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Editor's Desk

Traveling, With Cats
By Ken Anderson
Apr 17, 2009 - 10:40:04 PM

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Last Monday, my wife and I left Fayetteville, North Carolina, where we have been living and working over the past year and a half, to return to our home in Millinocket, Maine.

We brought with us four of the five cats who were part of our family when we left Millinocket more than two years ago. Baby Girl died in Levant, a few months short of her 24th birthday. Those who are left include Cutie and Lydia, who are Baby Girl's daughters from the same litter; they turned eighteen last December. Bird, whom I took in as a feral adult sixteen years ago, is also eighteen now, only a few months younger than the twins. I know how old she is because I have fed her since she was a kitten, as well as her mom, and some others who were part of a feral colony next to one of our ambulance stations when I owned an ambulance company in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Lastly, there is Obadiah who, despite her name, is Bird's eight year-old daughter, and the only one who was born in Millinocket. Cutie and Lydia are very close, and Obadiah gets along with everyone  but her mom. Bird and Lydia are fine together, but none of the others like Bird very much.

In the past, when we have traveled, we've driven until we were too tired to drive any longer and then began looking for a hotel. Since most hotels, understandably, don't like housing cats, we have had to sneak them in. This time we planned ahead, using a book published by the American Automobile Club, entitled "Traveling with Your Pet, 11th Edition: The AAA PetBook", which includes a directory of pet-friendly hotels and motels throughout the country. We planned our trip to include relatively short driving days, leaving us with plenty of online time to work each evening in a pet-friendly hotel with high-speed Internet access, and for the most part this has worked out just fine.

Our first stop was the Sleep Inn & Suites, located at 18216 Colonel Henry K. Douglas Drive in Hagerstown, Maryland. That was our longest drive, just short of four hundred miles. Since we encountered some heavy traffic in Virginia, we were on the road for more than six hours before reaching the Sleep Inn. That was also our worst hotel experience. Although we had reserved our room in advance, confirming the information published in the AAA PetBook, that pets were accepted, the desk clerk first told me that we weren't allowed to have pets in the room, then wanted to charge a non-refundable fee of $10 a cat, contrary to what we were told when we reserved the room. Worse, when I told her that we had made these arrangements over the phone prior to reserving the room, her response was, "No, you didn't."

A telephone call to the manager straightened things out, although they did charge a non-refundable $10 fee, which is not mentioned in the book and was contrary to what we were told when we had booked the room, it was only one charge, not multiplied four times for each of our cats. Nevertheless, I don't think I'll be staying in the Sleep Inn & Suites in Hagerstown, Maryland again, with or without my cats. I can fully appreciate the many reasons why someone might prefer not to allow pets in a hotel room, whether cats or dogs, but I don't believe that the policies should be different when I arrive than they were when I reserved a room - and please don't tell me that I'm lying when I'm telling the truth; I get enough of that in Millinocket.

A big thumbs down on the Sleep Inn & Suites in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Hagerstown is only a half hour from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania; which was our next stop. We spent the day and night visiting with Will Hough, who was formerly the pastor of the Millinocket Baptist Church. Our cats weren't overly fond of their basset hounds but, other than that, it was a nice visit.

Our next stop was Norwalk, Connecticut. A trip of less than three hundred miles, we were on the road for not much longer than four hours. Traffic, even in New York, was fairly light, and although I did make one wrong turn in New York City, my TomTom put me back on track in short order.

Michelle has a sister in Connecticut, so we spent a couple of nights at the Homestead Studio Suites Hotel, at 400 Main Avenue in Norwalk. There were no surprises there. Although there was a one-time fee for having pets, we were expecting it, and I don't mind paying a pet fee as long as they're upfront about it. This was a large and very comfortable room. Why, I couldn't even begin to guess, but my cats felt at home there, foregoing the usual slinking across the floor and hiding behind furniture that we usually see from them in a new place. My wife and I also found it to be most comfortable.

A huge thumbs up for the Homestead Studio Suites Hotel in Norwalk, Connecticut.

While we are always tempted to keep driving once we have crossed the border into Maine, we weren't looking forward to an eight-hour drive to Millinocket, so we had reserved a room at the Hampton Inn, at 171 Philbrook Avenue in South Portland, where we are now. From Norwalk, that was a short drive of only a few hours in easy traffic.

The Hampton Inn is a truly pet-friendly hotel, with no extra pet fees. I can't say that our cats are as much at home here as they were in the Homestead Studio Suites, neither can I tell you why that might be. Except for Obadiah, who is afraid of nothing, the cats hid as soon as they left the cat cages. We have been here for more than seven hours now, and Lydia is still hiding. However, Cutie is asleep on a cat bed next to my computer, Bird is in another bed in the window, and Obie is sleeping on Michelle's bed. Lydia is probably hiding under a bed, but she's not the bravest feline in the world.

The Hampton Inn is comfortable enough. The room is large, the beds are comfortable, there's coffee in the lobby, and their wireless Internet works. What more could we want?

I'll give the Hampton Inn a hearty thumbs up. If Lydia doesn't like the place, she can write her own story.

We'll be back in Millinocket sometime tomorrow, and I pray that it will be good to be home.

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