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Best Vacation Ever

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A few days ago we got home from vacation. About two weeks ago I mentioned that I wouldn’t post anything, because I would be gone. And it was amazing. By far the best vacation ever that we’ve had as a family.

So this post is going to be different than my regular ones, since I want to share with you the synopsis of our vacation. And also what I gleaned from the pet-cams, and what awaited us when we got home.

History of Vacations

gray and black dslr camera beside sun hat and sunglasses
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I was growing up, vacations were spent visiting grandparents, because we lived in a different state. But, as we got older, vacations got more elaborate. Cancun, Florida, places like that. And as I started my own family, that was the norm with people we knew, especially in Dallas. However, vacations were originally developed for the wealthy, where they vacated their estates. Even though I grew up in Plano, a suburb of Dallas, we were by no means wealthy.

Now that I have my own family, I can probably count on one hand the number of times we’ve gone on vacation, that didn’t involve visiting relatives. Or go the way we wished. Not to mention, for the past 7 years we’ve gained too many animals. So it’s extremely difficult for us to get away, and expect anyone to watch all of them.

If you get to go on vacation regularly with your family, you are extremely blessed. Although we hope to be able to continue this as well. As it is, we truly believe the Lord orchestrated it so we could go and be together. We are often so busy and in our own worlds. I think He just wanted us to get away from it all, without distractions, and be a family.

The Plan

After 6 or 7 attempts at locating flights to Florida, I gave up and decided we would just drive. Paul has wanted to go to the beach for several years. And I wanted to go on vacation before hurricane season, so it limited us. Therefore, I hired a travel agent to come up with the actual booking, because I’m too busy. However, first, I Googled the most beautiful beaches in the U.S.

Well, most of the most beautiful beaches happen to be in Florida. So I narrowed it down between Clearwater and Pensacola. Then I contacted our travel agent, and let her do her thing.

She sent me 3 proposals: 2 were for Pensacola, while the remaining one was for Clearwater. But the condo for Clearwater was bigger, had 3 bedrooms with 2 full bathrooms, and it cost less. So that’s the one I chose. It was about a day or two before we left when I realized we had to drive an extra 7-8 hours for that extra space. But, oh well. When we got there, I thought it was worth it.

Preparations

In my last post I explained that our wonderful neighbors were helping us out with all of our pets. But I also purchased a couple of Wyze pet-cams to keep us informed of Itty and Sophie. Unfortunately I couldn’t get 2 panoramic ones; the pet store only had one. So instead I got a stationary one in addition to the panoramic one. Then we set up the pano pet-cam in the living room. While I wanted to place the stationary one in either Hannah’s or our bedroom, Paul ended up putting it outside on the front porch.

Now that we’re home I think I’ll try to find another panoramic one, or similar, and place it outside with the chickens. I definitely recommend, because I got to see both Sophie and Itty, and their shenanigans. And the picture was pretty clear, unless panning too quickly. But if we didn’t have the pet-cams, we would’ve most likely come home to Itty in organ failure or worse, as I’ll eventually explain.

Do pets know when we’re going out of town? I think so. When I got my suitcase out, Itty sat in between my bags and just looked at them, with this knowing look. The last time I went out of town, she wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t gone for long. I went to my mom’s with my youngest in February or March. But when I got back, she was stand-off-ish with me, until I got her fuzzball out and wooed her with promises of playtime.

On the other hand, Sophie didn’t act like she had a clue we were going anywhere at all until the night before we left. Then she was doing everything in her power to get our attention. And the next day she was still at it, trying to get us to play with her. She was like a child performing for her parents, or anyone who would watch. She certainly seemed anxious.

Our Route

No trip to my in-laws would be complete without seeing animals.

Since we were driving anyway, I thought it would be fun to make it a beach-hopping trip. So instead of ~ 2600 miles, it was 2800 miles. But the first day we drove to Paul’s mom’s ranch in East Texas. It’s only about 5 hours away from us. Paul and the girls have seen his parents more recently than I have. However I had my dad, his illness, and then death to deal with, hence it’s been at least 2 years since I saw my in-laws. So it was good to visit them in person again.

When I viewed the pet-cam that first day, I saw nothing of Itty. Therefore I surmised she was under my bed sleeping. But Sophie was resting by the front door, waiting for us to return.

The next day we left early for Pensacola: our first beach we would be stopping at. We arrived late in the day. But not too late that we couldn’t take a walk on the beach. It was beautiful. And the sand was soft, the water turquoise blue. Unfortunately where we wanted to eat was a pretty popular eatery. And we planned on leaving early again the next morning. So we grabbed Chick-fil-A after a 2 hour wait at said eatery before heading to our hotel.

It was a short drive to Destin from Pensacola, where we had breakfast. Since it was ~ 8am, we didn’t do any swimming. However we walked the beach, took pictures, and of course, had breakfast. But a lot of the restaurants weren’t open till around 11am or later. Therefore we ate at a Waffle House. Once we left Destin, we saw a neat little bakery. Although it had a pretty long line. Hannah indicated we made the right choice based on how we left the seafood restaurant the night before.

The Next Five Days

taupe leather sectional on tile floors
kitchen and appliances with lighting in background
view from balcony of pool, deck, and beach with ocean
View from our balcony.

We didn’t really stay in Clearwater; it was more like a suburb of Clearwater called Indian Rocks Beach. And the condo was everything it promised to be. The town seemed bigger than where we live and work, offering a lot more to do. And both IRB (Indian Rocks Beach) and Clearwater seemed bigger than OkC. But perhaps that’s because they’re both tourist magnets.

The first full day we were at IRB it was overcast, so we went to a grocery store to stock up. We planned on having one meal at the condo each day. But we ended up throwing food out when we left, because we don’t have much experience with vacations. There was a lot we left behind, like others before us. However the refrigerated, opened items we got rid of. And we took the alcohol home.

bird standing in water
2 people standing in front of cat mural on building
This was a veterinarian’s office in St. Petersburg.
pink mural of shark on building
Not sure what this building was, but the mural is cool.
gray dolphin jumping out of the ocean
The dolphins reminded me of Sophie with their eagerness to perform.
yellow walking sign with funny face on it
Cool sign.
Botanical Gardens

We collected seashells, went on a dolphin cruise, ate delicious seafood, got sunburns, and visited the Clearwater botanical gardens. In addition we dressed like the locals, shopped, swam in the ocean, walked a lot, and some of us got tattoos.

Fun mailboxes in Clearwater.
Fried gator. Yummy.

We left on May 26th and drove 7 or 8 hours to Gulf Shores, the last beach we visited. It had rained that day, so the waves were pretty big, and the water was brown, reminding me of the Texas coastline. But we still took off our shoes and walked along the beach. And the air was also much cooler there than it was in Florida; it felt glorious after the humidity at IRB.

The Pet-cam

I didn’t get cameras for every area where we had animals; I wasn’t interested in spying on our neighbors and making sure they were doing everything we asked them to. Plus, I didn’t want the worry, because it would’ve stressed me out. Further, Meow Meow, Cake, and the majority of the chickens have been without us when we’ve gone away for the weekend. And they’re used to our neighbors looking after them for short periods of time.

Thus, the primary purpose of the pet-cams was to see how Sophie and Itty reacted to us being gone. Therefore, while we were gone, I faithfully checked the panoramic camera every day and evening to find out what Itty and Sophie were up to.

What the Camera Revealed

torn up items on tiled floor with litter box in distance
Australian Shepherd chewing on a green hoodie near front door
Sophie chewing on Paul’s hoodie.
Australian Shepherd nosing around kitty litter box while calico cat watches
Itty watches while Sophie eats some Scooby snacks.

For the first 5 days Sophie kept watch by the door. Most likely she was waiting for our return. She would lie down by the door most of the day. Although she started to drag clothes out of Hannah’s room by the second or third day, sprawling them throughout the house. And I only saw Itty one day initially; it was the second day of our trip on our way to Pensacola.

So, when I didn’t see any more of my cat, I got worried. The first day I marked it off as her sleeping; she couldn’t be bothered by us being gone. But then perhaps she got concerned when we weren’t back by the next day, so she wanted to check things out. However, since she again disappeared, I felt like something was amiss. Paul asked our neighbor to look for her; but our neighbor is in his 70s, and he didn’t look everywhere, just our bedroom. Itty also isn’t like Meow and Cake; she’s anti-social around people she doesn’t know. It takes her a long time to warm up to strangers.

By the 6th day it was clear that Sophie was bored; she started taking shoes from the shoe cubby Paul built and tearing them up. And at that point in time I still had not seen anything more of Itty. But I prayed everyday for her, because I was extremely concerned. I was worried Sophie might’ve hurt her; maybe the dynamics of their relationship had changed in some way since we were no longer there? Additionally, Sophie was bored, so I couldn’t really take anything for granted.

person in t-shirt holding calico cat up to a camera
Hannah’s friend brought Itty to the pet-cam so I could see she was ok.

Thankfully Hannah’s friend was back from her trip and was able to look for Itty. She and her boyfriend searched high and low and finally found her in Hannah’s room, under the bed. The door had been closed, which means Itty was without food, water, and a litter box for at least 3 days. If they hadn’t come to find her, Itty would not be around. So I’m very grateful she’s healthy and still alive.

What Awaited Us at Home

4 people smiling for picture on the beach
Our last beach, Gulf Shores, Alabama.

We got home between 8 and 9pm 10 days after we left home. And all we had been discussing was seeing our fur babies; how we would open the door, and betting who Sophie would run to first-that kind of debate. Plus, we didn’t even know how all the chickens were.

Well, Paul opened the door, and Sophie ran out. She was so excited, all over the place. I don’t think she really knew who to run to first in her excitement. But I went right in the house. I needed to find Itty; I missed her so much.

She was hiding under the covers of my bed, like I wouldn’t be able to find her. Thus, Sarah and I pulled her out of the covers. But we had to dodge the mess in my room. You see, the two-day drive back I started seeing less of Sophie and more of Itty. And what I saw of Sophie clued me into what she was feeling: extreme boredom. She actually did pretty well, all things considered. She’s bred for high energy. So while we’d been gone for 10 days, she behaved like a champ. However she could only take so much. Therefore, eventually she started acting out: eating the cat’s poop, tearing things up, etc. She’d gone native.

Hence, our bedroom was torn up, but not as bad as it could have been. Honestly I was not surprised. And of course Sophie didn’t get punished.

Taking Stock the Next Day

mixed flock of juvenile chickens and ducks
Our ducklings and Ameraucana chicks.

The next day we had to check out all the pets, especially the birds, because it was dark the night before. When we left we had fully feathered chicks, a couple of broody hens and their chicks, which weren’t fully feathered. So after looking in on them, it appears that one of the older chicks disappeared or got taken by something; and one of our neighbors said that 2 of the little chicks died. Since they don’t live over here and are unfamiliar with birds, they don’t know why. Nor can we say why. They were babies, so it could be any number of things. But I’m thankful the adults are still healthy and whole.

Itty looks like she lost weight, which is to be expected; she was locked up for 3 days. And now Sophie is holding us hostage. She’s not letting us out of her sight ever again. Plus, she’s extremely demanding of us. She brings us a toy and barks at us till we do what she wants. I think we’ve created a monster by being gone for so long.

In Conclusion

We had the best vacation ever. And we would like to make this an annual gig: going out of town. Though we don’t have to go all the way back to IRB, but maybe Pensacola. And definitely find a condo that’s pet-friendly. Get some sleepy meds for Sophie and Itty, so they don’t mind the drive. And not have chicks when we do this again. Of course we can’t help it if there are broody hens and their chicks. But we can plan around incubating.

Do you have any funny vacation stories? What do you do with your pets? My husband made the comment that most people board their pets, but we gave our dog the keys to the house complete with her own pets. I’m happy that Sophie and Itty had each other, and that Sophie didn’t hurt Itty. At least they had each other, feeble entertainment that it was. But if they didn’t have that, they probably would’ve felt even more alone. And other people might not have that with their pets.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Your comments are appreciated. If you like this post, please like, share, and please don’t forget to follow.

By KS

I breed pure Black Ameraucana chickens and Easter Eggers that are Black Ameraucana mixed with either Cuckoo Maran or Barred Rock. And I donate eggs to people or organizations in need.

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