QOTD: Traveling With Animals


Recently COAL contributor RetroJerry told us a story about traveling with a cat in a Chrysler PT Cruiser.  In the comments, Oh!Gust made mention of driving a cat from Czechoslovakia into Slovakia.

These comments disinterred memories of my travels with animals, all cats in my case.

Before I pose the ultimate question, here’s some contextual lead-up to a memorable experience traveling with animals.

In March 2007, shortly after we moved to Hannibal, Missouri, we visited the animal shelter so our then four-year old daughter, Eileen, could pick out a cat.

The young female feline Eileen picked out, soon named Cinderella, had moments of being a mean old bitch.  A charcoal colored long-hair, Cinderella would sometimes bite for no reason and would attack without provocation.  She and I had a tortured relationship, which should be read as my having little patience with her, due partly to her habit of being, shall we say, an out of the box type of cat among her list of un-endearing habits.

The biggest decline of our relationship happened one morning when, unbeknownst to me, Cinderella was on the bed.

As one who tends to sleep on his side, I invariably roll onto my back before climbing out of bed.  This particular morning, similar to so many others, a physiological thing had occurred, a phenomenon that happens with healthy males.

For whatever reason, Cinderella viewed a specific high point of the bedsheet as a threat.

When presented with threats, cats either run or attack.  Cinderella was not a runner.

Did I mention it was summer, so there was only one, thin cotton sheet?  Yeah, despite being miraculously free of injury my day was off to a rotten start.

A year or so later, while I was out of town, a second cat appeared from the animal shelter.  A gray and white short hair female, Samantha was barely weaned when she arrived at our house.  Soon enough we would discover she and Cinderella didn’t get along, either.

We moved to Jefferson City from Hannibal in January 2012.  Naturally, part of the move involved the whimsical fun of transporting two kitties, one of whom (Cinderella) relished bullying the other.

My wife, Marie, and Eileen, who was nine by this time, transported the fleabags felines in our 2000 Ford E-150. Somehow we had succeeded in getting both cats into the same large cage.  We placed the cage on the floor between the first and second rows of seats.

Marie and Eileen were following me as I piloted my employer owned 2009 Ford Escape.

The distance from Hannibal to Jefferson City is an easy 105 mile drive.  We were approaching Mexico (57 miles from Hannibal, and the town in which I had my mother believing every restaurant there is a Mexican restaurant because, well, they are, even McDonalds, as it’s in, well, Mexico) when disaster struck challenges arose.  I had seen some unusual movement inside the van, so I knew something was up.

After a few moments my phone rang.  The conversation went something like this:

Me (chipper and nonchalantly):  Hey, sweetie-pie, how’s it going?

Marie (noticeably animated):  Oh!  Not good.  We need to stop at a gas station.  Quick.  How close are we to Mexico?

Me (curious, but not letting it show):  About five miles or so.

Marie (even more animated):  Okay, we need to stop.  We’ve got a problem.

Me (suspecting, but playing coy):  Is the van running okay?  Flat tire?  Something else?

Marie (annoyed and excited):  No!  Samantha pooped.  Oh, it stinks in here.  We reeeeaaaalllly need to stop.  The windows are rolled down and the stink won’t go away.  Are we really five miles away?

Really, it was more like ten miles.  But, to me, it seemed like Samantha’s problem was over.  Then again, her residual was there for everyone’s enjoyment.  So maybe there was a problem.

In retrospect, I was the only one to grasp the irony of Samantha being the unloader.

Once inside Mexico, I whipped that go-cartesque Escape into a gas station.  Marie barreled in behind me, not even slowing to make the left turn into the lot, with the running boards on our E-150 nearly rubbing the ground.  Both she and Eileen come rolling out of the van, coughing and gagging, tears running down their cheeks.  My attention had been captured.

Our daughter filled me in:

“Daddy, it was horrible.  I was sitting in the back, playing with the kitties through the cage, and Samantha went potty.  I could see it come out!  Then Cinderella laid down in it.  It was so nasty!”

Then she laughed, reminding me of me when she said “It would have been fun to have had a 3D camera on the ground beneath her.  But then she went stink again!”

Marie then interrupted our festivities, seeking my labor advice.

“Jason, it looks like this is the first time that cat has gone in a week.  If we let them out of the cage, we’ll never get them back in.  But we have got to get that mess out of there.”

I knew Marie’s “we” really meant “Jason”.  She didn’t appreciate my reminding her I had told the cats to use the litter box prior to departure and how they didn’t listen.

Looking inside the cage (from a distance; I only feign being stupid) I had a grand epiphany upon seeing the half-dehydrated looking fruits of Samantha’s gastrointestinal tract, realizing her puny fluid intake could actually work to Marie’s our advantage.  Stepping into the adjacent grassy area, I found a thin, long stick and handed it to my wonderful and loving wife who has not aged a bit in our twenty-two years of matrimony.

I then turned on the baloney charm.  My idea was truly beautiful, dripping with its simple, yet highly functional, elegance.

Others might call it a shoot-the-moon type idea but they would be naysayers.

“Honey Bunny, if I get in the van it will just get Cinderella worked up.  We don’t need that.  So here’s what let’s do.  I’ll keep Eileen occupied.  You take this stick, run it between the spokes of the cage and poke what Samantha left.  Then pull it out of the cage and flick it into the grass.  Poke, pull, flick.  Cats are self-cleaning, so Cinderella will take care of what’s on her.  It’ll be easy.”

I then smiled in a great big reassuring manner.  Plus, I even whittled the end to a sharp point with my trusty old pocketknife.

Marie, desperate, apprehensively tackled the poke-pull-flick endeavor.  Oddly enough it worked like a charm.  And we continued on our way.

For some reason, I suspect many of us have had some type of adventure while traveling with animals.  What memorable experience(s) do you have from traveling with animals?  What were you driving?  Where, and how far, did you go?