Leaving your pet behind can be the most heartbreaking part of a trip.
A FEW DAYS before embarking on our two month trip to Southeast Asia, Karen and I watched as we packed our dog, Tobi, into the back of her parent’s station wagon. They would be taking care of her while we were gone.
In the two years we’d had Tobi, she had rarely been out of our presence. It was as traumatic a separation for her as it was for us.
I’m sure other pet owners know the exact same feeling when you’re about to embark on a journey.
But we tried to remain strong as Tobi gave us a pleading look from behind the rear window glass. We waved as they car pulled away from the curb, and faded into the distance. Karen’s eyes were already wet with tears.
It’s only two months, I told her. Though I’m sure other pet owners know the exact same feeling when you’re about to embark on a journey. Taking your pet with you is impractical; and so the absence is unavoidable.
How to ease the pain and stay in touch with your dog/cat/gerbil while you’re gone? Here are 4 ways to keep their memory close at hand.
1. Bring a wallet-sized flipbook
As a pre-trip present to Karen, I surprised her with a flipbook of our dog Tobi. It was pretty much the “best of” from the day we picked her up as a puppy, all the way to a week earlier at the beach.
She loved it. And of course, started crying in anticipation of the moments overseas, in some lonely train station or dirty hostel, that we’d pull out the flipbook and celebrate Tobi.
Turns out we also showed the flipbook to pretty much anyone who even hinted at asking if we had any pets back home. Everyone seemed to think our dog was the “cutest dog ever” but then again, they would probably say that to any owners.
2. Shoot and store a video clip on your camera
Before leaving, I briefly considered this option, perhaps shooting a clip of Tobi prancing along the beach or hanging out in the living room.
But at the time, video clips used up storage space on your memory card, possibly limiting the shots you can take on your trip. Also, viewing the clip would use precious battery power.
Now, with memory cards a fraction of the price they were a year ago, storage space isn’t much of any issue. Plus, if you bring an extra battery, you’ll probably be okay.
And there’s nothing quite as heart-warming as your pet wagging their tail in glorious 15 frames per second.
3. Set up a pet webcam
Lee LeFever, over at TWINF, told me about his own ingenious solution for checking in on their dog while on their round the world trip.
“We hooked up a web cam pointed to his bed when we were gone. We used Skype 2.0 with it set to auto-answer. Whenever we had a connection, we could pull up Skype and get a little window into Amos’ world in real time.”
“Only one person at a time can use it, so we can’t expose the feed. We can even hear sound along with the video and if there were speakers, we could talk to him, but we figure that might drive him crazy.”
Brilliant. You can read how to set up your own here.
Finally, you could just be creepy and…
4. Gather some pet hair in a plastic bag
For those pet lovers that are extra attached to their pet, you can always physically bring some pet hair with you on the trip.
Creepy? A little.
But I suppose some people still pack a rabbit’s foot for good luck. A tuft of pet hair has got to be the less cruel alternative. I know every time I vacuum our apartment, I find enough shedded hair to put together a whole other dog.
Of course, voodoo pets aren’t for everyone.
So feel free to pick the method of remembering your pet that’s right for you, and don’t be shy in whipping out your memorabilia when a fellow traveler inquires.
Ian MacKenzie is editor of Brave New Traveler, and co-founder of the blogging community TravelBlogger. Aside from writing, he spends his time exploring the fundamental nature of existence and wishing he did more backpacking.
Any other ideas or tips for remembering your pet on the road? Share in the comments!