These days I live in envy of Lori and Mitch, who are currently researching their own book, Travels with Gus: In Search of America. I would love to throw a suitcase in the back of the car and journey across the continent, stopping in small towns and great cities alike, seeing state capitals (and capitols), national parks, and historical sites. However, unlike them, I’ve never wanted to travel with our dog.
The burdens of travelling with a pet are one reason (and possibly the main reason) my parents never wanted pets. When you travel long distances, stay in motels, and try to cram in as many activities as possible, “what should we do with the dog” is just another headache. Sure, if you drive from point A to point B without a two-hour stop at Pete’s Alligator Farm in between, it’s not a big deal. But if you want to see the sights en route, someone has to stay back with the dog. Lori and Mitch (and her sister Katie, who is along for the ride) don’t seem to mind. But I don’t want to miss seeing the state house in Lincoln, Nebraska, because dogs aren’t allowed in the building.
Right now we’re in another province visiting the Spouse’s family. It’s a 7 1/2 hour drive door-to-door. We usually spend one night on the road in a hotel, one that we’ve been staying in long before we became dog owners, and in which pets are not permitted. Naturally, we looked for someone to take Our Best Friend for the week we’d be away.
So how come he’s here with us, lying at my feet?
When Kate, our “lady who does,” brought Our Best Friend to our home, she told us she’d babysit whenever we went out-of-town. Well, two years on, Kate’s life has changed. She has a new grandchild and a single-parent son who works nights; the baby spends those nights with Kate. Asking her to babysit a dog as well as a year-old baby, after a full day’s work, is a little much. And she can’t leave a sleeping baby alone in her apartment to take Our Best Friend out for his bedtime pee.
As for our friends… well, sure, My Dearest Friend owes me a dog-sitting favour, but as we’re away at the same time, she has the perfect excuse. Other friends have small apartments, small children, don’t like dogs, etc., etc. Even my brother refused, with a flat, “I don’t want a dog in the house.” We could have left him with the sitter who took Blackie and Duke, but I thought she was over-charging. As departure day came ever-closer, it became increasingly evident we might have company on this trip.
And, in truth, if we were ever going to take him on the road, this would be the time to do it. For the first time in years, we aren’t staying over one night on the road. The Spouse has a new, merged, business, and the three partners agreed that everyone gets one week of vacation this summer, instead of the 10-14 days we usually take. We wanted as much time with the family as possible, so we decided to drive straight through in one day, both there and back. We have somewhere safe and secure to leave the dog during the day. The only drawback would be that we can’t take a 12-hour day away from the house, but as it turned out, we aren’t doing major activities on this trip.
Our biggest fear was how Our Best Friend would behave in the car. Whenever we put OBF in the car, he commences his insane barking until we arrive at our destination. When he goes back in after the activity, he’s always quiet, but the drive “to” anywhere is sheer torture. So we figured we would take him to the dog park first, let him out for a run, then put him back in the van, thinking the in-and-out would have its usual quieting effect.
We loaded the van, then called OBF to come in the car. He immediately leaped on the pile of luggage in the back, trying to balance on top; I wish I’d gotten a picture of that. He seemed to know that this wasn’t a typical trip to the park. For the first time in forever, he didn’t bark a peep when we set off. We still took him to the park first, and then went on our way. We had one bad moment on the highway when something out the window set off the barking; we hadn’t left the city limits yet, and thought we might have to turn around and leave him with the overpriced dog-sitter after all. But he only barked for about three minutes, then went silent again. From time to time he would whimper or cry. We had him in the back seat with The Middle Child, and sometime he crawled into her lap. Gradually he calmed down, and eventually he curled into a ball and went to sleep.
Turns out he was great traveler. We stopped every two hours or so to stretch our legs and use the washroom. OBF would bound out, tail wagging, and take the children for a run around the parking lot of wherever we were. We stopped to visit my cousin before the journey’s end, and her little poodle Pepsi, who is normally fearful of other dogs, was brave enough to sniff OBF all over. And OBF let him.
Two and a half days into the trip, so far, so good. We go for our morning and evening walks. He hasn’t had an accident, he doesn’t bark when we leave the house, and I know he’s happier to be with us than with any sitter on the planet. I don’t know how often we’re going to take him along on the road, but at least now we know we can.