I have had a very kind offer, by a close relative, to look after my dog for the duration of any holiday we might care to go on, my husband and I. Now, this relative and my dog are very fond of each other: that is really not the issue. But even though this person has had dogs (two, into old age) in the long-ago past, there are things that she may not remember. And I think that, especially, when you are an older more fragile person (in body and perhaps in spirit too in some ways), certain aspects of dog-care may be more than you bargained for.
For instance, my dog is now 9. That means that she is (like all of us that are not puppies) a little bit set in her ways. Perhaps the kindly relative likes her bed just so and her TV on loud (she's a bit deaf) and so on. But my dog likes bedtimes as we've always had them -- and that means sleeping in the bed with the humans. My relative has never done this before. What if she tries it and doesn't like it (the dog snores in the night, or her nails push in to the relative's flesh, or she takes up too much room, or leaves a lot of hair, or farts, as she probably will)? What then? Who should continue to suffer the consequences -- the relative or my dog?
Then there is the fact that my dog is very healthy and active and needs walks and activities, preferably something that allows her to frolic. I don't think that Elderly Relative is really up for any of that. So we'd have to hire a dog walker, and this person would have my darling's life in her hands while they were out together, and as I don't know any dog walkers personally, I don't think I would be entirely comfortable with that.
Also, being a rather senior dog at this point, and allergic to boot, my sweet girl sometimes does things that are not shall we say beneficial to the décor. While we were travelling this summer, she barfed once but somewhat extensively into the crevices of the back seat of our brand new car. (Not only do we have wees, whoopsies, and walkies, we also now have barfies.) That took a two-person effort at wiping, hoovering, brushing, and washing, let me tell you. Then there is the allergy-provoked incontinence. A full bladder's-worth of widdle on the floor (follow the puddles)? Our girl can do. To say nothing of the indoor sickness that doesn't always manage to avoid the rugs or my shoes or whatever else might be on the floor. How would Elderly Relative, with her immaculate rugs and sofas, handle that?
And if my girl needed taking to the vet in an emergency at 2 in the morning, would my relative be up for that? (This is not an unlikely scenario. When my dog had a cough that wouldn't stop, some years ago, we felt that we couldn't take the risk of waiting and at 2 a.m. we were out on the town looking for the all-night dog doc. And of course, as soon as we got there, the coughing stopped!) Even on our most recent summer vacation, we had an unexpected visit to the vet when we spotted blood drops on the carpet that had come from her tail. She also recently had an eye cloud that bloomed within a few days into a serious eye ulcer (the latter detectable only by doctor's examination). Would Elderly Relative notice problems -- and react -- as quickly as we do? Conversely, would she overreact, putting our dog through all kinds of tests that she really didn't need -- and hated?
This is just the prosaic stuff, of course. There is also the emotional connection -- the fact that I can know what Chummy needs by just glancing at her; that I am inclined to put myself out for her benefit; that I am willing and happy to pamper her. I know her, as much as anyone can know a darling of another species. I would risk myself to save her life, but Elderly Relative would not. And then too there is the simple fact that no one but Mummy and Daddy can be Mummy and Daddy. We are simply the two people in the world she loves the most. And if we left her, she might easily believe that we were never coming back.