April 24th, 1981 – A tearful goodbye to Napoleon. He was a friend and the best dog our children ever had. He was a playful and smart, lumbering Saint Bernard. They loved their large companion and he loved them. Now the time had come when we needed to leave him. The new owner of our house on the waterfront wanted to keep him. At least Napoleon did not have to leave the only home he had ever known.
The children took turns hugging and kissing his huge head.
Now the time had come when we would fly to Charlottetown, P.E.I. That was the destination of our new home for many years to come – we thought.
We put our little black poodle, Tonika, and our Siamese cat, Cindy, together into a carrying case. Friends were driving us to the airport in Cassidy.
All five of us had mixed feelings as we boarded the small plane that would take us to the Vancouver airport. There was excitement about going to that magic island, the home of Anne of Green Gables, but also sadness to be leaving friends and our familiar Vancouver Island behind.
The sky was blue with not a cloud to be seen as we looked down on the sparkling blue water, ringed by the vivid green of the trees in their first coat of spring. The balmy air gave promise of a lovely summer to come.
Ever since returning from our three-week holiday on P.E.I. we talked about that place in glowing colours, hoping to pass our excitement on to our children. Three of our children had already flown the home nest and the other three, Corina, Henry and Derek, were moving with us.
Williams Moving and Storage had picked up all of our belongings after we carefully packed everything into boxes, marking each box with a number that I then recorded in a small book, listing the contents.
They promised to bring the container with our things within two months and would then keep it in storage until we had purchased a home and were ready to move in.
Now it was time to board the large Air Canada 737 plane.
Our vet provided us with tranquilizers for the dog and cat and assured us the animals would sleep peacefully for the duration of the flight. I was told to shove the little white pills down each animal’s throat. They trusted me so I met with little resistance.
We landed in Calgary and were now on our way to Charlottetown. The monotonous drone of the large aircraft lulled us to sleep. Two or three hours into our flight we could hear the distressed bark of our little Tonika. That meant our Cindy was equally stressed. There was nothing we could do but hope they would survive the next few stressful hours.
The pilot announced we would see Prince Edward Island in a few minutes. We anxiously looked for our first glimpse of that green-red Island when our daughter Corina announced in a voice full of gloom and doom: “It is completely covered in snow!” To say we were all greatly disappointed is putting it mildly. It was April 24th and we had been told on numerous occasions by Islanders, while visiting, that they get very little snow and “no, it never gets very cold.”
The announcement over the intercom was that the pilot would have to circle several times while the runway was being cleared of snow for the second time.
Our disappointment was great but we were determined to make the best of it. We picked up our little animals, who had survived but were both somewhat shaken. Then we rented a car and drove into Charlottetown looking for a motel/hotel that would put us and our animals up for the night. Most places would take us but not the dog and the cat.
We proceeded to the edge of town and found a somewhat rough looking motel that would accommodate all of us.
We wearily placed our luggage inside and prepared a litter box for our cat before finding a place to eat our supper.
So began our great adventure of living on Prince Edward Island.
Christa Stegemann is a Saltair resident and a frequent traveller.