#11: A Long Ass Way to Tipperary

I just moved from Germany to Ireland with my cat. I had thought it would be a lot easier than when I moved to Germany from Oregon with my cat. But, actually, it was quicker, and in some ways easier, to cross 5177 miles from Portland to Berlin than it was to get the 1189 miles from Berlin to Dublin. This is because I was able to fly from the US to Germany with my cat on board, but couldn’t find any airline that would take pets on flights into Ireland or the UK. Even Lufthansa, with whom I have flown trans-Atlantic with my cat, twice, and who has a whole ‘we’re pet friendly’ page on their website, does not book pets on flights into Ireland or the UK. I spoke with the Irish Department of Agriculture, and no, they don’t have any prohibition about pets entering the country. The flights just won’t take them.

 

Long story short, I was left with a choice:

  1. Pay a freight company to take my cat and ship her for me. One recommended company gave me a quote for nearly €800! When the flight I was planning to book for myself was only €57!
  2. Spend three days but only about €300 taking trains and ferries across Europe with my cat.

 

I went with the second option. Partly because it was far less expensive, partly because it sounded like an interesting adventure, and partly because I really didn’t like the idea of letting strangers put my cat in a box and take her away from me and overseas. And I’m glad that I did go this route: even though I was weeping by the end of it.

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#4: Where Do you Want to Go?

Once you’ve established that you can leave the house with your cat, the next question is – where will you go?

 

This is, of course, the real question we all face continuously from our childhood forward. Whether it’s wanting to go on a walk, a hike, a holiday, whether we’re just starting out to seek our fame and fortune, or looking to start anew after a breakup or layoff, or fleeing some horrible home-life or war zone, we find ourselves continuously confronting that same question: Where will you go?

 

Encased within that misleadingly short query, of course, lie a variety of bigger, scarier problems, like “How do you want to spend your life?” and “What are your suited for?” and “Who will have you?” Also, the wonderful, tingling awareness that it’s a very big world out there.

 

Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been great at answering the question. There’s just too many interesting options, and I don’t want to rule any of them out.

 

When I first started schlepping my cat Aífe about outside on a regular basis, and she started showing real improvement in her ability to handle The Vast And Terrifying World Outside, I got really excited, and my imagination started running way ahead of us. We were in Berlin at the time, and it was a humid 100 degrees outside (that’s 37 Celsius), in the very heart of a thoroughly paved metropolis. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get a visa to stay in Germany with my then-fiancé, and I began finding reasons I’d rather be elsewhere anyways. (You know, the thing where you reject the thing/person/situation you care about before they reject you. Defensive, fight-or-flight, the-grass-is-always-greener-elsewhere-anyways-so-fuck-you shit that I had learned from my childhood, and had grown so second nature in my young ‘adulthood’.) As fear melted with fantasy in the boiling brickwork, I had visions of Aífe and I heading back to America, hiking and camping and road-tripping our way through the extraordinary array of stunning terrain that my vast homeland has to offer. Retreating from the anxieties of immigration, romance, crowds, and humans in general, reasserting my independence from everybody except my cat.

 

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#3: The Great Difficulty of Just Leaving the Flat

Christmas Eve, 2011. I am squatting down in a field off the 101 Freeway, about an hour south of San Francisco. I say field – it’s a very big patch of manicured grass beside the parking lot of a Target. This being the coastal side of California, it’s all blue sky, golden sunlight, clean pavement, and immaculate green lawn, even in the depths of winter.  

 

I am squatting here because of the pussy hiding between my legs. No, not like that. My one-year-old brown tabby, Aífe, has just been in a car for the first time (a rental). She has spent the last hour or so loudly and unrelentingly meowing objections from her carrier in the back seat. We still have another five hours drive ahead of us down to SoCal, and I imagine she might need a potty break, so I decide to try taking her out for her first walk on a leash.

 

This is the first time she has ever been confronted with the enormity of the open heavens, with something like freedom, and she is absolutely shitting herself. She is yowling in distress, and as I kneel down to try and comfort her, she rushes to cower under the only available shelter for yards and yards around, which happens to be my ass. I start giggling so hard at the ridiculousness of our position that I worry that I’ll fall on her.

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#1: The Joy of Cat-Schlepping

The first half of my 20’s, all I wanted to do was travel. I wanted to see the world, meet people, walk down strange streets. And I was in a real rush to do it; what I was rushing towards (or from), I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) have quite admitted. But I made a pretty good go of it, saw mad and wondrous things from Seattle to Sarajevo, from Dublin to Darjeeling. But I made a lot of dodgy choices along the way, and at 25, I ship-wrecked myself onto San Francisco. I’d survived my misadventures, but they had left me thoroughly bedraggled, and broke in terms of both pocket and soul. I knew I needed to bunker down for a while.

 

And that’s when I became a forever home.

 

I spotted Aífe (ee-fuh) on New Years Eve, 2010. A teeny, brown, three-month-old tabby, sitting with her sister in the window of the Union Square Macy’s, where the extraordinary San Francisco SPCA was running its annual holiday adoption event. I went in to meet the kittens. The first of the pair seemed indifferent to me. The second, however, examined me with great interest. She sniffed at my coat and face with her tiny pink nose, delicately and inquisitively batted at my hair and spectacles with her tiny fuzzy paw, and met my brown eyes with her own bright green ones. She was easily one of the cutest things I’d ever seen, and seemed to have a wonderful, engaging little personality tucked inside. The SPCA folks told me that they had stopped doing adoptions for the evening, but I could come back for her the next morning if I wanted.

 

I did. I really, really did.

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