Thursday, July 16, 2015

Me And the Dog (s) - On The Road

This morning, I had a sudden revelation. From 1996 until now I have always had dogs, and almost all the time I have had two dogs.  I had a break between the death of my beagle and lab for about a year, and then since January I have again only had one pet. The last few months I have slowly gotten used to having just one dog. My sister has a Chihuahua, but he's hers and not really a dog (sorry, sorry). In fact the title of this one was "traveling with the canines" until I reminded myself that these days I have just - one! One who admittedly is in many pictures on this blog, and is recognizable to readers by now-just look at the post below!
 As many readers know, my first two dogs, Elvis the beagle and Magic the Labrador, died within less than a year of each other-and lived to be sixteen and seventeen respectively. Then I almost immediately got two dogs, one with cancer and who is no longer here and who remains with me.

My poor sick Trevor amongst the greenery on the patio!

I have always traveled. and the truth is more often than not until recently, not with the dogs. Fitting two dogs a Subaru Forrester while traveling the back roads of here or there was a logistical nightmare. Add to that the fact that Europe being Europe almost all of our travels were of the train or ship variety and you end up with the need to board a dog.

Traveling when you have canines (or other pets) can be a conundrum. Some are unwilling to leave their dogs in a boarding situation. Some cannot afford to do so. My first two dogs, Magic and Elvis, loved being boarded.  I'm not sure how that happened. For one thing those two dogs were joined at the proverbial hip. For another they had wonderful doggy hotels both in the US and in Europe. In fact they were always excited to go, and rarely looked back as they were led away.  They also had the perfect environment, with a large yard where all the dogs ran and played together (sometimes roughly but always happily). I was not a micromanaging pet mama, and if they came home with a scrape, as long as they had fun I was happy! They did doggie day care together, as well.  Admittedly these trips were rarely over two weeks, as we were still in the "working world".

Magic the Labrador, gray and on his favorite pillow

My second two dogs were never boarded. My son was available when I was traveling, or other family members or friends stopped by the house multiple times a day. The situation was different and I was taking a break from traveling while I relocated. Since these dogs bonded with my son as an adult, a different relationship was born. My first two dogs played with the kids, but come bed time, they were in that king sized bed, wondering where we were!

As I travel now, more and more often I am taking my canine child with me.  This is true event though I travel in a car rather than an RV and use hotels and on occasion restaurants. Obviously I would not take the dog to New York, or on my train trip to San Francisco.  However, he'll take a week and a half trip to Texas via Route 66, go on a four day trip to Mount Rushmore and go with me on my late fall road trip down south for a week or so. 

Elvis the beagle, late in years

From a financial aspect, having dogs and boarding or traveling with them them can present challenges. Boarding dogs is rarely cheap, although we were fortunate to have good providers. Once you've budgeted for the hotels, food, train, boat, car or plane and so on, you have to add in the cost of the dog care.  For most of our working and traveling lives (both in the US and Europe) this was just a matter of fact. They were our children and this of course was what we did. Nothing else ever occurred to us.

I cannot say that traveling with dogs is free, or even that is necessarily cheaper than boarding. I can say that I prefer my dog to be with me when possible, and I consider either cost (boarding or taking the dog) to be an acceptable part of travel-even frugal travel. There are of course some financial challenges to traveling with a pet. The costs are much less than they could be, in my opinion.  When I road trip, I stay in good mid quality hotel (Good rated Best Westerns, for example). Since I need the first floor myself, walking the dog is rarely a problem-and before leaving I check out hotels by satellite to make sure they actually do have some kind of grass or a park nearby.

The canine child does increase my travel costs, and how much that cost is varies. Most hotels have a $20 fee, usually it is refundable and sometimes not. While Wilson is very well behaved (I do crate him on those occasions when I go out and leave him alone), I am appreciative of other folks' allergies and issues. I also remember when I had chronically ill dog who was not perfectly behaved in a hotel. So while I am happy to get the refund, I understand if on occasion I do not.

Other than the moderate cost of hotels, the cost of traveling with my dog is pretty much the same. Throwing his old blanket, his own foods, and toys and leash in the car are easy.

From a non financial standpoint, traveling with the dog places that are not major cities is also very easy, and the only reason I don't take him to large cities is I am not always driving there.  Take our trip to South Dakota. Badlands National Park is pet friendly. He'll be happy to walk with me and explore Deadwood, and will readily adjust to a few hours in the hotel room during our afternoon at Mount Rushmore, or a restaurant dinner. We plan to picnic at least one evening which will put him in hog heaven. (note: I have considered making my pet a service dog, with my knee balance issues. However, with his personality and my patience for training I see that happening-never!). I do admit that while he may bark on occasion if he hears another dog in the hall, he is not a terrible barker. I appreciate that those who have yappy dogs may have another issue. 

Trevor, beagle number two, showing Wilson the coon dog who the Alpha is in better days

There are other advantages to traveling with a dog, by car or RV, depending on where you wish to go, and your perspective. Traveling with my pup requires me to make regular stops on the road as well as walk him in the morning and the evening. This forces me to exercise and stretch regularly. People almost always want to strike up a conversation of some kind with dog owners, and you get to meet plenty of people you might never have spoken to.  Finally, most dogs add a layer of security, especially for those of us who are unafraid to jump off onto an unknown back road, or drive into a Louisiana swamp town unexpectedly. This is true of singles and marrieds, I expect.  And of course, he makes a great pillow or leg rest in the hotel!!

As a frugal retiree I watch my money carefully, and in truth that I may never get another dog after this. Meanwhile, this one I'll keep and consider the small costs involved in travel (be it boarding or taking the dog) to be a "childcare expense" worth paying for!


  1. We often wonder if we will get another cat after Shania passes. We love her, but she is quite spoiled and does not travel well at all. When we travel we have to get a neighbour or friend to come over and look after her in our home.

    Kris's cat Ray however does travel with him if he is gone for any length of time. Usually here or to Alberta, and Ray is not a good traveler at all.

    Our fur babies are important and I am glad you travel with yours.

    God Bless.

    1. I did not even think about the fact that many dogs and cats may not even like to travel....

  2. We are fortunate to have our 2 adult children living close by and they provide pet care when we travel. We have finally gotten to the point where we just have 1 cat. At one point we had 3 dogs and 3 cats. Cats are much easier to leave. lots of food, water and a couple litter boxes and our cat is fine for 2-3 days alone.
    I always hate leaving him even though I know the kids are checking on the house and him. I miss him more than he misses us I think. If I had a dog that traveled well I would definitely enjoy taking him with us on road trips.

    1. I think it is easier to have family to watch the dogs. I do agree, cats seem to need less, and our dog is a real baby-he looks at me soulfully and jumps on me when I come back from book group for petes sake

  3. Since 1973 we have been dog free for about 3 weeks. We mostly board but do take her if the hotels are available and the weather is not too hot.


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