Planning Your Next Trip is So Much More Fun if You Walk A Cat on a Leash While You Do it. Really.
It suddenly dawned on me today that Tom’s and my New Zealand trip is going to be here before we know it and we’ve barely talked about it. I realized I barely knew what was on the agenda besides the South Island and a bunch of glaciers and mountains and vineyards.
Since it’s hard to get Tom away from his desk these days due to this being his last year of his MBA program and school projects that the work never seems to be done for, I decided to try my luck at getting him to leave the desk for a bit.
“Tom,” I announced as I walked into our office (his office really…my desk has been delegated to the bedroom because apparently I talk too much and distract him from studying). “Rooney wants a walk and we haven’t walked him together in forever and it would be nice for you to come with me,” I said in my most “remember how much you love me that you’ll do anything I ask” voice.
Rooney, by the way, is one of our cats.
And yes, I walk my cat on a leash.
“I know we haven’t, but I’m on a roll,” Tom answered. “I’m getting a lot done.”
“Fine. Looks like it’s going to just be you and me, Rooney,” I called to my Ragdoll-cat-who-is-convinced-he’s-a-dog pet as he paced by the back door, meowing.
Apparently, me interrupting Tom got him out of his trance. “Ok, I’ll come,” he said. “Let’s go before the sun sets.”
I smiled and grabbed Rooney’s harness.
Oh yes, so back to this walking a cat on a leash thing. It was never my plan to be one of those crazy pet owners, and I don’t walk my other cat because she hates it. But Rooney? Rooney is not normal. Despite coming from a breeder and having never setting foot out the door, when he was around 6 months, he suddenly became aware that there was this big, amazing world out there and his meowing at the door leading to this wonderland became incessant. There was no way I was letting him outside to roam the streets on his own and risk him getting run over or attacked by a coyote, so I hoped he’d outgrow it. But…it instead got worse. A friend suggested I take him for a walk as she’d seen a neighbor do with his cat.
“What? I’m not walking a cat! I’ll look ridiculous,” I scoffed.
But finally, the meowing wore down my nerves enough that I found myself in PetSmart one day purchasing a cat harness (they really do sell cat harnesses so apparently I am not the only person in the world who has tried this crazy idea before) and a leash.
I remember my siblings and I trying to walk our cats when we were kids and it resulted in the cats lying down acting like we were torturing them. It never worked and I didn’t have much hope for it going any better with Rooney.
Rooney, though, surprised me by only spending a few minutes biting at his harness and trying to get out of it. Once I snapped the leash on him and opened the front door, the fresh air and sunlight made him forget all about being strapped into a harness. That was seven years ago. Now, he happily steps into his harness, knowing when to lift each foot, excitedly awaiting his walk.
When Tom and I started dating and he’d stay at my place, walking the cat came with the territory, so he’d accompany me and we’d have nice talks with no distractions. This continued in our old place since I had a long commute and would often get home after it was dark so Tom would walk with me for safety reasons. Since moving and Tom’s increased school/work load, we haven’t had our walks with Rooney together as much as I missed them. So I was excited he was accompanying me tonight.
Walking a cat isn’t quite the same as walking a dog. There’s a lot more stopping, but for the most part, Rooney walks right next to me just like a dog and knows to stay on the sidewalk. I prefer the days with less stopping because when he’s not walking I feel everyone walking or driving by looks at me probably thinking I’m some crazy cat lady trying to force her cat to walk on a leash (believe me, if I’d wanted to walk a pet on a leash, I’d have gotten a dog).
Today was a great walking day. Rooney was happily prancing along, eager to keep walking and explore each new piece of ground, and I had Tom next to me. Since I’d convinced him to join the walk, and it was a gorgeous day outside, and I had his no-phone and no-computer undivided attention, I decided it was time to have a talk about New Zealand.
One of my favorite parts of going traveling with Tom is the planning of it. We sit down at the table, open a bottle of wine, and spread out our computers and travel books and magazine around us. Then we talk and plan and get excited. It’s great and always brings us closer.
This New Zealand trip, though, we haven’t had time to do that. Instead, we’ve put it together in staccato-like fashion with little bits of planning here and there…and Tom doing most of it because he studied abroad there and knows the country well.
I’ve been so busy the past few months with work that I’ve let him take it over. But now that it’s getting closer and I’ve realized I pretty much have no idea what we’re doing when we get there, it was time to get more involved in the fun of planning the trip. (And before Tom schedules our days with watching Rugby and doing endless whisky shots à la his college days.)
Tom excitedly and animatedly filled me in on where he’d made bookings, what days we’d be mostly on the road, and what activities we still needed to figure out. As I urged Rooney forward after he became a bit too interested in a neighbor’s flower bush, I felt a burst of appreciation for my wonderful husband, who despite his full-time job and busy school schedule, has had time to get a trip planned that I’d pushed for in order to give me more time to work on my writing. I knew he was enjoying the planning of it since he is super excited about going back to New Zealand, but still, it was time to start pulling my weight again in this travel planning process.
Plus, I like travel planning and didn’t want to miss out on all of it for this trip.
We were almost home and there was no wine involved, but I’d felt like I’d gotten in a speed trip planning process with Tom and happily linked my arm through his as Rooney walked alertly a couple feet in front of us.
“Oh my gosh, look at that cat!”
Tom and I looked up to see a lady walking toward us.
Rooney immediately sped up to greet her and do his belly flop in front of her. He adores meeting people on our walk and uses it as an excuse to get a belly rub – one of his big loves in life.
The lady cooed about how cute he was, asking questions about how I was able to get him to walk, and I explained for the 500th time that “he really loves it, we think he thinks he’s a dog” while Tom nodded in agreement and smiled.
We hardly ever walk Rooney without getting someone saying something to us about it, especially since Rooney acts like such a dog on his leash. People stop their cars to tell me how cool it is and how they wish they could get there cat do it. Others who look at him (and me) a bit warily get charmed as soon as Rooney does his belly flop. The dog people grin and wave even while pulling their barking dogs who don’t understand the concept of this cat walking around on a leash away from us. When I first started walking Rooney, I was embarrassed and thought it would be an endless round of jokes and funny looks. But in 7 years of walking Rooney, there have only been a couple times that people have been mean-spirited about it. Most people ask questions because they’re genuinely curious and others are delighted to just see something out of the ordinary in their day. I think Tom also was a bit embarrassed about being seen with me while walking Rooney in the beginning, but over the years he also has gotten used to it and gets a kick out of it that most people seem very accepting of the fact that we’re walking a cat on a leash.
So, yup, I have a husband who plans my trips for me and walks my cat on a leash with me. I think I got pretty lucky indeed. Now if I could just figure out a way to bring Rooney our other cat, Mia, to New Zealand with us…