Like every proud grandmother, Donna McCabe of Whidbey Island, Washington carries a brag book of photographs of her grandchild Audrey in her handbag and is always swapping news of her escapades with friends and other family members.
Audrey is an exquisite Italian Greyhound, with fine delicate features just like her namesake actress Audrey Hepburn and doted upon by McCabe who isn’t the slightest bit fazed that her grandchild has four paws and a tail.
High-pressured jobs and the fact that many people are divorced or opt for a single lifestyle all adds to fact that the family dynamic has changed. Dogs are more than simply companions; they are considered fur kids in many households. So it follows that a fur kid’s family tree branches out to include aunties, uncles, cousins and of course the ultimate dispenser of spoiled affection – grandparents.
Audrey lives with her pet parents in New York City where her mom Allison McCabe has a high-powered job in the publishing world.
“She’s a real city dog,” says Donna McCabe proudly. “She expects someone on duty in the elevator and she knows how to hail a cab. But best of all, when the doorman has a bunch of packages at the front desk of their apartment building, she knows exactly which one is from me!”
McCabe spoils her granddog on a regular basis. “Allison hates squeaky toys because they make such a noise. But Audrey absolutely adores them. And as her granny, its my prerogative to get her what she wants,” she adds is a mischievous giggle. “The one time I listened to Allison, Audrey was extremely disappointed with her gift and simply refused to play with it.”
Audrey travels “cabin class” to Seattle en route to McCabe’s home and visits regularly, never missing family occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving.
“If Allison and her husband decide to have children, it’s entirely their decision. Either way I won’t be disappointed,” says McCabe. “ Where I live, Audrey is considered a very unusual breed. So people are always stopping to talk and admire her. I never miss the opportunity to tell them that she also has a career; She’s been featured in several published books. She’s even had a book signing and handed out pawtigraphs.”
If some grandparents do yearn for real grandchildren, it seems that many are not keen to vent publicly.
“My Mom respects the fact that my husband David and I are parents to Harry a Sheltie and Josephine a Briard,” says Carol Rawle of Charleston, South Carolina. “I think parents have to respect their children’s lifestyle choices. If they do voice their opinions, they stand the chance of being labeled nosey and at worse, interfering in-laws!”
Rawle’s parents, Charles and Audrey Perkins live in Longboat Key, Florida and regularly receive gifts and cards from their granddogs. In fact, they have several granddogs and great granddogs ,“off-spring” from their other children.
“I have more than 18 doggy photographs on my desk,” says Audrey Perkins proudly. “They never forget our birthdays and holidays. Fortunately, my other daughter Cindy lives close by and she regularly brings her Jack Russell named Pucci to visit us. My husband gets very jealous when Pucci is around because I give her all my attention. I love to spoil her with her favorite foods.”
Although not actively involved in the community, Pucci is a trained therapy dog.
“In fact, she’s great therapy for my mother,” says Cindy Perkins. “She’s a very compassionate dog and I know my parents enjoy focusing love and attention on her. She loves going for walks, which is excellent exercise for my Mom. So she gets to spoil her and enjoy her without having to worry about the responsibilities of having a pet.”
“I expect my son Dale to call me in advance and check if its okay for us to baby-sit his pocket Beagle named Winston,” says Janine Hersowitz of Irvine, California. “It’s the correct petiquette. I would expect the same if he was married and had children too.
“The first time we babysat, he brought the crate and bedding and favorite toys but not enough food for the entire stay. I gently pointed this out because I think it’s his responsibility to see to Winston’s needs.”
Hersowitz says that when the dog visits, he has to abide by her house rules.
“Dale and his girlfriend give him free reign in their home. He’s allowed on the furniture and sleeps on the bed. But when he comes to granny he’s not allowed on the couches and he knows his place.”
Hersowitz admits that she has been the one to teach the pup his good manners, as her son is very laid back with his fur kid.
“I take him out and about with me, which is a lot of fun. But before I visit a friend, I always call to inquire if Winston will be welcome. I respect that some people don’t like strange animals in their home.
“And just like a two-legged tike, the advantage of a granddog is when he gets too exuberant or starts destroying the household, I can send him home!”
In typical fashion, grannies seem to take center stage when talking about their granddogs, but Al Cartwright of Nassau in the Bahamas was quick to step up to the plate and talk about his amazing bonding experience with his granddog Quinn, a ten-year-old chocolate Labrador.
“We rode out a bad hurricane on the island together,” he says fondly. “ Both my wife Carol and Quinn’s pet parents Kelly and Robert Meister were away when the storm warning became a reality. Quinn and I took care of each other. He was wonderful company. He’s a gentle dog and I love being around him. He loves to show off his toys and never forgets our birthdays, sending presents and cards. I treat him just like I would a grandson.”
“My parents are very loving people,” says Kelly Meister. “I am sure if there was a real grandchild in the family, it would inch up above the Crown Prince but Quinn would be none the wiser!”
The Cartwrights have their other granddog Benny Cake to thank for helping them cope with Empty Nest Syndrome. They look after him while their daughter Tracy is away at school in New York
“Quinn is a real gentleman,” says Al Cartwright. “Benny Cake is our little wild child.”
If there were a competition in South Florida for Granddogparent of the Year, Dale Gegerson of Miami Beach would win hands down!
“When my daughter Kara Kono brings her Pomeranian Rizzo to stay, she really comes with baggage – matching bags, I might add, ”says Gegerson with a laugh. “There’s all her clothes and co-ordinated collars, leashes and carriers. Not to mention spa products, favorite toys and the car seat.
“I just want to spoil her every opportunity I get. Shopping at the mall is our favorite outing. Kara insists that my clothes are also co-ordinated with Rizzo’s, so we are a real grandmother and granddog team.
“We even use some of the same spa products. My son is a herbologist and recommends oils and vitamins for her and tells us what to add to the shampoos and conditioners. They work for me too!
“I love to buy her favorite biscuits and gourmet treats,” says this self-confessed besotted granny. “ South Beach is very dog-friendly, so we get to go lots of places together.
“And she’s very polite, she always brings a gift when she comes to stay and she spoils me at every opportunity too.”
And what would be the position if she ever became a human granny?
“Well, that’s a really tough call. I am so partial to these little dogs. They are so cute. I think granddogs have a couple of advantages of real grandchildren. Firstly, you don’t have to carry them everywhere. When you get tired, you can simply put them on a leash and let them walk by themselves. They never grow up which is fun. And most importantly, they don’t get colicky and vomit over your shoulder.”
PETIQUETTE TIPS (SIDE BAR)
• Always call in advance and ask if your dog can visit. Never assume it will be okay.
• Make sure you remember to take your all fur kid’s needs including any medication.
• Should grandparents incur any expenses during the stay over like a visit to the veterinarian, offer to re-imburse them.
• The houses rules of the home apply.
This article is from Modern Dog Magazine