I had a great summer. So great, in fact, that I avoided all electronic devices unless absolutely necessary (see: freelance work, DO NOT see: blog posts, Facebook updates, Instagram posts, etc). I camped. I Folk Fested. I went to local beaches. I watched some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. I explored places I’d already been before, and loved how they felt new. I fell in love with being outdoors again, with being Canadian. I fell in love with Manitoba like I never have before.
I mean, I also jumped out of an airplane, witnessed one of the most amazing safari moments of my life, and learned that a seal colony really does sound like the gates of hell, all in a beautiful month in Namibia, but those stories for another day.
When I moved back to Canada, nearly a year ago (!) now, I knew a lot of my time would be spent on the road. Since January I visited the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario, the American states of Arizona, Nevada, Mississippi, and Texas, as well as new-to-me countries Grenada, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Namibia. I also spent a bit of time in my previous home city, London.
But this year was also supposed to be dedicated to falling back in love with my home province, Manitoba, and that I did. It helps that I have amazing friends and family here as well as a beautiful home to call my own, one that I have spent the greater part of a year renovating and redecorating. I bought a piano. I leased a new car. I built a new deck. I planted a garden. I also explored Winnipeg and Manitoba more than I ever have, visiting new museums, heading to new locations, and sampling all of the incredible restaurants and bars nearby.
And still… something felt missing.
For those thinking I might be missing a man in my life… uh, have you read my blog before? No, that wasn’t it. For the record, however, it turns out dating in Manitoba is pretty similar to dating everywhere in the world… it just involves more denim and plaid, and maybe a fishing rod.
What I knew I was missing, what I’ve always known I was missing, was a dog.
I am a dog person through and through. Despite fostering 16 cats over the past seven years, dogs have always had a special place in my heart. When my childhood dog Lewis passed away in 2012 at the age of 15, I was devastated.
And when I weighed up all of the pros and cons of moving home to Winnipeg, being able to both afford a dog as well as having the time and space to care for one was way up on the list of pros.
“A year!” I told myself last Christmas, or maybe it was even around my birthday in May. “I will wait a year, and then I will start seriously thinking about getting a dog.”
I convinced myself that I wanted a golden retriever, because I had always wanted one. I researched approved Canadian Kennel Club breeders and even seriously inquired about getting a golden retriever puppy, but when I went to the breeder’s house, it immediately felt wrong. So too did even thinking about buying a puppy from Craigslist or a backyard breeder. After fostering for so many years, I knew that I had to get a rescue dog.
“I’ll just look,” I thought to myself that August evening in Swakopmund, Namibia. It was a rare occasion on that camping trip when I had strong wifi and some time to kill. “There’s no harm in looking,” I thought.
I found a site that collates all of the available dogs for adoption in local shelters, and, to my horror, there were over 180 dogs needing homes in my vicinity. That is 180 too many if you ask me, often the result of people not spaying or neutering their dogs, abandoning their dogs, or abusing their dogs.
I’m not lying when I say I read every single one of those 180 profiles. I knew I most likely wanted a female dog, so that narrowed it down a bit, but in terms of breed or age, I didn’t care.
And then I saw Dottie.
It was love at first sight.
It helped that she was smiling in every photo, but the description sold me: she was described as happy, loving, and sweet, a dog that loves belly rubs. And those eyebrows!! I knew I had to meet her.
And so, right before I flew to Austin, Texas last month, I arranged to meet up with Dottie. Two weeks later, upon my return home… I adopted her. She is lying at my feet as I type this, tired after a day of walks and visits and, yes, lots of belly rubs.
Dottie is approximately two years old, and was found as a stray by a rescue and spay/neuter clinic in a Northern Manitoba community. She is most likely a Husky/German Shepherd mix, although people have also guessed Rottweiler and Labrador. Despite not knowing her background at all, I can tell you this: she is a dream dog.
She doesn’t chew anything in my house (and this is coming from someone with a very chewable house, let me tell you). She’s fully housetrained. She sleeps curled up at my feet at night. She doesn’t beg for food, or try to eat off of my plate, but eats from her bowl at her mealtimes. She’s starting to love toys but give her a bone and she is one happy lady. She sits patiently while I put on her harness and leash for walks. She loves watching the squirrels, birds, and rabbits out the window, and even likes watching TV (we’re both currently hooked on Maniac). While she’s a tiny bit scared when new people arrive, and lets out a few low barks, she immediately starts wagging her tail and rushes over for cuddles. The only issue so far – like many dogs, especially big dogs – is that she pulls during walks, so I’ll have to monitor that. She sheds a bit, too, but, well… she’s a dog.
We’ll be starting obedience classes soon, and eventually will move up to doggy day care and dog parks for socialisation (though she’s already friendly with dogs in the neighbourhood). So far, however, she is above and beyond what I’d expect from a dog who hasn’t had much stability in her life so far. All she wants to do is cuddle, and is every bit the loving, loyal pet I always dreamed of having.
And oh yeah, she’s really fucking cute, too.
You might be wondering what I plan to do when I travel, which is obviously something I had to really consider. Thankfully I know some people who have already offered to housesit/dogsit when I’m away, and I’m also open to house swaps in the future. As a very last resort, I would look into boarding – I found a place in the city that looks nicer than most of the hotels I stay in when I travel – but I don’t think I’ll have to do that often if at all.
That being said, I’ve also been very aware of wanting to slow down a lot, something that’s been a running theme on this blog for a while. While travel will always be a huge part of my life, I’m no longer up to living nomadically, nor do I want to keep up the fast-paced travel lifestyle I led for five years in London, when I was on an airplane every other weekend. I’ve been very tired for a very long time, and my mental and physical health suffered greatly from it over the past few years. Moving to Canada has changed so much of that for me, and I’m happier than ever. With Dottie in my life, I’m over the moon about spending a lot more time at home. My life now consists of dog walks, gardening, cooking, playing music, and writing, and I’m more than OK with that.
But because old habits die hard… I am definitely considering camping trips next year so that I can take Dottie with me. I have this dream of driving to Toronto to see my mum, then driving down through the states to reach the South (specifically Tennessee), then across to Arizona (where my dad has a house), and then up the West Coast to Vancouver to see my brother (especially as I’ve never been to Northern California, Oregon, or Washington before).
And one last word about her name: I had originally thought I would name my dog Thelma, after Geena Davis’ character in Thelma and Louise (my childhood dog Lewis was named after Louise, so I thought it would be a nice tribute). When I met Dottie, however, it took about 1.3 seconds to realise Dottie is the name of Geena Davis’ character in A League of Their Own, one of my other favourite movies, and it suited her so well I decided not to change it!
So no – maybe I’m not a solo traveller anymore. But after 12 years of going it alone, if I was going to change for anyone, I’m happy it can be for Dottie.
Do you have a pet? Do you ever take your pet travelling?