RV Travel with Unusual Pets
Traveling with Unusual Pets
We were staying in a small RV park north of Sacramento, California, when I happened to walk by our neighbor’s rig and notice he was sitting in his patio with a five foot alligator in his lap. I did a double-take and stopped dead in my tracks.
“Is ...that r-real?” Stupid question.
At the sound of my voice ‘Nessie’ turned her head and looked at me.
“She is,” said the man. “Approach slowly and you may pat her.”
That started off the most amazing afternoon I ever spent since becoming a full time RVer. When I asked him why he was holding the alligator he said because his space had no grass ...like the one next door.
He nodded toward my site.
“No problem there ... that is my place. She can play in my yard.
When we got Nessie settled on my small front yard my new friend asked if I was afraid of snakes. I told him not particularly. He said he had some snakes that would really love to enjoy the sunny, grassy spot also.
I called to Steven to come see what was happening in our yard while our neighbor went back to his place to get a couple of snakes. Our jaws dropped when he came back with his ‘pet’ Banana.
Richard (Dick) Buchholz, aka the Alligator Guy or the Animal Man, had put a whole new twist on full time RVing with pets. An important aspect of a full timer’s lifestyle is getting along with travel companions. Dick has worked out a wonderfully symbiotic relationship with the other occupants of his travel trailer ... and it’s a good thing he has ... considering his choice of travel mates.
Traveling companions for this unusual fulltime RVer in addition to Nessie are Abigail, a 16’ Burmese Python; Banana, a 12’ albino Burmese Python; Bridget, a possum and a bevy of other critters including smaller snakes and alligators, various sizes and species of turtles, a bearded dragon, lizards, scorpions and a chinchilla named Buddy. Imagine the surprise of RV Park managers when Dick answers the registration question “Any pets?”
The Animal Man is licensed to keep these ‘pets’ and he never tries to ‘sneak’ his critters into parks. Quite often, weather and other circumstances permitting he will put on an educational program for the children (and adults) in the RV park because that sort of thing is his day job.
A fascination with snakes since his boyhood in Chicago’s western suburbs eventually led Dick to volunteer for the Chicago Herpetological Society presenting programs in malls and schools. A change of job relocated he and his family to the silicon valley in California where he again joined the herpetological society and volunteered to do programs for schools, including the classes his three daughters attended.
Not long after leaving the downsizing computer industry (circa 1992) he was approached by Mobile Ed Productions, a company from Michigan that schedules educational programs for schools and other institutions across the nation. They were looking for someone to finish out a three month tour of scheduled activities and the herpetological society
recommended Dick. He liked working with kids and was knowledgeable of animals so he took on the 3-month tour.
“They wanted me to travel around and tell school kids about my animals,” said Dick. ”And they even pay me to do it!”
So Mr. D’s Animals began touring the country in Dick’s pickup truck, entertaining and educating youngsters, mostly kindergarten through 5th grades in schools, but also in malls and pet shops. At night the animals would share a motel room with Dick. This got old ... transferring the critters and their equipment in and out of motels each night. After two years of traveling that way the Animal Man decided a RV would be ideal. Now they all live in the trailer as fulltime RVers have travel all around the United States putting on programs in most of them.
At entrance checkpoints of some states the truck and trailer are inspected to make sure they are legal, safe and comfortable for the animals. The trailer has special accommodations for all ... cages and their own special quiet places, extra insulation to maintain even temperature, extra heaters and cooling units. Dick prefers travel trailers because he needs the space in the back of his pickup ... a super cab dually with a shell ... for hauling the animals to schools. Animals ride in portable cages in the truck.
The combination of being a fulltime RVer with the addition of unusual pets provides many interesting incidents for Dick, a born story teller.
One time, during a school program Dick had Abigail around his shoulders and was talking to the kids about the big snake and where this kind of reptile came from. Out of his line of vision but not out of sight of the youngsters Abigail was sticking her head into Dick’s pocket. When she pulled back out she had a $5.00 bill!!! He says she did that all on her own, that she was not trained to do it.
Of course the kids had a good laugh. -- Fran Crawford
Note: This article was fist published in 2005 as one of Fran's Columns in RV Companion Magazine.