Meet Pamela Webster: Pet Travel Thursday

When Edie Jarolim had to resign from doing Pet Travel Thursdays here at A Traveler’s Library, she recommended Pamela Webster to pick up the reins.  If you read Pamela’s feature on the movie about Parrots in San Francisco, I’m sure that you will thank Edie for the excellent choice.  I thought the readers of A Traveler’s Library might like to know a little more about Pamela, since she’s had a very interesting life and she agreed to answer a few questions. 

A Traveler’s Library:  I see that you studied for your undergraduate history degree in Europe. In what country? And was that when you started serious traveling in Europe?

Pamela & HoneyPamela Webster:  Ambitious to graduate as quickly as possible and get on with my life… I left school a semester early but was a few credits short.

Fortunately I found a program that gave me six credits to study Renaissance and Reformation history while traveling through Europe. It was less expensive to study a semester in Europe than it was to stay in  a dorm and take classes at my school.  And somehow, a discussion of Savonarola’s view of the Renaissance was more stimulating in the Palazzo della Signoria where he had been burned at the stake than it would have been in a poorly lit lecture hall.




I wrote papers and attended lectures in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, England, and Scotland.

The cost of the class was kept down because we stayed in youth hostels and camped all over Europe. It led me to love cheap travel and camping.  By the way, if you think camping is dreadful, try it in Europe. It just might change your mind. You won’t find many kid-friendly activities but nearly every campground has a pub.

ATL: There are plenty of jokes about the value of degrees in history (ranks right up there with philosophy as a practical major), but how on earth did you get from history major to nonprofit housing counselor?

PW: The instant I knew I loved history I also realized I’d never earn any money. Although professors over the years suggested I apply to law school or pursue an academic career, I feared that taking such a path might put me in risk of someday earning an adult’s income.

So instead, I worked at the nonprofit Presbyterian Historical Society and eventually became managing editor of the Journal of Presbyterian History. I also did a short stint at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (another nonprofit) coordinating their rights and reproductions.

The great thing about working in historical archives is that they have very strict security and you can’t work late hours. That left me plenty of time to volunteer in the struggling Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood where my husband and I had bought a duplex.

I joined the neighborhood association to help address the vacant buildings, slum landlords, and drug sales that were threatening the neighborhood. After a drug-related shooting involving the other side of my duplex, we bought the attached house at a tax-foreclosure sale and developed a complex equity sharing agreement with a local artist to make the neglected house a home.

A few years later when I moved to Ithaca, I was attracted to the local nonprofit that had helped to transform Ithaca’s housing stock over its 30 year history. Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services hired me to be their housing counselor based on my volunteer experience in Philadelphia and provided lots of training to turn me into a professional.

ATL: You are a naturally excellent writer. Where did writing come into your life?

PW: Thank you, Vera.

I’ve enjoyed journal writing since I was a child. I have dozens of notebooks I’ve filled over the years.

Attending a fundamentalist school run by my childhood church for a couple of years put me out of sync with the mainstream school curriculum when I returned to public school. As a result, I have huge gaps in my knowledge of grammar and syntax. I mostly write by ear.

Fortunately, my husband is a good writer and even better editor and he helps me through the rough spots when I become tone deaf.

I briefly ran journal writing workshops to encourage others to learn confidence and to feel relaxed while writing. Being an example for others grew my own confidence and the rest is just practice. I write nearly every day for at least one of my two blogs: Something Wagging This Way Comes or Hands on Home Buyer.

ATL:  Presumably you were not traveling with a pet when you were in college, so how is travel different now that you have Honey, a golden retriever, in your family? 

PW: Although we had occasional pets when I was a child, my family didn’t think of them as members of the family and would never consider taking an animal on vacation. I, however, found my first dog an especially sympathetic companion and I’ve never forgotten him.

After getting married and buying a house, my next adult move was to look for a dog to adopt. We found mixed-breed litter mates at the Philadelphia SPCA and named them Agatha and Christie. Or, as the children in our neighborhood called them, “Africa” and Christie.

Having dogs led me to explore activities I had never done as a child because they were fun to do while traveling with pets—kayaking, camping, hiking etc.

After Agatha and Christie passed, we adopted Shadow. Each one of these dogs had been a fabulous traveler. But they didn’t care too much for other people and dogs, so we were limited in where we could go.

When Shadow passed, I decided I wanted my next dog to be as good at traveling as Agatha, Christie, and Shadow, but also more comfortable around strangers of all species.  So I found Honey, a Golden Retriever. Since I raised her from a puppy, I was able to socialize her to be comfortable with many types of people and situations and her natural Golden Retriever charm covered the rest.

Now, in addition to hiking, camping, and kayaking, we’ve taken Honey to outdoor festivals, concerts, and restaurants with pet-friendly outdoor seating. She’s happy to go anywhere with us that she’s guaranteed to make new canine and human friends.

ATL:  What is your next destination (with or without dog)?

PW:  on an austerity plan right now with dreams of someday sailing off to find the horizon, so our immediate travel will be close to home. It’s a small price to pay for the future freedom of going wherever our boat, our skills, and our courage can take us.

I will, however, be traveling to Salt Lake City alone to speak at the Blog Paws social media conference and look forward to exploring that beautiful city.

And I’m excited about returning to the beautiful historic town of Cape May, NJ . It’s hard to beat a beach where you’ll find yourself closer to the dolphins in the sea than the nearest sunbather.

And no, I’m not going to share my favorite, deserted Cape May beach. Well, maybe if you ask really nicely.

ATL:  What’s on your TBR pile?

PW: I am usually in the middle of about three books at any given time. I’m currently reading The Cruising Life by Tim Trefethen, an opinionated book of advice for potential sailing voyagers and the excellent Driving by Moonlight by Kristin Henderson which I plan to review someday for A Traveler’s Library

After seeing a few episodes of the show based on her novel, I’m looking forward to reading Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. And as soon as it returns to the library shelves, I plan to start David Agus’s The End of Illness. Of course, who knows what else will have caught my attention by then?

Pamela, thanks for filling us in on some things about you that we won’t find out as we read Something Wagging This Way Comes and Pet Travel Thursdays each month at A Traveler’s Library. I’m looking forward to all the pet travel books and movies you will be bringing us each month.

As a reader, do you like learning more about our contributors and about the writers we talk about on A Traveler’s Library? Give us your suggestions. Ask more questions. Join the conversation.

Photographs here (except Pamela and Honey’s portrait) come from Flickr and are used under Creative Commons license. You can click on the picture to learn more about the photographer.


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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

15 thoughts on “Meet Pamela Webster: Pet Travel Thursday

  1. Great interview! I learned quite a bit more about you again. What an interesting story and what lays ahead is equally interesting. I hope your internal sailor can be set free soon.

  2. Thanks for the great interview! I’ve been following Something Wagging…for some time, and always find I am left with something new to think about. I know Pamela will be a fantastic addition to your site! Looking forward to hearing more about your travels, Pamela. Hey, Albany isn’t too far away…!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Peggy. Albany should be a wonderful place to visit soon. I suspect all those tulips around the state house are nearly ready to blooming.

  3. What a lovely interview! It’s fascinating how much we know about other bloggers’ dogs and how little we know about the people themselves. As a history major I too was pushed toward law school. In fact I even applied and was about three days away from attending when life got in the way and kept me from making the trip. It’s interesting that we both ended up in the nonprofit sector as well, though in very different areas.

    Have you made a selection yet for your next pet travel book feature?

    1. I’m dying to hear the rest of the law school story, Kristine. 🙂

      I think my next review will be of Dog Trots Globe, a pet travel book that includes interactive online features. I’m waiting for it to come now.

      I also have a new book on my shelf about Sophie, the dog that got lost from a boat in Australia and survived alone on an island until she was discovered and returned home.

      I’ll have an update on coming attractions at Something Wagging soon.

  4. I’m a fan of Pamela and Honey through her dog blog. Now, I want to camp in Europe; here, after camping with my family as a coerced beloved child, I had decided the best camping spot was a motel with grass. I may change my mind in Scotland or Denmark (ancestry).
    Interesting where history, enthusiasm and community will take you; wonderful interview of one of my very favorite bloggers!

    1. Thanks for coming by, Roberta.

      European camping might be up your alley. Yes, you still sleep in a tent but having a few drinks at the campground pub with your pups in tow might put you in great shape.

  5. I knew what Salt Lake City meant as soon as I read it, but I didn’t know Pamela was speaking! It doesn’t surprise me even a little bit. I even learned a few more things about her!

    1. So glad you stopped by to say Hello. Any chance you’ll be coming to BlogPaws in June? I’ll be speaking on time management for bloggers. 🙂

  6. I knew Pamela would be a wonderful asset to this blog; I had not a moment of hesitation in recommending her (though now it’s abundantly clear how replaceable I am, harrumph). Although I’ve been reading her blog for ages and have had a good deal of correspondence with Pamela, I didn’t know much of her background, especially the Philadelphia housing story. Thanks for an excellent interview.

    1. No one replaces Edie J. They just provide a brief distraction while we’re waiting for the next post, article, or book. 🙂

      I have all kinds of interesting Philly housing stories. Get in touch if you ever need to know how to get the smell of feces out of a crack house or how to board up a building so no one can break in.

  7. Great interview Vera and Pamela. Though I’ve been following Pamela’s blog for a while now, I learned quite a bit. I find it interesting that neither of us is accomplished at syntax and grammer – good thing we both have husbands that excel in these areas!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Amy.

      So, besides wanderlust and our love of dogs, we have yet another thing in common. Makes maintaining marital bliss particularly important, doesn’t it? We’d hate to lose our proofreaders. 🙂

  8. what a fascinating journey you’ve had thus far, pamela! i loved reading about learning in europe. yes!!

    do you know barbary chaapel? she’s sailed quite a bit, and her book, journey of the snow goose, is inspiring. let me know if you’d like to connect.

    1. I don’t know Barbary Chaapel but I’m drying to read Journey of the Snow Goose. It looks fabulous.

      I guess you’ll tell me to read the book but I’m wondering if she’s still sailing or if she’s returned to a land-based life.

      BTW, I loved seeing the picture of Jungfrau at the top of your blog. It took me right back to those days in college hiking in Switzerland.

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