Sunday, February 22, 2009

Traveling dogs (and a cat)

Every trip I make, I remind myself that at heart, I aspire to one-bag travel.

As I wheel my 20” suitcase through Penn Station, slip through a subway turnstile while trying to keep backpack on left shoulder, or toss into the truck my duffel packed for a dog show weekend—along with my briefcase, a purse, and something disposable holding last-minute commuter food—I wonder again if one-bag travel is a goal I'll ever attain.

Sometimes I pack late. Sometimes I don't think things through. Sometimes I don't really know what weather or events to expect—or know, too well, that at my destination I'll require everything from shorts to a parka to business casual khakis. In those cases, even in one suitcase, I end up packing a couple pieces I don't need or don't use.

But one bag is the plan—for me. What gets packed for the traveling animal entourage is another matter (and, often, at least three more bags!)

Each of my English cockers travels with three crates—one for the truck, one for the hotel and one for the show site. All of the crates live in the bed of the truck, so at least i don't have to pack and unpack them after every trip. These days, 14-year-old Casey shares a springer-size hotel crate with my younger bitch, Madison, because the old dog is more likely to sleep through the night in the same crate with his spotted cuddle-partner. They ride in the truck in separate hard-sided airline kennels; the show and motel crates are wire crates and soft-sided nylon crates which fold up suitcase-style. I bring a container of dry food, one gallon (or two) of bottled water, and an ancient sling backpack stuffed with assorted collars and leashes, bowls, buckets, ear covers (snoods), the grooming and first aid kits, my obedience, rally and agility rulebooks and a toy or two. The dogs wear buckle collars with tags, and their emergency ID kits are snapped to whichever crate they're in at the moment.

With everyone retired from the breed ring, I rarely travel with a grooming table, expen or full tackbox these days. My on-the-go grooming kit (pin and slicker brushes, comb, stripper, straight and thinning scissors, stone, toenail clipper and a small bottle of shampoo for emergencies) can take care of most road trips and fits in a small toiletry kit that fits in the sling backpack.

Then, there's the towel bag—a tote filled with crate blankets, two sheets to cover the bed in the motel, and dog coats. And there's a backpack which lives in the truck bed and is packed with paper products that come in handy at dog shows: a sharp knife, a cutting board, paper plates and cups, plastic cutlery, salt and pepper, spare coffee filters. Already, I'm at three bags for two dogs—without counting a small cooler for snacks, my purse or my briefcase!

Then, last trip, Churro joined the entourage. Churro is the dogs' brand new cat, a big orange tabby who is still a bit too much of an ex-barn cat to be trusted over a long weekend in unsupervised contact with things like vertical blinds. Churro has his own crates—and a litter pan, food container and special food/water bowls. Luckily, he can share the bottled water and his harness fits into the dog's backpack!

I used to travel with five dogs, all their gear, all my gear and a dog show booth setup. I somehow fit a small mixed breed, a Gordon setter and three English Springer spaniels into five crates in a Chevy Citation hatchback (with extra crates for the hotel and show site, a grooming table, tackbox, and a set of utility articles!)

These days, I seem to bring less stuff—but not less work—although I'm only traveling with with two cockers and a cat!

For those of you who aspire, as I do, to one-bag travel, check out:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Orlando, Florida

I just got back from NYC--scans are good, I'm in remission.
None of the people at the DWAA meeting managed to do bodily harm to anyone (in my presence, at least...)
The Pet Writer's Conference was great, and I made some contacts for a couple of articles.

And then, I took a vacation. I went to Orlando, my first time ever in Florida.
Here in CNY, it was around 25 degrees.
On the balcony of the condo my brother rented for our family vacation, it was 75 degrees, and I could feel the breezes all day long. I could watch great blue herons and runner ducks skate over the lagoon just past the sidewalk, and have a cup of coffee and answer email.

No doctors, no appointments, no scans. No dogs to exercise or train (or cuddle, and I did miss that.) But lots of time with my brother Jeff, sister-in-law Ann, niece Ashlyn and nephew Connor, and my sister Lin and brother-in-law Dan. Easy time. No-commitments time.

I think I could have spent another month having morning coffee on that balcony.
I am definitely going back to Florida, and sunshine, and no-commitments vacations, as soon as possible.