Full-time RVers have many reasons for hitting the road, but how many can say they did it for their dog? Giving up a home and possessions to travel in your RV isn’t something most people do and even fewer of us make that move for our beloved canine. But recently I met another couple that, like my husband, Jim, and me, were inspired to sell everything to travel by RV after their dog was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
A Dog and a Dream
Wanderlust must be contagious because Jim and Lisa Geiger of Dayton, Ohio, apparently caught the bug from her parents. This young, hard-working couple always felt at home in the great outdoors, so when Lisa’s parents became seasonal RV snowbirds they started imagining what it would be like to hit the road themselves. Tragically, Lisa’s father died before he and his wife could live out their dream of transitioning from snowbirds to full-timers. As the years went on, Jim and Lisa yearned for the day that they could enjoy the full-timing life her father always wanted.
“We spent many nights thinking and talking about it,” Lisa shared with me in an email interview. “We talked about how we would support ourselves, the types of RV we would be comfortable living in, the best locations to go and how in the world do we get rid of all of our years of our belongings.”
But we all know how work tends to get in the way of our dreams, while life goes by faster than we want. Yet Lisa and Jim hung onto their “someday” dream. As office manager of a medical billing company, she had the organizational skills that gave her the confidence to know that someday the dream could work. Jim, however, remained more cautious. He wasn’t sure he was ready to give up his trade as a solid-surface countertop installer. Walking away from the secure life they had worked so hard to create wasn’t something he was anxious to do.
But when the dreaded news came, everything changed. Maggie, their 11-year-old dog, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. This type of bone cancer requires amputation to remove the painful affected limb—and carries a prognosis of just six months to a year.
“We were very concerned about her age and being able to adjust with only three legs, but the doctors assured us she was a strong dog and would adjust fine,” says Lisa in Maggie’s blog Travelin’ Tripawd.
Maggie’s tales were published in her blog that’s part of the Tripawds.com animal amputee support community, which my husband and I founded after our dog Jerry was diagnosed with the same type of cancer. Lisa, Jim and Maggie’s story closely parallels the spiritual, life-changing journey that my husband and I embarked on while facing terminal disease of a beloved family member. They were about to learn some of the same lessons that we did. While facing cancer, they would gradually understand that dogs have so much to teach us about living life to the fullest. And they would realize that the best way to learn those lessons is by slowing down and minimizing life’s distractions, which is one of full-timing’s greatest gifts.
Soon Jim and Lisa learned that doctors were right; like most dogs Maggie quickly bounced back from amputation. Physically she was fine and life went on, but they wanted to give this special dog so much more than a dog door to backyard freedom. They had already lost a second dog to a different cancer and were saddened by the thought of leaving Maggie home alone all day while they worked.
“We at best had a few hours to share together in the evening before it was time to go to bed and then get up and do it all over again,” says Lisa.
Full-timing Fun Begins
As the dreaded prognosis loomed in the background, their hearts compelled them to follow their full-timing dream. Last summer they sold their home of 21 years, bought a fifth-wheel and truck and hit the road for good. Unlike many new full-timers, Lisa and Jim were no strangers to RVing. As longtime weekend RVers they had previously owned a classic 1971 Revella trailer and also a 1987 Prowler fifth-wheel. Now, with a brand-new Chevy Silverado 3500 dually hauling a newly purchased 2006 DRV Mobile Suites fifth-wheel, the trio bade farewell to friends and family and began a great adventure with no end in sight.
“Since we started this new way of life we are all three together nearly 24/7,” Lisa writes. “Maggie has flourished with the constant attention and companionship, but in truth all of us have.”
From Pennsylvania to Big Bend National Park in Texas and beyond, the trio is seeing the country and soaking up the sunshine. In Maggie’s blog, Lisa reveals one heartwarming episode that reinforced their decision to travel for the sake of this very special dog:
“We visited Florida at the end of 2014 and we were talking with a man there who asked why Maggie was missing her leg. When we told him we knew we were on borrowed time with her, he told us he didn’t see any expiration date on her. I loved that. What he said was so true. Nobody on this earth really knows when her end will be or for that matter the ends for any of us. Maybe life should just be fun stuff all the time.”
Leaping into the Dream
In the meantime, Maggie is thriving and doing well with the excitement of seeing new places and meeting new people. Like all animals, she’s not consumed by thinking about her cancer diagnosis; she has more important things to do. “Maggie loves all the attention she gets from people when she is out and about,” says Lisa. “She gets to meet lots of other dogs and she loves her daily walks.”
As Lisa and Jim have experienced, it’s hard to describe the freedom that one feels when letting go of the daily grind that bogs us down. Lisa and Jim are so glad they made this change for Maggie. “Now we have time to focus on the three of us and what makes us happy,” Lisa says. When thinking of their new adventure, one of her favorite quotes by an anonymous author comes to mind:
“Because I leapt before I looked I suffered many a fall, but better far than look so long you never leapt at all.”
If you’ve always dreamed about full timing, why not make this your year to take that leap? Create a plan to make it happen by watching this column for more tips about hitting the road for good.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, took the full-timing leap of faith in 2007 and haven’t looked back. They travel with their three-legged dog Wyatt and chronicle their adventures living and working on the road at LiveWorkDream.com. You can also read Rene’s blog, “The Full Timing Nomad,” at rvlife.com.