Family vacations at my house are complicated. First, there is a negotiation about who needs to participate. My family has become accustomed to the fact that my wife and I don’t always travel together. With two elderly mothers and five demanding dogs, attendance of both the Wheelers at an event is rare, signifying great importance (or at least my wife’s insistence).

Such is this trip to Northern California for my new granddaughter’s baptism. The last time both of us were in California together was six years & two dogs ago when we went out for my older granddaughter’s baptism. Happily, we now have a reliable person to check in on my 96-year-old mother-in-law, a somewhat reliable family member to check in on my very independent 80-year-old mother and a vet with an outstanding boarding kennel staff.

Each of us handles the logistics of briefing our respective mother’s interim caregiver, but it is a joint effort to get the five dogs to the boarding facility. We make two trips to deliver the “kids,” because the girls, my Cairn & my wife’s Toy Poodle, can’t be in the same vehicle together. It’s like being the limo driver responsible for getting Jennifer Aniston AND Angelina Jolie both to the Golden Globes.

We transport the Terriers first because they are generally better in the car, enjoying the ride without getting overly excited and we want to reserve our strength for taking the Poodles and the Iggy. Scooter is nearly 18 and is toothless & blind, but wags his tail whenever we enter his room. He has never been anything but a delight. However, Fannie is the Toy Poodle version of Naomi Campbell, beautiful, but sure to cause a fight wherever she goes. She is also the smartest dog I have ever met. I watched her one day convince the Terriers they needed to go out to rid the backyard of some unseen vermin just so she could have the kitchen to herself. She is a master of manipulation.

As soon as we bring Scooter down, Fannie knows it’s a vet trip. Now she doesn’t mind if Scooter leaves. I’m sure she secretly hopes he won’t be coming back. However, when she realizes that she is included in this outing, she immediately heads back upstairs to hide. Pepe, the IG, loves his outings with me, but he has already learned that if Mom is involved it can’t end well. Once the crate appears, he knows it’s off to the boarding kennel, and he begins to wail like an Arab widow. By the time we get to the vet, our nerves are shot.

The boarding facility staff is mostly longtime employees, but it is always fun to listen to the old timers introduce our dogs to the newbies, “This is DeeDee & Bernie” (the Cairn & Scottie), “Bernie is really a sweetheart, but he likes to grumble. DeeDee loves everyone, except Fannie. Fannie doesn’t like anybody. Be sure that Fannie & DeeDee never see each another.” I remember when we went on a cruise when my son was 10. It took us three times as long to tell the sitter about the dogs as about our son. Well, after all, he was able to plead his own case with the sitter. And that’s today’s Back Story.