I had to make a trip to the UK recently, and I would be gone for quite some weeks. There was no way on earth I was leaving her behind for that length of time; we are joined at the hip, and I am her pack leader. I wouldn't leave a child, and I certainly wouldn't leave my dog. But there are many things to take into account when travelling alone with a canine, not least whether they'll make good company.
So the madness commenced, and she was injected, de-flea'd and de-wormed and 120 euro later, Keela was deemed fit to travel. The vet kindly sold me some sedative in a tube, and told me how much to give her - a mere drop, because this sedative would knock out a horse. It said so on the tube. I only wanted to sedate her temporarily, not permanently.
So D-day arrives, the ferry is booked and the car fully-loaded; Keela and I are the last to squeeze ourselves into the car. I'd bought a brand new dog bed for her which was on the front seat, so that she could snooze on the journey. Fat chance. Keela is very nosey. And awfully afraid that if she takes her eyes off you for just one second, you'll disappear. She hasn't quite got to grips with the fact that I'm the one driving the car, and that where the car goes, I'll go, and she'll inevitably follow. But I digress.
We begin our trip from County Cork and make our way up to the ferry port, which is long enough but non-eventful. To a point. About an hour before we are due to arrive at the ferry, I decide to test out my sedative so that I know how well it works, how fast, and how much to give her. I turn the dial to minimum, squeeze out a pea-sized droplet, wipe it around her gums and leave her settle into her bed.
It doesn't take long. For her bowels to give way. All over her new bed. It's the smell that hits me first. That pungent baby's-got-diarrhoea smell that's unmissable. Except I am now back on the motorway and travelling at close to 140km an hour, and Keela's trying to stand up. On rubber legs. Uncomfortably close to the shit. Keela is mortified; she has never, ever shat anywhere other than outside, ever. And now not only is she as high as a kite, but she's worried about the damage she's doing to her new bed. And mammy's driving.
So we screech to a halt and come to rest on the verge; I'm trying to keep her still, breathing through my mouth so I don't gag (I never realised how small the inside of a car is), I have both windows open, and I'm hitting the tarmac before I've even come to a full stop. Round to the passenger side. Rip open the door. And manage to rescue Keela before she submerges herself totally in the mess and starts doing the breaststroke.
OK. Right. Trucks are flying past, cars are hooting, and here's me with a doped up dog who can't stand, trying to lift out the bed with one hand whilst holding Keela in the other. It's not working. So down goes Keela onto the grass who promptly flops flat on her face, and I whip out the wet wipes I remember I have in the boot. Keela gets an in-situ wet wipe sponge bath, tongue lolling out the side of her mouth. I wonder briefly if I've given her too much sedative, and how to give mouth-to-mouth to a dog. Bum cleaned, I lean her up against an obliging pole, and tend to the mess within. She looks like a scarecrow.
Said bed is now somewhere on the N25. I did try and clean it with the wet wipes, and I succeeded - mostly - except for the smell. It was time to for the bed and me to part company. I do hope no one thought they'd scored if they found it, because the stench is still in my nose today.
Dog is now lifted back into the car, on a thick towel just in case her bowels are pulling a fast one and have one more blast to give, and tentatively pull out again, leaving a trail (I am embarrassed to say) of korma-coloured wet wipes in my wake. The wind didn't even want to take them.
Just under an hour later, Keela is still passed out next to me. I feel awful. I did this to my dog. She is comatose. And the ferry port is approaching. I stop again, this time to retrieve an empty hand luggage case from the boot for just this purpose. I carefully lift Keela's lifeless body into the suitcase, wondering if she will flop upside down to the bottom when I stand the case upright - she has no body control. She's not even on the planet.
You see, the dog is supposed to stay down below deck. With the cars. In a very noisy and scary environment. Look at my dog. She would be a nervous, dribbling wreck in dire need of Xanax if I left her down there. How could I? I'd paid extra for a cabin that I'd only use for four hours, with the sole purpose of getting the dog in there. Sans detection. And I have no idea at this stage whether there'll be sniffer dogs, X-ray machines, or car inspections - I've not travelled on the ferry before.
We arrive, and I'm as guilty as sin. I try the nonchalant look, but end up looking like I have twenty balloons of cocaine shoved up my ass. I flush as the security waves me through. I'm over-friendly; too chatty, too smiley. I drive past the booth, smiling, waving like the queen. I even asked the security whether or not he wanted to frisk my car. What the fuck was I thinking?
Anyhow. On I drive. Up the ramp. Waving at everyone. And just at that moment, Keela decides it's time to wake up. The case starts shuffling next to me. I think I see a smidgen of nose pushing through the zip area. I press her down, croon to her, and shove my coat over the top of the case. Once parked, there's men in high-viz jackets everywhere, guiding the cars on board. As fast as I can, I slip around to the passenger side, whip out the suitcase, and throw my coat over it, wheeling it casually-fast towards the lifts that will take me to my cabin. Keela is now attempting some form of break dancing and my jacket is flapping up and down. I keep smiling. And waving.
And before I know it, I have retrieved the key to my cabin, dragged the suitcase - with Keela probably doing a handstand inside it - to the cabin, and exhaled as the door closed behind me. She's delighted. She's ecstatic. And she still can't stand. She wags her tail to see me, unaware that it was me that doped her up, God love her trust and loyalty. And stumbles sideways into the cupboard. Within minutes, she is ensconced on a very comfy bed, with a white duvet and soft feather pillow, and I've settled down with my book. We made it.
Four hours later, Keela is very much recovered, and reluctant to return to the suitcase, but in she goes, coat a-top, and I wheel her as fast as a bullet back to the car. In the lift, four other passengers are chatting to me about how lovely the crossing was, and probably wondering why I was shifting from foot to foot to disguise my moving case. Keela wanted out. I hoped, no, prayed, really, that no one made a sound like pssshhhht, because that's the cat sound and Keela goes off like a rapid-fire machine gun when she hears it. Thankfully, no one had a sneeze.
The rest of my trip was uneventful, and we made our return journey recently, with a daughter and granddaughter in tow, and by now Keela almost zipped herself into the suitcase. She's a fast learner.
It was funny; it was an experience. And the worst that could have happened was I would have been reprimanded and made to return the dog to the car. The most surprising, and worrying, of all, really, was the lack of security checks. My passport wasn't checked. My luggage wasn't. My car wasn't. Not in my presence, anyway. I could have had a suitcase full of drugs. I could have been smuggling a baby. And no-one blinked an eye.
On my return to Ireland, I asked the security guy if he wanted to check my passport.
"Where do you live?" he asked. "Cork," I replied.
"Ah sure, if you're Irish, you're Irish!"
I think I'll chance both the cat and the budgies on the next trip.