Are you still married?
It’s a question those of us in the Caribbean travel & tourism industry get all the time. The busy travel schedule definitely puts a strain on my home life, but at least I can make it up to my wife and kids with (what else?) more travel. The trips I made to Nevis (with my wife) and to Tobago (whole family) last year were for just that very reason, a beach lime at Pigeon Point and some Killer Bee’s at Sunshine’s buying me enough forgiveness to last another year.
For my dog, Hershey, though, there’s just no forgiving travel transgressions.
The mere sight of my luggage is akin to a knife in the back for Hershey, or at least it appears that way from the sad expression she always wears while staring holes through me as I pack before every trip. Leaving Hershey at the door on my way to the airport is always tough. Equally hard is returning to an empty hotel room every night, no smiling face or waging tail to greet me.
It’s lonely on the road for us dog lovers, you know?
At least it is everywhere I’ve traveled in the Caribbean except Grand Cayman, where I recently found a cool way to endure a few days away from Hershey, and at the same time, make a small difference for some needy four-legged friends.
Upon arriving on the island, I read in a local magazine about a volunteer program run by the Cayman Islands Humane Society that solicits assistance from locals and visitors to provide walks and playtime fun for the dogs and cats in their care. I called for more info and got the news I was hoping for – not only could I show up and take a dog for a walk near the facility, I could actually take a dog with me for the day!
The next morning, I woke up early, hopped in my rental car and drove the five or so minutes from the Comfort Suites on Seven Mile Beach, where I was staying, to the Humane Society. It was 9am on a Sunday, so they had just opened and everyone was busy tending to the animals. After a couple minutes, a large older man asked me if I was there for a dog. “Just for the day,” I made sure to clarify, lest he thought I was picking out a brother or sister for Hershey.
The man led me to the back where I was met with row after row of sweet faces like these…
“Which one you want?,” the man deadpanned, as though we had done this dance many times before. I, on the other hand, was overwhelmed. So many beautiful dogs, all locked up; barking, leaping, clawing for even the slightest shred of attention in hopes of getting some one-on-one time… Maybe even a new home.
I settled on a one year-old pup named Boo Boo, (Boo for short). After a few tense moments extricating her from the cage she shared with her brother and another dog, we got her on a leash and over to reception. “So, are there any forms or anything that I need to fill out,” I asked.
“Nope,” the man said. “You can just take her. We close at noon today, so if you can’t bring her back by then, just stop back tomorrow.”
That’s right, you can arrange to keep your Cayman pound pup overnight, assuming, of course, that your hotel allows for pets. Nine o’clock to noon was perfect for my brief trip, however, and the lack of red tape meant that we’d be able to maximize our time together.
Or so I thought. First I had to coax Boo into my car.
Boo was about as good on the leash as you’d expect any one year-old to be, but she was not getting in that car for anything or anyone.
This brings me to three pieces of advice for anyone planning on trying this little adventure:
1) Get one of the volunteers to help you load your dog into your rental car. I wasted close to 15 minutes trying to coax Boo in myself; an epic losing battle if ever there was one.
2) Most definitely ask for plastic bags to collect dog waste before leaving the shelter. The minute I got Boo Boo to a nice local part of Seven Mile Beach to enjoy our time together, she christened the pristine white sand directly in front of the Governor’s Mansion. Umm yeah, that was a bit awkward.
3) Make sure you have water. It’s hot on the beach, especially for dogs like Boo who are deathly afraid of the ocean. Thankfully, I met a really nice lady staying in a condo just a little ways up from the Governor’s Mansion who was kind enough to bring Boo some water.
Point #3 also brings to mind a nice little side benefit to having a cute dog with you on Seven Mile Beach: it makes it easier to meet people. This is a cool deal, especially if you’re traveling alone and seeking some company, if you know what I mean. (Yes, I’m still married).
Anyway, Boo and I strolled along Seven Mile Beach, making friends (hi, Linda!), taking pictures and frolicking in the sand for the better part of the morning. She was a little anxious at first, but soon settled down and adapted nicely to our brief beach life together. At one point, while sitting by ourselves near the shore, Boo started digging in the sand right behind my back, madly flinging sand in all directions in an effort to better snuggle in close. Later, she edged alongside me, playfully dragging her body through the sand before finally resting her head in my lap. I was in heaven.
The drive back to the Humane Society was hard. It was still only five minutes, but I wished somehow it could be a helluva lot longer.
Back at reception, another volunteer returned Boo to her cage, and just like that, it was over.
I returned to my car, ready to tackle a Sunday afternoon of fun, but I knew the rest of my trip would not be the same.
In three short hours I had fallen in love, lost, and in the process, gained one of the most amazing travel experiences of my life.
To learn more about how you can enjoy just such a unique and special experience on your next trip to Grand Cayman, click here to visit the Cayman Islands Humane Society website.