Pet Travel Tuesday
Destinations: Belgium, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Monaco, France, and the Netherlands
Book: Ella in Europe: An American Dog’s International Adventures (2005) by Michael Konik
By Pamela Douglas Webster
Have you ever sat next to someone you loved and said to yourself, “I can’t believe we’re here together?”
Michael Konik first said this in a Belgian bar while watching a World Cup soccer match. His beloved, Ella, rested her head on the bottom rung of his bar stool.
Ella was a white lab mix.
Michael Konik’s Ella in Europe is a love story in a fur coat. The protagonists of the story are a man and his dog. But Konik doesn’t just love his dog; he admires her. As he wrote of Ella: “To me she is a lady: elegant, smart, and endlessly amusing.”
Where Does Love Come From
Dogs had been important to Konik since childhood.
As a boy of 11, he was charged with taking his family’s beloved German Shepherd to be put down by the vet while his mother remained sobbing in the car.
Konik quickly realized that our time with a loved dog is brief. And that every day should be a celebration of that friendship.
After getting her as a puppy from the person who rescued her from the streets, Konik integrated Ella fully into his life. Weekends were spent wandering the Hollywood canyons. The pair stretched their intellects learning clever tricks. Eventually the two passed their therapy dog training, and visited nursing homes and hospitals spreading good cheer.
How To Show a Dog You Love Her
As happy as they were, Konik wondered if he could do more to enhance their time together. He decided to take Ella on a Grand Tour of Europe. They visited the dog-friendly countries of Belgium, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Monaco, France, and the Netherlands.
But in Europe, Ella would accompany her person many places she can’t in the U.S.: bars, restaurants, shops, trains, cafes, and even a Venetian gondola. By taking her to Europe, Konik was giving his dog the one thing dogs want more from their people than anything—time and attention.
Ella fits in like the lady Konik knows her to be. But the author himself struggles to relax, expecting in every fine dining restaurant or train car that someone will ask him to remove his dog.
But it never happened. And Ella made friends everywhere she went.
Everyone Loves Her
Ella broke the ice for the introverted writer.
Strangers came up to meet her and poured out their hearts about their favorite dogs. And Konik amused himself thinking of the many tourist videos the world over featuring the mysterious white dog in front of the Eiffel Tower, at the Hermes boutique, or strolling along the canals of Amsterdam.
Ella was a lovable
…ambassador for human intimacy, bringing together disparate people who might never share two words with each other, let alone the interests of their heart.
One of the great pleasures of travel is meeting new people. And Ella, with her sweet manners and funny tricks, made many introductions for her human friend.
A Trip My Dog Would Love
He never got his chance because some places are off limits to even the most well-behaved dog.
And while I’m glad to have seen the Coliseum and Uffizi, I wouldn’t inflict them on my dog, Honey. I know they wouldn’t be entertaining to her. Just walking her across the street to enter the Coliseum as scooter drivers with a death wish whizzed by us chills me thinking about it.
But enjoying a seafood feast in a Mediterranean town, sightseeing on foot in a walled city, and riding a barge through Amsterdam canals? Yep, that sounds like things Honey and I could enjoy together.
If I don’t agree with every ambition Konik had for his dog, I appreciate the theme that runs throughout Ella in Europe. Time with our friends is short. It will end before we know it. So let’s use every moment we have together to enjoy each other’s company, wherever we go.
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