I'll admit it, I haven't always had the easiest time making commitments.This is evidenced by the fact that it wasn't until my mid 30's that I got married, and it is only now in my 40's that I've become the newest convert to the religion of dog ownership.
Tinker Bell having a complimentary "puppy sundae" from Leopold's in Savannah, GA
I was reluctant. I hemmed and hawed and kept putting it off, but Jen was insistent. Having grown up with a Shih Tzu named Wonton, she made a compelling and heart-felt case for the necessity of having one here in Florida. For my part, I balked at the cost, at the commitment, at having to wake up at three in the morning to take her out in the middle of a storm, at all of the reasons you can think of not to have a dog. And then, after playing for just five minutes with a spunky, curious little ball of fur that wasn't quite two months old, I melted.
Maybe it's a bit of karmic retribution for having given my mother such a hard time about spending more time and affection on canines than on humans. Her own dogs, Portuguese Water Dogs and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, have collectively earned more titles and initials following their names than I will ever possess in ten lifetimes. But having now spent nearly two years with Tink, it is no hyperbole to say that her company has flipped my perspective on the matter and also transformed my daily life here in Florida for the better. In short, I get it.
Tinker Bell in front of Castillo de San Marco in St. Augustine, FL
Since leaving corporate america to work for myself, from a home office, nearly ten years ago, it can get a little bit lonely at times. Isolation is a real challenge. But Tink gets me outside, interacting with the world outside my cave/tower. And more recently Jen and I have been taking her on our trips - Initially just within Florida but over the past year also to Savannah and Atlanta, and in the future probably all the way up north to Philadelphia. Our general rule is that anywhere we drive, we take her with.
Traveling with a canine companion (or "your royal fluffiness" as we sometimes refer to her) requires a bit of extra planning in terms of where we stay and what activities we bring her with for. Some hotels charge a pet fee, not typically more than $25, and we scout out doggie day care facilities so that we can give her time to play with friends while we explore museums and other places that aren't dog friendly. And we bring a folder with her medical records as proof that she's up to date on all of her shots. With this little bit proactive planning, the southeast has been surprisingly pet-friendly.
Tinker Bell paying her respects at the grave of Sideways the Dog in Atlanta.
We've even started looking for thematically relevant stops along the way - monuments to famous dogs and such. Tink's a remarkably well-behaved traveler as well. She loves the car - sleeping contentedly on Jen's lap for hours at a time. She's surprisingly adaptable regarding her food, not always the case with Shih Tzus from what I've heard. Jen's previous dog, Wonton, for example, turned her snout up at anything other than boiled chicken served to her on a napkin placed on Jen's parents' bed.
Can it be taken too far? I've read some travel articles that suggest some travelers would prefer that others leave their pets behind, and I understand and respect that point of view (hence the research into pet-friendly hotels and activities). Thankfully Tink isn't "typically" prone to late-night barking fits or other behaviors that would create a disturbance (all the same, we always have plenty of treats and a couple toys on hand for her). If/when bringing a pet impinges on the enjoyment and experience of others, than yes, boarding might be a better option. Should my travels with Tinker Bell ever prohibit Jen and I from exploring any of the items on our adventure lists or deter us from interaction with other humans, then it might be time to rethink things. Lastly, I've informed friends and family that should they see me pushing Tink in a stroller, I invite them to set up folding chairs in a semi-circle in my living room for a "friendly chat."
Tinker Bell visiting Brownie the Town Dog's resting place.
As I write this, Tink is curled up by my feet, waiting for me to finish my post so that I can get on to the day's more pressing matters which include belly rubs, playing with squeak toys and a long walk. Maybe chasing some squirrels and lizards up trees.
On a final note, I should mention that in addition to being my friend and companion, Tinker Bell is also my editor - any misspellings or errors in this post or others are hers entirely.
Tinker Bell and I at DeSoto National Memorial.