Reunited with our dogs after 13 months abroad

by Kim on August 7, 2013 · 53 comments

It was heart-breakingly hard for Brian and I to leave our dogs behind while we traveled around the world.

Well, we’re back in the U.S. for three months to house-sit and dog-sit while Brian’s parents take an epic U.S. road trip. And that means we’ve reunited with our dogs!

The reunion

Brian and I were worried about how the dogs would react when they saw us. After all, we’d just mysteriously disappeared from their lives one day 13-months ago. Brian was afraid one of them might drop dead of a heart attack. I was afraid one of them might squat and spontaneously pee, like how people wet themselves from shock. We both worried that they would snuff us, angry and resentful for leaving.

Bear

Bear

Macy2

Macy

The dogs have been living with Brian’s parents while we’ve been away. As we neared the house for the first time in more than a year I was over-the-moon excited and also insanely nervous. I shifted in my seat and fidgeted, unable to calm my nerves.

We pulled our car into the driveway and walked up to the front door. The dogs heard us approaching and started barking. We rang the bell, Brian’s parents opened the door, and the dogs ran out to greet us, barking and sniffing and jumping as much as their old bones can jump.

I videotaped it. In truth, it’s the sort of video that only a mother can love. But if you want to see Brian smile so wide it looks like his face might explode, and hear us both talk in embarrassingly high-pitched voices, then by all means, enjoy yourself.

When we got inside, Brian and I sat down on the floor and the dogs ran between us sniffing and snuggling. Bear, who has never once licked me in the 12 years she’s been alive, ran between Brian and I licking our faces. It was the sweetest thing! After about ten minutes of commotion everything settled down and soon after the dogs were asleep on the floor. It was a big event and then, sleep. Always sleep.

In the days since we’ve been back things have been completely normal with the dogs. It’s like we never left them. They don’t appear mad at us, haven’t peed in our bed or eaten our clothes or seeked any other sort of creative revenge. They’re at our feet constantly, curled up beside me even now as I type at the computer. It feels wonderful. It is so nice to have them back.

We’re heading back out on the road this October (SE Asia) and I’m worried about leaving them again. I worry that it will mess them up psychologically and they’ll develop some sort of geriatric separation anxiety. And I worry specifically about Macy, our oldest dog who is 14.5. She’s aged a lot in the year we’ve been gone. She’s not walking well, her energy is lower than it used to be and I’m just not sure she has a ton of time left.

But for now we are one big, happy, reunited family. I’d forgotten how much absolute joy those old dogs bring us. I smile so much more when they’re around.

Family-Picture

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmel August 7, 2013 at 8:29 am

You KNOW I feel for you when it comes to the pets…

And of course I had to listen to guys talk in high-pitched voices. One of my biggest concerns is that Belle will forget us. I seem to remember hearing that cats have pretty short-term memories. If nothing else, she’ll be pretty pissed. Because if there’s one thing that cat knows how to do, it’s how to hold a grudge.

I’m glad you are getting some time with your pups, though. Enjoy every face-licking minute of it.
Carmel recently posted..SAYING GOODBYE TOO SOON

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Kim August 7, 2013 at 6:59 pm

It’s good that they have short term memory, right? That means they won’t sit around missing you. It’s probably better if she forgets you exist! The thing I told myself was that I only cared if the dogs were happy… I didn’t care if it was hard for me because that was just selfish of me, you know? And they have definitely been happy and loved. We are so lucky to have Brian’s parents.

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Rhonda August 7, 2013 at 8:32 am

I love that story…. dogs just make the world better and I’m so glad you are getting to spend this time with them because when you left last year you just weren’t sure if they’d both be around when you swung back by. Enjoy your doggie kisses and snuggling!
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Kim August 7, 2013 at 7:00 pm

They are still kickin’ (thank God!). Today I drove Bear to the store and it was literally like Driving Miss Daisy, she was in the back seat sitting rod-straight with her head out the window. It just made me laugh. Dogs really do make life better.

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Rhonda August 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm

now that I would have loved to see a video on!

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Kim August 10, 2013 at 6:27 am

Hehe. I’ll totally take one next time.

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Jan August 7, 2013 at 8:34 am

Love this! I’m hoping our boys react the same way when we come back after 6 months away. I’m dreading saying goodbye to them since I’ve never left them before and they’re getting quite old.

When I go on vacation, Mason usually pees in the bed of whoever is watching him. Hopefully he’ll give my parents a break or else it will be a long six months for them!

Welcome back!
Jan recently posted..Photo Friday – What I’ll Miss Most

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Kim August 7, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Oh no! Yes, hopefully he doesn’t spend too much time peeing in your parents bed. That won’t make anybody happy.

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Sarah Somewhere August 7, 2013 at 8:54 am

I love that video!! And I love that Brian’s parents stood back while you had your reunion with your babies (I take it you also hadn’t seen them for a year? He he!). So sweet, and so happy you get to have this precious time with them. Lap it up, Momma!
Sarah Somewhere recently posted..(almost) Four Years

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Kim August 7, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I know, how sweet! There’s probably something wrong with hugging the dogs before the people, but what can you do? Spending time with these pups is definitely one of the highlights of being home.

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Kimmy @ AfterGlobe August 7, 2013 at 9:11 am

This is a hard one and something I struggle with every day. How will we leave our fur babies? How will we not wake up every morning to their sweet faces? It breaks my heart every time I think about it. I’m just not ready to cross that bride, yet. Seeing that your dogs seemed alright and things feel back into place does make me feel better about all of it, though.
Kimmy @ AfterGlobe recently posted..A Visit to Iao Valley Should be on Everyone’s Maui List

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Kim August 7, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Oh Kimmy, I know how you feel! I cried myself to sleep many times before leaving. We are lucky that it has worked out so well. It was definitely the hardest part about leaving.

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Maddie August 7, 2013 at 9:57 am

That video is ridiculously adorable! I wouldn’t worry about leaving them again, they’re known as one of the most loyal pets you can have for a good reason. They’ve probably got a pretty sweet gig with the inlaws anyway and will be there to welcome you back with open paws whenever you do make it home.
Maddie recently posted..Every day is a school day – an afternoon with the youth of today

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Kim August 7, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Yeah, I know. I think it’s harder for me to leave than it is on them… still… I don’t like to think about it. I’m dreading it already (again).

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Kristin Thomas August 7, 2013 at 10:29 am

LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Being away from my pups for just a months was extremely tough. I’m glad they didn’t punish you. Tank, our dog, was so mad and didn’t talk to me for a day. I was broken-hearted. So happy y’all are back home with your family for the moment.
Kristin Thomas recently posted..Dear Life

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Kim August 7, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Oh no, I’m sorry Tank wouldn’t talk to you. Hopefully he’s forgiven you by now.

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Quyen August 7, 2013 at 10:56 am

What a great post. Thanking for starting my day off right!
Quyen recently posted..what to do when you arrive in a new city

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Kim August 7, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Thanks Quyen.

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Patti August 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm

We’ve never had a dog – only the stuffed toy variety – because I am allergic, but I think some dogs have the most amazing personalities. Will’s dog, Groover, is hysterical and we enjoy visiting him and giving him popcorn when we pass by Will’s shop here in Ashland.

Do you think dogs understand the passing of time, or do you think they think you left a day ago?
Patti recently posted..Who Doesn’t Love a Giveaway?!

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Kim August 7, 2013 at 7:04 pm

I love that Will’s dog is named Groover.

I don’t know if the dogs understand the passing of time or not. They really reacted as though we’d only been gone a few days. But I have no idea.

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Angela August 7, 2013 at 2:08 pm

No way! We were just reunited with our dog a week ago after not seeing her for almost a year. We were both sort of nervous, but when she got out of the car she didn’t recognize us at all! She just greeted us like she would anyone else. Glad to hear other dogs DO recognize their owners after such a long time!
(she’s sleeping on my lap at the moment, best thing ever)
Angela recently posted..Through our eyes // 07

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Kim August 7, 2013 at 7:05 pm

That is so sad Angela! I’m surprised she didn’t recognize you!! Do you think she remembers who you are now? Maybe she’d blocked out the traumatic experience of your leaving?

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TammyOnTheMove August 8, 2013 at 1:49 am

I don’t think animals will never forget you if you have been with them for long enough. I moved away from Germany about 10 year ago and my parent’s dog and cats always recognize me and are happy to see me. It is like I have never gone.
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Kim August 8, 2013 at 7:09 am

But Angela’s dog didn’t recognize her!

Now that we’ve been through this before I know they will remember us when we leave and come back again. It’s just so hard to go!

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Ali August 8, 2013 at 8:32 am

They are so CUTE!!! I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been to leave them last year, and now to have to do it again in a few more months, but you have to follow your heart. Know that they’re being loved and cared for while you and Brian are traveling and doing what you’re supposed to be doing. The dogs will still love you!
Ali recently posted..5 Reasons to Add Days to the End of Your Tour

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Kim August 10, 2013 at 6:26 am

I know they will. It will be so hard to leave them though. Sigh. It honestly is the hardest part of traveling.

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Jennifer August 8, 2013 at 10:07 am

Pets are amazing and I do always miss them when I travel, but they do always remember me when I get back!
Jennifer recently posted..A cautionary tale: why you shouldn’t eat coconuts in Panama

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Kim August 10, 2013 at 6:27 am

I’m glad your fur babies remember you!

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) August 9, 2013 at 6:47 am

Thank you for sharing this, Kim! You know that one of my biggest worries but also the thing I look forward to most at the end of our trip is reuniting with our dogs (only to find they don’t remember us/are indifferent to us being back). I know that they are living the good life and that my parents have fully taken them into the fold, spoiling them rotten like the “granddoggies” that they are so I know I can’t blame them if the dogs aren’t ecstatic about our return… after all, when they lived with us, they weren’t being fed salmon and pineapple and fresh veggies on a daily basis or going for 3 hour walks every day. Seriously, they’ll probably pack our bags for us and buy us (1-way) tickets for our next trip! So great to see that your two pups lived large while you were away but were over the moon about your return.
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Putting the “Gorge” in “Gorgeous” at Taroko Gorge

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Kim August 10, 2013 at 6:28 am

It is nice to have the pets to come back to- gives you a good reason to come home (it is a hard transition, trust me!). Your dogs definitely sound like they’re being spoiled.

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Montecristo Travels (Sonja) August 9, 2013 at 6:56 am

It is why I got a tiny dog. So he could come with me when I traveled. I had big dogs before – really REALLY big (Belgian Bouvier – about 95 pounds of dog! like a cross between a bear and a yack). But leaving her behind for even just 3 weeks was more than I could manage. It was me. I could not be away from her. So, when she passed I refused to get another dog. I couldn’t do it. I had cats and they managed my absences just fine. But a dog is a pack animal. It’s different for them. Then one day in the Cayman Islands as I was getting ready to dive I saw a lady on the beach with a little Chi. He was missing an eye and yet had so much spunk! I was totally enamoured with this little fearless fellow. I started talking with this woman and she told me about all his adventures… abroad. She traveled for work and he went with her…. everywhere. And that is when I knew I would have a dog again and he’d be tiny and he’d travel.

Dogs are ever forgiving. Their greatest gift to us … is showing us how to forgive all and be as patient as Buddha.
Montecristo Travels (Sonja) recently posted..How to Make the Most of Your Oia Sunset Stay! Santorini – Greece

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Kim August 10, 2013 at 6:28 am

Yeah, there is no way that we could travel with our big girls, Small dogs are definitely more transportable!

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tyrhone August 10, 2013 at 7:52 am

I really really want a dog, I think it is the one thing that I am missing in this lifestyle is a wittle doggy woggy to cuddle and play catch with. Your dogs in particular seem to have a look in their eyes that makes you go “Awwh”
tyrhone recently posted..Road trip tester 1, epic non-success

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Kim August 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

I think you guys could fit a dog in that SUV of yours :)

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Ashley of Ashley Abroad August 10, 2013 at 9:16 am

This post made me smile, I totally know how you feel! There’s nothing better than being away for a while and seeing your dog when you get home :)
Ashley of Ashley Abroad recently posted..Packing for Asia: Inside My Tech Bag

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Kim August 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

It’s one of the best things about being back!

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Traveling Ted August 10, 2013 at 10:17 am

Most dogs are very sweet and very forgiving animals. I don’t think they know the emotions of vengeance, resentment, and hate. Although I like cats, they are a different matter. Loved the video. I can’t tell who was happier at the reunion, the dogs or the people.
Traveling Ted recently posted..Chicago Marathon training update and tips

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Kim August 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

Ha, I know. We were all pretty darn happy in that video. It was a good day :)

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Jane O. August 12, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Kim,
Life, minimalist or not, is about LOVE.
Can’t your travels to Asia wait so you can enjoy the love of your dogs?
Bear and Macy didn’t get a say, in your minimalist life.
Just something to consider…
Jane O.

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Kim August 13, 2013 at 6:02 am

Hi Jane. We definitely DID consider it for a very, very, very long time. This works for us. The dogs have been living with Brian’s parents for over a year now (we are just home for a few months before going to Asia) and they are happy and spoiled and all of the rest.

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Jane O. August 13, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Kim,
What are your plans when you return from Asia?
Jane O.

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Kim August 14, 2013 at 6:08 am

Hi Jane, the will stay on with my in-laws.

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Heather August 14, 2013 at 9:43 am

The love of a pet is unconditional! They will never forget you, no matter how long it’s been. I left my cat with my parents when I moved to Shanghai two years ago and got to see her last summer on a visit home. Even though she has adapted well to her new life, she was over the moon when I walked in! I’m hoping for a similar reunion next month :-)
Heather recently posted..Exploring Budapest: Andrassy Avenue, the Opera House and Heroes’ Square

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Kim August 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Oh, I also hope you are blessed with a similar reunion next month. I’m sure you will be!

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Bama August 17, 2013 at 7:44 am

Wow Kim, I didn’t realize you’ve spent more than a year on the road and now you’re back in the comfort of home. I still remember your increasing excitement and anxiety towards the D-day of your epic journey last year. Time flies. I still remember how exhausted you were in India, and how relaxed you were in some other places. Now I realize my 6-month trip plan in 2015 might not be long enough. :) Best wishes always for you and Brian!
Bama recently posted..Sasak Dishes: A Twist in Taste

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Kim August 18, 2013 at 8:24 am

Hi Bama. I think that no matter how long your trip is it won’t be long enough! We are home for the summer but setting back out again (I’m leaving in September, Brian in October). We’re just considering this time in the U.S. as a temporary break!

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Yanglee August 11, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Hello Kim! I’m Yanglee, 22 years old from the Phils and just starting my career. The fact is I’m an only child and very attached to my 3 year old japanese spitz, Lian. I don’t want to consider working abroad because it might cause emotional and eventually physical damage to her. My mom doesn’t like dogs, so I leave it all to my dad who, primarily, is Lian’s true “boss”. I was currently having problems to my emotional attachment and constantly trying to find answers as I know I should also seek for greener pastures and eventually leave home. When I saw your blog, I was just very very happy that somebody was able to relate it and did it successfully. I just wish I will have the courage to do the same. Thanks for this :)

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Kim August 23, 2014 at 8:40 am

Hi Yanglee. Believe me, I know how hard it is. We were able to leave our dogs with my husband’s parents and they adjusted very well and were very happy. It sounds like you also have a parent you can leave your dog with, so you are lucky! It is hard but dogs are very resilient and they will always love you when you return.

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William September 27, 2014 at 9:14 am

Thank you so much for this post and the one you wrote before you left. I am going to SE Asia in January and I have three dogs – all of them are rescues. For 8 years they’ve been with me and they have been my very best friends. During times of sadness and alcoholism, they forced me out of bed to go on walks and always made me feel better no matter what. They even broke the ice with strangers and introduced me to new friends…etc. You know – all that great stuff dogs do.

At first, when deciding I wanted to travel, I thought about every possible way I could have them travel with me. I looked up pet carrier services and saw how much money and effort it would all be. Finally I had to reserve myself to the reality that I simply could not take them.

Luckily my mother and sister, who live together, love the dogs and will take care of them. But, I wanted to find some kind of solace, so I went searching for people who left their dogs behind on long travel trips, and found your posts.

It made me feel so much better. I’m a 6-foot-tall MMA practitioner and just thinking about leaving my dogs behind has been making me choke up like a little girl. But, you’re right – our dogs only know THIS moment. As long as they’re well taken care of they won’t know the difference.

Thanks again. I feel much better after reading your posts.

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Kim October 3, 2014 at 8:13 am

Hi William, I’m so glad you found my posts and that they have offered some solace. The dogs WILL be okay and they will be happy and well taken care of. You are very lucky to have family that will love them just like we do. Enjoy your time in SE Asia and know those pups will be so happy to see you when you return!!

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Lorna October 12, 2014 at 11:13 am

Thankyou so much for this post! I have been torturing myself with the thought of how I could possibly contemplate leaving my little best friend behind with my parents when I go to volunteer in Bhutan for a year….I have seriously considered not taking up what is a once in a lifetime opportunity solely because i didn’t think i could leave my dear, dear little rescue dog who i have been with every day for the last 6 years. I know she is very happy with my parents and their dog, and she is spoiled to bits by them….but I feel so responsible for her and she literally is my little shadow….she never leaves my side and it breaks my heart to think that I might cause her any suffering if I go abroad. I have contemplated taking her with me but it is quite complicated to get to Bhutan and e even more complicated is the re-entry procedure to the UK which may mean her being in quarantine which, as a former rescue dog, i think would be traumatic for her. I have been very ill this year, my marriage has broken down and this opportunity in Bhutan is, for me personally and professionally, just what I need….it’s not something I could do in any country….so going somewhere closer to home isn’t an option. I really feel like i need and want to do this but until i found this page and all the stories and comments i was crying myself to sleep at night with her curled up beside me wondering how could i ever leave her? She is about 11…being a rescue dog it’s hard to know for sure, but the vet guesses she is about 10-11 years old. She’s in great health, a truly happy little dog…and, as she is a mini pinscher cross, I’m hoping she will live quite a few more years yet. I still don’t know if i should go to Bhutan…it makes me cry just thinking about leaving her…not for me…but for her….i just want her to be happy and feel loved and not feel like I’ve abandoned her. I’ve left her with my parents before for up to 3 weeks and she was absolutely fine….but 12 months? I don’t know what to do….am i too attached to her? I’m 35 with no children…no brothers or sisters…no big family…separated from my husband….my little dog has been my constant, my everything….but I sometimes wonder how healthy this is? I am ok without her…i don’t fret for myself…. But what i do feel is tremendous guilt and a sense of responsibility for her happiness….so i don’t know what to do. I really need to do this for me….but at the moment i am putting her before me….and maybe i shouldn’t do that? I really hope it’s true that dogs just live in the moment and her se,nse of time will not be like mine…..I would really appreciate anyone’s advice….This isn’t any old opportunity for me….and it’s not something i can do in the future as i will need to be closer to my parents incase they need me….and i wouldn’t contemplate leaving my dog if she was already elderly incase i never saw her again….but despite all of this i still feel so guilty and don’t know what to do! :-(

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