Miriam Parker—whose new book, The Shortest Way Home, was featured in our July issue—talks about her favorite travel companion.

By Miriam Parker
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When my dog Leopold Bloom was 10 months old, I had to go to a wedding in Philadelphia that I was kind of dreading attending, but I felt obligated to go. I was a single woman living in a city, on a limited budget where overnight dog care costs $100 a day, so I decided to take him with me. The hotel I found in Philadelphia was pet-friendly and free to bring him, so I said, “Why not?” When I got there, they gave me a bag of treats for the dog, a cozy dog bed (although he preferred to burrow in the king-sized bed—who wouldn’t?), and a bowl. We realized we were both in heaven.

Now, not only did I have a lovely little roommate, I also had a reason to leave the reception early. An added bonus: I also got a chance to walk through the streets of Philadelphia and learn a new city. I found the closest dog park—an exploration. I went to the local dog store and bought him a chew toy and a bone—supporting the local economy. I met people on the street who wanted to pet the dog—human interaction. I would never have done any of those things if I had come to the wedding “alone” or even with a human companion.

Ever since Philadelphia, I’ve brought the dog with me almost everywhere—he’s been to Florida, Texas, Illinois, even France! I like to joke that he’s more well traveled than my friends and colleagues. He has been on personal trips and business trips.

The best experience was when he came with me for a research trip for my book, The Shortest Way Home. I needed to go to Sonoma, California and interview people about the wine business. I wanted the details, facts, and key phrases to include in my novel about a winery to make it more authentic. I was planning to go for almost two weeks. Watching him would be a lot to ask of a friend, and I still found it hard to justify the costs of boarding him. Remembering how much fun we had in Philadelphia, I packed up my dog and got him a car harness and a plane ticket. We drove around California for almost two weeks together, and he was the best ice breaker I could have ever had. Nobody in wineries thought it was weird that a single woman was travelling around asking probing questions about how they make, store, bottle, and distribute their wine. They just wanted to pet the dog.

Leopold was my steadfast companion. He kept me sane. He allowed me just enough interaction with others so that I didn’t feel like I was lonely, and he kept me company when I was holed up in my little, isolated cottage, drafting my book. He laid next to me while I was just drinking wine and watching Netflix.

I know there are those that think my friendship with my dog is weird. But he’s helped me through breakups and calmed me down through the trials and tribulations of buying my first apartment, making a major job change and, from start to finish, writing and publishing my book.

Groucho Marx once said “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” I love that line because it sums up my life so perfectly. Dogs and books are my best friends. And when it’s too dark to read, there’s a little furry head leaning on my foot, just happy that I’m there. And vice versa.

Miriam Parker is the author of The Shortest Way Home ($26, amazon.com), which is out now, and the associate publisher of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Visit her website here.