My name is MacDuff. I am a wired-hair fox terrier. Some wisecrackers have referred to me as a fox terrorist. I get where they’re coming from but really?! Yeah, I love to or more accurately ‘live to’ chase squirrels, raccoons, possums, (hold your nose) skunks, chipmunks, armadillos and even some … ahem…. endangered animals like gopher turtles. Okay, so you’re probably thinking they aren’t too far off. But I digress. Up until two years ago I lived a ‘normal,’ comfy life. My best friend, Bill, would line up about ten different, delicious snacks (junk food to some but breakfast of champions to me) on a bench in the front hall while I ran around the back yard checking for evidence of intruders that dared to enter my domain whilst (my ancestry is British) I slept. And of course, I did my morning ‘business’ for which I have always received praise — what can I say, humans are weird. Bill would drive me to this park along the town’s waterfront ostensibly for a walk but really we would stand around while he gabbed with every Tom, Dick and Harry. We spent a lot of time together in the backyard during spring, summer and fall since Bill loved to ‘garden.’ Each month we would drive (I was the co-pilot) to Toronto to visit his kids and grandkids. I don’t mean to brag but I was always something of a celebrity there. People in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood would fawn over me in the most embarrassing ways. Everyone knew my name. My favourite memory of that neighbourhood was that it smelled of polish sausage. To this day I dream about that glorious smell. Bottom line: I loved my life.
Then gradually things began to change. Bill would forget to let me outside and feed me the requisite number of treats. The smoke alarm went off so much I considered pulling a Van Gogh on both of my ears. Bill’s sense of direction was diminishing. Eventually Bill’s kids moved the two of us into a retirement home. Our new apartment was in the locked Memory Care section of the retirement home. For two years I was on a leash more than not. The kind old folks loved me and fed me all kinds of delicious crap. Even a dog knows that lack of exercise and junk food is a bad combination and I got sick, very sick.
Enter Bill’s daughter and son-in-law, Julie and Christian. These two are credited with nursing me back to health. I am now on what they call a prescription diet and typically walk about 10km a day. There is one problem, they’d moved into a newly renovated condo in Toronto in June which (drum roll, please) … does not allow dogs! What. Were. They. Thinking?
Lucky for me, instead of ditching the dog (that would be me) they put the apartment on the market for sale and the three of us took off in their Volkswagen Campervan at the beginning of December in search of sunnier skies and warmer weather. Humans call those who head south to avoid winter snowbirds. Well now you can call me a snowdog! I’m a convert.
We spent three months wandering around the state of Florida. I smelled things I never thought I’d smell. I chased animals I had never before seen. I peed all over the dang state from north to south and east to west, on beaches, in hammocks, on trails, roads, sidewalks, grassy lawns, fire hydrants, fences, rocks, you name it I peed on it.
Julie and Christian scouted out every dog-friendly beach, trail, park and restaurant. That’s just the way they are… In all we camped in 20 parks, some twice. My favourite spots in the sunshine state included:
Fort de Soto over on the Gulf side, south of St. Pete’s. It had a campground just for folks travelling with dogs! Very civilized. Plus it had the largest fenced in dog runs I have ever encountered and a dog beach!
The causeway beach on the way to Sanibel Island. J+C drove the van right onto the beach and we set up camp, swam and ate a leisurely lunch while watching paddle boarders, fishers and dolphins playing in the bay. Oh, who am I kidding… I wolf down this new food. It’s like crack. I seriously can’t eat it fast enough.
Oscar Scherer State Park in Nokomis. You’re not going to like this but we had an oblivious Gopher Turtle hanging out in our campsite. Unfortunately J+C locked me in the van like some convict and helped the intruding tortoise move (slow as molasses, I might add) to a location out of my reach.
Highlands Hammock State Park near Sebring. I came ‘this close’ to nabbing an armadillo. Again, J+C locked me in that blasted van to protect that blind shell of an animal. I didn’t let them forget what they had done though. I whined for hours. It drove them crazy! Hehehehe
Myakka River State Park near Sarasota and Venice. J+C loved this place! We walked and walked and walked and walked. One day we walked 17km. They took me to the top of the tower at the Canopy Walk and all these humans oohed and awed saying their dogs would never agree to climb high above the canopy of trees. Believe me I developed a very unflattering mental picture of those wimpy canines. We even took a selfie on one of the many trails with some alligators which were a dime a dozen along the Myakka River. Oh and I almost forgot… I came ‘this close’ to nabbing another armadillo. Those humans’ interference on that one still makes my blood boil.
Tomoka State Park near Daytona. This was the third park we met up with this cheesy couple (wink, wink) from Wisconsin named Jeanne and Jay and their two identical Westies, Arny and Joey. The humans had a difficult time telling one from the other but not me with my super powered sense of smell. I could tell those two boys apart from 100 miles away. It took three parks and countless glasses of wine before they finally invited me into their 1962 Shasta. They had to drag me kicking and screaming out of that comfy trailer. Those boys have a mighty nice assortment of toys and a sweet gig in a rig.
By far my favourite memories were made in a bungalow in Jupiter. J+C rented me a house for a month. I had my own yard once again, chased squirrels morning, noon and night. I had my pick of comfy spots in which to nap, sleep, hold court. I ate like a king. THIS was my happy place. And to top it off my favourite human, Bill, came to stay with me for two weeks. Jupiter has some of the most beautiful ‘dog friendly’ beaches I have ever seen. J+C even let me off leash. I ran with other dogs, I dodged waves, I dug holes for hours. Take me back! While Jupiter-based we visited Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Riverbend Park, Frenchman Forest (dogs aren’t technically allowed but everyone and their human goes there), Jupiter Dunes, House of Refuge on Hutchinson Island and McArthur State Park to name a few. We even made a day trip to Miami. That’s a city with some smells I can wrap my nose around. Plenty of photo ops at Wynwood Walls too. I was posing like a supermodel. My only beef was that I was turned away at the gate to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, even with my status as an Emotional Support Animal. That left a bad taste and Bill was not best pleased.
J+C don’t often stay at KOAs but they decided to stay at a beautiful one on Lake Whipporwill in Orlando simply because it was next to the golf community where Jakob is spending the winter. Jakob is their nephew, Bill’s grandson and president of the MacDuff fan club (he uses a photo of moi as his avatar on Instagram). He’s apparently got a talent for hitting balls with a long stick. Frankly, I think they are overlooking the talents I have when it comes to balls and sticks. Anyway, there’s a sweet dog run there that I made good use of on two separate stays.
After three months on the road I can safely say this dog’s well suited to vanlife. I can ride in comfort with a view in any direction. We spent most of our time outside on the trails, beaches, in State Park campgrounds. Plus I have a 360 degree view of approaching intruders. Every day promises new smells and new places to leave my mark. All that’s missing is a Queen size bed and my other human, Bill. Hint, hint J+C!!