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Life with Liz: A terrier with a rat

Another holiday avoidance is behind us. This time, we headed to Washington D.C. for a few days of history geeking-out and walking off our take-out Chinese Thanksgiving dinner. Why did we go to D. C.? Because it was the closest place I could find a dog-friendly place to stay. Yes, I have now become the crazy dog lady who can’t leave the pooches at home.

I love the VRBO app and it hasn’t failed us yet. This is the fourth or fifth time that we’ve rented a house through it, and it has so many good options for pet owners. A lot of hotels now allow a pet, but fewer allow two, and Dunc sometimes hovers close to the 70-pound limit a lot of them have. His plush winter coat makes the situation look worse than it is right now, as he’s as lean as he gets thanks to hunting season. So, “pet-friendly” places with fenced-in backyards are the ideal alternative.

Pet-friendly is also usually teen-friendly, as they usually have a few dents, dings, or stains in the walls, rugs, or furniture already, and it’s one less thing to worry about. Having a fenced in area, no matter how large or small, also helps the dogs adjust to a new area, while in a safe place, and I find that when we then go out into the surrounding neighborhood, they aren’t quite as wound up as they usually would be. This time, we really lucked out by being in a quaint little neighborhood full of unique row homes and many pet owners who all enjoyed stopping at our place to say hello to Dunc who was perched on the window seat, or to Hens who was firmly planted at the front door.

D.C. is not quite as pet friendly as Dewey Beach, Delaware, was, but there were still plenty of spaces to walk the dogs and let them interact with the city. I am always looking for new situations to expose them to and help with their socialization skills.

We’ve been to the Capital several times before, so this was a “greatest hits” sort of trip for the kids. A picked the Air and Space Museum and E and G agreed on the Museum of Natural History. We did take the time to explore Potomac Park and the FDR and MLK Memorials. E was fascinated by the FDR walk-through, as she has just finished learning about the Great Depression and World War II. We also made another college stop for A at Georgetown University. We finished out the trip with a walking tour of Mount Vernon, some of the “best” pizza in D.C., and were on the road bright and early so A could get home to go to his final Winter Formal.

All in all, it was a fun, relaxing trip that went quickly. Except for the rat. Yes, there had to be one little thing that made everything else crazy, and this time, it was the rat. We arrived Wednesday evening, leaving after all the kids’ activities, grabbing dinner on the road, and trying to time it so the dogs would have time between the long ride and bedtime to settle down. It all worked out well, and everyone was in bed by 10 p.m.

I was sleeping downstairs on the couch with both dogs, just in case they needed to go out during the night, this would be the least disruptive to everyone else, but I didn’t expect any problems. Shortly after 11, all hell broke loose. The first noise I heard was a skitter and a squeak. The next noise I heard was the sound of two terriers who are bred to hunt and have the terrier instinct to go after small animals in holes springing into action. Luckily, the place was minimalist and there were not a lot of knickknacks or even furniture in the way. One giant ball of two dogs rolled its way over the couch, through the dining area, and into the kitchen before I could even move.

Even though I couldn’t believe it, I knew exactly what was going down. I’d seen it in our yard and the barns a thousand times. I quickly jumped up and turned on the light, hoping to at least minimize the damage and maybe prevent a bloodbath. Well, doing that distracted the dogs for just the moment our friend, the rat, needed to escape from the corner, run over my feet, and under a kitchen cabinet. That’s how I know for sure it was a rat, and not just a large mouse.

While I wasn’t exactly thrilled by this turn of events, we were in the city, and these things do happen. I was also pretty sure that the rat had turned tail and run back to his compadres and warned them about the psycho dogs waiting for them if they tried that again. You can’t explain that to dogs, though, and so they proceeded to fiercely guard the area and investigate it thoroughly for the next six hours. That meant that I had to stand guard and prevent them from dismantling the place for the next six hours. That phrase “like a dog with a bone” should be rewritten to be “like a terrier with a rat” because they weren’t going anywhere.

On the one hand, I didn’t have to worry about them getting into any other trouble while they were in the house. On the other, I did have to worry about them trying to dig a hole through the kitchen floor, which was brick. Even when I put them out in the yard, they dedicated themselves to trying to dig back into the kitchen. “Dogged determination” is a term I understand too well. At any rate, we had a good trip, even though I got a lot less sleep that I planned to get, and we survived another holiday. This one even had a few laughs, even if we have a rat to thank for them.

Liz Pinkey is a contributing columnist who appears weekly in the Times News.