Monday, August 21, 2017


This is Winnie:

Actually, her full name was Winnie D. Pooch, and she was my childhood dog (like that name didn’t already totally tip you off).

And she is the reason why we stayed in the nastiest, scariest, weirdest hotels on the planet.

We never boarded her. Not once in 17 years. It honestly never crossed anybody’s mind. She was just always with us. She was in the car when Mom picked me and my brother up from school—or dropped us off in the morning. She went to the grocery store (weather permitting), she went on weekend camping excursions in the RV (which is where she’s standing here), and she was along for the ride on every extended family vacation we ever took. She went to Texas and Fort Gibson, OK and Branson, MO—etc., etc., etc. She was a Maltese, really small (MAYBE 6 lbs at her heaviest), easy to carry, totally innocent looking, and she was allowed into every single museum or shop we ever went to. Every. Single. One. Once, we took her to an outdoor restaurant in Texas. It was hot as hades, and all we wanted was something to drink. At first, waitstaff was going to kick us out (just couldn’t have a dog in a place where food was being served), but after about thirty seconds, we were getting bowls of water all around.

It wasn’t like she was an angel. She was prone to mad barking fits (once, she tried to “kill” a lifesized concrete buffalo on a trip to Oklahoma). She wouldn’t have known “sit” or “stay” or “c’mere” were ever words that applied to her. She sure knew “go,” though. (As in, “Do you want to go?”)


Anyway, when we were on the road (sans-RV), back in the ‘80s, we generally ran into dog trouble when it came to finding hotels. Honestly, part of the reason for that was that my dad would never push it when told “no dogs.” He would never explain she was housebroken or wouldn’t bother anyone (as long as there was no concrete wildlife in the room or walls of mirrors—THAT was a disaster, don’t get me started). He never even offered to pay a pet fee / deposit. If someone told him no, that was that. And we were on to the next place down the road. Which was every bit as likely to say no dogs, too.

Where we wound up? Oh, man. Places where headboards fell off, where no one was allowed to walk barefoot on the carpet, where the cleaning crew once left this note for us taped to the bathroom mirror: “THIS PLACE SUCKS!”

Yes, it did.

But the thing is, I remember every single one of those places. I remember every shady character I met at an ice machine. I remember every long-winded story one decidedly wacky guy told me poolside while Winnie dog paddled (actually, Mom said she was just walking on top of the thick pool sludge). We still joke about that housekeeping note and about being sure, in Wentzville, that the stuff on the rug was actually leftover chalk (from a recently deceased body’s chalk outline).

Maybe you do remember the bumps in the road more than you remember the times of smooth sailing. Well—the bumps and how you dealt with it, or the sheer fact that you all got through it. Maybe we all even get hungry for disruptions and surprises working their way into the everyday humdrum—and that’s part of the reason we go on vacation in the first place.
Maybe, too, that’s why we gravitate toward fiction—maybe that’s also a trip, a vacation from the norm. 

Maybe, in the end, we most like winding up in the places we least expect.


  1. I think it's wonderful that you and your family brought your dog everywhere; I'm sure she appreciated it, especially because I never met a dog that liked being left behind. When (not if) I adopt a dog, I'm going to bring it with me to as many places as I can.

  2. Great and true shaggy dog tale-Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Winnie sounds like one lucky dog and a great traveling companion! We had a dog named Winnie too though his full name was Winston Churchill and he was a bit bigger than your Winnie - an 85-pound Golden Retriever as it happens, but he thought he was a lap dog.

    1. We're on the same dog-name wavelength, I think. (Now, you have Jack and I have Jake!)

  4. OMG. The hotel rooms! I've stayed at only one hotel I described as a "Bates Motel" (and that was only a year ago, and a huge mistake). You are a far braver soul than I!

  5. Thanks, guys. I've now got a 14-year-old Peke who goes everywhere with me, too. I kind of can't imagine going on a trip without a dog.

  6. I love everything about this post! My childhood dog was MacDuff and he came everywhere with us too!