I started this “Untethered” blog many moons ago when I was daily advocating for dogs on chains. While I’m no longer on the front lines of the dog-chaining issue, I appreciate all those who still work on their behalf and am forever grateful to those who care for these “forgotten” dogs.
It turns out, however, that “Untethered” as a principle continues to fit many aspects of my life, so I’m just gonna keep on goin’ with it wherever the blog takes me today.
In 2015 I left the organization I’d founded to free dogs from chains, Dogs Deserve Better, and I felt “Untethered” from my life’s mission—an uncomfortable feeling given that I believed I’d work with and for chained dogs forever, and even had the tats to prove it.
Now what was I supposed to do?
My sweet hubby had bought us my dream home along the Thornton River in Culpeper County, VA, and I thought we’d live there forever, so I busied myself writing more books and publishing animal books by other authors, too.
But alas, at the grand old age of 58, I’m learning there may be many “Untetherings” in a person’s life; last August Joe and I began to discuss the greatest “Untethering” of all: selling our house and going on the road for a year to explore the country.
We’d just lost my precious cat Una, who tethered me to the here and now for each of his 18 years. You know when you meet that soul animal who becomes your reason to get up in the morning, the first kiss of every homecoming, and the one who might just sleep on your head (and you like it)? Una was that guy for me.
Joe had suffered a trauma in the form of a motorcycle accident 1.5 years ago which left him with ongoing health issues. He worried if he waited until he was 62 to retire that his health might be too bad to explore the U.S., so we decided to leap a bit early and JUST GO FOR IT NOW.
And So We’ve Become Untethered…
We sold our beloved home (yes, I cried) and had every intention of traveling without animal companions, too. I was concerned that my constant worry for the safety and well-being of the animals would dampen our joy at being on the road, so friends stepped forward to care for our dog and “the boys.” (Yes, I cried.)
We finished the fence at Joe’s friend Samantha’s house, and His Puppyness is making himself right at home with her and her children. It turns out he LOVES kids, something we didn’t know because we haven’t yet had grandchildren and had no young ones running around.
Then my high school friend Julie and I drove from North Carolina to San Diego with the bobtail brothers Jersey and Mike, where they will be hanging out with her, her boyfriend Joe, and their kitty Katy. We took four days to cross the U.S. and “lived it up” in cat-friendly hotels each night, which we found with the help of the Bring Fido app (recommended!)
In fact, no sooner had we reached the glorious shores of the Motel 6 in the glamorous town of Lordsburg NM, than we plotted to visit the Mexican restaurant across the street for some Cinco de Mayo beverages. The boys would be safely “hotelified” and we reasoned that we could have ourselves a little fun and then waddle on back to our room for a good night’s sleep before we tackled our last day of driving.
Julie went to ask for some shampoo while I put my feet up on the bed to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. Twas a brief moment, to be sure, because next thing I heard was an ungodly shrieking that my rescue brain told me could only be the demands of a kitten. A very tiny and hungry kitten. Yikes!
(FYI, the second thing my brain always says in these instances is “NO! No, no, no, no, no…this isn’t happening! But alas it is…)
A thorough search and questioning at the office and of other Motel 6ers turned up no other kittens and no Momma. We were on our own. I don’t consider myself a kitten expert, but I knew we needed formula and we needed it yesterday, AND I consulted one of my cat-expert friends just to be sure. Unfortunately the closest Walmart—which I knew carried it—was almost 50 miles away! The only grocery store in town was a no-go, and there were no pet shops.
At first I was like, “No way am I driving another 100 miles round trip after we’ve been driving all day,” which makes sense; however, one shriek later had me in the car and putting the Walmart address in the gps.
We all knew who the boss was, and it wasn’t me!
Julie and I took turns playing Momma all through the night, and the kitten mews—a kind word for it—continued pretty much unabated if he wasn’t eating or napping. We stopped at the Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter in Tucson, AZ the next morning on our way through, where they graciously took our little boy in and will nurse him until he’s ready for adoption. Julie was already a little attached and feeling conflicted because she’d been the one to rescue him, but in the end we agreed that putting him in the hands of experts would give him the best chance at the life he deserved.
We may have missed our party, but we got to do a good deed for an animal instead, so in the end we were the better people for it. Right? Right.
I visited with Julie and Joe for a couple days while we got the boys acclimated, then I sold my car and took a flight back to VA.
Talk about “Untethered!”
Now I had no home, no car, and three of our companions were with friends…
There was still one more, though…
Enter Da Tootie Monster, aka Tootance
Tootie Monster has been with me since she came to the DDB Center in 2011. She was a feral kitty who was born near the Treasurer’s house in PA, and when we thought she was pregnant we took her in to foster with me at the center. When she turned out be “sans kittens” we got her fixed and she stayed on as one of my gang.
Tootie is still mostly feral but does love her Momma and her sister Bryn. She has suffered ill health for about two years due to ongoing throat issues; I thought I would lose her in November, but we opted to get her through Christmas with stronger meds. I was prepared to let her go in January, but then she was like “Nah, whatchu lookin’ at, Momma. I’m all good here. Move along. Nothing to see.”
So, the great irony is that we will indeed be traveling with a companion anyway—the one who is most guaranteed to hate every second of it.
We bought a camper and a truck to haul her with, waiting up to seven months for delivery due to new pandemic “norms.” We bought small, as there are only the two of us (plus one additional happy cat camper, eh-hem.)
Last weekend we trundled ourselves out for a test weekend to Gettysburg, ala the Drummer Boy campground. We weren’t there for sightseeing purposes, though, although there is much to see if you haven’t been there yourself…no, it was something much more nefarious: Exactly HOW MUCH of our lives COULD we squeeze into this 26-foot camper?
As it turns out…not nearly as much as we hoped. We’d divided our goods between a storage unit and boxes that went into the camper, and Friday night was another in a long line of packing and unpacking nightmares of which I’ll spare you the details. The pics speak for themselves after all, no?
By Saturday a.m. we finally had the place looking as promised in the brochure, but it was not without a meltdown or two. (It was Joe…ok, fine, it was me...picture me wailing and throwing myself on the bed proclaiming I was done and couldn’t do it another second and you could have been right there with us.)
I’d been invited by one of my long-time facebook friends, Stephanie Baum, to come visit her cat rescue Saturday morning while we were in Gettysburg, Forever Love Rescue. I went in expecting a home-based rescue the way DDB was until we got the center, but I was blown away by the beautiful building and all the precious cats waiting and hoping for their new forever homes!
One of the things we talked about was how people like me in the early 2000s had inspired Stephanie to get involved in animal rescue, and it was both thrilling and gratifying for me to see that the cycle continues—it’s now women like Stephanie inspiring others to take action on behalf of animals.
Forever Love was exactly what I’d hope every cat facility would be: cats who did well with other cats and had “graduated” roamed free throughout the facility, plus they have foster homes, and wonderful and dedicated leaders and volunteers. What a joy for me to experience!
I promptly plopped my butt down on the floor and tried to make friends with every feline who came within petting distance. Only one wasn’t amenable to my considerable charms, so I’d call it a win right there.
We’ll be heading to the northeast soon . . . if any of my other rescue friends would like a visit and a shout-out please let me know! I’d love to see your work for the animals.
We rounded out the test weekend with a lunch date with Joe’s sister Ibi and her family, and she gifted us an adorable Happy Camper sign and a book on the national parks. She’s sweet like that. [I understand that Happy Camper signs are a prerequisite to going on the road. I’m not sure what you do if you’re an Unhappy Camper, but we’ll figure that out when the time comes.]
Saturday evening was the first time in forever that we were “done” with our long list of chores and able to relax in our new camper. We sat beside each other and read and chatted for a bit, but then it seemed like we were getting on each other’s nerves. So I slunk on over to the bed to read to get a little distance, yet I remained at most only ten feet away from my beloved husband of 11 years.
Um…this might take a little getting used to for two very independent introverts.
My kids are betting how long it takes us to kill each other (I don’t think they mean that in the literal sense, right? I mean, a divorce would be a lot more socially acceptable.) If you wanna get in on that bet contact one of them. I’m not your bookie…unless you wanna give me a cut…
In another two weeks we will officially begin the “Untethered Tour,” and I hope to blog more about our trip and the animal and human friends we meet and make along the way. Follow me to get the scoop on all our adventures!