Pet Vacation Mishaps
The Key to Holiday Travel
Holiday travel sucks! It was 4th of July weekend, between holiday traffic and highway construction (no construction going on, thank goodness the signs are still out so traffic crawls forever) our eight hours to Hershey, PA turned into ten hours easily. With the family in tow, including our golden retriever, Max, we endured bumper-to-bumper traffic through Hartford CT, and the Cross Bronx Expressway in New York City.
As a respite after the city, we hit the first rest area for a well-deserved leg stretch and break from the white knuckle driving. Max, welcoming the chance to sniff more than air conditioning and cheap simulated leather bolted for the first tree.
I remember grabbing an old tennis ball and I remember putting the car keys in my pocket. Max eagerly chased my lob throws, returning each of my tosses with enthusiasm. As we wrapped it up and headed across the parking lot to the car, my car keys worked their way out of my pocket. I did notice them hit the pavement, but so did Max. As swiftly as he had chased the ball, he snatched the keys and ran for a final round of fetch.
Max had a good 10 ft head start when I hollered STOP! He stopped. Unfortunately, he was standing on a sewer grate. In what seemed like slow motion, he turned and dropped the keys. A holiday weekend is a bad time to lose your car keys.
Chester is 145 pounds of pure energy wrapped in a Great Dane’s body. He loves to be on water, but does not like to be in water. His early fondness for the lake came from summer evenings, when he would join me for a quick paddle in my canoe. Most of the time he would watch me methodically paddle the boat or bark at a passing gull. Occasionally something would catch his attention and he would excitedly run up and down in the boat (never my favorite).
Each evening we would race the last daylight back to the beach. The scratching sound of the canoe bottom on sand, was the close of yet another great time on the lake. Tomorrow’s excursion was but a day away. I wouldn’t call it lazy on my part and I should have known better, but when I’m done, I’m done. After paddling for the better part of an hour, I would leave the canoe as is; mostly on the beach.
That changed one day when I received a call from the Coast Guard. On that one occasion, Chester decided to go it alone. He apparently jumped into the canoe and with his weight, launched the canoe by himself. We’re not sure how long he was floating in the bay, but I remember the call, “Sir, do you own a green canoe and a Great Dane?”
The Great Cat Vacation
Summer vacation knows no demographic in our house, even though this annual event is as predictable as the morning light. Every 4th of July it’s a day’s drive to my parents for a week of celebration with family and old friends. One year as we made the dinner table announcement of the annual trek to Indiana, our youngest daughter appeared less than enthusiastic about the upcoming trip. With a little prodding, the culprit turned out to be our new cat, Fritz. We explained that it was a long ride for a cat and that grandma and grandpa’s home was not the right place for Fritz. Although we tried to reassure her that the neighbors would check on Fritz every day, she moped until the day we left.
“The cat is in the garage with plenty of food, water and a litter box. Check on him daily and give me a call if you have any questions”, was the simple favor asked of my responsible and good friend, Hank. As we pulled out of town early that morning, my daughter seemed to accept the fact that her cat was in good hands. In fact, unlike other road trips, her and her sister appeared to be the perfect travelers with none of the usual ETA requests.
When we arrived that evening, we were eagerly greeted with warm hugs and handshakes from familiar faces. Another familiar staple was also on hand, the pop-up camper in the backyard. My dad had retired years earlier and my parents tried their hand at camping, once. I had asked my dad why he didn’t sell the camper and he quickly replied, “Because the girls like it.” Indeed, the camper had become a summer tradition. Starting with the big dollhouse as little girls, the fort as tweens, and now as teenagers, the camper was space away from adults. In fact, on this trip they by-passed the house and brought their luggage directly to the camper.
As we settled in for the night, my neighbor Hank called. It seems that he went to check on Fritz, but the cat was missing. Unsure if he was just hiding in the rafters or if there was a secret escape route, he assured me he would take a look and call me the next day. I really thought if the cat had found a way out of the garage, he would surely find his way back in.
Hank called the next day with a disturbing report, “no sign of the cat.” They had checked every inch of the garage, the cat’s food and water were untouched, and the litter box was still clean. By the third day, with Fritz still on the lamb, my neighbor had organized a search team to scour the neighborhood, hand out “missing cat” posters and called the local humane society and animal control. We tried to enjoy our vacation, but the sense of helplessness being so far away, left us a little unsettled. At that point, we still hadn’t informed our daughters about the incident, worried that maybe her initial concern about leaving him was correct.
As we packed for the journey home that final day, with Hank’s latest update the same, we reluctantly broke the news to the girls. Fritz was missing and we were very concerned. Their smiles quickly turned to frowns, but not for the expected reason. Not sadness over their beloved cat, but fear of a pending punishment, and rightly so. It appeared that Fritz was not missing, but kidnapped to Indiana! He had been smuggled into the backseat, and spent his vacation in the backyard camper, with his girls.