Friday, November 06, 2009
Leash Your Pet
We started with an unleashed cat. This worked through Baja, across Arizona, and into New Mexico. However, at a KOA in Albuquerque, Dulcinea slipped out one night and over a gulch, managing to trap herself on the other side when the local water authority released flood waters upstream. For a horrible 24 hours, we thought she was gone forever. After hearing her plaintiff merows and sending the man of the house swimming across the muddy gulch to rescue her, the family resolved to leash Dulcinea forever more.
So now Dulci wears a harness, and we clip her to a 20 foot long leash every time she ventures out of the van. This slows her down hardly at all. She loves to prowl and explore. She chases lizards, birds, and insects. With great dignity, she does her personal business – as long as the ground is not too rocky. With a child, DrC, or Grandma Sue in tow, Dulci wanders our campgrounds, attempts to investigate the cars and tents of our fellow campers, and even takes an occasional detour up a hardy tree.
Walking a cat is nothing like walking a dog. For one thing, a dog enjoys the time you spend with him. Your cat pretends you don't exist. Generally, you can encourage a dog to head down a trail or path; Your cat simply heads out across country and assumes you will follow in her wake. Dogs pee on everything. Somehow a dog always has a bit of extra piss for that special bush of tree. A cat pees once, gets the entire smell business covered instantly, and then stalks away head and tail held high despite the indignity of the experience. When done walking, you can coax your dog back to camp with promises of “cookies.” Your cat is never done walking. Never. When she tires, she will twist her leash around a dozen branches and then hide under the prickliest object in the vicinity. Extracting her from the wilderness to put her back in the vehicle requires dexterity and the willingness to sacrifice several inches of skin. It is a thankless job, so we make the children do it.
At road stops, DrC often walks the cat. Sometimes Dulci agrees to go potty. Sometimes she sits down in a shady spot and stares at him like he has taken complete leave of his senses. On one memorable stop at Hoover Dam, Dulci didn't like the heat and dove between, through, and under the rocks piled high by the side of the road. Quicker than I could stop her, she'd twined herself down into the boulders a good ten feet on her own personal, feline spelunking tour. It took me a half hour prone on the rocks in the blazing sun to coax, pull, yank, and plead for her to emerge. We both came out of the experience scratching, biting, and hissing.
All the rules regarding pets are about dogs. Pick up pet poo. Keep pet on six foot leash. Do not let pet make noise after 10PM. Don't let pet bark at the wild life. Ducli basically ignores the rules. She buries her poo six inches deep, sleeps after 10 pm, likes her leashes to be a minimum of 20 feet so she can successfully catch the wildlife, and would not bark if her life depended on it... though she does make an interesting mur-grr-chirp when hunting. She attracts comment and visitors wherever we go, though she allows no one to pet her. And each night she settles more or less resignedly into the van with Aeron and Mera safe from bears, coyotes, and stray chihauhaus.
Traveling with a cat on a leash turns out to be relatively easy. Just start young and prepare to be walked by your pet across hill, over dale, and through the shrubbery.