Mike Williams, 50, Sydney, NSW
Bounding over the field, my dog, Munson, left a cloud of white mist in his wake.
With his tail wagging, he launched into the snow and rolled his fluffy coat against it.
‘Good boy,’ I said, chuckling.
It was his first time in snow and his reaction was priceless. But we hadn’t just taken a quick trip to Thredbo, NSW. We were actually 16,000 kilometres from home, visiting the French Alps!
It might seem a bit odd that Munson is my travel buddy, but he’s no stranger to sightseeing.
He’s been to more countries than most people, having visited 15 in just three years. I’m used to touring with a pooch in tow.
It all started when I adopted an Alaskan Malamute named Bondi. Although I had dreams of travelling, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him behind.
That’s when I discovered the Pet Travel Scheme in Europe.
At 75 kilos, Bondi wasn’t the type of dog I could fit in my carry-on luggage. But provided he had all his vaccinations and paperwork, he could get a pet passport.
Once he had his rabies shot, it was six months before we were cleared for take-off. And then we flew to the UK. At the airport, I collected Bondi from the Animal Reception Centre – affectionately known as the arc – and after I’d filled out some paperwork, we were free to explore!
I soon learnt that dogs make great travel companions. They’re always up for an adventure and they’re fantastic ice-breakers to meet new people. Staying in pet-friendly B&Bs or pubs, some people even offered their homes to bunk in.
I always had kibble on hand so Bondi could stick with his regular diet. But he enjoyed the odd treat as well. It gave him lots of energy for our globetrotting getaway – and he needed it! At one point, we walked across Scotland, exploring all the castles.
We rode gondolas in Venice, visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa and swam in the ocean in Dubrovnik, Croatia. I figured our journey was pretty unique, so I documented it on a blog called El Loco and El Lobo – which means ‘mad man and the wolf’ in Spanish.
Soon people began following our adventures. ‘I wish I’d thought to bring my dog when I travelled,’ one said.
Two and a half years later, after visiting more than 30 countries, Bondi and I returned home.
We had such a great time, I decided to add another fluff ball to our family. He was an Alaskan Malamute too, and Bondi took him under his paw.
But what would I call our new addition? Turning to the blog, I set up a poll so our followers could vote.
One option was ‘Munson’, inspired by the name of a cafe Bondi and I had visited in the UK. When the owner heard and urged his customers to vote, it won by a landslide. So Munson had a name to put on his collar.
Six months later, Bondi started refusing to drink water. I took him to the vet, where they found a cancerous tumour the size of an orange in his throat. ‘We’ll do our best to remove it,’ the vet said.
But it was no good. Bondi left us just six weeks later, and I was heartbroken. So was Munson.
Still, I took comfort in the fact that Bondi had lived an amazing life, seeing all of the incredible things the world had to offer.
I took comfort in the fact he had lived an amazing life, seeing all of the incredible things the world had to offer.
I really wanted to give that to Munson too.
So two years later, when a friend, Brent, suggested we visit him in France, I jumped at the chance. Munson and I jetted off on our overseas adventure in June 2010.
First we stopped at Brent’s farm, where my pooch found his passion for exploring the open fields. Then, we posed for photos at the Eiffel Tower, and toured around Lisbon, Portugal.
We went for hikes in Wales and visited the beautiful Cologne Cathedral in Germany. In Spain, Munson was so excited to see the beach, he raced into the surf until all I could see was his head bobbing above the water.
We rode the London Tube and went to the cafe he was named after!
As we travelled, more people started following our blog. Some people even recognised Munson in the street.
He was becoming quite the celebrity – a video of him playing received one million views on YouTube! But all good things must come to an end.
Three wonderful years later, we returned to Australia with a lifetime of magical memories. And after a month in quarantine, Munson finally came home.
One day, I noticed an angry red lump on his right hind leg.
‘What’s that, boy?’ I frowned.
I hoped it was just a cyst, but when a vet performed a biopsy, we got a devastating diagnosis.
‘Munson has a grade-three sarcoma,’ he said, explaining it was an aggressive soft-tissue cancer. My stomach churned.
I couldn’t lose another mate.
A CT scan showed it hadn’t spread, but Munson needed emergency surgery that would cost thousands of dollars. How would I afford it? Turning to the blog, I shared the sad news with our followers. Then one person suggest I start a Go Fund Me page, so people could donate towards Munson’s treatment.
My little mate had touched the lives of many people across the globe. Maybe they could help?
Amazingly, it worked! Just three weeks later, we’d raised an incredible $2500. I was so touched by the generosity of strangers. In August last year, Munson went in for his surgery and thankfully it was a success.
I brought him home just two days later and now, apart from losing a bit of strength in his leg, he’s back to his usual boisterous self. When we’re not at the beach or park, we are off on new adventures, exploring our own country.
Who knows where we’ll be off to next.
Something tells me Munson hasn’t finished leaving his paw prints all over the planet just yet!
For more of Munson’s adventures, visit mikenbondi.blogspot.com.au
Originally published in that's life issue 25, 2014