The Star-Herald

Traveling with Charlie

About three years ago my friend Bonnie called me to tell me that she had a somewhat feral cat that simply showed up one day in her farm yard.  Bonnie knew that I had just recently lost my diabetic cat Pip and she asked if I would like to come and meet this cat to see if he would/could become a part of my family.  

The day that I met the cat he decided to let me know who was boss, because he bit me and drew blood.  Needless to say I wasn’t thrilled, but after a short time and with the rules firmly established, we both decided that he should come to my home and become a member sharing the house with my puppy, Digby.  The cat is black and white, sometimes called a tuxedo, with a small black mustache. He became Charlie Simon because he looked like Charlie Chaplin.

Very soon Charlie and Digby became good friends, and each day they would chase each other through the house with one chasing the other and then reversing the roles.  I learned very quickly to step aside when they were on a tear, because if not I would more than likely be knocked down.

Shortly after this I retired from UMPI and wanted to do some traveling, specifically to Georgia, to spend time with my brother.  There was never any question as to whether or not Digby would go with me, but I wasn’t sure about Charlie. Growing up we always had cats and dogs, and when we traveled the dogs went with us but the cats often stayed behind in the care of a neighbor.  In fact, I wasn’t even sure if cats could travel well. I had heard that cats are often restless and constantly crying, probably because they are scared or don’t like the movement of the car.

After thinking about the pros and cons of traveling so far with Charlie, I decided that I should try, because I know he doesn’t like to be alone and he is a very big part of the family.

There was, however, one problem:  Charlie is an escape artist who has pulled down window sashes and opened sliding windows whenever he could.  He always stayed close to the house, but even that scared me because I was afraid that he might get hit by a car or hurt by some animal.  Getting out at home is one thing, but on the road in a strange place is different. Fortunately for me, Charlie likes wearing sweaters and a collar.  I decided I would put a harness on him, and thankfully he didn’t object and rather liked wearing it.

After the harness I decided I needed some way to keep him close, especially when we had to stop.  So for about a week before we left, since Charlie doesn’t go outside regularly, I put a leash on the harness and let him drag it around, being careful not to let him get snagged.  He accepted it well; we were ready to go.

We took several shorter trips in his traveling gear.  He did well and so I knew we could make the “big trip.”   During most of the trip he stayed in his kennel, but when we stopped for a “potty break” I would let him out on the leash to do his duties.  He was such a good traveler. He didn’t cry as long as I put the kennel in the seat so that he could see me. When we stopped at night at the Motel 6, which is pet friendly, he was equally good except for the time he hid under the bedspread and I thought he had gotten out of the room — major panic.   Or the time he tried to get out of the motel window but I proved quicker than he was. Thank goodness for the harness and leash.

Travelling 2,300 miles one way is hard enough without worrying about your animals, but I have learned that it can be done with a little preparation.  I have told people about my travelling experiences and some think I am nuts, but that is OK, because I know now that the Standefer clan — Chris, Digby and Charlie — are good traveling companions.  I am sure we will be taking many more trips, and I know my family will be OK. All it takes is a little time, patience and love to make traveling with my “furry kids” fun. Try it — you may find you like it.

The Central Aroostook Humane Society is located at 24 Cross St., Presque Isle.  Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closing for lunch 12-12:30. Please be responsible: spay and neuter.

(“Dogs come when they’re called; cats take a message and get back to you later” – Mary Bly)

Christine Standefer is a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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