All posts by Pamela Douglas Webster

About Pamela Douglas Webster

Pamela Douglas Webster is a contributor to A Traveler's Library. She hopes to inspire people to enjoy travel with their pets in her monthly Pet Travel Thursday feature. Pamela blogs about dogs and their people at Something Wagging This Way Comes.

3 Best Children’s Books To Inspire Pet Travel

Pet Travel Tuesday

Destination: Wyoming, England, France Books: Brave Dogs, Gentle Dogs: How They Guard Sheep by Cat Urbigkit, (2005)  Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (1930)  Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat by Susanna Reich, illustrations by Amy Bates (2012).

Pet Travel and Childhood Wonder

By Pamela Douglas Webster 

When subzero temperatures and post-Christmas bills keep me hibernating at home, I love reading about travel to far-off places.

Winter reading about pet travel with the dog in front of the fireplace.
My favorite winter reading spot includes a sleepy dog and a warm fire.

But unlike many people who save their lighter reading for summer vacations on the beach, I prefer simple and uncomplicated books during the short winter days. In fact, I feel a strong urge to read children’s books. Rekindling a sense of childhood wonder takes me as far from today’s worries and cares as any adventure yarn or south seas travelogue. Throw in a kind animal companion and I’m transported far away.

In 2013 I reviewed some delightful books to inspire travel with pets. I’ve found three children’s counterparts that allowed me to revisit my favorites just in time for record cold temperatures. Check them out to renew your sense of childhood wonder. Or read the adult book that inspired me while sharing the child’s story with your own youngster.

Brave and Gentle Dogs Guarding Sheep

Reading Cat Urbigkit’s Shepherds of Coyote Rocks: Public Lands, Private Herds and the Natural World left me pondering the human and environmental benefits of the pastoral life. But in the gloomy winter, I’m more drawn to her photo essay for children, Brave Dogs, Gentle Dogs: How They Guard Sheep. Anyone who knows enough about a subject to describe it for children knows her stuff. But her beautiful photos are the real draw of this book. How hard must your heart be to spurn pictures of puppies and lambs?

Classic Island Tales and Childhood Wonder

Tom Neale’s account of the solitary life he shared with his cats on an island paradise, An Island to Oneself, continues to inspire. Cruising sailors make pilgrimages to Neale’s island home, Suwarrow, to pay homage to this independent spirit. And enough landlubbers continue their own fantasies of such adventures to make Arthur Ransome’s classic Swallows and Amazons as popular with adults as with children, more than 80 years after its writing.

The story of two rival sets of English children exploring their common river by sailboat and camping on an island continues to enthrall readers. Banding together to make war against the “pirate” living aboard a boat with his parrot makes the children friends. It’s no surprise that both classics of bold and independent adventure remain favorite reads of cruising sailors.

Julia Child Loves Cats

<Julia’s Cats: Julia Child’s Life in the Company of Cats by Patricia Barey and Therese Burson could almost be a children’s story. One of the endearing qualities of Julia Child is that she never outgrew her sense of joy and wonder. And nothing amused Julia as much as cats.

Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat by Susanna Reich tells the story of the real-life kitten who sampled Child’s earliest cooking efforts. Amy Bates’s beautiful illustrations transported me to that test kitchen high above the streets of Paris. Reviewing books that inspire pet travel has given me plenty of inspiration both for fantasy and for the trips I wish to take with my dog one day.

As I end my tenure writing for A Traveler’s Library, I’m most thankful for the chance to reflect on the wonderful perspective that travel with pets gives us—a new way of seeing and appreciating the world. And if you enjoy exploring the human-canine bond, whether by traveling or training or just observing dogs, stop by to see me at Something Wagging This Way Comes.

Disclosures: The links will take you to Amazon, where you can buy these books. It will not cost you more but I will earn a few cents commission. Thanks for your support.

Photo credit: jespahjoy via photopin cc

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)

Pet Travel Tuesday

Destination: England

Book: Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) – Jerome K. Jerome

By Pamela Douglas Webster

How does a travelogue first published in 1889 remain continuously in print to the present day? By being gut-bustingly funny.

Victorian author Jerome K. Jerome meant his now-classic tale, Three Men in a Boat, to be a travel guide describing a journey on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford. But while people continue to duplicate the journey themselves—many of the pubs depicted in the book still exist—most of us read it as comic literature.

The story opens with Jerome recounting his many ailments. His self-diagnosis came from consulting a medical encyclopedia. With each reading of a new set of symptoms, Jerome discovers another disease he’s suffering from. In fact, he finds himself suffering from every malady—typhoid, cholera, and diphtheria—everything except for housemaid’s knee.

When he talks to his friends, Harris and George, the author finds they also suffer from lethargy and an extreme reluctance to work.

As far as I could tell from the book, George is the only one of the three men with a job. Or, as Jerome explains,

“George goes to sleep at a bank from ten to four each day, except Saturdays, when they wake him up and put him outside at two.”

And as for Montmorency, the dog of the title, he lives at the expense of the author.

The three humans decide to take a wooden skiff up the Thames to escape the stress of 19th century life. Despite making his displeasure unknown, the fox terrier is outvoted three to one and the trip is on.

A Thames skiff like the one used in 3 Men in a Boat.
A Thames skiff.

The three men are on a lark and continually afflicted with misadventures. As the book progresses, I found it hard to imagine any three characters less equipped for an adventure that involved rowing, towing, and sailing. (Jerome’s description of the three getting tangled in the sails had me relieved that they spent most of their time at the sculls.)

But they are just aiming to have fun, which they do between misadventures. Montmorency has greater aspirations.

“Montmorency’s ambition in life, is to get in the way and be sworn at. If he can squirm in anywhere he particularly is not wanted, and be a perfect nuisance, and make people mad, and have things thrown at his head, then he feels his day has not been wasted.”

The dog somehow ends up being the most rational character in the book.

Jerome alternates comic stories with descriptions of the burial places of famous people, historic events, and scenic views. His description of his friend Harris becoming lost in the Hampton Court maze was one of his funniest stories.

The Hampton Court maze.
The maze at Hampton Court.


But some of his historic descriptions are purple and overwrought. I found myself skimming his discussion of King John’s face-off with the barons at Magna Carta island. But frankly, the book is so funny overall that one might be grateful for relief from laughing.

To this day, Three Men in a Boat is read by British school students. It has been made into three different films, including one that was adapted by Tom Stoppard and starred Tim Curry and Michael Palin in 1975. And many people read it over and over.

I laughed out loud throughout the book. At his best, Jerome K. Jerome could be the love child of P.G. Wodehouse and David Sedaris. The humor has aged well.

And at the time of year when we’re approaching the darkest days of the Northern hemisphere, Three Men in a Boat, is a charming escape. You might even find yourself rereading it every solstice.

Disclosures and Photo Credits: The Thames Skiff is by Hackworth on FlickrThe Hampton Court maze is by bobgjohnson on Flickr. Both are used under a Creative Commons license. The book link takes you to Amazon. If you buy a book after using that link, I will earn a few cents but your book will not cost you more. Thanks for your support.

Dogtripping – An American Road Trip with 25 Rescue Dogs

Pet Travel Tuesday

Destination: California, Maine, cross-county continental United States

Book: Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure (NEW) – David Rosenfelt

By Pamela Douglas Webster

What’s crazier? Living with 25 dogs at a time? Or deciding to drive them across the United States?

Let’s hear from the man who actually did it and wrote about it in Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure—David Rosenfelt.

He wrote, anticipating the trip:

Someone once said that the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude. That’s how I knew I was in for an ordeal.”

But Dogtripping is only partly about the trip across the country. It begins with Rosenfelt explaining how he started rescuing dogs.

A beautiful pound pup in need of rescue.

Rosenfelt is not the type of man most people would imagine running a dog rescue. When he and his wife, Debbie Myers, first began rescuing dogs from their local shelter, he was a film marketing executive turned mystery writer, and she was a former film executive who had moved to a high-level job with a national fast food chain.

Nevertheless, despite busy schedules that caused both of them to travel, the couple felt a burning mission to save golden retrievers, golden mixes, and many special needs dogs on death row in the Los Angeles shelter system.

Why? Because of Tara, the beautiful golden retriever living with Debbie when the pair met. Rosenfelt called Tara the best dog ever. She even inspired a recurring character in his Andy Carpenter mystery series. But a soft heart for all dogs, not only goldens, meant that their home was also filled with a variety of dogs who just needed a good home.

The couple matched adoptable dogs with forever homes, meeting and screening every potential adopter. Dogs that had recently been slated for death in a shelter found good homes. Dogs whose age or infirmities made them unlikely to find a home became permanent members of the Rosenfelt/Myers family.

After struggling with the challenges of keeping a large pack of dogs from disturbing their near neighbors, the pair bought acreage in rural Maine and supervised, long-distance, the renovation of a house to meet their animals’ unique needs. When Debbie retired, they would move to their new home.

But how would they transport all the dogs?

Rosenfelt reached out to his readers for help. Some suggested he ask John Travolta or Oprah Winfrey to lend their planes. When the celebrities did not make the offer, Rosenfelt considered commercial airlines. The cost of flying 25 dogs was prohibitive.

Finally, they rented three large RVs to make the trip. Eleven volunteers—some of whom were fans of his mysteries that he had never personally met—stepped up to assist him and Debbie in transporting the dogs.

Team Woofabago, the name one volunteer gave their vehicles on social media, planned the route, drove the 3 RVs, and cared for the dogs along the way. At every stop, the volunteers set up an instant dog park with 200 feet of light fencing. Even a short rest break took close to an hour. Staying on schedule so that the volunteers could make their flights home from Maine at the end was a major challenge.

A dog waits in an RV.

Rosenfelt attempts to bring his reader into his world. The book is arranged in alternating chapters with one describing the individual dogs and what it’s like to live with them and the next describing the planning, logistics, and the drive. The daily life chapters used roman type while the trip chapters were set in italic.

At first, I found his choice confusing and irritating. Especially since, in the planning stages, there wasn’t much to distinguish the italicized “trip” chapters from the daily life chapters. As the story went on, however, I adjusted to the device and it stopped bothering me.

As for the stresses Rosenfelt experienced on the road, I can personally relate. As much as I love dogs, I’d rather be buried in an ant hill and smeared with honey than to spend endless miles on a highway in an RV with a barking band.

A Traveler’s Library exists to share books that inspire travel. While Dogtripping is a light, somewhat comical read, it won’t inspire me to road trip with 25 dogs any time soon. But I left the book feeling inspired by Rosenfelt’s and Myers’ compassion and dedication. And it’s hard not to enjoy a story about former death row dogs and their people ending their travels in a place they could all call home.

Photo Credits: Pound pup and RV Dog are images found on Flickr and used under Creative Commons licenses. Learn more about the photographers by clicking the pictures. To see photos taken on the trip, visit David Rosenfelt’s website and on the Woofabago Facebook page.

Disclosures: The link to Amazon from the book covers gives you an easy way to buy Rosenfelt’s books. When you shop through my links at Amazon, I earn a few cents. Thanks for your support!