The Best Interview with Trick and Fashion Icon Little Lola Sunshine!
I am thrilled to welcome Little Lola Sunshine and Caron Slimak to the Montecristo Travels “special correspondent” interview series — the series in which we prove we are not the only ones travelling with our pet(s) and the first step in building a community of people passionate about both their pets and travel. So welcome, WELCOME!
First, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves? Who is who, and where is home? How did you find each other?
Caron: Home is in Chicago. I have always had Yorkshire Terriers in my life. When I was 23 (a long, long time ago — let’s just leave it at that), I was given a Yorkie named Brutus and a Louis Vuitton dog travel bag. I was living in Africa at the time and never left home without my dog. Le plus ça change… but this travel story is all about Lola, so I’ll let her take it from here.
Lola: Brutus and that Louis Vuitton bag are buried together under a rosebush in Normandy, France, next to Brutus’s best friend, Pushkin, who was a Sheltie. As for me, I travel in a Givenchy Rottweiler tote (a bag with a Rottweiler’s face on it) with a fleece-covered foam cushion in the bottom. The bag is a little visual humour that is always a great conversation starter. The bag also inspired my first “flash performance” at Paris Fashion Week in 2014. The bag was displayed in Barney’s New York window and, somehow, it went from the window to in front of the Grand Palais in Paris in no time flat. My human likes grand gestures and there is never a dull moment.
A little background on what I do. I am a performing dog, known in professional circles as a “trick dog.” My human has always had Yorkies but until I came along, not one of them could even sit or stay. When I was six months old, we were offered a life changing opportunity to train with two of the most renowned dog trainers in the world. It was our desire to train specifically to do tricks for children in hospitals (which we do), but from the very beginning, we also wanted to do flash performances. These are surprise mini-shows that occur unexpectedly in public places to leave people smiling. Basically, I show up, do a few over-the-top tricks and disappear just as fast as I came, leaving a surprised crowd happy, cheering, and smiling.
It’s truly amazing; dog tricks and smiles transcend all languages.
Dogs know no such thing as communication barriers! I have that Louis City bag. I love your ability to do tricks. I am pretty great at obedience but we never took it to the next level… maybe you can show me someday! But tell me; how many countries have you been to so far? Do you have a favourite spot (I know that is such a tough question) and what has been the biggest challenge travelling together so far?
Lola: Our first trip was when I was only five months old. We went to London and Edinburgh to visit family and friends. In three years, I have been to London, Edinburgh, Vienna, Salzburg, Paris, Lyon, Florence, Rome, Vancouver, Seattle, New York, Palm Beach, California, Savannah, and Charleston. Whew! Last summer, my human and I made a cross country road rally with Mini Takes the States. I even made a little Mini Cooper Video! Let’s just say we get around.
As for a favourite place, gosh, that is such a difficult question. For me, Paris is absolutely magical, but it’s not always the most dog friendly city. Edinburgh holds my heart and has the most spectacular park in the world (IMHO). Holyrood Park surrounds the slopes and crags of the majestic Arthur’s Seat. I could spend hours upon hours there. We stayed at the chicest, modern little guest house, 94DR, that was only a five-minute walk from the park. At 94DR, they are jovial, welcoming, and very dog friendly. The cozy common areas make it feel like your own little private Edinburgh pied-à-terre. I have never experienced another place quite like it. Molli is the resident Labradoodle and I love her.
My biggest travel challenge is that I suffer from jet lag much more than my human. It takes one to two days of adjusting before I can train or perform in Europe. Our biggest hurdle is keeping me hydrated on flights and carrying sufficient pee-pee pads because of all that water. The more water I drink, the better I feel after a long flight. This advice is good for humans, too! Water works wonders.
I had no idea dogs could get jet lag! Good to know! And now … we have to add Scotland to our long list! For those still nervous about the idea …what is your best tip for anyone who wants to travel with their small dog? And how do you travel with so many props?!
The foremost tip for any dog traveller is that it pays to be courteous. Not everyone is a dog lover and it is always thoughtful to ask people you plan to sit next to if they mind a dog. On planes, in the airport, in restaurants, on public transport, my human always asks before we settle in. If they don’t like dogs, she always finds another spot. It’s pretty easy to find a dog lover to sit next to instead. This one gesture alone makes for a stress-free journey for all. Also, another tip: even if other people don’t pick up after their pets — Yes, Paris, I’m looking at you — my human always does.
Another thing that makes our long-distance travel possible is that my first training command was “make a pee-pee on the paper.” It comes in handy. I recommend small pets learn this before they start to travel. We pack stacks of pee-pee pads in our carry-on and I use them in the airplane lavatories. Ten hours from Chicago to Vienna? No problem!
The props: My human always prided herself in packing light. Prior to travelling with me, her biggest travel accomplishment was packing for two weeks in only a carry-on. Those days are over. I have clothes and wheels and steps and targets and handbags and food and pee-pee pads. Well, you get the idea. My human has resigned herself to paying baggage fees and my prop cases are custom-made to fall within airline size restrictions. (My man-human wants you to know that he has just given up and throws money at it. Fact of life.)
We are minimalists and travel carry on only – even if two months across Europe – so we kind of understand you man-humans reaction! Now what do you believe is the best part about having a pet with you while you travel? I know that for us, it brings a variety of perks; the most unexpected and best one is that we aren’t treated like tourists. People think we live there and so the entire vibe changes. We don’t feel targeted by the tourism industry. What is your take?
My human would say that aside from always being with her best friend, I have become her reason (excuse?) for travel. The best part of it all are the friends that we make along the way. I have never met a stranger and a trick or two can win over a crowd in no time flat. It’s funny now that you mention it: we are asked for directions and advice in any city that we are in. People must think we are locals!
We say that ALL THE TIME! You are totally treated like a local. It’s great isn’t it? Tell me … what prompted this travel and tricks adventure?
One dog trick and epic wanderlust married to flash performances. We are living the dream!
You really are. I wish we could hit the road more. What has your human learned about having you on the road — something you are convinced she would not have known if you hadn’t taken this more adventurous route?
I am much better on a plane than in a car. The intensity of that road rally wasn’t such a great idea.
I am a train lover myself … so … how do you choose where to go next? Do you box in or limit your human as her travel companion?
The only trip my human ever took without me was to Japan. Now, it’s her dream to return with me and have fun with all the Harajuku Girls and Geishas. The Japanese are enamoured with dogs. I can’t wait to get there, but we need to find a reason to go. I need a trick dog gig for that trip.
Japan might be only on our wish list but we are always on the move. There is always some place to go. I just got back from a commercial shoot for a pet food company in St. Louis, so not all our travel is far-flung. For Christmas, we went to Beaujolais, France, for a family celebration and that included me, of course. Given that my human has been in her family for 33 years, everyone knows that when my human comes for a visit, she will bring her Yorkie. Also, building on the success of Paris, I’m planning my next fashion appearance, but you must follow along on Instagram or www.littlelolasunshine.com to see where that will be.
Oh we so want to go to Japan as well. So we feel your frustration with the quarantine … same for Australia. My bipeds are divers so they would love to go there but we can’t for now. But on a brighter note, share with us a favourite anecdote!
I have said before that Paris is a magical city. Amazing things happen to me there and life unfolds in the most serendipitous ways.
Some of my favorite places are the covered shopping arcades that are undergoing a renaissance and being restored all around Paris. It is a lovely pastime to explore them and pose for pictures.
On our most recent trip to Paris, we were in the Passage Jouffroy and I was wearing a red knit dress. There was an acrobat lady being filmed doing a handstand while wearing high heels. A large crowd was watching her and a very proper Frenchman standing next to us raised his eyebrows at my human as if to say, “Oh, this is a quite a spectacle.” That is all the nudging my human needed to up the game. On command, I jumped out of my bag. My human said “Handstand/WalkOut,” so I popped onto my front paws and walked into the video.
The crowd loved it. The videographer loved it. The acrobat lady loved it. I loved it! The management of the passage did not love it and asked us all to leave.
Outside, we discovered that the acrobat had a red sweater in the same shade as my dress in her tote bag. She put it on and we continued filming and taking pictures in a nearby park. The resulting images are below. This was a favorite, unplanned moment and the sort of experience that makes travel so doggone fun!
As my Instagram post with the acrobat said, “Find your tribe. Love them hard.” Around the world, I find my tribe: children that I love and who love me right back, the fashion models doing a street style shoot where we are coincidentally dressed the same, the people who are cheered by a cuddle with me, the circus troop that does some of the same tricks I do.
It is important to remember that no matter how big and culturally diverse the world is, at their very core, all humans are very much and wonderfully alike.
Be kind. Have fun. Keep travelling!
I really love that story. It illustrates perfectly what we often try to convey to others. That it is the unexpected moments that make travel so rich and fulfilling. It’s the people. Thank you so much to both of you ladies for taking the time to chat with us today. I can’t wait to see where you are off to next and I assure you, we will continue to follow you on your Facebook page, Instagram, and website. I love that you are showing the world that having a small dog does not mean you can’t travel! And I REALLY hope we cross paths soon one day! Lola … you’ll have to teach this “not a pup” dog a trick!