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.