The Chronicles of Hamish
Dogs are very social pack animals. They have a den and love to roam the area that surrounds it, leaving their scent at various trees and lampposts etc. Utterly loyal and unlike cats don’t usually stray too far, preferring their own little pack or family, they will depend on their owners for food and shelter far more than their feline counterparts.
So what do you do when you decide to travel on a year long sabbatical? Do you leave behind the home bird [or dog in this case] or take them with you? Do you take them away from their seat at the window, their other doggy pals at the park, their favourite place to sleep? Or do you leave them at friends, family or God forbid, the boarding kennels?
Not an easy decision you might think but for us it was a no brainer. Hamish would travel with us on our year long journey to the US and Latin America.
The research would begin well in advance. Flights and transportation, vaccinations, pet friendly accommodation, even doggy day care facilities. No stone was left unturned and we went about arranging the first few months of our travel, all centred around our four legged family member. The wee fella had no idea what was in front of him. His journey was about to begin.
Inverness to New York
Hire car collected, Hamish took up his usual position in the front passenger seat as we set off for Glasgow Airport and the first leg of his globe trotting adventure.
A smooth journey south, we arrived at The Pet Relocation Centre in good time only to find his Vet hadn’t filled in his passport correctly and without the additional information required, couldn’t fly. Oblivious to the flurry of phone calls and surrounding stress, Hamish happily played in the reception area until contact was made with an emergency Vet who would complete the necessary paperwork. Deed done, boarded for the night, he would jet off to New York in the morning and meet us there.
We arrived at the pet pick up area to find Hamish none the worse for wear and in the company of a pet pig who had also flown in. Pigs may fly??? Well this one really did!!!
We let him loose from his travel carrier and walked to our rental car to make the precarious journey from Newark Airport, New Jersey to Central Harlem, New York. He looked nervous, we were nervous, as driving into the city proved rougher and with more turbulence than a hand-glider travelling through a hurricane. But we made it [just] and for the next two weeks, Hamish would be a New Yorker….
Adapting well but clearly struggling in the heat, we booked him into Lisa’s Pet Styles and after two hours of pampering left looking every inch the city slicker. He would also spend time in the Harlem Doggy Day Care Spa whilst we treated ourselves to a Spa downtown at the luxurious Aire Ancient Baths and Spa.
New York is not the most dog friendly of cities. Luckily it’s a walking city and we love to walk, otherwise we’d find it difficult to get around. The Subway only allow dogs if they are secure in carriers while buses only allow service dogs and only at the discretion of the driver. Taxis are purely at the choosing of the driver and dogs will normally have to be secure in a carrier.
Central Park and others in town only permit dogs off the lead before 9am and after 9pm unless in specific enclosed dog-runs where they’re free to roam at all times. These tend to be small dirt areas no bigger than a tennis court and most dogs seem to get bored quickly. Still, Hamish took great pleasure in chasing the numerous grey squirrels abundant in all the parks both during the off-the-leash times and in the secure dog-runs. This kept him highly amused and longing to return.
None of New York’s restaurants let dogs inside due to state law, whilst many eateries don’t let them sit in the outside areas either. Should owners wish to eat or drink in these places they must tie their pooches in the street beyond the seating area. Not for us and we decided it was worth the extra leg work to seek out the coffee shops, cafés and bistro’s that did allow dogs in the courtyard and patio areas. Still plentiful, we frequented these as dining alfresco was a luxury not usually afforded thanks to the Scottish weather we’d left behind. Hamish happily enjoyed the cooler shaded spots under the table or chairs with a bowl of cold water, whilst we enjoyed the sun.
So far so good and with the exception of the overly strict regulations, stage one of our tour was successful.
Next up, road trip to Philadelphia and hopefully a bit more canine freedom.
After the numerous doggy rejections and restrictions in New York we had high hopes for Philadelphia. We hitched a ride via craigslist and began the smooth two hour car journey south, Hamish taking up his regular spot in the front passenger seat.
We arrived at the apartment in good time and as the cleaner was still in, dropped off our bags. Hamish led us through the neighbourhood to a quaint little coffee house for some refreshments and a quick tour of our new home for the next seven days.
The historic Society Hill close to downtown Philadelphia is reputed to be the most looked after neighbourhood in the US. A conservationists dream, the buildings are well maintained and have a genuine olde world colonial look. But this was of no concern to Hamish who merely wanted access to shops and parks, and a few trees in which to lift his leg and leave his mark. He would not be disappointed.
Like New York, the first couple of days were hot and humid but for the rest of the week the weather cooled and was more to his liking. Great for walking and at times we covered close to five or six miles; other occasions much less.
Tracy and I both took turns in running up the 72 steps at the Museum of Art, more commonly known as the Rocky steps. Hamish didn’t seen too keen and was more interested in finding a shaded spot to cool off and rest after the long walk there and in readiness for the return leg. With the promise of a cold drink of water and a treat he dutifully completed his task and we headed for home.
We also went to the harbour area at the Delaware river and whilst Tracy relaxed in one of the many hammocks, Hamish and I hit the pier and looked at the many ships – plus one submarine – anchored there. Tracy joined us later and we walked til well after dark, a dream for a night hunter like Hamish. Other days we just chilled at the many eateries the area had to offer and just soaked up the atmosphere.
A wonderful city for a short visit in a decent sized apartment close to all the attractions. But with the imminent arrival of the Pope it was time to find somewhere anew. Both Washington and Atlantic City were close-by and since the Pope was also going to be in the Capitol we chose, against our better judgement, Atlantic City and this time a hotel stay would be our choice accommodation.
Hamish is not much of a gambler so Atlantic City was never going to be for him. Only one room and on this occasion eight floors up. Our hotel was dog friendly, both in the bar and restaurant, but as the food wasn’t to our liking we gave them both a miss….. though the “dogs dinner” menu sounded a bit better.
Parks were non existent and the beach wasn’t open to canines for another couple of days after we arrived. So we walked for a little bit and we walked a little bit more. We travelled on the bus – with Hamish locked inside his carrier – and we walked some more. After the beach opened and we visited the sandy shores a couple of times…. though dogs still had to be kept on a leash [we ignored this rule for a little bit in the quiet areas].
And that is the extent of his Atlantic City experience. Not so good for him and not so good for us. Next stop Asheville, North Carolina and a long car journey to follow.
Asheville, North Carolina
A ten hour journey for a dog is almost equivalent to three days travelling as we headed south west out of Atlantic City to Asheville. Throughout the journey Hamish slept, sat on the front seat, the rear seat, and gazed out the windows during this epic [for him] but monotonous transit to somewhere other than the forest or beach.
The main pit stop out of three was at a pizzaria in Roanoaks, Virginia called Grace’s Place where we tucked into some of their fair before hitting the road again. Over ten hours later we arrived at the first of our three rented apartments in the city. Well after dark, Hamish contented himself with the quickest of walks as we settled in for the night with a take away pizza and looking forward to a good nights sleep and the subsequent days to come.
We wouldn’t be disappointed as Asheville would prove to be extremely dog friendly, barely walking any distance without gracious comment from the hospitable locals and visitors alike. Pubs and restaurants were welcoming and Hamish found a couple of good pet stores including the Three Dog Bakery with their incredible array of freshly baked treats and the Patton Avenue Pet Company with their doggy ice cream for hot days.
Our second and third apartments were a stones throw from the city centre and boasted a large back yard frequented by squirrels with enough devilment to torment Hamish for hours on end. He took their bait but equally this stimulated him enough to want to keep returning as often as we’d let him. The apartments were also adjacent to a Whole foods Store which sold organic dog food should we run out of his regular favourite. A perfect location and Hamish would’ve happily stayed here longer, as would we.
A shorter drive greeted Hamish en route to Nashville and after three and a half hours he arrived at the first of two apartments for his stay here. Firstly in East Nashville which boasted a large back garden, dogs as neighbours and squirrels as trespassers; enough to keep the wee fella happy for an age. Which was just as well as this area was a little too far out of town to walk anywhere. Nashville is a very spread out city and most areas require the use of a car. Walking from this part of town proved fruitless as pavements/sidewalks suddenly end leaving you walking on a busy road into oncoming traffic. Public transport seemed OK and we took the bus, Hamish inside his carrier, to downtown music city boasting an array of pubs, restaurants and a couple of parks for us to explore with Hamish being allowed of the leash for a rare stretch of his legs. Catching our eye with a buy one get one free on beer we ate at an Italian and blethered to locals keen to hear about our travels with “The Littlest Hobo” in tow.
We them transfered across town to the Woodbine area. Much more accessible for walking, a park close by and a cracking front garden for the wee man to sit on the porch and watch the world go by. We were also welcome in a dog friendly Café called the Red Bicycle. This would prove especially handy as it rained heavy for three days restricting our movement. We also arranged to meet our next Craigslist ride-share here.
The cooler weather would prove a welcome respite from the heat and as the porch was covered Hamish was happy.
During a break from the rain we walked three miles to a part of the city called The Gulch, ate at the health shop, The Turnip Truck, before making the return trip via shanks pony. This was a welcome long walk, though not particularly healthy due to the amount of exhaust emissions breathed in from cars as they raced past on the busy road. Oh for a woodland walk on a crisp morning in the Scottish Highlands, I thought.
During our time in the States so far we have witnessed many dogs fenced in gardens or chained to trees, posts or anything that will hold them. Big dogs for menacing purposes and small dogs creating noise. Both used as intruder deterrents and both seemingly effective. Sadly these dogs never seem to get exercise or any social time with other dogs, an essential part of their development.
We passed an Auto Parts business with a large Pitbull cross chained to a post. It barked as we passed and ran the length of the chain towards us, straining to get a little closer. There was no fence or barrier should the animal break free. It’s owner was present so we took the chance and went for a chat, taking Hamish off the leash to go and have a play. Although a little nervous of putting Hamish in harms way the large dog was delighted to have a new friend to play with, his tail wagging with delight and was soon joined by another dog from a neighbouring house left to wander during the day as it pleased. The owner seemed genuinely surprised as his ferocious guard dog turned playful puppy in front of his eyes, taking turns to greet Hamish then us as if we were long lost friends. We stayed for about twenty minutes then went on our way having made a new buddy for Hamish and at the same time giving him some socialising with other dogs which he’s missed since leaving home.
His time in Nashville done, Hamish would be on his way to the Home of the Blues and the final resting place of Elvis Presley….. Memphis beckoned.
The home of Blues and the birthplace of Rock and Roll. Memphis, Tennessee
Hamish enjoyed his time in Tennessee’s biggest city. Located within the downtown area we stayed at the former Cotton Exchange in an apartment on the twelfth floor with views overlooking the city. Across from the entrance was a small park called Court Park with a few trees, a centre fountain and enough squirrels to have Hamish running round in circles not knowing whether he was coming or going.
Since our arrival in the States, squirrels have been a major theme in keeping Hamish amused. Unlike his Scottish Highland home where the shy red squirrel is present only in woodland or forest areas, the relatively tame American grey is abundant in urban areas and will come within a few feet of humans, seemingly having no fear.
A block away The Barking Lot Dog Park (more of a dog run than park) gave local residents the chance to let their dogs off the leash. Like many other dog parks we’ve seen in the US they tend to be small dusty areas giving dogs little exercise or chance to stretch their legs. We used this only once during our time here.
Close by the Tom Lee park proved to be the best in the area.
From Wikipedia:- The park is named after area resident Tom Lee (1885–1952). Late during the afternoon of May 8, 1925, Lee steered his 28 ft (8.5 m) skiff Zev upriver after delivering an official to Helena, Arkansas. Also on the river was a steamboat, the M.E. Norman, carrying members of the Engineers Club of Memphis, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and their families.Tom Lee witnessed the M.E. Norman capsize in the swift current 15 mi (24 km) downriver from Memphis at Cow Island Bend. Although he could not swim, he rescued 32 people with five trips to shore. Lee acted quickly, calmly and with no regard for his own safety, continuing to search after night fell. Because of his efforts, only 23 people died. To honor the hero, the Memphis Engineers Club raised enough money to purchase a house for Lee and his wife. Tom Lee died of cancer on April 1, 1952 at John Gaston Hospital. Two years after his death, the park along the Memphis Riverfront was named in his honor and a granite obelisk was erected. In October 2006, a bronze sculpture by artist David Alan Clark was erected in the park to commemorate the event and to honor the civil hero. The sculpture depicts the rescue of a survivor saved from drowning in the Mississippi River.
Covering around 30 acres the park is popular with joggers, cyclists, fitness enthusiasts and walkers and sits on the banks of the Mississippi river. We weren’t sure if dogs were allowed off the leash but since there was no signs we let Hamish loose to run and play. We covered the full length of the park and Hamish expelled just about all the energy he had in his reserves, leaving me to carry him part of the way home. A cunning plan on his part….
We walked the downtown area, sat in restaurants and soaked in the atmosphere of the city. On our last day we moved to a small motel on Elvis Presley Boulevard where a visit to Graceland beckoned. As “hound dogs” weren’t allowed Hamish would have to make do with a view from afar.
All in all an excellent stay, very dog friendly and well worth the four day stopover.
The road trip to New Orleans would prove to be pretty smooth. At around six hours driving time we stopped two or three times for short breaks which maybe added an hour or so to the total time. As always, Hamish took his position as co-driver and we set sail from Graceland at around 13:00hrs. Interstate can be pretty boring and this one was no different but we arrived safely and unloaded the car before heading out for a bite to eat.
It became pretty clear from the off that this was a town where dogs were made welcome and we had no trouble finding bars and restaurants willing to lay out the hospitality mat for Hamish, with many having bowls of water and treats at the ready.
We stayed in two apartments during our five week stay, both situated in the Garden and Lower Garden Districts. This first, for one week, was close to The Zoo, Audubon Park and a beautiful walk by the Mississippi, perfect for dogs. The Shotgun style home also boasted an elevated porch and was the ideal lookout post for Hamish where he spent many a happy hour watching the world go by.
Our second apartment we leased for a month after deciding to stay in NOLA rather than split our time left in the States with Houston, the destination of our flight to Mexico. No front porch for Hamish but was adjacent to Coliseum Park, a brilliant community meet up for dog owners and their pets to socialise. Hamish loved this and it gave him a return to normality from the constant touring. It was also close to Downtown and the French Quarter and although busy, Hamish loved the social activity and receiving attention from passers by and market traders.
On the fringes of the French Quarter housed a shopping mall, home to some high-end retail outlets like Tiffany’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. Security were happy for Hamish to mingle with shoppers; the air conditioning giving him brief respite from the heat.
From here we took a ferry across the river to Algiers, and though Hamish has no sea legs we found a quiet village-like neighbourhood, yet another good walk along the flood levee and river bank without the hustle and bustle of downtown.
New Orleans was also home to the most amount of black cats we’d ever seen and coming face to face with fearless panther-like felines, Hamish was less than confident and decided there would be no chasing done when faced with such strength in numbers. A sideways glance would do for now…
One thing we’ve also noticed whilst travelling with a dog is the amount of people we’ve met who we’d never have crossed paths with had it not been for this reason. We’ve only seen one other Cairn Terrier and due to his breed being quite rare many people stopped us asking questions about him; quite the celebrity. We took Hamish to a Hallowe’en puppy party and whilst there met some new friends, one of whom invited us to his home where Hamish would meet a Partot, Cat, Exotic Birds and a Caiman reptile. Quite an exciting day.
Away from relaxing, walking and meeting dangerous reptiles, we would have to take Hamish to the Vets to obtain a Health Certificate to enable him to fly out to Mexico. This is in keeping with animal import/export regulations and must be done within ten days of travel. As his vaccines were up to date along with his usual preventative medicines such as tick, flea and worming tablets, Hamish received a clean bill of health ready for his Mexican adventure. Many airlines require you to use a broker to arrange transportation for pets but for our outward flights we are going with AeroMexico who are happy to deal with customers direct…. What could possibly go wrong? Well, absolutely nothing.
We waved a fond farewell to The Big Easy, one of our and Hamish’s favourite places, drove to Texas, checked him in at Houston airport and picked him up at baggage upon arrival. Customs had a brief look at his paperwork, stamped his entry form and wished us well. Quite possibly the easiest border check taking less than an hour from landing to jumping in a taxi. Mexico City beckoned….