My Friend's Dog Died in the Hotel on Our Road Trip

Carol Lennox

And we became Lucy and Ethyl. Or Thelma and Louise. by Jessica Knowlden on Unsplash

I haven’t seen the Chevy Chase vacation movies, but I’m told one of them has a theme of continuing the vacation after the dog dies. Carrying their dead pet with them as they continue on their journey. Apparently it’s funny.

Unlikely premise, right? Maybe not.

My friend and I were on our way to the house she owns in Taos, New Mexico. It’s an eleven hour drive from Austin. So, unlike other people I know, (I’m looking at you sis), who drive straight through, working around my pit stops, my friend stops in Lubbock to spend the night.

This is a bit complicated, as she travels with her three dogs, an adorable black and white toy poodle, Bella, a sweet multi-colored chihuahua, Chula, and Chula’s long time boyfriend, tan and white Tito. Both Chula and Tito have added the older age extra pound, and are as chubbily cute as they wanna be.

While La Quinta welcomes dogs, it’s a tad expensive to pay for three. So we pay for one, and sneak the other two in. Don’t judge us. They’re tiny, quiet dogs.

Tito had been suffering from congestive heart failure at age 14. He’d had some some episodes over the past couple of months. He’d get out of the bed he shares with Chula, take a couple of steps, and fall over in a faint.

He’d lay there for a minute or two, with those watching wondering if he’d died, then come back to life, get up wagging his tail, and ask for breakfast. One minute he was inert on the floor, and the next he was the picture of health, except for the rasping and wheezing, for which he was being medicated. her friend and neighbor took care of him when she was on a trip a few weeks previous, there were several phone calls one night. “Tito keeps wheezing. And he keeps fainting and coming back to life. I’m having a dinner party, and he’s scaring the guests.”
For that reason, and more, Bebe decided to take him with her and the other dogs on the trip to Taos. She knew though, that this might be his last trip there. It’s high altitude, which isn’t the best for congestive heart failure. However, he’s gone there with her for the ten years she’s owned the house, and it was as much home to him as their primary residence.
It just seemed fitting to take him there one more time. If he died there, he could be buried on the property, the sacred land of Taos, with love, ceremony, and his running buddy, girl doggies surrounding him. If he didn’t die there, he would have this last trip with his little friends.
He was fine on the first half of the trip, sleeping the first six hours. At the hotel, he went with the other two to “go potty,” and waited patiently for us to unload the car and take him up to the room.
He passed out outside the elevator. My friend carried him up, and by the time they arrived at the door, he was alert and active again. Ready to eat. Tail wagging. We fed the dogs, got ready for bed, and ordered dinner delivered. All three dogs begged for food, as you expect dogs to do.
Twice, my friend put all three dogs in bed with her, and twice Tito took a running start and jumped off. It didn’t hurt him, but it nearly gave me a heart attack watching him. She gave up, and made a bed for him next to hers, with an extra pillow, and his blanket from the car. He was tucked in all warm and cozy, between her bed and the wall. an arm’s length away.
He and Chula had spent every night together in the same dog bed for ten years. That night, Chula wanted to cuddle with the human, and Tito wanted privacy. I checked on him several times before getting into my own bed. Each time, he opened his big brown eyes and looked up peacefully at me. Life was good for the self-rejuvenating little dog.
In the morning, my friend woke me. Tito died during the night. As I struggled awake, and joined her next to her bed, the other two wiggled and whined for our attention. Tito was stretched out on his homemade dog bed, a tiny corner of the blanket between his teeth, stiff as a board.
Stiff as the dog in the casts in “Something About Mary.” Stiff as the dog in the Chevy Chase vacation movie. And he was in a hotel where he wasn’t supposed to be. He wasn't the dog we had paid the hotel for.
My friend gently picked him up on his blanket, and wrapped it around him. Just as gently, she placed him on the floor against the wall. Bella sniffed him, but Chula stayed on the bed. Tito’s little legs stuck straight out.
After I told her how sorry I was, and gave her a hug, we sat and looked at him sadly. What were we going to do now?
We discussed getting something to put him in and taking him the rest of the way to Taos, so he could be buried in that mystical place. Neither of us wanted to leave him, any other dog, or anyone we cared about in Lubbock, Texas. Have you seen Lubbock, Texas? It's a lot of nothing, with a college campus in the middle.
He was a small dog, but the cooler we had still wasn’t big enough. I suggested buying a much larger styrofoam one. Next idea was a garbage bag, because we could get that from the hotel, but that seemed ignominious and disrespectful. Plus, wouldn't the person at the desk wonder what we were lugging out in a garbage bag? Still, it was probably the best we could do. We had a six hour drive ahead, and needed to get on the road.
That’s when the dark humor kicked in.
Fortunately, my friend had been a nurse, and therefore has that gallows humor. So do I. She brought up the Chevy Chase movies. I suggested it might even be illegal to cross state lines with a dead dog. As stiff as he was, it would be pretty obvious he was a dead dog, if we got stopped. Then we got the giggles.
Plus, how to sneak a dead dog out of a hotel room he wasn’t supposed to be inhabiting? We discussed telling the front desk we needed a garbage bag for the cute little dancing poodle they had seen us come up with, that had unexpectedly died. That would be a hard sell. Bella is young and lively, and we would have to take her to the car, too, anyway. Since she runs up to and dances for everybody she sees, sneaking her out alive would be as toug as sneaking Tito out dead.
It never occurred to us not to take him with us. And yet. This wasn’t a movie, we had two other dogs in the car, and we didn’t know for sure what would happen after rigor mortis passed. The same friend and neighbor who had taken care of Tito before finally brought us to our senses. There was talk of the smell. A gardening friend in Taos reminded her how deep she would have to bury Tito there to keep the coyotes away from him. Those thoughts did us in.
We placed sweet Tito, two hours after we found him, after he had softened a little, into a pillow case. My friend cradled him in her arms like a baby, and simply walked with him out to the car. Nobody stopped her to ask if that was a dead dog she had inside the pillowcase.
I stayed with the other two little ones while she drove him to a vet close by.
When she got there, the waiting room was full of puppies, for some magical reason. That made her feel better.
The girl behind the desk took him from my friend's arms and carried him to the back. She returned with his blanket, and tears in her own eyes. She told my friend there would be no charge.
While we left Tito’s worn out body in Lubbock, his valiant spirit came with us. There was no more wheezing, coughing, or fainting. Just the memory and energy of the little dog who consistently rose from the dead. There is no reason this time should be any different.

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My purpose is to inspire and inform. You can read more by me on, and on the Good Men Project. I've had a lifetime of valuable experiences, and I want to share the lessons I've learned readily, or been forced to learn. I'm a psychotherapist, a hypnotherapist, a mother to my amazing son, Blake Scott, whom I write about often. I also write about race, equality, social justice, sex, government, and Mindfulness, not in that order.

Austin, TX

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