Today is the halfway point of our fourteen-month European trip. In the last seven months, we have spent 3 months in England, 3 weeks in Spain, 2 weeks in France, 1 1/2 months in Italy, 3 days in Switzerland, and 1 month in Croatia, with numerous day-long stops in between.
And, here's the amazing part: Chewy and Abby have been everywhere with us. They've stayed in hotels, motels, resorts, apartments, converted farm houses, traditional homes, bed and breakfasts, and a few dog kennels. We've lived in an olive grove in Tuscany, a condominium in Cannes, across from sheep and horses in England, within five minutes of the beach in Barcelona, and in a tiny village in snowy Switzerland.
Nowadays, nobody really cares much about what Patrick and I are doing. Those once-asked questions about how we make an income, keep ourselves occupied, and what we see, are not all that interesting (except to UK customs agents.) No. The question everyone wants answered is this one: what is it really like roadtripping across Europe with two dogs?
The easy answer is that it's wonderful. Plain, gosh darn wonderful. I can't imagine anything better than traveling with them. But, of course, that's not the whole answer --- or even an adequate answer to such a complex question. So, let's get right to it.
What is it really like roadtripping across Europe with two dogs? Traveling with two dogs across Europe means:
- Realizing that the best cure to jet lag is Chewy growling promptly at 7:30 a.m. local time for his breakfast, regardless of timezones.
- Challenging every assumption about how other cultures treat animals because every Croatian we meet has at least one well-loved dog.
- Limiting our sightseeing days to six hours --- even when we'd love to hop from museum to museum --- because we need to come home and take the dogs out.
- Falling asleep to the steady sound of Abby's breathing.
- Posing for the most fun tourist photos ever at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Stonehenge, and the Swiss Alps.
- Watching Abby run through olive groves and vineyards in Tuscany.
- Remembering that they don't understand why we must move around and giving them the time to adapt to their new surroundings.
- Frolicking with the dogs through the snow-covered landscape of Switzerland.
- Dealing with upset stomachs and barking when we take them on long ferries and cruises.
- Being accepted as locals --- or, at least, less annoying tourists --- in Barcelona, Madrid, and Rome simply because we were walking the dogs at local parks.
- Spending days stressing about quarantine restrictions and pet passports, only to have our dogs usually ignored by customs agents, even when we try and offer up their pet passports.
- Sharing jamon iberico, prosciutto, and Istrian ham with the world's hungriest dog (Chewy).
- Expanding our two suitcase/two backpack packing list to include many boxes, bins, and compression sacks for dog blankets, dog food, and kitchen supplies and food for us.
- Preparing a truffle feast for Chewy's birthday.
- Paying mandatory pet fees and the occasional extra amount for damage (once to clean a bedspread and once to replace a doormat).
- Discovering Abby's latent border collie skills as she began herding sheep in England.
- Being extra picky when choosing accommodations to ensure that the dogs always have have a yard and limited stairs.
- Watching Chewy take great interest in a chicken but completely ignore a rhinoceros.
- Hearing Abby's whimpers of excitement before we arrive at the English moors.
- Trying to explain "2 centimeter groom" in Italian to a Tuscan dog groomer.
- Ordering almost 1,000 GBP (or $1500) of dog food and treats, plus buying a roof bin for our SUV, to feed Abby and Chewy their preferred food for the five months we are in Croatia, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece.
- Hearing a cacophony of squeaks every two weeks as Patrick squeezes the air out of their dog toys in a compression sack.
- Watching the Statue of Liberty recede into the distance with Chewy next to me.
- Sitting in a hotel room eating warmed-over pizza and risotto in Verona because Chewy didn't like the noises coming through the paper thin walls and barked as soon as we tried to leave.
- Ordering in a magnificent meal of kugel and wiener schnitzel at a high-end resort in the Black Forest.
- Learning that dogs in the Mediterranean can get the potentially fatal leishomaniasis, a disease we had never heard of, and finding the appropriate collar to ward off sand flies.
- Discovering that some hotels will go the extra mile in making a room pet-friendly (especially Sheratons, Best Westerns, and Dorints.)
- Discovering that other hotels would rather upcharge for the dog without providing anything extra (especially Ibis.)
- Having an instant topic of conversation with any local who pets our dogs.
- Finding a doggie Christmas pudding at Harrod's to go along with our flaming Christmas pudding.
- Reveling in the dogs' delight in running and exploring off-leash and being equally delighted that a few months can train them to be *almost* as responsive to our voices as European dogs are to their masters (*the exception being when Abby is confronted by squirrels).
- Exploring ruined castles and abbeys from a dog's perspective.
- Traveling slowly and staying in one place for two weeks or more to allow the dogs to adjust and to minimize the burden of packing and unpacking.
- Returning home after a long day of sightseeing to wagging tails and happy grins.
- And, most of all, being happy, grateful, and frequently amazed that our canine best friends are sharing this journey across Europe with us.