Trixy, my long-suffering and almost constant companion for most of this century….. let’s be honest, if not for Trixy I might be lounging on a Thai beach or puffing my way up to Machu Picchu right this minute…… might be. Click the link for Trix’s story.
The most fundamental belief I hold is that everything is possible in some form or other, if you give it enough thought, want it enough, and are willing to make compromises, so when the foot itching became unbearable over a year ago, it became clear that the only way I could travel was with Trixy. Thus it was that she squeezed into my van at an unspeakably early hour on a dark morning last October, and nestled between bags and boxes, eager not to be left behind, wherever I was off to.
That morning we were off to Los Cristianos to take the ferry to La Gomera, a crossing of only an hour, but we were setting off into the unknown, however close to “home” it was!
It’s a powerful thing when a pet trusts you, and if I had any doubts about this trip at all it was when I left her in the Spartan kennel on the ferry, knowing that we had far longer ferry trips in the months ahead. If ever looks spoke louder than words it was when I went to “rescue” her as we docked in San Sebastian. At that point the trip became as much about traveling with dogs as about anything.
That turned out to be the only time I used the kennels. By the time we came to do the five-hour trip to Fuerteventura we’d both become accustomed to her staying in the car. Sometimes I checked with the ferry staff, but honestly they didn’t really have a clue whether or not it was permitted to leave a pet in the car, and Trix was definitely much happier with her own blankets on the comfy back seat.
Two ferry companies ply this route daily, Fred Olsen Ferries and Naveria Armas. I used both, depending on which website was working, or which office was staffed when I arrived at a terminal.
The only reservation I now have about doing this arose a couple of months back, when there was a fire in the hold of one of these ferries. A truck apparently caught fire, and though, happily, no one was hurt, you have to wonder if a dog is really safer (i.e. easier to rescue) in kennels in those circumstances.
Getting from La Gomera to Fuerteventura means taking 3 ferries. The first was the accustomed crossing to Tenerife, then a drive from Los Cristianos to Santa Cruz and a ferry to Gran Canaria. We’d been able to crash with friends (Trixy’s adoptive “godparents”) overnight so there was plenty of time to exercise luckily. The second goes from Santa Cruz to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where at midnight we drove clear to the other side of the port to board the Fuerteventura ferry.
In Santa Cruz there was a moment of panic as an Armas staffer noticed Trix in the car, and told me that I needed some special paperwork for her. This was the first I’d heard of it, we were next in line to board, and I had to rush over to their office to fill in the form, which basically said I wouldn’t sue them if anything happened to her.
My instructions were to check in and do the same at reception onboard the second ferry, where a mystified staff member asked me if I minded waiting as she doled out cabin keys to the dozens of truckers who needed their sleep, and then went off in search of instructions, clearly this was something she’d never dealt with before. Eventually, all signed up, I curled up on a seat and resolved to take a cabin if I ever did this crossing again. Trix, snug as a bug on her comfy bed on the comfy back seat of the car, apparently snored her way around the islands.
After that it all became a familiar routine, surrounded by her own blankets or bed, she didn’t show any signs of nerves at all. If I was traveling on foot I’m not sure how I would feel about having to leave her in the kennels. You can’t expect luxury, but they seemed a bit harsh, and several times, descending to the car deck at the end of a crossing, I heard dogs that seemed to have been barking the entire trip. Trix isn’t a barky dog, but other dogs barking relentlessly would have upset her.
When I booked our last trip, from La Palma to Tenerife I noticed a paragraph on the Fred Olsen website I hadn’t seen before, which indicated that if you travel with your dog it has to be insured. That seemed fair enough too, but I ignored it, knowing that Trix is too old now to be accepted for insurance, and I wasn’t asked for any proof.
All in all there were no real problems. I always arrived early, so we could have a walk, and make sure she had plenty of water. It meant that I was calm and relaxed about leaving her, if I hadn’t been, chances are she would have picked up on it, and not settled down so well.
Trixy thrived in La Gomera, and perhaps her happiness was something to do with me extending my stay there. I think the cooler weather agreed with her, and some of the stiffness in her back legs seemed to ease up. Odd that, you’d think it would be better in the warmth.
Finding the La Gomera apartment had been one of those twists of Fate that leave you wondering about how the universe encourages you sometimes, but I will write properly about accommodation another time, this post is specifically about the canine side of my “adventure.” I’d been able to introduce one of the apartment owners to Trix when he passed through El Médano, so I was happy that he knew she was old and quiet.
In La Gomera getting into the car became a happy semi-leap instead of the awkward fumbling it had been, as she went with me more often than not as I toured the island. The apartment was perfect, which meant I was able to leave her behind if I was going somewhere like a restaurant, or walking for longer than she is able to do. The peace was perfect for her. Never a fan of loud noises, the only times she was spooked were when there were fireworks i.e. for the Bajada de la Virgen and New Year’s Eve.
These days, at her advanced age, she’s happy to lie under the table, and so I could enjoy a meal and/or work in peace as she dozed – so long as we were outdoors, which was ok for the first 3 months and last couple of weeks, but which, ….. er, didn’t exactly work during the two months of torrential rain, which comprised the rest of last winter! She’d also been happy to lounge on the back seat or on a blanket by my side when I worked at the beach, but, come the rains, I had to leave her behind when I worked in bars, which, actually also worked out fine, given the great apartment.
My idea had been to arrange accommodation ahead, and so when we arrived at the home stay in Fuerteventura I knew that she would be accepted, but that she would have to sleep in the garage with the owner’s dogs. I didn’t have problem with that. Although she’s always slept in the house, she stays in an outdoor kennel when I go away, and this is a totally different thing to do in this climate than it would be in a colder one. The garage turned out to be fine, clean and cool in the hotter climate, and she got on well with the other dogs.
For me, however, it was different. I missed her being around for one thing, and for another, visitors often left the front gate open, and the dogs would get out. For the family dogs, in a small village, that wasn’t a huge problem, they inevitably found their way back sooner or later, but for Trix, who has no road sense and is now deaf anyway, it was different, and I worried.
It definitely meant that I wouldn’t leave her alone, so she came everywhere with me. I only once left her behind for any length of time. It was kind of nice, having her there behind me, but a problem when I needed to leave her in the car of course as the weather got warmer.
When I received the invite to stay at the Sands Beach Resort in Lanzarote for a week, there was no option but to leave her in kennels. I chose to use kennels on that island rather than Fuerteventura, so if there was a problem I would be closer. I reached out to fellow blogger Julie Cliffe-Jones for a recommendation, and it proved to be absolutely marvelous. In fact, the best kennels I’ve ever used anywhere! From the moment I left her I sensed that she was in good hands from what I’d seen, and I was able to relax completely and concentrate on work for the week.
Our final port of call on this trip was the island of La Palma. There I found the first utterly negative aspect of traveling with dogs, which I mentioned in this post, so I won’t repeat myself. Thankfully it was only an overnight stop, and thankfully it was resolved, without me or Trixy having to sleep in the car.
The next morning we arrived at the accommodation I’d booked, happily, subject to it being ok, and I probably have to be honest and say that Trix probably enjoyed it as much as I disliked it…..once, like me, she’d gotten used to the scuffling of lizards and god knows what else in the ceiling! The accommodation was an independent apartment created from outbuildings adjacent to the owner’s house, and it was ground floor, so there was a little, overgrown garden. Happily overgrown, which meant that she could mooch around to her heart’s content, though rigorous brushing and checking for tics had to be done every day! She loved just lazing in the sun when I worked, surveyed anxiously by the owner’s cat and her brood of five, six-week-old kittens, who gave her a wide berth, so no problems there either!
Would I do It Again?
Yes, I’d do it again – in a heartbeat. Whether I actually will do so I’m not so sure. Trix is definitely showing signs of age now. She has a heart condition and hip displaysia, and I’m happy to be back in the hands of a veterinary practise which knows her and her history. I will think twice before I set off next time about whether it’s the best thing for her.
Obviously some dogs wouldn’t like a trip like this, some get car sick, some are just too exciteable, or don’t get on with people or with other dogs. The dog needs to be fairly tranquil and unflappable. I’m not even sure I could have done this when she was younger. I made make sure that I had the food and bedding organized, but not much more so than at home. I took a load of old blankets and throws to line the car seats, and just threw them out when they became too dirty. Always having water in the car is a must, of course, and when I had to leave her alone in the car it goes without saying that I left windows ajar and put the sun visor across the windscreen. I was lucky to be traveling in places where crime rates are fairly low, so leaving windows open didn’t bother me, given that after La Gomera half my possessions remained in the car! The first thing I did when I arrived somewhere was to make sure that I knew where the nearest vet was too, having located it, I took a picture of the opening hours and phone numbers on their door with my phone, so I had a quick reference in case of an emergency.
There are certain things I would do differently about this trip, which I will address another time, but traveling with Trixy certainly isn’t one of them, and with a younger dog, who could enjoy long walks I’d be even more enthusiastic! The secret to having few problems seems to have been in making sure ahead of each destination that it was dog friendly. On the one occasion that didn’t work out, I had researched, but there was a fault somewhere in the advertising. *******.co.uk were absolutely correct and refunded my money in full, so I was very impressed, and will definitely use them again, although perhaps, having chosen the accommodation, I will ring directly to confirm that they accept pets.
In a big way, Trixy made the trip for me. Over the ten months I met some amazing people, formed new friendships (much more so than expected) and experienced heart-warming kindness, but the thing about traveling solo is that you don’t actually share the trip with someone. Being with her in some way felt as if we were sharing, and that was a plus.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to clean my car – Trixy, sadly, is the world’s hairiest dog (in the sense of shedding it wildly!) and the only negative is that there is A LOT of cleaning up to do. Tips for removing dog hairs welcome!