I have fond memories of reading The Canterbury Tales in college. Eighteen years old and straight out of high school, I was amused by the work that went from religious, sober, and pious, to sexual, bawdy, and gluttoness from one tale to the next. (The Miller’s fart jokes were a favorite in my Freshman Literature course.) So, it was with real joy that I accepted a dog-sit in Canterbury during the month of June.
Griff the dog was the perfect host, much like Chaucer’s host for his medieval pilgrims. But unlike Chaucer’s host, this one welcomed me with wagging tale and and a quick shake of the paw. Within moments, I knew Griff would be a wonderful guide for my personal pilgrimage from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Canterbury, England.
Those who know me know that I often travel alone. I have done so since my 40th birthday. Until that point, I waited. Waited for my now ex-husband to catch the travel bug. Waited, once single, for a lover or friend that may want to join me. But money, obligation, lack of time, or lack of interest always stood in the way. So, finally, I decided that if I was going to travel, I was going to have to do it on my own. And travel I did.
I enjoyed myself, too. Much more than I thought that I would.
One day, about a year or so back, I stumbled across the Trustedhousesitters.com Trustedhousesitters.com site. And everything changed. I was no longer traveling alone. Griff, my fellow pilgrim, was a perfect example of this. As soon as I arrived, I met his lovely mom and dad, dropped off my bags, bid them a fond farewell, and Griff and I were off.
I wasn’t sure where I was going, having never visited before, but Griff (I swear to you) seemed to be leading the way. Straight into the heart of the city we went. Now, Griff, was a very good boy. He knew how to handle crowds, didn’t bark at other dogs, and patiently waited while I snapped picture, after picture, after picture. And, not only did I have Griff for company, I met others along the way as well. I would imagine the Nun (with her little dogs dining on expensive food) and the Monk (with his greyhounds eyeing the plump swan on his plate) might have encountered the same. I would like to imagine The Wife of Bath coming in for a pet, or The Friar singing a ballad to the curious pups. Dogs bring out the best in people, and Griff was no exception.
Griff is a super cute dog. And naturally, people wanted to pet him. From the shopkeeper who ran back into her store to get Griff a bowl of water, to tourists on the street, to the charming gatekeeper at the Canterbury Cathedral, everyone wanted to say hi to Griff. And, by extension, they were saying hi to me. I never felt lonely, or awkward, or out of place with Griff by my side. Just one of the things I love about traveling via Trusted Housesitters, with furry companions you are never really traveling alone.
After walking for a few hours, I took Griff back home. He was tired and in need of some water and a good nap. Leaving him to sleep, I ventured back out to the Cathedral. Amazingly, I had the place almost entirely to myself. When I am in places with such history, places so ancient and filled with secrets from the past, it takes my breath away. Literally. It’s that feeling you get when you are really smitten with someone, and they look your way and smile. Or they lean in for that first kiss. It’s the same rush of adrenaline. A flutter in the stomach. A smile you cannot hold back. I often wonder if people think me odd, with my look of awe, my dopey, love-drunk smile, as I wander slowly and aimlessly back in time in my mind.
The Cathedral was really the only place where I did not bring my furry companion. After an hour or two, I began to miss Griff. I wandered back to pick him up and we strolled out to the neighborhood park to look for his best friend Ziggy. (The two pups meet at least once a day in the park to run, and play, and chase the ball Ziggy’s dad, Danny, throws.) It is so fun watching them play. For an hour I watch them sprint, and tumble, and run endless circles around the park. I smile and laugh so much in that hour that my face hurts.
My pilgrimage to Canterbury was a short one, spending only two days in the medieval city, but it is one that will stay with me for quite some time. It was a perfect mix of history, literature, and laughter.
And Griff, well Griff was the absolute perfect host.