Off To “Les Landes” (And Traveling With CRD Cats)
And we’re off!! After much planning, thinking and (lets be honest) procrastinating we finally managed to load-up LMB and head out. Yeah!!
We’re headed to the beach, a straight shot West from home to the Atlantic Ocean where we’ve heard the waves are wild and the beaches go on for eternity. In other words, just our kinda thing. However this time we’re also traveling a bit differently, mostly because of old paws and all that comes with them. Our new normal…
We Will Explore The Old Moors Of France, “Les Landes”
Our plan is to meander in the slowest way up a massive green bit of the SW French coast called “Les Landes”.
These are the old “moors” of France, known through the mid-1800’s as a marshy place where land was periodically burned off for sheep pasture, and shepherds walked on stilts for miles across soggy uneven pasture to tend to their herds (the stilt-walking skills of the area were legendary).
But then a crazy thing happened.
In 1857 Napoléon III ordered maritime pine trees to be planted in massive quantities across the marshes in order to dry out the land, stabilize the dunes and halt the erosion and malaria that were rampant in the area. It was the biggest plantation of trees in modern history at the time, and led to the creation of what is (still today) the largest man-made woodland in Europe. And it was an incredible success!
The local industry adapted (to lumber & pine resin extraction) and the landscape was forever changed. Forest now runs thick through almost a million hectares of land area, and the coast is wild with spacious beaches protected by over 200 km of sand dunes and natural grasses. Plus in fine French fashion, it also happened to lead to better wine. The forests stabilized the local climate and protected the fine grapes of Bordeaux from the damaging salt-laden winds of the ocean. We are all eternally grateful…
There’s More Than Just Forests & Beach Here
Plus there’s more than just beach & forest here. This area is the birth-place of European surfing, so it’s packed with famous surf-spots & seemingly endless surf schools all across the coastline. Apparently all the French surf pro’s live right here.
It’s also home to the tallest sand-dune in Europe, la dune du pilat, plus it boasts the largest green-route network of bicycle trails in France (over 300 km of dedicated bike trails with over 1700 km of bike-able itineraries!) as well as several large inland lakes that cater to windsurfing, boating & other water sports.
Oh, and rather importantly. Since there are many remote spots in the “Landes” it also happens to be a favorite spot for naturalists, including (so I’ve been told) some of the best nudist campgrounds in the country. A rather useful little thing to to know before you arrive, whether or not your tenancies happen to lie in that direction….
Admittedly It Took Some Effort To Get Us Back On The Road
It’s wonderful to be back on the road, but I’ll have to admit that it took a bit of an effort to get here this time.
Home life is cushy and comfy and everyone gets into easy routines that are hard to break. It’s so easy just to stay in that zone. Road life is also quite comfy (especially in LMB) but it’s a part-time thing, so we’ve all got to break out of our routines to transition into it. We both find that surprisingly difficult!
When we were fulltime RVing in the USA we never had to worry about loading up, or getting ready, or leaving anyone or anything. We were just always “at home” and always traveling. There’s a simplicity to that lifestyle that is just so clear-cut & straight-forward.
With part-time travel it’s different. We actually have to plan to LEAVE, and that means getting out of our home and out of our day-to-day comfort zone. There’s a heavy inertia to that whole motion…
Our Paws Are Getting Older
The other thing that makes the transition harder is that our paws are getting older.
Polly has slowed down a bit but is still doing fabulously well, especially now that she has two knees of steel. She loves to travel with her “pack”, and smell all the new and interesting things that come her way, and is still happily capable of hiking 4-5 miles per day. She’s a real trooper.
But our dear old cats are a different matter.
Both recently passed their 17th birthday and in the past year they have really started slowing down. Rand is still a spectacularly pudgy & young-looking lady, but Taggart has gotten quite a bit thinner over the last year and both cats have been drinking & peeing much more than should, sure signs of health issues. We’ve been aware of this for a while, and have been monitoring (and supporting) them for a time, but recently their health has gotten one step worse.
Both Our Cats Are Now Stage 3 Chronic Renal Disease
Before we embarked on this trip we took cats to our local French vet for a regular check-up and she told us the news I pretty much expected to hear. Both our cats have Chronic Renal Disease (CRD), and their creatinine levels have now risen to the point that they are towards the end of IRIS level 3, meaning they have lost ~85% of their kidney function. It is super sad to hear.
CRD Is A Common “Old Cats” Problem
For those not knowledgeable about CRD*, it’s very common in older cats and unfortunately it’s not something you can cure.
Once the kidneys start to deteriorate, it’s a progressive and irreversible thing. You can manage many of the symptoms and improve/extend your cats lives immensely, but there is unfortunately nothing you can do ultimately to reverse the disease.
Also it’s not uncommon to miss the problem altogether until it’s quite advanced. Renal disease is graded by international guidelines (IRIS levels) that run from 1 to 4, and your cat may not show symptoms early, or they may not show anything at all until the later stages.
*More Info -> For those wanting to learn more about CRD here are two excellent links:
- Tanya’s CRD Site – One of the BEST all-around resources & community on CRD. Incredible site.
- IRIS – The International Renal Interest Society. All the official info.
We’ve Known This Was Coming For A While
Of course we’ve known this was coming for a while.
We noticed symptoms in both cats (Taggart first, followed several months later by Rand) some time ago and have supported them with meds (Semintra) and natural support (slippery elm bark = wonderful stuff for nausea/vomiting) on a daily basis for some time, and that’s kept them pretty happy up until now.
However our recent vet-check has confirmed that we need to majorly step up our support program.
At IRIS level 3/4 cats needs extra support especially fluids (to help flush out kidney toxins), extra support for loss of appetite & nausea (both of which are very common), renal foods (if they accept to eat them) and specific supplements such as potassium, B-vitamins & phosphorus binders (all to be administered as needed, based on blood results). It’s A LOT, but IMO it’s also worth it to make our furry family feel better.
What this means for our motorhome travels is that we now have to bring a CRATE-LOAD of stuff….
Thankfully we have a wonderful vet, and some fabulous cat-savvy neighbors (hello Annette & Mikael!) who have helped provision and prepare us for this trip. Thanks to both of them we’ve learned how to inject our cats with fluids (super scary the first time you do it!!!) and have assembled a medical cabinet of natural & pharmaceutical supports worthy of mini-Oscar. The whole ensemble takes up 3 whole compartments of LMB, but who needs all that extra space anyway? More prepared, I do not think we could be….
This Is Our New Normal
I’m not gonna lie. Watching our beloved pets age is super tough, but we have to accept that this is our new normal.
Like everything in life, it’s just part of the many transitions that we will have to make as we age ourselves. None of these transitions are easy, but we have to face them whether we want to or not. The only thing within our control is how we manage these obstacles as they come through our lives.
The cats are also the main reason we’re not going to travel too far (or too hard) on this trip.
We’re taking a slo-mo tour of the SW Coast, staying no more than a days drive from home while we see how our paws adapt to their new program. Our cats are still happy and active (albeit a smidgen more vomity and cranky) so they are doing fine, but we do need to be more attentive and adjust our travel to their daily needs. C’est la vie! Or as my French neighbors would say “C’est la life!”.
So, We’ll See You On The Beach!
So that’s our update. Bottom line is we are on the road, headed towards the beach and ALL the paws are along for the ride. Plus we ARE super excited to see what we’ll find. Will the coast be crowded? Or windswept and wild? Will we discover a bit of LA, or see hints of our beloved PNW? Either way we are SO ready for the adventure, and can’t wait to share it with you all on then blog. See you on the beach!