Tails of a City Dweller

June 15, 2008 by Tails Magazine in June 2008 with 0 Comments

By Julia Szabo

I love traveling and have a history of traveling with my pets. But things were a lot easier when I had just one dog: the late, great Pit mix Daisy, an ASPCA alumna. Now that I have six large rescued dogs, several of them getting on in years, it’s a lot harder to leave home unless I go by car—so my Volvo wagon is usually populated with at least two dogs on any given road trip. In recent years, my idea of recreational travel has evolved—the way I see it, now a fun trip is any time spent driving with dogs; their enthusiasm for even a brief cross-town jaunt is infectious, with the power to turn mere automotive errand running into a joyride. (Incidentally, one of my cats—a Persian mix named Cyrus—also loves car trips!)

Recently, Cyrus, my Border Collie Sheba, and I took a 40-minute ride from Manhattan to New Jersey to visit the Bergen County Animal Shelter (co.Bergen.NJ.us/bcas). I love folks who donate spare time, money, and supplies (anything from toys to towels) to their local animal shelter because this is something I love to do too—and Bergen County’s shelter gets terrific support from members of its community. On the day of my visit, I saw a family dropping off supplies for the animals, including items for the adoptable dogs and cats. Their little girl proudly carried bags of shredded paper for the rabbits in residence to nest in. To me, these people are local heroes; we need more of them.

I’ve always been drawn to Pit Bulls (I have four of my own), and sure enough, Bergen County has an especially cute guy named Lucky, who entered the shelter as a puppy (he was seized on a cruelty case) and has grown into a handsome young man with irresistibly asymmetrical ears, one of which appears to defy gravity (this is universal mutt-speak for “Please adopt me!”).

Lucky caught the eye of South Carolina–based artist Heather LaHaise (HeatherLaHaise.com), who created a handsome portrait of him. You can view it at HeatherLaHaise.com. If Lucky catches your eye and you’re in the area, please consider taking a road trip to adopt him!

A slightly longer car ride recently brought us to Cape May, NJ, where dogs are welcome to romp on Higbee Beach. If you love the surf, chances are your dog does too, so if you’re nowhere near a beach, my advice is to hightail it to the seashore nearest you and turn your dog into a four-footed beachcomber. There’s nothing like running on sand with bare paws (just ask my Sheba). After you’ve given yourselves a good shake to release clinging sand, you’re ready for a scrumptious meal at Lu-Lu’s Café [727 Beach Ave. at Hotel Macomber, Cape May, (609) 884-3031]. Here, everything is homemade, and the handsome mutt mascot on the retro-style sign out front is Buster, the sweet Pit Bull pet of the proprietor’s grandmother. Incidentally, owner Michele Armstrong adores dogs; she has three shelter dogs of her own and is very active on the rescue-foster network. No wonder canines and their trusty chauffeurs flock to Lu-Lu’s patio.

A drive in the opposite direction took us to the northern reaches of New York state, the location of glorious Glen Highland Farm [217 Pegg Rd., Morris, (607) 263-5415, GlenHighlandFarm.com], home of Camp Border Collie, where urban Sheepdogs like my Sheba may stretch their legs on 175 green acres. Plus, if you’re looking to adopt an unemployed Border Collie and make her your CCO (chief canine officer), all you need to do is check out the on-premise talent. Glen Highland is also home to Sweet Border Collie Rescue, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Of course, there are some very worthy longer-distance destinations that necessitate booking an airplane flight, but many big-dog people have heard a few too many horror stories about dogs getting lost in transit or perishing in their crates while placed on freezing or broiling tarmacs to ever entrust their beloved best friend to a risky cargo hold. Thankfully, one carrier, Midwest Airlines, has made it its mission to lay those fears to rest. Sure, the airline is known for whisking Westminster’s winning Beagle, Uno, all over the country—but Midwest also treats mixed breeds and un-breeds with first-class dignity. And yes, this includes even those underdogs whom other airlines won’t even consider welcoming on board, namely Pit Bulls.

Midwest made a lifetime customer out of me when it agreed to fly a handsome rescued Pit named Syd from Milwaukee to the excellent Connecticut Humane Society (CTHumane.org) by way of New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Picking him up from the cargo area, I was deeply impressed by Syd’s calm, cool, collected demeanor—he looked like he had just stepped out of a rose-petal bath at an exclusive spa!

After his time in the cargo hold (or “below-cabin area,” as Midwest calls it), I expected Syd to be just a little bit stressed. (After all, I’m normally stressed after air travel, and I’m allowed in the cabin and offered drinks and snacks!) But Syd was the picture of relaxation and contentment. And that, to me, really speaks volumes about Midwest’s genuine concern for canine passengers.

Thanks to Midwest, Syd had the opportunity to blossom into a perfect gentleman under the brilliant tutelage of Connecticut Humane’s ace behaviorist, Joanne Lincoln Draper, and today he’s enjoying his forever home. I hope Syd’s story inspires more of us fly-shy dog lovers to quit postponing air travel—and start racking up frequent-flyer miles—in safety and style.

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