When was the last time your dog had a vacation?
Does it make you sad to leave him behind--imagining him crying himself to sleep at night at the kennel? Do you miss his company?
Next time you plan a driving trip, take your dog with you. It's easier than you think. I just returned from a 3,800-mile trip in five days (we're talking about 800-mile days). If my dog and I can do it, so can you.
It's easier if your dog is well trained and responsive to every command. Sadly, my dog is not. We're obedience school dropouts.
The trainer asked in exasperation: "Why do you want to have a Dalmatian? It's not that they aren't intelligent. They're very intelligent. But they are also independent and want to do what they want to do. The only way to get their attention is to hit them with a truck."
This is all too true. But Sancho is a beautiful dog and I love him. As for being too independent--the same has been said of me, and perhaps of you too.
So if your dog has the impeccable manners of a true aristocrat--or even if he doesn't--if you want to enjoy his company on your next trip, I would encourage you to take him.
Rules to Follow
As you prepare to start off:
Catch your dog. "Get in the car, Sancho!" I command decisively. He's off like a spotted shot to visit the neighbor's yard--the one with the "No Dogs" sign.
Take a thermos of water and his drinking dish.
Take his sleeping blanket. He will sleep soundly, surrounded by the scent of home.
Take his leash. It's required at most rest areas.
Take his chain. When I stopped at restaurants I looked for a side street to park in the shade and chained Sancho to a tree with fresh food and water. You should never leave your dog in a closed car on a hot summer day. Temperatures can reach 160 degrees in just a few minutes. A pet can swiftly suffer brain damage and die of heatstroke.
Pack his rabies certificate, if you're heading north. Your dog can't get into Canada--or back into the United States from Canada--without it.
Stop often and give your dog a run. The fresh air and exercise will do you both a world of good.
Take clean-up supplies. A plastic Baggie and scooper might come in handy.
So these are some of the problems of traveling with a dog. What are the benefits?
Dog as Enforcer
Your pet offers protection, sort of. Although if I ever meet a mugger, he'll probably hurl himself at the guy and smother him with kisses. As nature writer Dayton Hyde says, "I sure hope you have a 'licker' license for that dog."
He or she is a happy companion. When the long miles and heavy traffic and punishing weather have left you glassy-eyed with exhaustion, just reach over and scratch his ears. He'll give you a grin as big as an alligator eating a watermelon, and suddenly you'll feel better.
At journey's end he leaps joyfully from the car. He races away to terrorize a cat, drink from a street gutter and check out the neighbor's "No Dogs" sign.
He's glad to be home.
So are you.