On Thursday, Ken and I went away overnight. We didn’t need to—it wasn’t a special occasion or anything, but we’re planning a bigger trip in May, and here’s the thing: We have never left Atlas alone for more than one night, and up until now, either Kate or my parents have looked after him. But now Kate’s in school to become a veterinary technician and she’ll be moving to another city when she finishes this semester to do an internship, so SHE’S not available. And my parents are wonderful, but Atlas is a very active young dog, and when he tries to hug my mom, he literally knocks her down. So we were kind of stuck. But then Ken and I went to a banquet right before Christmas and became acquainted with a young woman in town who…TADA!…does dog and house sitting. She came over a couple of weeks ago and she and Atlas got along like a house on fire, ending the visit with him lying across her lap. So we hired her for a trial night and got ready to leave town.
Atlas: What you do?
Me: Just putting some old clothes in a bag. Nothing to be concerned about.
Atlas: Why does bag have wheels? Is toy?
Me: No, just easier to wheel out to the car. Don’t worry. Here’s a cookie.
Ken: See ya, nerd!
Atlas: What? Can I come for ride?
Me: We will only be gone for 5 minutes. Here’s a cookie. Go to sleep.
So we left him lying in his favourite chair, unsuspecting as he was. We drove down to a lake town, stopping at a couple of wineries along the way, and I was feeling pretty happy about the whole thing. Wine has a funny way of helping you avoid picturing your dog crying and whimpering while the sun goes down and he realizes he’s been abandoned. Am I being melodramatic? Obviously.
Anyway, we checked into the hotel, a very fancy and luxurious place that I still had money on a gift card for. Our room was beautiful with a huge king-sized four poster bed and a lot of weird Victorian era paintings like “Portrait Of A Man Standing In Front Of A Fireplace”–and he was. Within minutes of settling in, I got a text message from “Ivy, my virtual concierge”, who promised to help me with any and all needs I might have. So I texted back, “How do I make dinner reservations?” because I wasn’t sure how to call the hotel restaurant. I waited for a response. And I waited. And waited. Finally I texted back, ‘Ivy you’re not doing a good job at assisting me” at which point I received a very terse reply: “Call 65320 for dinner reservations.” But then, as Ken and I were trying to relax, I noticed several very large bugs on the ceiling, walls, and THE BED, so I texted her again with a picture—“Ivy. What kind of bug is this in my room?”
Well, before you could even say “I’m actually not an AI but a real person who is extremely flustered right now”, the response came: “It is called a brown marmorited it is a common harmless bug i will Maintenance come and remove it for you. I am sorry he made his way to your room.” And IMMEDIATELY after the message, there was a knock on the door. I didn’t know what to expect, but when I opened it, there was a guy standing there with a ladder and a roll of paper towels. We gave him the bugs, which we had carefully wrapped in toilet paper, and instructed him to let them outside. He looked at us like we were out of our minds, but nodded and left.
Then, fifteen minutes later—more f*cking bugs. We put them in a coffee cup and instructed Ivy to have someone come by and pick them up. The message? “I’m so sorry for the trouble. Would you like a bottle of white wine for the inconvenience?” And I was like, “You don’t have to ask me twice, you considerate quasi-artificial weirdo—send it on up.” So at a certain point, we were bug-free and wine-full. If only the pillows hadn’t been hard as rocks, it would have been idyllic.
I didn’t sleep much and finally woke up to a lovely message from the dogsitter, that Atlas had had a good night, sleeping on our bed, but had played, eaten, done his business, and was now sleeping in a chair, awaiting our arrival. So most of the experiment was successful.
When we got home, he was still asleep:
Atlas: You back so soon?
Me: Yes. Did you miss us?
Me: That’s actually ok, buddy. Have a cookie.