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!