Saturday, February 27, 2010

recycled column on Traveling Animals

Terry Stephan

Changing Lanes:TravelingCircus,
I’m always surprised at the number of people who take their pets with them on vacation. They make sure their animals see the sites and have a good time. We’ve had a menagerie of house pets and goats, pigs, rabbits and chickens over the years. Finding someone to care of so many animals often made vacationing a luxury we couldn’t afford.
Later, when we reduced our stock to just dogs and cats, we arranged to have them kenneled and cared for when we traveled. I always felt Emmy and I needed a vacation from our pets as well as other day-to-day rigors. The animals probably didn’t mind a vacation from us as well.
We most often travel in a small pickup camper. The limited space in our little RV tends to make us covet what little room we have. A litter box or a dog taking even a small percentage of floor space isn’t something we’d consider no matter how much we liked our dog or cat.
There are definite advantages to taking a large dog on the road. If I traveled alone, I would take one for company, possibly protection (Emmy’s job now). I also talk to myself a lot. If I traveled with a dog, I could pretend I was talking to it and strangers wouldn’t know just how deranged I really am.
Even without animals, our own ‘excess baggage’ slows our forward progress. I have a two-nap-a-day habit and, while I am driving, I feel the sirens’ call of a comfortable bed just over my head in the camper. When I pullover for a quick snooze, Emmy not only doesn’t object, she is happy about it. She enjoys traveling in theory, but likes stopping better. She loves to do beadwork, which she can’t do while moving - when the truck stops, she starts beading.
If Emmy had her druthers, we would never hit a four-lane highway. Moving at an average speed of 20 or 30mph in slow-and-go traffic is enjoyable to her. With all the foibles between the two of us, we sometimes lose sight of the concept that we have to keep moving to get somewhere. We travel so leisurely, we often take three days to make the 6 hour drive to Boston Mass. We have fun anyway.
While I am sure pets on the move aren’t right for Emmy and I, a vast variety and number of them travel with their owners. At a trailhead or other tourist attraction, more than once I’ve noticed a couple pushing a baby buggy, only to find a dog in there, sometimes leashed in, so it couldn’t actually get out and walk.
I’ve seen people carry large, thick, snakes around their neck and shoulders, and a few years back you saw as many pet ferrets in public places, as you did teacup-sized dogs.
At the trial head/parking lot for Malign Lake in Jasper National park, we saw a young couple adjusting what we thought was a carrier for a baby, worn on the chest, similar to a “baby Bjorn.” It was obviously hard to fine-tune, to figure where the straps went on the young woman. The openings at the top, where you might install the baby, and the front where the legs of a child might come out were covered with screen and zippers.
They fetched their ‘baby’ out of some sort of strapped-in safety seat in the rear of the car. Out came a big green and yellow parrot. They dropped the bird in the zippered top. The bird hung on fiercely to a perch several inches from the bottom as they hiked down the rough trail. The parrot was out front and had a perfect forward view.
Maybe the young couple was making a statement about rights for birds, or maybe they were practicing child rearing for future offspring. Possibly the two loved the bird so much they could not leave home without it.
In any case, I just couldn’t stop thinking of all the poor ferrets and toy terriers sitting at home twiddling their thumbs, nothing to look forward to, just wishing they could be as well loved and traveled as a parrot.
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