A Solo Traveller No Longer… Please Meet Dottie!

by Brenna Holeman

Exploring Hecla Island solo

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.

Beautiful sunset on Delta Beach

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.

Me, all summer. Please note how many typically Canadian things are in this photo, including: a truck, an axe, a guitar (and bonus ukulele), a glass of whisky, a fire, a steak on the fire, and last but not least, denim on denim, otherwise known as the Canadian tuxedo.

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.

This would be better with a dog (Delta Beach)

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.”

Well.

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.

Please ignore my messy house and focus on that adorable face instead

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.

Our first selfie, complete with Dottie’s world map bandana.

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.

With her favourite toy (a gnome) from Auntie Zalie

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.

What I wake up to every morning

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.

Amazing gift from fellow dog mama Christine, who wrote the book Dog Mom about her girl Gertie! This book is adorable (and practical)… click here to get it yourself.ย (affiliate link)

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.

Turns out it’s super difficult to get photos of yourself and a dog. More (AKA better) photos coming soon!

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 inย 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 inย A League of Their Own, one of myย 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?

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52 comments

Renates Travels October 3, 2018 - 3:57 pm

That is awesome! I am so happy for you, a dog is an amazing addition to ones life. ๐Ÿ˜€ I do have a dog myself, or, I kind of co-own it with my parents. So when they travel, I take care of him, and when I travel, they take care of him. We live close, so it works out well. We hike a lot and I’ve brought the dog on many camping trips here in Norway, and he is the perfect companion since most of my friends love the city life more so than camping. I wish you and Dottie many happy adventures together!

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 12:53 am

That sounds like the perfect scenario! I really hope I can get to the point where I can take Dottie camping (she needs to get better on recall and not wanting to chase every squirrel/rabbit). Thanks a lot for the comment! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Mhaladie October 3, 2018 - 3:57 pm

Oh my goodness, she is ADORABLE! I’m so happy you found each other! I can’t wait to see more pictures of her on your travels and to hear about it as your life and travel tendencies continue to evolve with her. Like I’d love to hear about any road trips you go on!

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 12:53 am

Aw, thank you so much! I’m going to wait until she’s been through some training before road trips, but hopefully we’ll do one next year. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Audrey October 3, 2018 - 5:41 pm

Dottie looks so sweet! I bet she’ll make a great traveller. I just did a 2-week road trip with my parents and their German Shepherd, and the guy was a champ. We drove from Ontario to BC and back, and he did so well that we’re already talking about more road trips.

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 12:54 am

Aw, that’s so awesome! I really hope Dottie can handle those long trips one day. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Haley October 3, 2018 - 7:37 pm

I am so jealous! Dottie is adorable! I’m not able to have a pet right now because they’re not allowed in my apartment, but I”m determined to find a place that will allow pets next time I move. Not having one has really been getting to me recently. There’s a whole community of pet Youtubers who make videos all about their pets, and I have to admit that I’ve been watching their videos constantly lately trying to get my animal fix. That’s not at all the same though.

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 12:55 am

Aw, I hope that you get to have a dog soon! I’ve lived in many apartments that didn’t allow pets so it’s nice to be in my own place now and make the rules. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Ashley October 3, 2018 - 8:26 pm

She’s SO cute!!! I can definitely see why you fell in love. I’ve been wanting to get a dog SO badly now that I’m more settled, so maybe will have to look into that.

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 12:54 am

They are definitely life-changing! I seriously think I moved back to Canada to get a dog ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Lynna October 3, 2018 - 10:15 pm

Iโ€™m cuddling my dog on the couch right now. She has moved into a position where I can rub her tummy! Lol
I have left Bijou with family and used a kennel. She loves this kennel where she can play all day with a field full of dogs. At the end of the month I leave for China for 6 weeks. A 20 something friend is moving in to care for her.
I think you and Dottie will love your road trip. Last year for our #canada150 trip we camped with a camper van to Ontario and back to the west coast. We were gone two and a half months. Bijou was a really great traveller. And a great companion.
I am sure your dog will have a great time too. Congratulations on your new family member!

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 12:56 am

Thank you so much, Lynna! And yes, I think kennels are very different than the past. The one I’m looking into allows them to play all day, and then they actually go home with a volunteer every night so that they get to sleep in someone’s house and feel comfortable! It sounds like Bijou has a pretty amazing life ๐Ÿ™‚

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Jenn October 3, 2018 - 10:45 pm

Awww yay! That’s so exciting! Dogs are the best! We lucked out with both of our dogs being well behaved, but they’re both pullers. We plan to get them better trained on the leash this winter so we can take them hiking with us next summer. We also lucked out because they both LOVE driving in the car, so day trips with them is so easy ๐Ÿ™‚ So happy for you and Dottie. Rescue pups are the best pups!

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 12:59 am

Thank you so much! I actually find the “gentle leader” muzzle harness has worked wonders. At first I thought it might be cruel but she can still pant, drink, etc… and it has made a HUGE difference in getting her to walk calmly and not pull. It allows us to go on two half-hour walks a day, so it must be good! I’m still going to work with a trainer so that eventually she can be just as good with a regular harness. And yes… rescue pups are the best! ๐Ÿ˜€

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LC October 3, 2018 - 10:45 pm

Pats for Dottie! She sure can rock a neckerchief.

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 12:57 am

Thank you! And yes, she’s unbelievably patient with all of the clothing I dress her up in, ha ha ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Christine Merrill October 3, 2018 - 11:41 pm

Ahhh so happy for you and Dottie! Although we travel a ton too, we have so many friends who love taking a pup for the weekend–it’s so much to get to hang out with a dog for a weekend without any of the costs or responsibilities, ha! We haven’t need to try boarding yet–whenever we can’t find a friend, we can usually find a fellow dog lover on Rover (is that available in Canada?!) who is up for taking a pug into their home for the weekend. Also, LOVE the name story. And of course–thanks for the shout-out! Yay for being traveling dog moms!

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:00 am

Thank you so much, Christine! I have loved watching Gertie on Instagram, she’s so cute. And your book is the best! I’m going to look into Rover right now (I haven’t heard of it) but thankfully I have a few friends who are more than willing to housesit/dogsit while I’m gone, which will be awesome. Yay for being travelling dog mamas indeed! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:03 am

Whoa… just another comment to say… Rover looks awesome!! And yes, it’s in Winnipeg! Thank you so much for the tip ๐Ÿ˜€

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Katie Gard October 4, 2018 - 12:44 am

Yay! Congratulations!!! She’s beautiful. We have two large rescue mutts and I know exactly what you mean about the breeders just not feeling right. Don’t totally knock a kennel. We had the BEST one when we lived in NC for 7 years. It was a “socialization” kennel where the dogs all got to play together in the yard during the day. Mine loved it!

It’s more difficult here in Italy. I feel a little terrible for moving them here. We have a great dog sitter but she’s in the Navy and will only be here for so long, and their back yard has been seriously downgraded. The kicker is I can take my dogs into all of the stores/restaurants (which I don’t), but not most of the city parks! It’s such a bummer. Anyway if you ever want to dog/housesit in Italy, let me know. We’re always looking for good sitters so we can explore more of Europe while we’re here.

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:04 am

You know I’m going to take you up on that one day!! And yes, totally – kennels have seriously been upgraded in the past decade, I believe. The one I’m looking into looks incredible, and they get to play all day together, too. Thank you so much for the comment, Katie!

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Kal October 4, 2018 - 5:13 am

So happy for Dottie and u! We have been planning to get a dog too ? looking forward to more stories of Dottie soon.

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:03 am

Thank you so much, Kal! I hope you get a dog soon ๐Ÿ˜€

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Dylan October 4, 2018 - 8:15 am

Congratulations! Iโ€™ve been having dog adoption urges lately but definitely canโ€™t act on them, so Iโ€™ll look forward to living vicariously through your Dottie posts! (And hopefully eventually learning a bit about the logistics of traveling with a pup.)

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:05 am

Thanks, Dylan! I was fighting those urges for so long, so I knew I was going to give in eventually, ha ha. ๐Ÿ˜€

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Linda October 4, 2018 - 10:12 am

Dottie!!!!! I can’t meet to meet you TOMORROW when I arrive in Winnipeg for the best possible Thanksgiving weekend with loved ones – including you, the newest addition to the Holeman clan. Brenna, good on you for making your life-long wish come true (what else is new – one of your many talents is making wishes come true) with such a beautiful, loving animal. You have not only changed your life forever, but given Dottie the gift OF life with your rescue. xoxo

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:06 am

Dottie misses you… the bringer of all the good treats and toys!! Hah. I have to admit she moved straight back into her spot on the bed, though… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thank you so much for your comment, mama… I love you xoxo

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veena October 4, 2018 - 11:20 am

1. Dottie is a great name, and 2. You and Dottie are both welcome at my home in Memphis whenever you make that road trip — I even have a doggie door in my kitchen! xx

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:08 am

Aw, that’s awesome! Thank you so much ๐Ÿ˜€

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Suneรฉ October 4, 2018 - 11:58 am

She’s too cute! I’d love to see some doggy holiday snaps soon ?

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:09 am

I will definitely be taking a lot of photos! Thanks, Suneรฉ ๐Ÿ™‚

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Caroline Eubanks October 4, 2018 - 1:00 pm

Yay, hi Dottie! My pup Bailey says hi.

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:09 am

Dottie says hi to Bailey! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Barb October 4, 2018 - 3:35 pm

Yay! She’s beautiful and perfect, and I’m so glad you rescued her!

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:09 am

Aw, thanks a lot, Barb! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Megan October 5, 2018 - 1:50 pm

Dottie is adorable! I mean look at that smile.

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:09 am

I know. It gets me every time! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Haley October 5, 2018 - 3:21 pm

Omg does eyes, I can’t even deal. She’s absolutely beautiful.

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:10 am

She can certainly get away with a lot with those eyes!

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Dominique | dominiquetravels.com October 7, 2018 - 8:47 am

Awww Dottie looks like the perfect dog! (It’s hard for me to find a dog that’s not perfect though). I’m at the point in my life that I know I’d like to get a dog as well. I love dogs, for me it’s always been dogs & travel but I have never dared to get one. I work full-time and I travel when I don’t work. This rhythm makes me feel like I miss something in life. I have a big dog-shaped hole in my heart. I have make arrangments at work and maybe travel less (or differently) but 2019 will be the year I get a dog as well ๐Ÿ™‚

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:11 am

That’s awesome! Dogs are certainly life-changing and I do feel a bit panicked about leaving her when I go away, but I think it will all work out. Wishing you a very happy dog in your life soon! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Pusat Jagaan October 9, 2018 - 12:03 am

TL:DR.

Love the doggy tho, how old is it?

Will be back soon. My second time here.

Have a brillaint day.

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:10 am

It does say in the post that she’s approximately two ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Aaron October 10, 2018 - 11:39 am

Adorable! I got mine around a year ago and it actually makes it a bit harder to travel for me. Not because of the process of taking her but because I sometimes can’t take her and it pains me to be even a day without my dog. Albeit, I never take long trips if I can’t bring her along.

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:11 am

I get that! I wonder who will have more separation anxiety when I leave her for the first time…… probably me!

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Craig October 15, 2018 - 2:58 pm

Congratulations! Such a cute dog too!

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Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:10 am

Thanks a lot, Craig! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Jane October 22, 2018 - 3:41 pm

She looks adorable!! How do your trips feel now that you’re accompanied?

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Melissa October 23, 2018 - 11:36 am

hi! I stumbled upon your blog while looking up what to wear in Thailand – I am leaving Nov. 6th!! It will be my first time out of the United States (besides Mexico). I absolutely adore your blog and look forward to following your future adventures! Cheers!

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Tamsin October 29, 2018 - 11:16 am

Everything is made better with a dog! Especially travel. You’ll get to go through so many first from the eyes of a friend who truly loves life! The first time she goes camping, the first time she goes to the beach, her first hike and swim! I hope she makes your new journeys in life as wonderful as you’ve undeniably made hers!

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Anna Makridi October 29, 2018 - 1:31 pm

Such a nice post!Thanks for sharing!

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A French in Mexico November 2, 2018 - 2:23 pm

That is such a beautiful story! Dottie looks amazing. I adopted a cat in a shelter two years ago when I moved from France to Mexico. I called her Tess and like you I don’t know that much of her past. The only thing that I know is that she is simply the greatest car ever, she is really sweet. When I travel, I leave her with a super nice pet carer who welcomes her at home. This pet carer has herself a cat that completely gets along with Tess so it’s perfect. I understand that after so many years of nomad life you are looking for more piece. I wish you the best!

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