Martin Roberts

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Do your pets come on your caravan holidays? Or is there a point at which you'd rather the extended family stayed at home? Martin Roberts shares his tale

Things have tipped over the edge. A point has been reached. A line has been crossed. The situation is no longer tenable... Houston, we have a problem. H-E-L-P!

It all started so innocently. We began to take the dogs away with us on our caravan holidays: two golden retrievers, Bagel and Mylo. It made sense.

There was no need for kennels or dog-sitters. No kennel cough. No guilt trips. No sad faces as the car pulled away. And a very nice time was had by all.

Then the kids grew older and, as they did, they wanted what all kids want – more pets. And so the menagerie grew.

Two guinea pigs joined the throng and, naturally, on our next tour, Ben and Jerry were included in the headcount. And it was fun.

The travelling hutch attracted much attention on our campsite and our mini petting zoo became an unexpected additional site feature. People with toddlers and small children would route their perambulations via our pitch, and much cooing and guinea pig cuddling would result.

Then came Misty the rabbit. Thankfully happy to cohabit with Ben and Jerry, so not much additional hutch space was required.

But another year has passed, and with it the at-home animal count has grown.

Two more guinea pigs (Cocoa and Fudge), a hamster (Pepper), and some stick insects (all called ‘Sticky’ to make life easy). And, oh yes, rather more significantly, a bundle of waggy-tailed, fluffy-haired craziness in the shape of a part-Labrador, part-Poodle, labradoodle-crossed-with-a-mop called Wofful.

So leaving for this year’s big summer holiday, the animals were loaded first and there was no room for the kids, let alone luggage for four weeks!

Eventually, the kids were squeezed in and the luggage was loaded in an additional car, seconded in desperation and driven by one lonely adult.

And that, dear reader, you would have thought would be that. But, oh no...

On Day 1, Pepper goes free-range and Cocoa goes ‘IKEA’ (flat-packed). Despite a concerted hunt – with the whole site alerted by the obligatory ‘LOST HAMSTER’ posters in the toilet block and reception – and frantic attempts to re-inflate the now two-dimensional Cocoa, there’s ‘Death in Dodge City’ on both counts.

So it is that we find ourselves in the local branch of Pets at Home, and I hear myself agreeing to not one, but two new hamsters (Bungee and Terminator) and a long-haired guinea pig called Liquorice.

Losing the final bit of sanity I have left, I spot the tropical fish section. ‘Right,’ I think, in some self-destructive act of defiance, ‘Let’s go the whole hog!’

So now, bubbling quietly in the corner of the awning, is a fish tank. Complete with six neon tetras and a handful of guppies.

As touring caravan accessories go, surely this has to be a first? I need to go now. It’s feeding time at the Pitch 46 Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park.

Visit Martin’s website for information about him, his books and his property training weekends, and follow his adventures on Twitter.
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