I have known Edie Jarolim, a fellow Tucsonan, for several years now, and have always been in awe of her skill and her accomplishments as a writer, so I am absolutely delighted that she will be a contributor to A Traveler’s Library on a regular basis. [UPDATE: Edie no longer writes our Pet Travel column, but I am happy to say she will still be an occasional contributor to A Traveler's Library. She is still writing Will My Dog Hate Me, but she also has a fascinating website called Freud's Butcher, which I encourage you to check out.]
If you want a taste of the coming treats, you can read this review of a memoir by a dog owner in Umbria. Once a month, Edie and her friend Frankie will be bringing us the latest in books for people planning to travel with pets (mostly dogs). When I first met her, Edie was a travel writer who would go anywhere at the drop of a hint. Her life has changed, but thank goodness she is still weaving words. We wanted you to meet Edie and Frankie, so we sent a few questions their way.
A Traveler’s Library: You say your family did not travel when you were young, so where did your travel bug come from?
Edie Jarolim: It’s complicated. My parents didn’t travel because they were refugees from the Holocaust — both were from Vienna, but they met in English school in Brighton Beach — and they’d traveled far quite enough and unwillingly. Also, we didn’t have much money and we didn’t have a car. But as a first generation American, it was natural for me to want to explore my European roots. And as a New Yorker … well, traveling is just what everyone I went to college with did because of the availability of inexpensive flights in the metro area. One summer, I met so many people I knew from Brooklyn College in Amsterdam and Florence that I started going to more and more exotic places so I wouldn’t run into anyone from back home.
ATL: At one time your life was pretty much centered around travel plans and travel writing. How did this change to writing about a dog?
EJ: In the midst of a busy career as a travel and food writer, I met a fellow food writer in Tucson who was a dog rescuer. I foolishly enthused to her that I loved dogs but traveled too much to ever get one. I say foolishly because rescuers do not accept “buts.” I held off for a little while, but after I finished updating an edition of one of the guidebooks I wrote, Frommer’s San Antonio and Austin, I took the plunge and adopted one of the dogs she rescued.
Perhaps plunge is the wrong word, considering how much Frankie has enriched my life, but that’s how I felt initially. I was completely out of my depth. Frankie was my first dog, ever, and I was clueless about this alien creature who had taken up residence with me. So I decided to approach Dog World as I would any other unfamiliar destination and wrote what was, in effect, a guidebook to dogs: Am I Boring My Dog? And 99 Other Things Every Dog Wishes You Knew (Alpha/Penguin). I started blogging at Will My Dog Hate Me as a way to promote my book, but the blog took on a life of its own.
I became part of a wonderful community of pet bloggers, and was asked to be the pet travel contributor to Animal Cafe – we’ve also got a veterinarian, animal welfare expert, and training maven — which offers weekly podcast interviews with people in our different areas of interest.
ATL: What is the major way your travel plans have changed since Frankie became part of your family? Does Frankie like to travel, too?
EJ: Frankie does not like to travel, I’m sorry to report. One of my many surprises about dogs was that not every one eagerly jumps into a car, happy to take off. Frankie likes being in other places, especially cool, quiet ones, as long as I’m there with him. He just doesn’t like getting there.
My travel plans were also affected by the fact that, in late 2007, Frankie developed diabetes — a hereditary condition in dogs, similar to type 1 in humans and therefore not reversible. I have to give him insulin shots twice a day. This has made leaving him with a pet sitter difficult and expensive. I have taken car several trips with him, the farthest being to Santa Barbara, and flew once with him to San Diego. I have also taken short trips without him, but all in all, my travels have been curtailed.
ATL: Are there actually benefits to traveling with a pet?
There are many benefits to traveling with pets — I should say dogs because most cats are not terrific travelers. Dogs are great icebreakers if you want to meet locals or if you’re on your own. If you’re traveling with a dog, people who wouldn’t have felt confident about approaching you will often want to say hello to your pooch, especially if he’s as cute — if you’ll excuse me for saying so — as Frankie.
And of course many people feel as terrible about leaving their pets at home as they would feel about leaving any other family member behind; taking them along means you don’t have to stress about pet care. (See my response to Chris Elliott of Frommer’s, who wrote negatively about traveling with pets.) Traveling with pets is often less expensive than leaving them in a kennel or hiring a sitter.
Most important, dogs who like to travel are terrific companions.Their excitement about being in new places with new sights and new smells while enjoying the comfort of being with “their” people is contagious. They never criticize your driving or your choice of hotel; they never whine about being bored. And they can hold off going to the bathroom far longer than the average child — or adult companion, for that matter. (As I explained at Your Life Is a Trip)
ATL: You have written guidebooks as well as articles. What tips would you give travelers for picking a good guide book?
EJ: Choose a guidebook that matches your sensibility and your travel style by looking at how different series cover a destination with which you are familiar — perhaps your home town. Assess how the restaurant reviews and attraction write-ups are handled. Do you agree with the recommendations and, if not, does the author at least make a good case for the places or cover aspects of the destination that are important to you? Of course each book in a series is only as good and as accurate as the author of that book, but if you feel that the guidebook series speaks to your needs, whether they are cultural or budgetary or sports-oriented, that’s key.
ATL: If you could only write, but not travel or only travel but not write–which would you choose and why?
EJ: That’s easy. It wasn’t a choice I wanted to make but as I said, when Frankie developed diabetes I had to cut back on my travel — but not on my writing. The joys of travel are the joys of learning, of expanding your horizons. Those are the same joys I find in writing. When I’m engaged in a topic, I am transported to another place. Besides, staying at home has given me the opportunity to explore my surroundings with greater depth and attention. ( as in this article in Sunset magazine) And I write about food , which transports me to other countries, too.
ATL: I hear you have some exciting tie-in plans between A Traveler’s Library, Will My Dog Hate Me, and Animal Cafe. Do tell.
EJ: I reveal all on Will My Dog Hate Me. Take a look.
Thanks, Edie, for taking the time to answer my questions. Your new Pet Book Club is a terrific idea! And please thank Frankie for relieving you of your dog-slave duties long enough to talk with us at A Traveler’s Library.
Pictures used in this article belong to Edie Jarolim. Please do not reuse without permission.
Have you traveled with a dog (or other pet)? How has it changed the way you travel? If you followed the link to Edie’s article in response to Chris Elliot, what were your thoughts about traveling with a pet or not?