “attack-back” tactics are known to escalate the situation. Purposely, I back off from what feels like rising self-imposed anger, and try to reassure my husband. “It will all work out!”

“How did you plan this?” Raymond demands. “This is insane! You have five dogs staying overnight in our tiny house—all at the same time. You are breaking our rules, stretching our limits!”

“Listen carefully, Raymond. This is how it happened,” I explain. “A couple of months ago Sheryl and Jay said they were attending the Bob Segar concert being held in Vancouver, BC, Canada. They wanted to book an overnight for their two Shih Tzu dogs, Bandit and Bentley. Next, Keith came along saying that he and friends had booked tickets for the same concert, and asked if I would dog-sit his Shih Tzu Poodle named Scamper for two nights.” I simply could not refuse our dear friend, Keith. I love Scamper and whatever Keith asks, we always try to be there for him. He is such a nice man, and besides Scamper loves both of us.

“That should have been all the dogs you accepted,” Raymond says. “Even three dogs at one time for an overnight stay is stretching our limit.”

“I couldn’t help it. Todd and Joy who are new to our dog-sitting wanted us to take care of Bauer, their male Shih Tzu Poodle, for eighteen days. I couldn’t refuse them, and ask them to please find another dog sitter for the one day. That would have sounded crazy,” I continue to explain to Raymond with as much authority as I can muster up.

Bauer observing the action from the safety of his bed.

Bauer observing the action from the safety of his bed.

A bad habit of mine is that often when Raymond is on my case, I defensively put myself in the defendant’s position. I act like I am on some imaginary witness stand. I rile myself up to an emotional crescendo believing I must defend my decisions/my actions, or suffer dire consequences.

“Okay,” reluctantly Raymond relies softening his stand. “I guess I can understand that one. I know your tender heart, and that you can’t refuse such a long stay.”

“As for Salty, the regal female Poodle,” I quicken my speech as I am on a positive roll, “I could not find it in my heart to refuse her.”

“There most certainly is,” Raymond glares back at me with piercing eyes. “I told you that dog is a liability. Her owner, Rhonda, said that she could easily jump our four foot fence in the back yard. Did you take care of that threat? What if her dog, Salty, jumps? Did you ask the owner to fill out a disclaimer? How do you intend to stop the dog? Salty is a walking, rather jumping, disaster just waiting for the right opportunity to happen.”

“Raymond”, I retort, “Salty’s owner has signed a disclaimer stating that she releases responsibility as long as I give my word of honor that I will do my best to watch her dog, Salty, while she is in the back yard.”

Salty, the Royal Princess, says, "How can anyone resist me?"

Salty, the Royal Princess, says, “How can anyone resist me?”

“That is not good enough. What if her precious dog jumps and gets hit by a car, or maybe something worse?” Raymond seemingly attacks my actions.

Shielding myself from my well-intentioned husband’s fear, I take a deep breath to calm myself and reply, “Rhonda’s and my mutual agreement plus our signing of this agreement is good enough for me. It is a done deal. Besides, Rhonda comes highly recommended by two dog owners who have already used our service. There is no way that I am going to call Rhonda and tell her, ‘No, we cannot take Salty now.’ Salty dog is absolutely regal. Raymond, you will love Salty.”

Believing Raymond could find no escape from my decision, I offer him a bone, “Raymond, I will sleep on our pull-out couch in the living room with the dogs. You can hide out in the bedroom, and be on call in case there is an emergency.”

“That suits me fine,” Raymond exclaims. “I expect you to keep the hounds quiet!”

Raymond’s grin that quivers at both sides of his mouth shows me that he believes there is no way I can succeed.

I think to myself, “At least the matter is closed.” I trust from past experience that Raymond’s heart is bigger than his loud bark. “After all,” I reflect, “I did start calling Raymond by his pet name, Daddy-Dog, many years ago—and for good reason.”

Days later, and the action begins. The first canine fur-ball to arrive is Bauer. Bauer, I have learned, is one of those rare loving dogs who semi-stands-up for himself. Some inner quality of Bauer makes him irresistible to me; however, a possible target for abuse by other more aggressive Alpha dogs.

The next dog to arrive is Salty. Princess Poodle Salty who looks so sweet and regal is the Canine Princess to prove my suspicions are correct. As soon as her mom leaves her, and Salty knows her owner will be on vacation for a-while, Salty decides to take her rightful position as Alpha Princess. Not aware of Salty’s intention, and attempting to befriend Salty who is bigger and he is, Bauer comes up behind Salty and starts sniffing her fanny.

Bauer is soon to learn his lesson. Salty turns around sharply and with a deep guttural growl tells Bauer, “My fanny is off limits. Get it straight, Mr. Little Canine. I am leader of the pack. You are under my command. You will do what I ask of you!”

I warn Salty to stop, knowing darn well that what I say doesn’t make a bean of difference. Salty whispers loudly to me, “Look, Mrs. Sweet Dog-Sitter, I experience you can decipher what I am up to, so for your sake I will take it easy on this poor wretched mutt of a dog. I will, however, in no uncertain terms let Bauer know that I am boss. This is the way it must be—no exceptions.”

“Okay,” clairvoyantly I respond to Salty. “I understand. Just remember, I will be watching you. Maintaining a safe haven for each and every dog comes first in our dog house. Remember you are the guest and my husband and I are the masters. Comply and you will create for yourself a marvelous Canine Slumber Party. Disobey and you will suffer the combined wrath of me and my husband. You will quickly discover that the bark of my husband is anything but pleasant.”

Not only is Princess Salty pretty, but she is smart.

Not only is Princess Salty pretty, but she is smart.

Salty moves to the side, then slowly inches her way over to me. She positions herself so her pretty Poodle head is beneath my hand. This smart, conniving Poodle is offering me the opportunity to pet her. I accepted Salty’s offer. It seems my pet-on-Salty’s-head constitutes our mutual agreement.

“I am Scamper. I have a great Dad”, and I have special rights at my dog-sitter’s home.

"I am Scamper.  I have a great Dad", and I have special rights at my dog-sitter's home.The next dog to arrive is Scamper. He is a twelve year old male. Scamper’s disposition is a near mirror image of Bauer’s. Scamper is a heck of a friend, a great dog, and for reason’s unknown to the visible eye is often picked upon by other dogs. Knowing this, Raymond and I are on high alert when a new dog is introduced to Scamper. Coming to visit us for dog sitting every Wednesday for approximately a year, Scamper believes he has earned special privileges with us. Despite his priority rights, when Salty meets Scamper, Salty quickly comes over to Scamper and starts growling. I believe their actions are part of the one-upmanship canine discussions, so stand back ready to interfere only if required. To show her superiority, because Salty is taller than Scamper, Salty stands tall and straight taking her royal stance. In full command, Salty gazes intently into Scamper’s eyes. Interesting, Salty’s gaze is intense, but not fierce—kind of like the Royal Princess rising up and asserting her position.   Scamper meets Salty’s gaze. They speak to one another through their eyes. Scamper eventually gazes away thus standing down. When Salty’s command is accepted, Scamper demonstrates his agreement and moves a safe distance away from Salty. This peace offering satisfies Salty’s request to be the Princess Alpha dog. Without a big fuss, Salty has gained her position with a royal dignity befitting a princess. For the moment, at least, all is well.

The last two dogs to arrive on the scene are Bentley and Bandit… four and a half year old male and female Shih Tzus.   Salty is on her good behavior when the owners, Sheryl and Jay, are here at our home saying their good-byes. Shortly after the front door shuts, Salty figures it is opportune time to assert her dominant position. Once again Salty begins growling, this time at both of the new dogs. Although far smaller in stature than Salty, Bandit is fearless and does not appreciate being growled at. This small little fur-ball grits her teeth, growls back at Salty, and stands her ground.

When Bandit decides she should not be messed with, she lets the entity (whether it be person or dog), know she is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Salty gets the message loud and clear. The Royal Princess Poodle backs off showing Bandit she will not bother her…at least, not for the moment.

With all dogs accounted for, I decide to help out the canine bonding by taking a w-a-l-k together. Raymond kindly offers to join us. My husband takes Scamper, Bauer and Salty on one set of leashes, while I take Bentley and Bandit on the other set. Raymond is a power-walker and walks more like a professional dog-walker than I do. Needless to say, Raymond quickly and proudly parades past me with his three dogs in-tow. It is easy to see Raymond is in charge.

Me, on the other hand, I let my dogs sniff at the bushes and when the path is narrow I encourage them to move in front of me so they can pull me along. The truth be known, often the dogs are yanking me around. Raymond laughs at me about the yanking. Thank goodness I have big shoulders and have gotten used to it. This is simply the way I walk the dogs.

I do admit, however, that Cesar Millan would be horrified by my manner of walking dogs. Luckily he is not around to observe my willing subservience. As you the reader might guess, Raymond reaches the end of our path, turns around, and is well on his way home before I and the two little Shih Tzus come to the end of the path.

Funny, even if we aren’t walking right next to one another, the fact that the dogs are all out together creates canine bonding.

Upon our return, the dogs behave well. Of course, the truth be known, they start off their return by near-professional begging for their treats…gifts from heaven. When the dogs return back from their w-a-l-k, it is their tradition to race into the kitchen and stand by what they have come to know is their Snack Bar—the magical place where their treats are stored. I am totally at their mercy. With their cute antics; whatever they expect, they get. With this group strangely and perhaps beyond co-incidence, they are all either with Poodle or Shih Tzu as part of their breed. Perhaps this makes me fortunate because these five dogs willingly choose to eat the same treats. Some dogs require special treats like carrots or little liver nuggets. Actually, the favorite treat of this bunch is Beggin Strips that look like bacon strips and smell similar. Scamper’s dad, Keith, has been generous in bringing us a full bag of them.

Scamper, Bauer and Bentley are first in line for their treats at the Doggie Snack Bar.

Scamper, Bauer and Bentley are first in line for their treats at the Doggie Snack Bar.

When the treats are finished, I start the calming-down process. I do this by walking over to where I keep my CD’s, and I put on my soft meditative music. Next, I combine the enchanting music with quieting my own self. When this procedure is complete and I know that I am at peace, like magic I see the peace spreading out to each of the dogs and enveloping them in a golden halo of sweet drowsiness. Before I know it, all canines are tucked away in a favorite napping spot either in the living room or kitchen. Blenda’s Dog-House is quiet—so quiet a pin can be heard dropping to the floor.

When nap time is finished, I decide to encourage the dogs to play outside. All five dogs scramble outside. To my surprise, at first they do not play together. After a while, however, Salty gets bored and lures Bandit to start chasing her. That works for ten to fifteen minutes. In particular wanting Salty to receive more exercise, I start throwing a stick for her. Fully aware of her actions, Salty returns the stick to me only when she feels like it. Salty is reading my motives and thinking, “This dog-sitter is keeping a strong watchful eye out for me.”

Salty is right. I am thinking, “No way will I tolerate Salty jumping the fence on my watch.”

A short time afterwards all the dogs decide to come back inside. Just as I start preparing their dinner, Bauer goes to the back door so I will let him out. Not thinking, I also let Salty outside. Three minutes later I realize that Salty is out back without me watching her. I race out back. Salty is not in the back yard. Frightened, I call her name hoping upon hope that Salty will come back. No such luck. Within the space of thirty seconds all sorts of fears haunt me: “What if Salty runs in front of a car and gets hurt? “What if she runs away and I can’t find her? What if she feels cornered and bites another dog or human? What if Salty loses her way and gets lost? “

Weird, rather than suffer any more fearful thoughts or having to chase around the neighborhood searching desperately for a runaway white poodle, I change my mind and decide to think proactively. I choose to see Salty returning. Now as I gaze at the back fence, my proactive thoughts instantly are rewarded. Evidently Salty has heard me screaming her name and has returned. She stands patiently waiting for me at the gate entrance to the back yard. I spot her. Boy, am I ever happy to see Salty. I race down the back stairs, run over to the gate, and let Salty inside.

So happy to see her, I have no intention of scolding Salty. “After all,” I rationalize, “Salty has obediently and willfully returned to me. Instead of scolding her, I will reward this canine princess with a Beggin Strip treasure from Heaven.”

Next comes dinner. Each dog has their own private spot for feeding. I make sure that I am on high alert. If dogs will get into a scrap, I believe that at least 50% of the time it is over food and is dangerous. Dogs can become viciously possessive over food. This is why I guard their privacy. The first dog I feed outside, the second in our bedroom, the third in the bathroom, the fourth in the kitchen and the fifth in the living-room. Bauer who I have fed in the bathroom, I almost forget. His scratching and barking ultimately let me know he wants out right now!!!

After dinner, we watch a movie together on our flat screen TV screen. This keeps the dogs

The dogs love to snuggle next to Blenda, and she is a real suck for their affection.

The dogs love to snuggle next to Blenda, and she is a real suck for their affection.

entertained. At one point all the dogs have climbed up on the couch and are seeking attention. There is a dog at my left side, two at my right side, one above my head resting her head on my shoulder, and the last fur-ball, Bentley, circling round waiting for the right opportunity to snuggle-in. Unable to find an opening, smart dog Bentley purposefully gets down, walks over to Raymond’s big Captain’s chair, and jumps on Raymond’s lap. From her new perch, Bentley looks over at me as if to say, “”How silly those other dogs are. I have all the attention I want and from those warm healing hands and heart of Sir Raymond.”

Except for occasional jelly-poo growls cleverly mixed in with canine breaths, the dogs share far better than I imagined they would—and certainly better than I imagine human beings would share.   So far, GOOD!

I wonder “What will bedtime bring?”

The dogs let us know when it is bed-time. Bentley and Bandit have their own cage, their private boudoir, where they hang out for the night. I notice their eyes are getting glassy, and it seems the red band circling around Bandit’s eyes is growing a deeper red hue. After pacing the floors for ten minutes, Bandit and Bentley begin inching their way toward their cage. Their clear signal tells Raymond and me to start our bedtime preparations.

Raymond helps me set up our pull-out couch in the living room. With layer after layer of cushions and then foam, it is finally fit for sleeping. As per his promise, Raymond kisses me good night as he says with a chuckle, “I’ll be behind tightly closed doors in our bedroom. Only disturb me if there is an emergency. Oh! And keep those dogs quiet so I can sleep.”

Raymond is real funny. He laughs, “A house full of dogs. We have certainly gone to the dogs. WOW!   Blenda’s Dog House!!!”

With Raymond achieving the last laugh and gone bye-bye for the night, I do my final preparations. I hide the noisy living room clock in the linen closet, set a glass of water on the floor near the bed, hide a flash light under the pillow next to mine on the bed, place my watch on the coffee table an arm’s reach away from the bed, close the curtains tightly, and put on my sleepy-time meditation music. Finally I turn all lights out, and climb into bed. Bauer is first and quick to jump up on the bed. Surprised that Raymond is not there and being an opportunist, Bauer seizes the opportunity to lie down on the pillow next to mine. Next Scamper jumps up on the bed and positions himself at my side. Patiently I wait for Salty to jump on the bed. I wait and wait. Salty does not join us. I ponder why. Being a Canine Slumber Party, I visualize how nice it would be to have the three dogs sleeping on the bed with me.

I decide to formally invite Salty, “Come up on the bed and join us.” Empowering my words, I visualize Salty getting off of her soft doggie bed and jumping up on my bed.

NO RESPONSE! Finally I conclude that the reason is not me – that the reason is because Salty has been trained to stay off the bed. If my assessment is correct, Salty is doing an amazing job of complying with exactly what she has been trained to do. In fairness to Salty, I stop pestering her and choose to “let sleeping dogs lie.”

I sleep soundly until about 2pm when I am awakened by the five dogs snoring like a trained canine chorus. Bentley and Bandit snore loudly. Then as they start to soften their snores, the other three dogs simultaneously begin snoring. I listen for a long while in awe of how precise their up and down crescendos are. Finally, I decide I have to go to the bathroom.   I climb out of bed, grab my flashlight, and start walking softly toward my destination. I try not to awaken the snoring dogs. No such luck with Bauer—Appendage Bauer follows closely behind me budging his way into the bathroom with me. From their cage’s position, Bentley and Bandit can see the light coming from the bathroom. They move stirring around in their cage. Via my thoughts, I tell them it is okay to stay put, and it is simply me going potty.

Although it is 12:15pm when all the lights go out, that makes no difference to Bentley and Bandit regarding their wake-up routine. Despite the fact that their Dad retired nearly a year ago, they still automatically wake up at approximately 6:30am. The sound of these two canine munchkins rummaging around in their cage at 6:30am is unmistakeable. I know that I will not be able to get back to sleep. I decide to get up early. Still tired, I choose to count my blessings that I was awakened only once during the night. Then, as if to protest my blessing, a big truck is heard chugging our country road. Simultaneously all five dogs join together in symphony bellowing out a chorus of royal barks. Their chorus manages to penetrate Raymond’s male cave, and stir the bones of Sir Raymond.

Raymond sits in my office chair as I fold up the bed.  He is greeted by Bentley who has plenty to say to Raymond as shown in the following pictures:

As per normal, I start putting the dogs (all the dogs except Salty) outside for their morning pee. Bentley and Bandit do not feel like going. I chase Bandit around the house until she gets the message and heads for the back door. Bentley, well I physically pick him up escorting him out the back door. Next I put on my rubber shoes, my red parka with a hood on it, leash up Salty, and with my big black flashlight in hand step outside and climb down the eighteen stairs to safe ground. I descend slowly and Salty is right by my side also going slowly. Salty understands and accepts my motives. She knows I cannot allow her the freedom to jump over the fence—especially with it pitch dark outside.

The big reward of this outing for me is that I see the moon still up in the sky—a distinct large full ball of yellow illumination. I’ve lived in this house for four years and never once have seen the moon shining in the morning.   It is awesome!!!

The morning outing over, I line up all five dog dishes on the kitchen counter. As Raymond watches the proceedings, he marvels at how I know which dog gets what special food. Raymond is so All the dog dishes are neatly lined up with each dog having his/her special meal.intrigued that he takes some pictures of it that I have included. Raymond again helps me to make sure each dog has its own private canine breakfast nook. Salty is a big sneak so I separate her carefully from the other dogs, and feed her in our Master Bedroom. Scamper is in the corner of the living room where I can watch him like a hawk. Scamper is rushing to finish his food so he can sneak and check out the dishes of the other dogs. True to form, I am Mommy-on-the-spot. I put my foot out in front of Scamper blocking his way. There is no

Blenda, plates and attentive fur-balls.

Blenda, plates and attentive fur-balls.

way I will allow Scamper to invade another dog’s space while they are still eating.

I laugh at Scamper, “You don’t really think I am that stupid, do you? I then project the image of me with my foot blocking his attempts. Scamper receives my message and reluctantly with tail hanging low goes back to his bed and lays his head down on his pillow.”

With so many Canine Chores, before I realize what has happened to the time, it is 10am. Right on cue, Riley arrives. Riley is a white male Bichon Poo, six years old, and was the first dog to book with us four years ago. This is Riley’s second home—his Home Away From Home. Riley struts in, and I quickly usher him outside before he gets a chance to mark his territory

From high on his perch, Riley watches the action and decides when he wants to enter in...on his terms!

From high on his perch, Riley watches the action and decides when he wants to enter in…on his terms!

inside. Riley is a most interesting dog, and certainly is not fazed by any dog. Soon Riley gets into the action. He loves to hump other dogs as well as be humped—no sex, just humping. Soon I notice Riley humping Bauer and the fun begins. Both dogs hump until they start falling off the couch, the chair, and even would fall off the floor if there were a way to do so. What the heck that they are both male dogs. To them it doesn’t make a difference. I believe their humping is a way of sharing canine physical contact. Both dogs are simply having a ball, and being quite the gregarious dogs. For being six and seven year’s old, I admire their perennial spunk!!!!

Observing my-self, I notice how much more energy is required when we moved from five to six dogs. Now I need to pay special attention to all the dogs. Once this decision is made, we have more fun. We go outside for a walk, play outside in the back yard, and then come inside for treats and a rest.

Bauer and Salty safe and leashed on a Nature Walk

Bauer and Salty safe and leashed on a Nature Walk

As part of my rest period, I decide to take a nap in our bedroom. Four of the dogs jump up on the bed to join me. Just for the fun of it Raymond sneaks up on me and takes some pictures. I value these pictures because they demonstrate how loving the dogs really are. I include the pictures for your enjoyment.

The dogs are thinking, "This is great stuff getting to take our nap on the bed next to Blenda."

The dogs are thinking, “This is great stuff getting to take our nap on the bed next to Blenda.”

All dogs and Blenda in happy afternoon slumber.

All dogs and Blenda in happy afternoon slumber.

The picture of Bentley snuggled right against my left side is very precious. It amazes me how theBently snuggling next to Blenda as she sleeps. dogs know where and how to snuggle so close against you they become natural body warmers/healers.

All in all, I conclude that we have enjoyed a fantastic experience together—as canine four legged fur-balls and us two-legged Divinely created human beings. Together we have shared fun, humor, and some serious snores together. Even Raymond admits he has enjoyed a lot of fun, and marvels at how well we managed five dogs overnight.

Will I hostess more Canine Slumber Parties? You bet I will. Since thoughts become things, I expect my second Canine Slumber Party will take place very soon.

Who says dogs don't talk together?  After the slumber party, Salty tells Lydia how much fun she had.

Who says dogs don’t talk together? After the slumber party, Salty tells Lydia how much fun she had.

AUTHOR: Rev. Blenda R. Pilon, MSc, (ret. CSL minister), and Dog-Sitter

PICTURES by Rev. Blenda R. Pilon, MSc, (ret. CSL minister), and Dog-Sitter

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