Recently a friend was generous enough to give us a lift, and being able to comfortably transfer the pack from my parents’ house to our place was really great. So great it made my mind dwell on the issue of traveling with animals.
Travels with animals BUT without a car (our style) are usually quite educational. They made us relatively skilled in logistics, planning, and wrapping stuff up. Since our pack is not that small – the two of us plus the dog, plus two ferret carriers (hopefully the little guys will end up sharing one) – we surely constitute quite a view. Well, at least to some fellow passengers on a public bus or on a train. However, we always try to make our presence as unobtrusive to everybody around, as only possible. We try to keep a little distance from everybody else, the dog wears a small strap muzzle when there’s somebody around (a requirement of our public transportation service). And when it is rainy we have a towel to dry her. The ferrets are, as said, in their carrier boxes. We don’t place them on seats, unless there are many of those free. Nano is always next to us, or under our legs (if we sit), leashed.
Most people don’t pay any attention to us, which we take as an evidence of our advanced inconspicuousness skills. From time to time somebody starts chatting with us about animals, and then we learn the stories about their dog or cat, or answer questions about our zoo. This is usually nice. We can learn from their experience and share ours.
And then there are the THEM. The frustrated would-be owners of the world, always pushy and mean to you (my experiences), who don’t receive enough respect from everybody around (I wonder why…), but are convinced they deserve the bow and the respect, just like that. They usually want your seat, and never mind there are tons of places to take. Your presence near them should be silent and almost non-existent. They are just not happy to see you too happy – by their standards.
For some reason, many of these persons regard animals as filthy and dangerous creatures that should not be there ( = where they themselves happen to be). I suspect it might be similar with small children, but from my observations comes that they are usually a bit more forgiving in this respect, especially if the kid is their kin (child, grandkid). However, that’s only as long as the latter is not too loud or pushy (or filthy / dangerous).
Although I sometimes fail to implement this in my personal life (sorry, family. Will try to improve) I strongly believe that one of the basis of good living with others is communication. Don’t assume people will know you’re not feeling well and you would like to take their seat. Ask for the favor and then say your thank-yous. This kind of thing.
And yet, from time to time, I stumble across a person whose lack of communication skills astonishes me. Bad luck, I guess? Or maybe I cause it? You know, with my difficult character. Food for thought.
Situation: I am on a public bus, with Nano (muzzle, leash) and Fuku (in the carrier). The bus is moderately crowded, some seats are free, but it is difficult to get to those with the dog, the carrier, and a backpack, plus it is not worth the effort as it is just a 30-minute ride. The pack is then stationed in the larger load space (no seats there). Nearby are two seats occupied by an older couple, chatting. Time passes, bus rides, couple continues to whisper, I look out of the window, animals are quiet. Towards the middle of our ride the bus jerks while stopping and due to that Nano steps one inch closer to the couple. Muzzle on, mind you.
The man snaps [harshly], “Tame your dog, now. Take it away!”
The woman says nothing, her face is turned to the man, she just observes us with the corner of one eye. I draw the leash and position the dog a bit further from the couple, but we all stay in the larger load space, as it would be difficult to move the whole pack for lack of room anywhere else on the bus. A few more minutes pass before I realize that the couple are actually chatting about me and the animals. And their manner is far from friendly. When I look at them, the strangest thing happens. The man explodes in rage.
“How dare you? How DARE YOU! My wife is allergic to animals, and you dare stand here, with your smelly dog, and with this, this cat! That is not acceptable!”
He continues hollering on such a note for a minute or so, while I just keep looking at him, in sheer astonishment, speechless as I’ve never seen anything like that before. A quick glance at the women for signs of allergy and I can only see disgust, but then, maybe she is just beginning to feel the effect of our animal presence? Suddenly I remember a guy with a dog, who was right behind them for like ten minutes and just left the bus one stop ago. They did not see him though. Is her allergy only to what she CAN actually see? Hmm… But then, what do I know about her. A sigh and I manage to compose myself.
“Sir, I am not able to read minds, but you could have told me that my staying here with the animals constitutes a problem for your wife’s health.”
Is she unable to speak her mind? She can speak for sure, I heard them mumble to each other.
Man, “This is unbelievable, animals should not be allowed on buses! My wife is unwell, blah, blah!” His raised voice starts to get on my nerves, I’d even say he’s screaming at me. I feel in a moment I will suggest for him to take a taxi if he cannot stand others on the bus. Then, again, I take a sigh.
Me, “Sir, this is public transportation, everybody is allowed to use it as long as they do not disturb others. I did everything possible not to disturb other passengers, but of course I’m moving further away now, as you can see. However, for the future, please note that you should communicate with others about any problem that you might have with their presence. And please, do it in a polite way, for your screaming at me is definitely not such. Everybody’s lives would be easier this way, why spoil other person’s day?”
Man, “… terrible young people, so rude… animals … unwell … sick … how dare you!”
Me [moving away and now a bit fenced], “I think your biggest problem, Sir, is the allergy to the world. It is not as nasty a place as you make it, but you’d first have to change your approach to it from warring to a bit more open in order to see that. Just try to be nicer to others, you know.”
Before I finally got off the bus on the next stop, I could hear them go on discussing that rude animal freak in a rather not very polite way. Did their parents do such a lousy job teaching them manners, or is it something that comes with time, as you get frustrated with life? How not to succumb to that? Food for thought #2.
But then, the reverse situation may happen. Once we were on a train, with the whole pack as always, looking for a compartment where to sit for the journey. Usually, when there is somebody inside we ask if it is okay for us to enter with the dog and the ferrets. This time there was a women inside and she said it was okay, we could join her with the animals. As we got in, placed our backpacks, positioned the carriers on our laps and the dog between our legs, we noticed that the woman had tears welled up in her eyes. We sensed a problem.
“Are you, by any chance, allergic to ferrets? I asked.
“I don’t know, but I am a bit allergic to rabbits,” she replied quietly.
“Oh, then you are likely to be allergic to ferrets too, so we’ll go somewhere else.”
“No, no, please, that’s nothing. I can leave, you will stay. No problem.” (WHAT? Pinch me, for I don’t believe what I’m hearing.)
And she went on in this manner. Apologetically. Of course we moved somewhere else, for the poor lady was quickly getting from the watery eyes stage to the swollen & red face stage. She was in fact VERY allergic to ferrets.
I mean, none of the approaches presented above is good, but it is easier for me to deal with people of the second kind. They are usually overly polite, not wanting to disturb anybody with their problems, and willing to suffer in silence instead. However, once you notice that a mutual solution can always be found to the problem, for communication with them is definitely possible. With the other kind – unless you are really ready to fight – the only way out is to leave the situation. You are anyway a freak to them, and they don’t seem to be willing to learn anything.
Maybe it is a time to become less Planet-friendly and get a car? Food for thought #3.