It’s that time of year again when we close up our house in New York and make the trek to Florida. Most people pack clothes for Florida, turn down the heat in the house and hit the road, arriving no more than two or three days later. We are not most people. We own an 1874 cottage which demands we drain the pipes of water and shut off the heat. The house has an old stone foundation, and we are afraid if we don’t fully winterize the place, we’ll have burst pipes. Every item that could freeze in the pantry and bathrooms and under sink must be put in plastic bins and taken to the basement. We call in our special expert to come in after we have departed, and he blows the pipes and makes certain the traps are filled with antifreeze.
We are also blessed with (or saddled with, depending upon my mood) two geriatric cats, a female (Squeak, also known as Her Highness) who doesn’t like change and prefers sleeping most of the day and a male (Marley, or Himself) who is either selectively smart or selectively stupid. He also does not know he’s getting old. In fact, he discovered a few weeks ago how to play with wadded up pieces of paper. He’s getting skilled at catching them or batting them back to me. He also likes it when my husband takes him for a ride by swinging him back and forth in a mesh laundry basket. He’s so fond of the riding that we now know we’ll have to find someplace in the truck to pack that hamper. Lucky for us, it is collapsible.
Like his adopted sister Squeak, Marley also dislikes change and hates to travel. Put him in the car or truck and he immediately throws up. Sometimes he’ll also defecate and urinate. To prevent his “motion sickness” when traveling—this is the cat who likes to be swung back and forth in the laundry basket—we take him to the vet the night before we leave and he gets a cerenia shot. The shot works wonders, just not on the way to and from the vet to get it. Our vet is very understanding when I hand over my poopy, peey, vomity cat for his shot. “You’ll have to bath him before you go in,” I say. All in all, visits to the vet for this purpose or any purpose are never fun. Our stress level goes up increasing his stress which increases ours more and then he…well, you get it. The next day he’s fine and for the travel days after.
If you’re supposing Squeak is a little lady on the road, you’d be wrong. Sometimes she takes a hint from him and decides to defecate also. Not often, but often enough to make the beginning of the trip unsettling as I reach into the back seat trying to clean up her mess while she’s still in the carrying case. We carry more cleaning supplies with us than parents with newborns. Squeak is also very picky about motel rooms. We were once bumped from one of her favorite motels because the motel chain was holding a conference for their employees. We found ourselves in another motel that was even to our eyes, much less hers, of less desirability. She howled the entire night. We book ahead to prevent a repeat of the sleepless night.
And, oh yes, did I say that they will not travel in their carriers for more than eight hours at a time. Then they want food and a bathroom in a classy motel. We arrive at our destination in Florida after three nights on the road with some very grumpy cats, and we’re not so happy either.
Unpacking takes some time because our place there is small; we have no storage room for outdoor furniture so we pile it in our enclosed Florida room. It must be moved outside before we can move inside. We try to do this quickly usually accompanied by the complaining of road weary cats. Bugs and lizards are a problem in Florida, and I don’t want the cats to eat any dead or living bodies. The place must be cleaned before they are permitted free range of the house—more complaining, more stress—and now I feel like throwing up).
This year’s preparation to leave has been more stressful complicated by some medical issues and computer problems.
“You’re packing now? But you’re not leaving for four days,” said the owner of the computer store when I tried to explain why it was impossible for me to drive back and forth into town 15 miles away to drop off and pick up my computer or to wait several days before some software arrived. I didn’t even try to explain to her how difficult getting ready for the trip was. A delay in the software arriving means I am traveling with an unreliable computer, two unhappy cats and a weary husband. I will be hooked into earphones listening to a book on CD, looking forward to sweeping dead palmetto bug carcasses out of my house when I get there. It’s the same every year. You’d think I’d be used to it by now.
Then comes April when we reverse the process and return to New York. That’s another story, but I’ll leave it for the spring.