Category Archives: Pets

We Said Goodbye to Our Best Friend Today


We said goodbye to our best friend today. Hank died peacefully at home and faced his euthanasia the same way he faced everything he ever encountered in his entire life and the only way he knew how – Head on and WITHOUT FEAR.

We were his rescuers and trainers, but Hank taught us far more than we ever taught him during the last 14 years.  About seeing the beauty in every new place. About never letting fear stand between you and anything. About unconditional love and loyalty.  About living, aging, and dying gracefully. And most importantly about how to live in the present moment and to be happy all the time no matter what!

Hank loved to walk, hike and retrieve more than anything and he could do it for hours and hours without getting tired. He was just as happy and confident navigating around broken glass in a rundown city neighborhood park as he was leading the way to the top of a 14,000-foot mountain in a pristine national forest in Colorado or strutting down the beach with the star’s dogs in Carmel, California. I can’t even to begin to guess the number of miles we logged around City Park in Denver which was probably his favorite place on earth. He was also about the fastest runner of his size that you could imagine, and watching him snatch a tennis ball or frisbee out of mid-air in stride was truly something to behold!

He also really loved to swim. Hank got to swim in the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and in countless, swimming pools, streams, lakes, and catfish ponds in between. In fact, I like to think Hank is probably locked onto and treading full steam towards a floating tennis ball right now!

If you ever encountered Hank you probably remember his infectious spirit and love for every single person he ever met, even if the same could not be said for every single dog he ever met. His adopted brother Rufus was the unwavering exception. He will be missed by us all and our hearts are broken more than words can say.

If you have a good boy or girl at home, give them their favorite treat and tell them that one was from Hank.

Time at Home in Colorado and Finally Back on the Road

It has been a while since our last blog (well over a year!) and an eventful and non-eventful stretch it has been. We have been stationary for about 15 or 16 months and since this is a travel blog, we didn’t feel overly compelled to keep it up. For those that don’t follow our Facebook site, we had to make a slight change to the end of the 2016 snowbird journey. We were dealing with multiple pet issues including 16 and 17 year old cats with health in general decline. Having pets on the road is tricky but having geriatric pets and having to make five trips to five different vets in five cities in about six months was more than tricky, and as tough on us as it is on the cats. In addition, our old man dog Hank, now 14.5 years old, was having more and more mobility issues including a blown CCL (knee ligament) suffered while hiking in Flagstaff in spring of 2016.


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On the Road Again – Glamping our Way West

We are back on the road. After the always exciting extraction of our home from the top of the mountain 9300 feet up, we started with a quick few nights at the beautiful Glenwood Canyon RV Resort . This was a great but pricey park just off of I-70 in a scenic mountain location just outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Continue reading

No UFO’s found in Roswell’s Bottomless Lakes State Park

Written by:  Robin

We headed up to Roswell for a week on our way to Albuquerque.  I was full of anticipation to check out what I remembered from my childhood as a unique funky town.  I had announced my intention to visit the Roswell UFO Museum and hear what “really happened” with the mysterious crash of 1947 as well as hear the conspiracy theories about the alien autopsies that were allegedly carried out at the Roswell base.  FUN!!!!   As we drove through the town to make our way to Bottomless Lakes State Park, I quickly felt my anticipation fade to disappointment as I realized that what seemed cool to me as a kid…just felt cheesy now. Alienneonsign_edited-1 UFO museum2As we drove out of town we realized that the park was a bit further from Roswell than we realized so I decided that I would just let it go…and would not likely be venturing into town to explore much anyway.  I was driving this time, and my disappointment soon turned to anxiety as our GPS became confused and the directions I got when I called were making less sense the further we drove.  Wondering if there were mysterious forces messing with me because of my disbelief, we made our way down the very sketchy, narrow road that seemed to be heading to nowhere.

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Happily, after 7 miles of white knuckle driving, we saw a beautiful bright blue lake and some RV’s, so we knew we had made it.  It was starting to feel better already.  e were greeted by the campground host, Deb who upgraded us to a nice big pull through spot because they were first come, first served…and we were early!  As I began to look around at the beautiful area, I decided that maybe I should adopt Jeremy’s philosophy of the natural attractions being the ones we seek out, rather than the man made.

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This state park quickly became one of our favorites.  Here are some reasons why…

Geology….This was the first state park in New Mexico, established in 1933.  Apparently these “bottomless lakes” are actually an ancient limestone reef that formed caverns (not all that different from Carlsbad where we had just visited).  The nearby Pecos River eroded away the rock which collapsed the caverns and formed the 9 small but deep lakes, which are actually cenotes. They are fed by underground water percolating through the rocks. IMG_4760 (1024x683)

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This makes most of them salt water rather than fresh, because of the limestone.  This was GREAT news for hank, who loves to swim but breaks out in hives from most fresh-water environment.  Swimming was a regular activity for him that week.

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History….They are not actually bottomless, but range in depth from 18-90 feet.  They got their name because the cowboys who named them were trying to figure out their depth and tied two or three ropes together and drop them into the lakes to try to reach the bottom. The ropes were not long enough, so they thought the lakes were bottomless! The greenish-blue color created by algae and other aquatic plants also added to the illusion of great depth.  There was lots of great hiking around the lakes.  Deb even told us about a “buffalo killing field” that we could hike to.  We decided to stick to the lakes!one of the lakes (1024x683)

 

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Mystery….other tall tales and folklore abound.  There are two lakes called the Figure 8 lakes, that are side-by-side.   One tells of a horse that fell into one of these lakes, drowned, and was pulled out of the other. Also, numerous objects  have been reportedly lost in the lakes, only to be retrieved later from Carlsbad Caverns or even the Gulf of Mexico! There are stories of strong underground currents that suck divers and swimmers deep into the bowels of the Earth, never to be seen again! Just when you thought that was enough intrigue…the Bottomless Lakes also have stories of monsters that are said to be giant turtles that lurk in the depth!  So…there…who needs UFO’s and aliens anyway!

Peace…As it was early in the season the park was only half-full.  This made for many lazy afternoons in the sun, which we were really getting for the first time in about 4 months.  It was such a cold and rainy winter on the gulf-coast that we went a little crazy now that we had sun and warmth.  No distractions of a city or town…just the few of us campers nestled in the warm, sunny desert.  Ahhhhhhh…….

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Beauty….not only was this a great state park with HUGE spaces…it was very well kept.  There was an entire extra space in between each spot, so there was plenty of room to breathe!  Deb also told me about Pecos Diamonds, and gave me a map of where I could go to “hunt” them and a sample of her own so I would know what to look for.   Instead of visiting the UFO museum, one afternoon I set out solo to some remote land and went hunting.  She was right, once I learned what to look for…I couldn’t stop seeing them. (except when I got distracted by other pretty things…)20140325_140836 (1024x768)

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Character….Deb, what else can I say…excellent and kind campground host!  There were also others who are worthy of mention… a family who frequents the park, and sets up a MONSTER tent for 2 weeks at a time.  They don’t have an RV, but they did pull up in a big U-Haul, which carried their tent and the houseful of furniture and supplies they needed for two weeks…I felt like I was on the set of M*A*S*H!

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We met several friendly folk during our stay.  There was one, though, who we never met…who stayed in his BMW with the windows tarped, spoke to no one and occasionally emerged to take an hour trip to town or to walk to the restroom.

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Seemed creepy at first, but Deb assured us that they had their “eye’ on him…  We couldn’t figure out exactly what his story was…strangest camping neighbor yet…who knows, maybe I got to see my alien after all!

We enjoyed our week much more than we expected.  What a wonderful addition to our visit to the “Land of Enchantment”!!  It was actually hard to leave…but it was time to get back to a city so we could work, so off to Albuquerque we went.

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Dauphin Island is for the Dogs

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Our most recent destination was yet another remote beach location off the gulf coast of Alabama, Dauphin Island. This was a small somewhat run down island which was obviously once a booming vacation destination but now, at least in January, is primarily a place for oil workers and old folks that want to spend their golden years and modest retirement savings fishing and worshiping. The entrance to the island was spectacular and intimidating when pulling the trailer.

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After checking in at the Dauphin Island Park Camping Area, and before we even got set up we were greeted by a friendly although quite a bit our senior fellow snowbirder who was intrigued by our Colorado license plates. After explaining how and why we were here, we were informed of the RV park bingo schedule, the locations of the fish cleaning station, the general store and each Church broken down by denomination. What else could we need to know?

No golf courses, hipster bars or $13 vegan sandwiches here. Just a somewhat run down camping area, a bunch of dilapidated, hurricane whipped houses and a dog-pee drenched beach with endless views of off shore oil and gas rigs. Or as Hank and Rufus like to call it “heaven on earth”!

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Yes, once again we found ourselves on a remote island miles from a city. To be honest, after months of island hopping, the excitement of an empty beach in cool weather has somewhat dulled for us. After a week in the exciting vacation town of Sea Side/Grayton Beach and the impressive Florida State Park network, we were probably a little let down by this location and what little there was to do. I can’t say that we didn’t see this coming. We had done plenty of research and we knew exactly where we were going and what it had to offer and didn’t.

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Truth be told, Hank and Rufus lobbied hard and picked this island, not Robin and me. While I am not about to subject my dogs to the psychological abuse of having an owner that writes blogs as the pet, I can honestly say that we probably would not have picked this location if not for their enthusiastic input. Although they primarily communicate their preference via Robin’s subconscious, their opinion is real, and satisfying their needs (sometimes above our own) is really no different than if we had kids. Trust me when I say, if they are not happy, we are not happy.

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In fact, some of the most fun and social locations for us, Charlotte, Cedar Key and Grayton Beach were not particularly great for the boys. The town of Cedar Key was very dog friendly but the hiking access that we had directly from the RV park was not ideal and nor was the amount of time we spent “out” and them “in”.

Although we knew that there might not be much night life for us humans, we compromised and chose the next place, Three Rivers State Park, primarily for the dogs. We then alternated back to the humans playground of Grayton Beach. As we mentioned in our previous blog, this was one of the most pristine beaches we have ever been but unfortunately, no dogs allowed.

As we walked every day toward the dog allowed dunes area at Grayton Beach, Hank would always take the right-hand turn toward the beach access trail and by the large NO DOGS ALLOWED sign. He would look back at us over his shoulder and the fully extended retractable leash as we explained that the state of Florida does not allow dogs on the beach even when it is in the middle of winter and even when no one else is around. Although he knew exactly what we were saying he completed rejected the law based on premise and he usually hiked is leg as he walked back away from the beach and past that sign. We then lead him to the “dog friendly” hiking area where we would spend half of our walk pulling sand spur thorns out of his paws.

After eleven days at Grayton, the dogs had been patient but we were going somewhere primarily for them and not for us. Dauphin Island met their needs nicely. The large beach was private to the campground and off leash friendly. We rarely saw other people as the weather was a bit cool for most. There was plenty of dead jellyfish to lick as well as dog poops and pees to smell and do everywhere!

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There was also a network of swamp trails and a bird sanctuary that was absolutely perfect for dogs. Our RV site also had a pretty nice “yard” for lounging and napping. Overall we had a blast, probably similar to how parents say they enjoy places like Disney World. You can say all you want that it is fun for adults too, but lets face it, if you didn’t have kids you wouldn’t go within a 50 miles of that place. That is about how I would describe Dauphin Island for us during this week long winter visit.

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One of our favorite activities in a new town is to seek out the local bars and restaurants. During our week at Dauphin Island we ate out four times. Although I won’t go into great detail about each location, what I can say is that the Chevron and Grill was probably the best meal we had out and the name is exactly what you think it is. That should tell you quite a bit about the Dauphin Island restaurant scene overall.  JT’s Sunset Grill was OK but like I said, probably not better than the gas station food around the corner with a similar menu. There was really nothing wrong with our lunch at Barnacle Bills and I think that is a complete and fair review of the place. Islander’s Restaurant and Bar was a somewhat nicer beach side atmosphere and bar but with horrendous food. The calamari appetizer we ordered may go down as one of the worst dishes I have ever been served at a restaurant. Maybe at some point we will start posting actual Yelp Reviews but right now keeping up with this blog is all I have. Sorry Dauphin Island, Alabama, I don’t mean to be so critical, but from what we saw, restaurants are not your thing.

We also went to check out the bar scene at The Pelican Pub but it was also not our speed and one drink was more than enough. The bar was on the water and it looked nice enough but before we had completed our order we were ready for the check. No music whatsoever and all bar TV’s were locked on Fox News with the volume up loud. Most of the women had voices deeper than mine and the tipsy locals propped up on bar stools started most conversation with the always disputable Alabama, drawl proclamation “I am not a racist but….”. The outdated bar and décor matched the opinions being openly expressed and this was no place for a couple of Colorado hippies seeking micro brews.  I always wondered why some people think that only degenerates drink at bars. I guess that is because in some places it is true and we often forget that Colorado is not representative of the entire country. We decided to do our eating and drinking at the trailer for the rest of the week and once again that decisions was quite satisfying to the dogs and our stomachs.

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Although my overall opinion of the island and people is not particularly high, there was plenty of nature to see and we visited the local Sea Lab Estuarium and Fort Gaines historic site; both were enjoyable but nothing to blog home about.

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There was also a Mobile Bay Ferry that transported cars on and off the island to a port that was right beside the campground. We did not ride on this ferry as it was closed to RV’s when we had planned to cross upon arrival. The port was fairly busy transporting cars as well as ships traveling back and forth to the oil rigs. Robin and I did have regular competitions to see if we could correctly name the boat that was going by based on the engine sound filling our trailer. The engine sound of Mr. Ethan became easily discernible after a few days.

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These were all interesting considering where we were and considering what little else there was to do, but overall, I would not recommend making a trip based on any of these attractions. In all fairness this is a pretty place and I’ll bet it’s a different situation in the summer when the water is warm and the dolphins are out to be seen.  I hope the tone of this blog was not too harsh. We are beyond lucky to live this island life and we appreciate these magnificent places even when the attached towns leave something to be desired.

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So in summary, when traveling as a family sometimes compromise has to be made and the needs of all family members have to be considered. Even when a location is not exactly paradise for a golf obsessed snowbirder in his thirties, I can be just as happy watching my tennis ball obsessed eleven year old dog do his thing and have the time of his life on an island made for a dog. 

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Full-Timing with Pets / Meet the Family

Written by: Jeremy

I mentioned in a previous blog that we have talked about living in a travel trailer or, full-timing, for as long as we can remember. As a family, that has two big dogs and two cats, including three seniors, the idea of full-timing with pets was almost always at the top of the list of excuses for why we could not do it. We are just not the type of people that would make other arrangements for any of them based on life plans that may have changed since we said “I do” to these strange creatures how ever many years ago. In fact, we had all but decided that we would at least wait until we had a couple fewer cats and maybe one less dog before we entertained any type of full time expedition.

After we bought the travel trailer, we soon found that our thirteen year old cats Helen and Omar love the trailer. After living in it for a few months while we were in between houses, we knew for sure that this plan could work.  If not “for sure”, we knew we were willing to give it a try. After we moved from the RV into our mountain cabin this summer we found that Omar wanted nothing to do with the musty old cabin and he mostly preferred to stay in the adjacent and newer RV. Given our future plans, we let him stay there most of the time this summer as the rest of us prepared to join him in the Fall.

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The cats have lots of large windows to look out and the same comfy queen sized bed that they basically live on in our normal house is still always there; including when we are driving. Sure navigating through the dog gauntlet can be a challenge for them, but overall, I think they like the feeling they get when they have to swat and dominate the big dogs every now and then.

We even have little cat leashes and a cat play pen so that they can all get some fresh air! You should see some of the looks we get when people stroll by our camping spots and see Omar sunning himself on the picnic table.

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Yes, it can be tight quarters, and finding a good spot for the litter box and other issues had to be dealt with. With senior cats, we decided to make prescription medication and food arrangements up front and all of our vet records are on board and digitally available. Our pets are also registered in the Banfield nationwide veterinary network so if we need routine care we don’t have to go through the whole process of transferring records to a new vet. So far, the cats have done well and they seem happy; or at least as happy as 13 year old indoor cats that live in an RV with big dogs get.

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As for the 160 lbs of mutt we are taking with us – what can I say, dogs are dogs and we love them but they are not necessarily easy or cheap.  Our older lab mix Hank’s is still pretty spry but most of his over-active collie puppy years are well behind him. Even though he doesn’t really know it, he has been looking forward to dipping his feet in the ocean for the first time for over ten years now. We can feel his excitement and anticipation growing as our excitement and anticipation grows for him.

Although our younger, big-boy, Rufus, can be a handful, the question, “you want to go for a ride?!” is, without a doubt, the most thrilling sentence he has ever heard a human-being utter. He has no idea where we are going or why and yet he has been up for this journey with us since the moment we met him down at the shelter.

Like his older brother, he does not spend one moment of his life focusing on the “what if?” obstacles and fears associated with travel and he certainly does not perseverate on his past. Staying one hundred percent focused on the potential opportunity ahead is not a problem for either one of our dogs. In accordance with our similar philosophy in life, why should we not be primarily the same?

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I can see why dogs were good companions for the early pioneers. Surrounding yourself with energy forms that only look forward and never back can be a very good thing when living on the move.

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We have a nice set up for them in the back of the crew crab and with quite a few miles under our belt already, they have been fantastic truck riders and travel companions. The cat crates double as a level platform support area for the dogs and this also provides another options for the cats if they aren’t traveling in their preferred position in the trailer bedroom. A dog ramp helps Hank get into the truck and it also provides a nice agility obstacle for Rufus to bound over when he enters the truck using his preferred full-speed, airborne launch method.

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Yes, I am sure a couple of lap dogs like the ones we see everywhere we go, would probably have made better full-timing companions, but then again, probably not for us.

RV Lesson # 4: We are who we are and we can make this trip what we want. We can and will live, breathe, and move with our family instead of with excuses or regret.

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Besides, indoor space and a fresh, clean smelling house are way over-rated when you have an entire continent to explore. All you need is a comfy place to lay your head at the end of the night. Hank and Rufus agree!

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