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dog

Felicia and the Furballs

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Felicia and the Furballs

A year ago I helped a moose calf get reunited with its mother. Lately there has been a marked increase in animal rescue cases. I didn’t even mention this before, but in Corsica Isabelle saved two tiny stupid dogs from running on a busy road. The owners were so thankful they let us stay for several days in their guest apartment. Although the dogs escaped several more times during our stay, so I don’t have high expectations for their wellbeing.

Civitavecchia on the first day in Italy.

In Italy the trend has continued. On our second day back on the continent, we were checking out the Caldara di Manziana nature preserve area. It’s a volcano crater northwest of Rome, with some small geysers. A strong stench of rotten eggs permeates the area, due to sulfur escaping from the ground.

I saw some movement in the high ferns. It was a shy black dog that seemed curious about us, but kept vanishing into the shadows before we got a good look at it. When no owner appeared, we became equally curious. Eventually we found it lying under a tree. She looked scared, hungry and was covered in ticks. Isabelle gave her water and some of her dog food (despite Kira’s protests). When she got up to eat, we finally saw how thin she was - basically just bones covered in fur. She must've been there for months, and was probably mere days away from dying.

In this photo she doesn't even look that bad.

Camping was probably not allowed in the area, but we couldn’t leave the dog alone, so pitched our tents at sunset. While trying to decide what to do, there was a stroke of luck: A local man with five dogs came strolling in on his evening walk. Exactly the kind of person who would know how to deal with the situation! He took one look at Felicia (as we named her), and shook his head seriously. He would call some animal rescue people and come back in the morning.

Franco kept his word and arrived with help the next day: A man and a woman from a nearby shelter. Felicia was surprisingly calm with five people, Franco’s five dogs plus Kira milling around. She seemed to understand we were there to help. We got a closer look at her fur in the daylight. There were dozens of ticks. Maybe hundreds. The food we had given her was all around the tree, undigested. She could barely walk, and I don’t envy the guy who had to carry her to the car, parasites and all. 

For some reason the shelter folks had uniforms that looked like they belonged to German police from the 70s.

The shelter people seemed uncertain whether she would make it, or whether she’d find a home. We got their number in case I would have to adopt a dog of my own. But I thought there was a strong change they might have to put her down.

A week or two later I got a message in Trevignano: “The dog is doing fine. She is gaining weight and having more confidence with people. There is already a family that wants to adopt her.” I cried a little.

Fast forward another couple weeks. I hitchhiked to Radicofani because I needed to visit a pharmacy for some antihistamines and it sits on top of a high hill. Radicofani is a village I would describe as “delightfully Italian”.

A stereotypical street in an old Italian village.
Awwwwwwwwwww.

Outside the pharmacy on the road there was a tiny black kitten. Probably slightly under a month old, the cutest thing ever. I didn’t see a mother, and no one seemed to know who he belonged to. I tried to shoo it away from the traffic to the pedestrian path. When a car left a parking spot, I heard a scream and another equally young kitten, a grey one, half ran half limped away from under the car. Apparently one of its front paws got squashed by a tire. Well, shit.

I cleared my schedule for the rest of day. I was supposed to hitchhike back down the road, but fortunately Isabelle found a helpful van and came up to the village with both bicycles. We hung around to feed the kitties. When they couldn't stop running onto the road, we put them in a cardboard box for safety. Evening came and no humans or felines had arrived to claim them, so we started to look for a surrogate in town. Plan B was to take them in our handlebar bags and find a nice farm the next day. The grey one was walking on all fours again, so the paw wasn’t too badly hurt.

This one was particularly active and kept getting into trouble all the time.

Again it was getting dark, and again we got lucky. A woman walking past us in the park saw the cats and came over. One of the kittens had been under her car in the morning, and a day earlier a friend of hers had already adopted another little furball, probably from the same batch, a few streets away. She went to fetch the friend, and within minutes the kitties had a home! We left the village feeling pretty good about ourselves.

I like it when stories have happy endings.

It's a flower.

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On Touring with a Dog

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On Touring with a Dog

So besides all the added weight, what’s it like to have a pet on a bike trip? In the case of Kira, quite nice. She is remarkably easy to take care of. If she’s thirsty, she’ll ask for water by pawing at the bottle. She doesn’t run away when off the leash. And if you open the tent door and tell her to go pee, she’ll dutifully do so (or fake it, if necessary) and come right back inside.

She doesn’t really seem like a dog at all. The only time I hear her bark is when she’s feeling extra playful, and then it’s 100% of the time her saying “Throw the fucking stick already!”

Always on the lookout for any dropped food.

The vast majority of the time she’s super chilled. The only things she doesn’t like are children, other dogs near her food cart (trailer), and flying insects. If she’s in the same room with a bug she’ll pace nervously while looking at humans in a kind of “Are you going to do something about this or not?” way.

She loves food, cuddles, and the beach. My headaches and tiredness passed and I needed to bathe, so I took her to the beach. She was so excited she even chased her own tail in an unprecedentedly dogsmanship-like manner. The last time I went swimming was probably in August in Norway, so I was pretty happy too. Not enough to chase any tails, but still.

This is one happy dog.

An off-duty surfer gave us directions to a great campsite nearby, with pine trees. It was a planted forest and doubled as a pasture for cows, but good enough. Pine forests are my favourite camping terrain, and always remind me of home.

There was two days of heavy rain coming, so I set up a tarp above the tent. It had a double purpose - to keep the tent and cooking area extra dry, and to collect the rainwater into my Ortlieb folding bowl. Kira drinks a lot, and if I also use free water for cooking, tea and brushing my teeth, I can cut down my carried water consumption to a third. So we were ready to wait out the weather.

Sometimes it's nice to have a tarp when camping.

If it’s not too cold for her to stay outside the sleeping bag, Kira prefers to roll up by my feet. But when the rain and thunder arrived in the night, she looked scared and it didn’t take much convincing to get her to snuggle up under my arm for safety. She licked my ear gratefully a couple times, and then snored directly into it for the rest of the night, drowning out the sound of the storm. 

Still, a warm fuzzy dog in your sleeping bag is pure happiness. I can definitely see the benefits of travelling with a dog.

A bend in the road in Piana.

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It's a Dog's Life

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It's a Dog's Life

Hi. My name is Kira. I’m from Sweden, six years old, and also a Cocker Spaniel. And I’m a very good girl.

My all-time favourite thing to do is eating. I prefer food, but almost anything will do. I get to eat my own meals twice a day, for breakfast and dinner. Then when the humans eat, I get some of their food if I look cute. And I’m always cute. I don’t even have to try.

If I'm given non-food, it's usually a stick. I like sticks. Being outside is great because there are so many sticks. I chew them until it's time to leave.

Nothing can get between Kira and her stick. Except another stick.

One time long ago I found the big bag that all my food comes from. That was the best day ever. I ate 15 times more food than usual and I was still hungry. When mistress came back she wasn’t happy. Something about swelling in the stomach. We went to the vet, who made me barf many times. I tried to eat it again, but wasn’t allowed.

My second favourite thing is sleeping. I’m very good at it. Sometimes I can do it all day. When we are moving it can be difficult to sleep. Then I’m extra tired and don’t like waiting for the tent to be ready. But it’s warm inside and I have many blankets. When mistress goes to sleep I can go in her sleeping bag. She says I snore but I don’t believe her.

Once or twice a week we don’t cycle and it’s usually because there’s a house to sleep in. Houses are great because they are warm and have beds in them. I’m really good at using beds.

This is what she looks like two minutes after entering any house for the first time.

My third favourite hobby is smelling things. Traveling is great because I get to find so many new smells. I like to open the zipper of the trailer enough to stick my nose out when we’re cycling. There’s a lot of information in the air.

Even better is when we stop in a forest and I can walk around and smell things. If it’s not too wet I take a break from smelling things to roll around in the leaves. But not too long. I don't want to leave the trailer behind, because that's where all the food is. When other dogs get too close to it, I growl at them.

I think she likes forests.

32 breakfasts ago, we met Tomi. He’s cycling too. But I guess you already knew that. He scratches my tummy, so I know he likes me. He eats too much of his own food though. There’s usually nothing left for me.

I think he and mistress are having fun. They don’t chew sticks or smell things, but they laugh a lot. Then they say they’re not laughing at me. But I’m not sure. It’s okay though. I have a pretty good life.

She's really good at typing.

I don't know if Kira will be writing more guest blogs in the future, but apparently she has now joined Instagram as Nomad Doggy. -Tomi

 

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