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The Adventures of Skylar Grey

Chapter 5: Home alone

Sky home alone

Is that a shadow — or a hole in the floor?
And what’s that noise outside my door??
Home alone. On my own … and all alone …

— “Home Alone 4,” by D-A-D

The first time I went to SF Puppy Prep was also the first time I left the Itty Bitty Pittie home alone. It was time for puppy parent orientation, and our furry children weren’t invited.

A day after adopting Skylar Grey, we went to Pet Food Express to get all things puppy, including a crate — because I know, in theory, it’s good to crate train your dog. I did the same thing with Jazzy, but the crate became an extra end table where we rested pizza boxes during movie nights. It was eventually relegated to the garage until we donated it to Rocket Dog Rescue. Six years later, here was another brand-new crate in the bedroom.

As I got dressed for orientation, Skylar followed me back and forth. When I brushed my teeth, I could see her staring back at me in the mirror with those big green bug eyes, her ears pressed back tightly against her head. Every few seconds she would emit a hoarse, guttural whine, soft yet pointed. Before leaving, I opened the crate door, put a treat inside, and closed the bedroom door. “I guess we can think of the bedroom as one big crate,” I said, trying to justify my actions as I looked down at Itty Bitty, seated in front of me with her eyes fixed on mine. She tentatively wagged her tail and let out another raspy whine, this one longer and more dramatic; synchronized to the time it took to lower her body to the floor and rest her chin on my foot. I grabbed my keys and headed toward the garage, Skylar right at my heels. “Stay,” I said, directing my finger at her tiny grey nose. As I slipped out the door, I heard the whining grow louder.

When I arrived at orientation, seven other parents were already seated in a half circle around SF Puppy Prep owner and director Aishe Berger. We introduced ourselves and talked a little about our new family members. Except for a black Lab mix named Hunter, I knew that Skylar’s classmates — who included a Norwich terrier named Zoe, a Corgi named Cole, and a poodle mix named Itsy — were going to weigh considerably less than her 19 pounds. As I told the class that Skylar was a two-month-old blue nose pit bull, Aishe scanned the room for reactions. “I had a pit bull in my last class,” she said. “They’re wonderful, smart, sweet dogs who love to learn and always excel here.”

After orientation, I stayed to give Aishe a check, and to thank her for giving the class a pit bull pup talk. “Well, people tend to be afraid of what they don’t know,” she said. “But once they get around a pittie and see how sweet they are when they’re treated well and get good homes like their puppies, it’s really a great learning experience.”

Zoe’s parents, also waiting to hand over a check, smiled and nodded in agreement. “We’ve never met a pit bull,” Zoe’s mom said. “We’re looking forward to meeting Skylar.” I left that day feeling great about kindergarten.

Pulling into the driveway, I was thinking about all the things Sky might have done while I was gone. My mind flashed back to the first time Bill and I left Jazzy home alone. “She’ll be fine,” he said, and took me to a nerve-wracking three-hour lunch. When we opened the door, she greeted us in her usual cool, collected fashion with her favorite stuffed toy, Mr. Froggy, in her mouth, and her entire butt wagging. “I told you she’d be fine,” Bill said, and indeed, all of Bill’s low hanging fruit — from rolled up vintage Fillmore posters in one corner to his laundry on the floor — was intact.

After the cancer, Jazzy’s greetings lessened, and toward the end she waited on the sofa, though I could always hear the telltale thump-thump-thump of her tail as I came down the hall.

The minute I put the key in the lock I heard Skylar Grey whining, and when the door opened, she acted as if I’d left her for a week. “No jumping!” I said, checking for accidents and destruction, but there were none. I lay down on the bed and she was right there, showering me with sweet puppy breath kisses. She flopped beside me, resting her head on my chest and her paw on my hand as we simultaneously let out a sigh of relief. “Good girl, Sky,” I said, and I softly stroked her velvety ear until the whining faded into that familiar, comforting pittie snoring as she drifted off to sleep.

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