Meeting cats and dogs is a predominate theme in my travels in 2019. I started off New Year’s Day in Italy hiking the Circuito Tre Calli with an adorable Russell Terrier dog named Miya. She reminded me that the best way to experience a place is putting four paws on the ground (two in my case) in a national park. She shows me how to connect with nature.
My heart still swells with love at how she ran around me in circles as she begged to be stroked. She then proceeded to spend the next five hours with our group—herding us, cajoling us and leading us—as we hiked to the summit to see the Amalfi Coast. Miya had to be carried by the end of the long hike. She was tuckered out by her unconditional love for her humans. Her spirit stays with me.
“Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.” –George Eliot
But I also bore the bruises of travel that went disastrously wrong. In my excitement to stroke a pony as I hiked down to Amalfi, I miscalculated her return affection. Reaching out to pet her side, the horse reared her head back and chomped my right leg. I screamed. The horse shrugged. The result was a giant swelling egg on my shin—I now boast a “second” knee. Lesson learned? Leave ponies alone.
Later in January I celebrated the MLK holiday by renting an AirBnb cabin in Thurmont, Maryland. Packing up my two Siamese cats, I made the 90-minute trip with a continuous chorus of feline wails. Siamese are vocal. They have an opinion about everything, including their disdain for being trapped in a cat carrier. But my reward was vacationing with my cats instead of alone. And believe me with snow on the ground and a chilly bed, there is nothing that compares to two cats warming you up in bed. Obviously I am a worthy specimen because I radiate heat under their tutelage.
“Time spent with a cat is never wasted.”—Colette
Even better my two adult kids and their spouses joined me with their dogs. Byron and Carla have a Golden retriever (Calvin). Claire and Ben have a flat coated retriever (Perry). Two glorious days followed of smelling the world through the nose of a dog—everything was sniffed as we hiked the backwoods of rural Maryland. I would like to be as wild and attuned to nature as my grandpuppies.
“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” ― A.A. Milne
Isla Holbox, Mexico
Fast forward to May when I choose to vacation in Isla Holbox, Mexico. When I rented my AirBnb on the island, I told the owner that I hoped to meet a few cats. She suggested that I volunteer at the local shelter. So the day after I arrived, I headed down to Refugio (Animal Shelter).
Despite the fact that my Spanish is limited, I was able to communicate with a worker that I wanted to assist with “el gatos” (translated cats). She promptly brought back a baby bottle so I could feed two tiny kittens. Nestled in the palm of my hand with its head propped up against my arm, the grey tabby eagerly nursed. The milk drooled down her neck.
I watched in shock as the kitten held the bottle with her two front paws. I gazed in wonder at her heart-shaped face. For the next five days I went back to the shelter to feed the two tiny kittens as well as hold and stroke the eight-week-old tabbies. My heart breaks about how excited my kittens were to see me every day. Why cannot I help all the shelter cats to find their “fur-ever” homes?
On Saturday night everyone spills into the street at Isla Holbox—families, tourists and dogs. Walking down Calle Tiburon Ballena, I meet at least six different dogs. They are very respectful. They look up to say hello but don’t jump on me or even bark. It seems like a great life to lead. I value their honesty. Meeting cats and dogs while visiting Mexico is easy.
Black Cat Island, New Hampshire
In July, I vacationed on Black Cat Island, New Hampshire (are we noticing a cat theme?) The Golden wanted to be in the middle of everything—riding in a boat to watch the July 4 fireworks, floating lazily in a kayak, diving off a pier and of course swimming in Lake Winnipesaukee. I think he would go water skiing if permitted.
My son-in-law bought a used sailboat in 2019 so I was invited to join their dog Perry’s first cruise on the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. While it was quite a battle to get her in the boat as she was petrified even walking on the deck near the water’s edge, she soon adjusted. I will never forget watching her sniff the sea breeze and hang her head over the edge of the boat. Bliss.
Finally, I ended my travels in October visiting Venice. Although this city reportedly once boasted a thriving community of street cats, I never found one cat … that is until I visited a smaller island near the Lido. There I met the substitute mayor of Burano—a stately grey tabby that stood court outside a souvenir shop. She posed for all her adoring fans as we eagerly snapped photos. But the heart-tugging moment for me was watching a 4-year-old girl in a pink tutu swirl around the cat in glee. And the cat never raised a paw to stop her. The cat was a sphinx, watching her under hooded eyes.
“The ideal of calm exists in a sitting cat.”–Jules Renard
Sometimes in life (and when you travel solo), you have to dance like no one is watching. I hope in 2020 that you remember to pirouette (tippy toe), raise your arms to twirl, then swirl and WHIRL. And remember that meeting cats and dogs on your travels will give you so much job. There is so much about this big world of ours to love. And remember it’s a brand new decade if you have to start over.
P.S. Did you have a special encounter with an animal during your travels in 2019? Please tell us in the comments section.
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