It was pitch black, we were rattling over a dirt road and I could not see a thing. Yet somehow, instead of feeling terrified – which is a sensible reaction to rattling around blind in unknown forests – it was fun. I pulled over for a break; that is, to give our legs a stretch and to let our new passenger pee. I pulled off my helmet and asked The German: “How is it, again, that we’re in the middle of the woods, in pitch darkness, with no idea where we’re going and there is a dog with us?” To which his reply was a huge grin and: “I have no idea, but it’s really cool, isn’t it!?”
The reason we ended up with a four legged member in our motorcycle gang has been five years in the making (or, ever since I moved to Germany and began begging for one). I come from a dog family; the German from a no-pet-period!-family. The German claims they did once have rabbits as pets, but given that they were subsequently eaten, I do not think we share the same definition of ‘pets’ (mind you, these rabbits were not fluffy pet store rabbits, they were rabbits that were meant for food from the beginning. All the more reason to argue they were not ‘pets’). He could barely fathom why anyone would want 20 pounds of fur that you needed to feed and clean up after (and for no other purpose than…well…love).
I, on the other hand, could not comprehend how anyone would want to live without one.
The German claims they did once have rabbits as pets, but given that they were subsequently eaten, I do not think we share the same definition of ‘pets’…
Friends recommended that I just show up one day with a dog. As tempting as that was, I do believe that whoever you share your living space with should agree to pets (even if you warn them ahead of time that a no-pet-stance will be considered incomprehensible and perhaps a sign that they are borderline evil). Yet, Christmas of this year he completely surprised me. He had done the research on taking a dog from Thailand into Canada and Germany. It’s surprisingly easy. It proved even more so when I found out the costs for microchipping and rabies vaccinations. In fact, it cost less than walking into the clinic in Canada or Germany.
As overjoyed as I was, there was just one problem. If we got a dog during our journey, the dog would need to go through a very long and horrible flight at some point. Could I be so cruel? I thought not. And so I decided to wait until we were back in Germany before getting a dog.
Fortuitously, a tropical island paradise intervenes
And then the German and his brother decided they wanted to do their rescue diving course on the island of Koh Tao. I do not dive. That did not mean that a week on an island that styled itself as a slice of paradise did not appeal to me. I could sunbathe, write, and volunteer at the local animal shelter.
However, upon arrival I discovered that the animal shelter did not need volunteers. The dogs were free to roam as they wished. The vet was there to neuter them, keep a door open should the dogs want to come inside, and try to convince local businesses to feed them rather than try to poison them.
The vet did have puppies however. Puppies who needed a home. When I told her my concerns about the flight she advised me to “take a look at the puppies. If you want one, take him. If he could, he would choose a flight that came with food and a loving home over regular kicks and death by rat poisoning. Trust me.”
And when I saw the little guy I knew he was mine. It was love at first sight.
Dogs on wheels?
Anyone who has traveled South East Asia knows why the motorcycle was not on my list of worries about the dog. Dogs ride bikes here all the time. And not just in the basket. Often times the dogs look like they are the ones doing the steering: two feet on the seat and two paws on the handle bars. I am not so brave with Mango. He was going in the basket. Even over long distances.
There are times when the fact that my German partner is an engineer makes me want to scratch my eyeballs out (have you ever tried arguing with an engineer over something that is completely illogical and entirely emotional? Now add to that equation an engineer bred in Germany). But there are other times when I am filled with glee. Like when he managed to make a new basket out of a plastic storage container, attach it to my bike, and with the use of a harness and a series of leads create a system that keeps Mango safely in the basket while still allowing him to move around.
And Mango’s take on motorcycle travel? At first we thought he hated it. Deep howls made us wonder whether this was such a good idea after all. And then we tried it with my bike taking the lead. It was magic: so long as the German was behind us, he was great. Not a peep. In other words, it turns out that Mango simply wants to be on the lead motorcycle. So long as he is first, it’s all ear-flapping bliss. His tongue lolls out and he will even curl up to nap if we’re on a longer ride. However, should his other owner overtake us – even when Mango is in the middle of a nap – I immediately have a rattling basket of emotional distress on my bike. How he knows it’s the German I have no idea: other bikes can pass me and all is well. Mango either wants to be top dog, or he has abandonment issues. Chances are it’s a bit of both.
But we can work on that!