We’ve recently gotten some bad news. Bandido, Kay’s dog, has developed a lump that turns out to be a malignant melanoma. Long story short, the prognosis is that in the very near term he’s going to start experiencing discomfort, and soon after that, we’ll have to say farewell to him.
Bandido is our adventure dog. Ben, my dog, is happy to go along with us because he wants to be where the pack is, but Bandido is the one who lives for adventure. He’s thrilled when we hop in the Vanagon, whether it’s for a ride to the coffee shop or a cross-country adventure.
Some of you may remember that Bandido is originally the reason we changed up our adventuring style to include the dogs. When we went on our Boston to Ushuaia trip, we left the dogs at home with live-in dogsitters. They got to stay rent-free in our apartment with the deal that they’d take good care of our doggies while we were gone. One of them had a dog of their own, and we had multiple meetings with both girls, so we thought the dogs would be well cared-for… so imagine our surprise when we got home, and within days of our return, Bandido bit me. And it wasn’t just me he was feeling hostile toward.
Based on our subsequent investigation, we decided that someone – either one of the girls, or one of their boyfriends – had hit him while we were gone. As a former street dog, he reverted to the only way he knew to defend himself – his teeth. We decided then and there that he couldn’t be left with anyone else ever again during our travels (except short trips when he could stay with a nearby dog-mom that he loves) so we’d have to find a way to travel that included the dogs.
If not for Bandido, we would never have gotten the Ural. Which, after a couple of years, turned into the Vanagon. We discovered that we loved traveling with the dogs – as much as it added complication, it also gave us a level of fulfillment we hadn’t experienced by ourselves. We found that for us, home is where the family is – as long as we left the dogs back home, a part of us was missing, and traveling just wasn’t the same.
If you want to go further back, the dogs are how Kay and I met. He had Bandido and another dog, Ebony, a Great Dane, and I had Ben. We met at the dog park. By the time we became friends, he was down to just Bandido – if not for that little dog, we would never have become friends, and I wouldn’t have married the love of my life.
We’ve been getting closer to going (frankly, we would have been back on the road a while ago if we hadn’t spent the money buying the Ural, outfitting it, buying dog-friendly travel gear, and then buying the Vanagon and customizing it) – we’re hoping to head out next year. And I was so looking forward to having the dogs with us. I’m so sad that we won’t be bringing the little dog who shifted our idea of travel and became responsible for us purchasing entirely new vehicles.
He’ll always be with us in spirit, though, and we’ll damn well enjoy the time we have left with him. And he’s gotta be one of the most well-traveled dogs in the United States… he’s been to something like 26 states, Canada, Nova Scotia – and he came to us from Puerto Rico. He’s been to the Grand Canyon, Old Faithful, the Rockies – he’s crossed the Continental Divide more times than I can count. He’s seen moose, deer, bison, bears, wolves, a host of birds… he’s explored beaches, mountainsides and ghost towns… he’s rolled in poop and pine needles and seaweed… he’s happily held his nose into the wind through tens of thousands of miles of travel.
I’m so disappointed we won’t get to take him with us around the world, because I know he would have loved it so much.
So just a brief reminder, folks – life is short. Next year might be too late. Don’t put your life on hold for some arbitrary date that may never come. Enjoy each and every day, and cram in as much living as you can possibly wring out of the time you have.
And never say “no” to an adventure.