A cruise to Alaska was on my mother’s bucket list. While I have never been a huge fan of cruising, I agreed to accompany her on the trip. Whining that I was going to spend a week doing nothing but line dancing, karaoke and overeating at the buffet, I packed my bags, flew to Seattle, and boarded the ship.
The first two days at sea were exactly what I feared, not much to do but ship activities. This sounds dreamy to most, but, for this type-A personality, all that relaxation was oddly stressful. At home when I need to unwind, I sit quietly with my dogs and just pet them with nice music playing in the background. The quiet connection I have with Malee, a beautiful Border collie mix who looks at me with soulful eyes, and Bobbie, a terrier mix who works as a therapy dog providing seniors attention and love, lowers my stress level and creates a calmness that allows all of the difficulties of the day to just roll off my shoulders. Unfortunately, I was not able to pack them in my suitcase and make them stowaways on the ship.
I was feeling a loss as I tried to destress without my pets. Yes, I became that person that took every moment possible to show pictures of my pets to my fellow cruisers at the dinner table each evening. Amazingly, talking about our pets helped us get to know one another. I met some really incredible people from all over the country who had something in common, love for pets. I couldn’t physically be with Malee and Bobbie, but just having them in my life continued to help me with my relaxation on the boat.
The onboard naturalist had given presentations every day about spotting wildlife and the power of the natural world, but it wasn’t until day three that I totally understood what she was sharing. In her talks, she referenced the connection with nature as a similarity to the connection we have with pets. She described it as unspoken, powerful and individual. She spoke of the beauty creating a visceral feeling of fullness, excitement and feeling complete.
That was exactly how I felt when we went on a whale watching excursion in Juneau. Almost immediately, we saw a humpback whale feeding on a fish in the open waters. There was a flock of birds in the clear blue sky following the whale and sharing in the feast. Almost as if they were in a military formation, the birds suddenly parted when a majestic bald eagle flew from behind the snow-covered mountain looking for his own feast. Watching that incredible bird made me feel emotional as it sored through the air. I remembered back to when the bald eagle was endangered and learned how the eagle had rebounded thanks to our country’s environmental programs. The only time I had seen bald eagles, they were in cages, once in a wildlife center getting rehabilitated from an injury and once in a zoo. Seeing this bird soring outdoors, free, like they are supposed to be, was a life changing experience.
Next, we saw seals sunning themselves on an ice patch. It was humorous as we watched one seal jump on and off the ice, into the water, and out again. It was as if he was putting on a show for the rest of the herd and the humans on the boat. And, then there were Orcas. Specifically the mom who played together with her two babies so close to us that we could almost reach out and touch them. We also saw a brown bear fishing on the side of the shore. Each of these animals plays an important role in the environment, and I was humbled to be able to experience them in their natural habitat.
As the cruise came to an end, I will admit that I was rested and very relaxed. I even enjoyed the ship’s shows and the late night Bingo, but I felt a rush of excitement when I thought about reuniting with my dogs Malee and Bobbie. If they could understand, I would share with them everything I saw and experienced. But, our quiet moments will have to do for now.