Don’t pet the fuzzy cacti!

Frankie and I are headed to Scottsdale today to meet one of my newfound relatives, and I’m a little nervous. To put it mildly.

Not about meeting my relative, Elaine. We’ve already chatted on the phone, and I’m sure that’ll go swimmingly.

No, I’m nervous about traveling with Frankie. The last time I tried a similar short trip was last September, with decidedly mixed results

If I had my druthers, I would leave Frankie at home with a pet sitter. But my favorite one was booked and, since Frankie developed Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), his care presents some challenges — even beyond having to give him two insulin shots a day for diabetes. Not everyone can deal with the fact that he tends to pee on his feet, for example (not inside and not on purpose, but that’s a story for another post). I didn’t want to try to break in another pet sitter for a two-night getaway.

Or to clean my house.

So we’re off on an adventure to the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, our lovely soon-to-be home away from home.

Here are my prime concerns, based on previous experiences.

The Car

Frankie has always disliked car travel — regular readers of this blog may remember my many fruitless efforts to try to make him relax — and that hasn’t changed, except that he’s not able to jump in and out of the car as he once was. This is not a physical issue but, rather, a cognitive one: Because he can’t gauge where things are, he began missing the door and trying to jump into solid portions of the car.


As a result, I have to pick him up and deposit him in the car, which he doesn’t like, thus adding to his array of negative associations surrounding automobile travel.

He rarely lies down and sleeps while we’re on the road. This means that, by the time we get to Scottsdale, he will have been standing in a state of constant vigilance, if not stress, for 2 1/2 hours.

If I’m lucky, he will unwind enough to have something to eat in time for me to be able to give him his insulin shot and go to dinner with friends. And he will not throw up afterwards because, after not drinking for several hours as a result of stress, he has gulped down a few bowls of water.

This did not, I hasten to assure my hosts at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, should they be reading, occur on our previous trip to Scottsdale. I just mention it as one of the many things on my list to worry about.

The Room

The stunning Boulders Resort in Carefree, which Frankie and I visited last year
The stunning Boulders Resort in Carefree, which Frankie and I visited last year

Although Frankie never liked car travel, he used to be quite fond of hotel rooms. He would bounce around them, from bed to floor and back, following my every move. His bouncing days are over, which is fine by me. I used to be petrified at some of the heights he would leap from, in spite of my efforts to get him to stay put. “No, I’m coming back into the bedroom in a second, Frankie, honest, please don’t jump down from the bed,” I would plead. To little effect.

At least hotel room floors are carpeted. As an extra precaution, I would array pillows around the bed.

On the our last September jaunt to The Boulders, Frankie didn’t try to jump up on anything. But he paced. He sometimes does this at home now too, but I sleep close to the ground — yes, after a back-injuring leap onto my hardwood floor, long ago, I put my mattress on the floor — and am therefore able to detect the “I need to go out” movement, which is distinct from aimless pacing.

I was afraid to put Frankie on the Boulders’ big high bed with me because he might fall off and get freaked out. And I was afraid that if he wasn’t on the bed, I wouldn’t hear him when he needed to use the outdoor facilities.

So I put my bedding on the floor, which wasn’t very comfortable, because I couldn’t move the huge mattress, only the comforter.

The Cactus

I did indeed hear Frankie when he wanted to go out — why wouldn’t I? I couldn’t fall asleep — and I even had a plan: I would take him out the back sliding door, which let out to a landscaped desert area, rather than the front door and the lighted, paved paths. That way, the bathroom break would be quick and I wouldn’t have to worry about what I was wearing.

Yes, you read that correctly: I decided to forgo the lighted, paved path for the dark one with the cacti to avoid getting dressed.

You can guess what happened next: Cactus attack! Large pieces of a species called jumping cholla — because they are easily dislodged when you brush up against them; see video, below — attached themselves to Frankie.

I had never heard Frankie cry so piteously and I acted instinctively — and stupidly. Rather than going back into the room and grabbing a towel, I grabbed the cactus pieces in my bare hands.

Frankie immediately stopped crying. I was too surprised at myself to start. And by this point, I had brought — practically dragged — Frankie into the room, and used the towel to dislodge the cactus from my hand and into the wastebasket, thus foiling the cactus’s evil plot to propagate itself.

I think I’ve learned a few lessons since then. I’ll report back to let you know.

In the meantime, wish us luck.

16 thoughts on “Pet Travel Challenges: Car Rides & Leaping Cacti”

    1. It was painful only briefly but my hand was a lot less sensitive than the soft parts of poor Frankie’s body that brushed up against the big bad cacti. It’s true, desert plants are very protective of themselves.

  1. This takes me back to the last days of Shalmaneser, my beloved Siamese cat who lived nearly to twenty, but whose last few months were very challenged. I remember more than one night sleeping on the bare bathroom floor with him (and some towels).

    1. I suspect you would have instinctively pulled jumping cholla out of him with your bare hands too… Thanks for coming by.

  2. Here’s a tip for when you have a dog in the desert–ALWAYS carry a comb. Easiest way to remove cactus without touching!
    Frankie is a lucky boy to have a friend who is willing to make such sacrifices as sleeping on the bare floor! ‘Fraid I wouldn’t go that far.

    1. Ah, the comb advice is in the video and I almost mentioned it but knew that I wouldn’t have gone out in the middle of the night with a comb anyway. Even if I had had one, which I didn’t.

      The floor was nicely carpeted, but you may surprise yourself. In the meantime, I won’t say anything to Bogie…

  3. I remember your road trip with Frankie to southern CA, and others. Wishing you and Mr. Frankie all the best. Maybe, is it possible, maybe that his CCD might make some things easier? I’m not sure what those would be, but, just a thought, and a wish.

    1. Thanks for the good wishes! There are certain things that Frankie now sleeps through because his hearing isn’t as keen — e.g., thunderstorms. And, who knows, I might find others… I’ll report back.

  4. I remember our halcyon days of striding proudly through the lobby, squired by Frankie and Archie…. They made us so proud, and were the hits of that hotel. The same will happen again, and your worries will slip away. For a moment.

    1. I’ve been thinking a lot about that visit, needless to say, with quite a bit of nostalgia. Frankie is still oohed and aahed over — never anything he particularly enjoyed — but there’s nothing like the bromance that occurred that first time (and, admittedly, was never replicated). He will be meeting another dog today… I’ll be reporting on that soon.

  5. Justus likes to ride and walk with me – he’s young and strong. However, he didn’t do well when I boarded him at my favorite kennel while having surgery last December. He lost weight even though Bill gave him extra food; I was shocked when I picked him up. I then realized we had never been apart – we socialized but always together! Hmmm….so, I need to board him again but for a shorter time.
    I pray you and Frankie have a GREAT time – and avoid the chollas.

  6. Oh Edie! This is such a pitiful tale and I just wanted to hug you both at most every juncture (except when you were all prickly, then I just wanted to back away slowly.) I have so missed you and Frankie’s adventures, though, I kind of wish this one had gone a bit better. Was the rest of the trip at least lovely?

  7. Welcome back to your blog Edie! Oh the jumping cholla, fiendish little balls of needle-like thorns. The first time I saw one was many years ago on my first desert trip. I was with two dear friends and we stopped at Organ Pipe National Monument. I bent down to get a closer look and suddenly one of the balls was stuck in my chin. I was laughing and crying at the same time. When I talked, the *&@! thing bobbed up and down. The sisters looked at me, dumfounded on what to do (we were all from MD where the most malevolent plant is poison ivy). I remember shouting, “Eileen, you’re a nurse, get this $&%# thing off me!” She pulled down the sleeves of her jean jacket and managed to pry it off. Wish we knew about the comb trick. How tramatic it must have been with Frankie! Beware the desert is all I have to say.

    1. Thanks, Cynthia! Welcome back to the comments section.

      Apparently your cries weren’t as piteous as Frankie’s, otherwise your friend would have ripped the cactus off your chin with her bare hands. Okay, not bloody likely, but yes, we live in a scary, if beautiful, part of the world…

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