On Leaving Fido


So, you know the carefree, happy-go-lucky, come-and-go-as-you-please image that the word ‘retirement’ often conjures up? Enter Fido (or Spot, or Fluffy…or in this case, Cody) and that rose-coloured vision is instantly smashed to bits!

Living in the land of retirees, we are completely surrounded by snowbirds, and other vacationers, heading off to California, Arizona, Hawaii, Mexico, Panama, and other cheerful, sunny destinations, seemingly at whim. Trying to fit in, and be ‘good retirees’ we started dreaming of our own trip. Perhaps a leisurely drive to Nevada, followed by a rendezvous or two with friends in California, then with family in Arizona. We could take our time, try out some of our new camping gear along the way, and come back when we pleased.

Wait! What were we thinking?? Temporary insanity must have made us  forget that we had a dog–a very large one! Now, before you begin rhyming off some simple solutions, here are some of the hurdles:

Hurdle #1: Cody has never stayed in a kennel before. His only experience being in a crate was his eleven-hour flight from Beijing to Vancouver…and it took him literally weeks (and a couple of vet visits) to recover. Did we really want to put him anywhere near a crate, or even a small penned in area, again?

Hurdle # 2: Being new to Vancouver Island, we do not know anyone close by well enough, at least not anyone who is not already away themselves, for such a big imposition.

Hurdle #3: Have I mentioned that Cody is a Siberian husky and a cat-hater? Actually, he thinks he quite likes cats…with salt and pepper perhaps! Cody is a hunter (and we have many long stories as to why we know this). Suffice it to say that it is best to keep him away from anything feline. Strike off all potential caregivers who have cats.

Hurdle #4: As for immediate family members (i.e. our four grown sons): one has a new baby (and dog allergies), one owns cats, one lives in England, and when I suggested our remaining son, my husband was quick to remind me that this son and his girlfriend worked long hours and lived in a small apartment so Cody would be alone for a very long time each day.

Hurdle #5: My husband has heard horror stories about dogs being held at border crossings and not being allowed to return home. And did I mention that we were driving to the desert…a very long drive to the desert?

Reviewing our list, we have now struck off kennels, neigbours, friends, family, anyone with cats and bringing Cody with us. What was left?

We went through many (many) stages in our decision-making. At first, we believed that we would hire a local caregiver to come into our home. We even met a really nice lady willing to do this. But then when we slept on it–three whole weeks seemed way too long to have a stranger in our home (regardless of how kindly she seemed). Wouldn’t it be better to trial this on a much shorter trip?

We then decided that we would modify our trip slightly. Our original vision of driving blissfully into the sunshine, golf clubs in tow, sadly morphed into one-week away via a budget airline–sans golf clubs (and sans check-in luggage of any kind). We were sure that we could trial a local (albeit, unfamiliar) live-in pet-sitter for a week. But then the rumour mill struck again.  Other (quite random) pet-owners shared some of their worst experiences.  Some even suggested that a pet-sitter would probably be fine for us…. but that they would never leave their dog with anyone but family. Insert guilt and separations anxiety here…and strike off local pet-sitter.

Next we did what we usually do when we cannot solve a problem on our own. We called in the experts! Fortunately, my walking group is made up not only of people who like a good hike, but they are also experienced pet owners and extreme dog lovers. I laid out the problems and challenges and then listened to their experiences and expert advice. “Take Cody with you”, they unanimously declared. They each had gone back and forth across the Canada/US border several times with their dogs happily by their sides. One of them even goes to an annual Golden Retriever picnic in Portland, Oregon!

Right then and there we decided to take Cody with us. We had already pictured him–car top down and his brightly coloured ascot billowing in the breeze (well actually, we don’t have a convertible, and Cody does not have an ascot…but you have to admit, it struck a nice image)!

Then the reality of driving three days there and three days back, with a large dog, set in. We really did want this to be a carefree adventure, for us…. and for Cody too. Nothing about a very long, hot drive with a dog spelled c-a-r-e-f-r-e-e…absolutely nothing!

So, weeks later, with countless hours spent worrying, planning, revising our plans, and planning some more…here we are packed and ready to make the drive. The car’s air conditioning has been double checked, and our passports, medical cards, and updated vaccination booklets are in our bags. Cody is sitting smugly in the back seat looking very pleased…. he is not going to Vegas but to Uncle Shaun’s (the son who we had not wanted to impose upon due to his long work hours and small space). When we finally broached the topic with Shaun, he and his girlfriend were thrilled to take Cody and had solutions to all of the barriers which had prevented us from asking them in the first place. They also reminded us of their fenced- in patio that Cody loves. Shaun immediately posted Cody’s photo on his Facebook page and instantly got offers from all around Vancouver (and even the Okanagan) to have Cody over for a play date! Also, at the last minute, we had friends (with dog allergies) ask to stay in our home while we were away, as they were in the process of moving. Dog and home were now accounted for!

Moral of the story: Don’t overlook the obvious, don’t be afraid to ask…. and pet-owner guilt can be a very powerful thing!

In a future post, I will let you know how the travels, both for us, and for Cody, turned out!

11 thoughts on “On Leaving Fido”

  1. Donna…well written a true pet lover! As I do not have a dog any more makes us footloose and fancy free! However we travel with pet owners! One have a kennel where they live (merritt) not in crates hugh outdoor runs and their dog loves it and comes home for a rest! So you need to ask around as there are lots of good places. Another (who is here down south 5 months) at their son’s house to keep their dog company! And the last couple brings theirs..two fairly large dogs..have to stay at another park then ours…have to always think how long they have left them in the motor home…and regular walks! So it can work just have to feel comfortable with your choice. Have fun on your trip! Will you see Di and Stu in CA?


    1. Hi Georgia – You win the prize for being a regular reader and commenter! I greatly appreciate it! We are currently in LV and need to plan out our next stop. We definitely hope to see you in Oceanside soon. Donna


  2. I’m so glad that it all worked out so well! My husband and I decided not to have any pets as long as we still want to travel. When my kitty died several years ago, I had a hard time adjusting but now I am glad I did. I love being able to go away for as long as we want without worrying about arranging care. Hopefully your experiment will work out very well for everyone (including Cody) and you can travel fancy-free in the future. Have a great time!


    1. Thanks Janis – So far, so good on the Cody front. Shaun and his girlfriend have regularly posted photos of themselves and Cody on their jaunts around Vancouver — which has been very reassuring. Hopefully we have found a win-win solution! Donna


  3. ..and this is where a good ayi comes in! LOL I have to face this dilemma every time I need or want to go away with my cat. I wouldn’t change it for the world though. 😉


    1. Hi Toni – Thanks for reading and commenting. You are so right — we definitely wouldn’t change a thing either. Please continue to keep in touch. Donna


  4. Donna, I completely relate to this, and have gone through the same series of debates every time I leave Ava (my mini-schnauzer) to head off traveling. It causes special angst in summers when I feel like I need 6 weeks out of Beijing, but feel tremendously guilty for leaving her for such a long time. So happy that it worked out for you to take Cody and that it is getting easier to travel with canine family in Canada and the US. 🙂


    1. Hi Mary – So great to hear from you. Thank you for reading my blog and for your comments. Cody seems to have adjusted just fine (she says with confidence). Hope all is well with Ava (and you)! Keep in touch, Donna


  5. Ooooh! I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog! A fellow dog lover, ex educator, and retirement voyager! We just recently took a cruise and left my sweet boxer, Roxy, with my sister. It all worked out well, and they both seemed to enjoy the experience. I’m going to keep a good thought that the same holds true for you. In the end, I’d rather have this dilemma than not have puppy snuffs, wiggly greetings, and doggy cuddles!


    1. Hi Lynn – Thanks so much for stopping by. I just checked out your blog as well and we definitely have much in common. I totally agree, how best to care for our (amazing) dog while we are on vacation (from vacation) is a privileged dilemna to have. I look forward to following your blog further. Donna


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