Exploring life's passions

A life without pets

Me in a bar with a beer and a spooky-eyed dog.

Happiness is a beer and a spooky-eyed dog

Leonie has already written about some of the concerns she had before quitting her job, selling the house and starting to work while travelling. I have to say that these things troubled me less. After five years of editing the same magazine (the longest I’ve ever worked in any job), I was more than happy to pack that in. In fact, I’d already resigned a full year before we even decided to make this move. I took that time to write a book that was never, and should never, be published. And I started to build up my freelance work.

Another excuse I used to give up that job was that it would be better for me to be at home with the dog, Bob, who was getting too old to make the half-hour trip on the train to and from work with me. And I couldn’t leave him alone for the nine/ten hours I’d be away. Since we got him from the cat and dog home in 2004, we’d never really left him on his own for much longer than a night out. And if we did, he had a good second home to go to (more of that in a moment). Bob wasn’t an important factor when deciding to give up my job, but he was a consideration. He was very important to me. And when he died in 2013, at the age of 16-and-a-half, I was glad I had been there with him.

Del-Diablo-animals

Some of the visitors to our place in Punta del Diablo, Uruguay

He was certainly an important factor in our decision to work worldwide, or not. From the very first day when we seriously considered it, we decided that we wouldn’t go until we were sure he’d be well looked after. We knew that wouldn’t be a big hurdle. Lots of our friends and family would have gladly taken him in. We knew that. But we really wanted Marijke, Leonie’s mother, to take him. Bob always had a special place in her heart, as he had for her, and we knew he’d be in the best of hands there.

But that’s a lot to ask. He was an old dog, and we knew that if we did leave, whoever was going to look after him (Marijke) would, someday, have to take the decision to put him to sleep. That’s a big responsibility, on top of everything else a dog needs.

As it turned out, we didn’t even have to ask. Marijke offered to take him. That was a great weight off our shoulders. We knew we could safely leave, once everything else had been taken care of, and Bob would be fine. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look at it – Bob never made it that far, and we had to take that horrible decision ourselves just a few months before we started living our nomadic life.

Sjors-and-Bob

Sjors, and his old pal.

That life of working while travelling meant that I could not take on another dog, even if I wanted to. I wouldn’t even be able to have a goldfish. This (having a pet, not necessarily a goldfish) was a big consideration for me. I really had to think hard about whether I wanted this life or another dog. I really had to ask myself how much I would miss having an animal around.

I needn’t have worried. Pretty much everywhere we’ve visited there have been animals. Usually dogs. There were the street mutts in Cabo Verde, Mate in Namibia (hi, Fennessys!), and Petra’s cats and her dog, Sita, in Italy (hi to you all too). On this trip, it was great to meet Cricket in Houston, Goose in Tallahassee, the whippet and dachshund (I forget their names) at our Airbnb place in New Orleans, and my many friends at Marlies an Abad’s place in Bolivia. Even here, in this remote little village in Uruguay, we have a few visitors who pass by daily, usually at meal times, coincidentally enough. And then, any time we’re back in Amsterdam, I get to see my, and Bob’s, old pal, Sjors (I hope he’s still doing well) and my new buddy, the gorgeous golden retriever, Loebas.

BobIn many ways, this is better than having my own dog. I don’t have to be the boss, which means I don’t have to tell them off or be strict with them. I don’t have to come home to feed them or let them out either. I can just enjoy them when I’m there (or, in the case of cats, when they’re there).

So I don’t miss not having a dog at all. I just miss that one dog. Old Bob.

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