Sunday, September 28, 2014

Caring for Ctitters - Life on 3 legs

As mentioned in my most recent post, we are pleased and honored to participate in the Caring for Critters Round Robin, hosted by Jodi at Heart Like A Dog. How it works is, each participating blogger writes about their own experience with a medical condition, injury, disease or illness.  Then, the blogger "passes the baton" to the next, sort of like a relay race in words, online!  Yesterday, Sue Oakes at The Golden Life told us about her pack's digestive issues and how each one presented its own challenge before they were able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.   I'll be passing the baton to Kelsie at It's Dog Or Nothing (don't you love that name!?  Actually, I love all the names of the various blogs involved.  A lot of clever critters out there in the blogosphere!).  

Today, I'll be writing about our personal experience with amputation of a pet's limb due to injury.  In short, it's not so bad!

Our dog, Cooper, wasn't part of our family when he injured, and subsequently lost, his right, front limb.  He's the littermate of Charlie Brown, whom we adopted first.  Cooper was with his original adopters when, at about eight months of age, he somehow injured his right, front leg.  We do not know how he sustained the injury -- that information was either unknown, or withheld, but it appeared to have been a crush injury that could not be successfully repaired. Unable to afford the expense of the medical care, the well-meaning family confined the puppy to a crate for several weeks,  and eventually returned him to rescue when it became clear that the scope and expense of the medical concerns for Cooper would be out of their reach.  That's where we came in!  Rescue sent out an "APB" to all the other littermates' parents asking if anyone wanted a brother with a messed up leg. Of course, we got all wrapped up in the drama, and several friends suggested I'd be nuts if I didn't adopt him (and equally nuts if I DID!).   True to form, and always up for a challenge, we chose the former.

Cooper, with four legs; pre-amputation.

It was not to be our decision whether to attempt repair, or amputate.  That would be up to rescue, who was the owner of record of the dog at the time, because the family had surrendered him back to the rescue agency.  After extensive testing and opinions, it was decided that the only repair possible would have been "experimental" and ill-advised. To use the vet's own words, "I wouldn't put my own dog through that."

Even though we had known other tripawd pets, and knew they were able to get around just fine, we didn't want this very young dog (now 10 months old) to have to go through amputation and living on three legs for the rest of his life.  But, like I said, it wasn't our decision.  The surgery was planned, and a donation campaign began.  We donated a portion toward the cost ourselves, thus reducing the eventual adoption fee we paid in the end. The surgery was performed in mid-August, after all the donations had come in, and about two weeks later, Cooper came home to live with us.  I had gone to meet him, with his brother, Charlie, when Cooper still had four legs (one useless and dragging around on the floor); and then met him again after surgery.  

A pile of puppies... Charlie in the middle, on the left (with slightly darker markings)
and Cooper (the so-called runt of the litter) on top of everyone!

The treatment was basically quite simple.  Amputate the leg, rest, recover, enjoy the rest of your life. And that is pretty much how it went.  Cooper lived with his original foster mom during the 10-day recovery phase.  We humans were all worried about the amputation, and foster mom was able to observe him in the recovery room using a web-cam that the vet had set up!  She shared still photos with us by email and Facebook.  Cooper did astonishingly well that first night, and then went home to the foster house, where he promptly jumped up on the bed with his canine foster sister!  The worst part was trying to keep this puppy inactive so the stitches did not get disturbed.  After all, he had been dragging around a useless leg for such a long time, it was probably a relief to be rid of it, in his mind.

Cooper was on Tramadol for about a month, and the wound healed nicely and there is now no sign that anything happened.  In fact, it takes most new people a few minutes (sometimes longer) to realize that he has a missing leg!  He was not tired, lethargic or sad.  There was no change in his spirit or even his activity level.  He simply moved on with his life and didn't look back.  Cooper truly lives in the moment.  He can chase a ball just as fast as his brother, sometimes faster.  He jumps onto and down from the bed, furniture, picnic tables (his favorite) and is Chief Counter Surfer.  He can jump into my car if the driver's side window is all the way down, from a seated position on the ground -- like a cat!  When we go to our birthday reunion parties on the beach in Gloucester, Mass. he runs so much I have to put a leash on him to make him take a rest.  He tends to "slam" the remaining left leg a little too much.  That being said, he is all muscle, and loves to chase his brother around the back yard at super-high-speed!

Cooper in the car.  "Let's go, Mom!"

Taking a break on Good Harbor Beach, with his sister's tennis ball!

If I had to make the choice whether or not to amputate on another pet, I am not sure we would do it again.  It depends on the situation, type of injury (cancer is the main reason dogs have legs amputated, not injury).  Shortly after Cooper's amputation, people began developing prostheses for canines.  Cooper cannot have a prosthetic limb because there is no remaining bone to attach it to.  If we had to do it all again, I would consider leaving some bone available to utilize a prosthetic.  But honestly, the worry about his spirit being broken, and his activity level being compromised was just human b.s. worry, and nothing more.  It was all for nothing.  If you are ever faced with the conundrum of amputating a pet's limb, just remember, take it from Cooper, it's not so bad.

Be sure to check out ALL of the Caring For Critters posts, here!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Returning from a blogging and social media break (sort of)

We are back!!  Sort of.

I wanted to share that I'll be taking part (later this month) in the Caring for Critters Round Robin, which is sort of like a blog hop except folks can't just hop on and post -- it's an assigned thing.  Our post will be live on Sept 28th, so mark your calendars!  The Round Robin is hosted by Jodi and her pups, Sampson and Delilah of Heart Like a Dog.

We took a month or so off from blogging and social media due to some family medical issues of both the human and canine kind.  I promised I would keep the the human stuff private, so you won't hear about that here. This is the dog and cat blog, anyway!

Our dear senior pup, Hobie, has been having health issues, on-and-off, all year.  There were at least four times this summer when I thought we were going to lose him, but he recovers miraculously and this week was no exception.  After bringing him to the vet two days ago, when he seemed to be on death's door, we awoke this morning with a rather energetic Hobie on our hands.  Just now, he wanted to go down the big stairs into the back yard (he went UP them this morning for the first time in weeks).  I decided not to allow him to go down.  It's a bit too much, too fast, after weeks of him being unable to maneuver just ONE step, let alone 13.  It's nice to see him "chipper" for a change, and now I am starting to wonder if the pain meds we've been giving him for a year were causing his ongoing issues in some part. His kidney tests came back normal yesterday, but he is a tad anemic. We have him on anti-nausea meds for the weekend, and then we'll have the vet run more tests next week to try to determine what may be causing the anemia and constant bouts of vomiting every two weeks or so.

Hobie resting after going to the vet this week.

During this month, we've had lots of doctor appointments to go to, and big schedule changes regarding work and other things.  I did manage to get to the Tori Amos concert, which was so meaningful to me and I'm grateful for the four or five people who helped me out at home so that I could attend the show.  It meant the world to me.

Good seat, bad picture!

The cats have been a source of steadiness, comfort and delight through all of this.  They are the ever-present "anchor" of the household.

Cali on the roof of the car
Newman and Tux holding down the fort.

Other than that, I brought Charlie, just last weekend, to Pet Rock, which is a music festival for pet-related non-profits in our area.  It's been going on for 16 years, and they do a great job, it's a lot of fun for the dogs that is for sure.  I was so afraid Reactive Charlie would cause trouble, but he was amazingly well-behaved, and in fact he was one of the BETTER-behaved dogs at the event, overall!! At PetRock we saw our friends from Great Dane Rescue, Paws 4 a Cure and our human neighbor, who happens to be named.... Charlie! -- with his no-longer-nervous Newfoundland!  We may attend another event tomorrow, hosted by Second Chance Animal Shelter, if we're not too tired.  Two years ago at the same Second Chance event, I wrecked my shoulder walking Charlie, so I'm a bit hesitant ... but we shall see.

Charlie Brown at PetRock Festival
Feeling empowered, a few days later, I brought Cooper to PetSmart for the first time, ever.  Again, I thought Mr. Reactive Dog would be the one to cause trouble inside the store.  But nope! I was pleasantly surprised by my wonderful hound again!!  He was the perfect gentleman, and in fact it was ANOTHER dog that got all up in his face and started trouble!  Aside from Cooper nearly breaking my finger with his collar and leash in his enthusiasm to get inside the store, it was a great experience, and I'm going to bring him to the pet stores with me more often.

Cooper in the car after we went into PetSmart.
Good dog!

Our topsy-turvy schedule will continue for quite some time, so I will probably only be blogging occasionally -- probably on weekends and for special assignments such as the Round Robin mentioned above, DoggyLoot, and a few others.

Until next time!  Keep meowing, woofing and wagging!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A week of anniversaries

Saturday marked two years since we adopted Cooper.  He's now a thriving member of our family, and can sometimes be a pain in the neck!  But we love him!

Today, August 26th, it's been five years since Newman (a.k.a. Hairball) joined our pack.  He was adopted three weeks after Tux and Cali because Newman had a flea infestation and the person who had the kittens wanted to be sure he was free of fleas before handing him over to us.  The three came from three different litters of motherless kittens, but we adopted them at the same time.  I named him Newman because, in the days prior to his coming to live with us, I kept referring to him as "The New Cat" or "The New Guy".  New Man just seemed to fit (in spite of the fact that Paul Newman, one of our favorite actors, had passed away about a year before, Newms was not named in memory of the actor and salad dressing king).  Gil dubbed Newman "Hairball" because his original family had shaved the long-haired cat to get rid of the fleas, but left a "ball" of long fur at the top of his tail as a little joke.  The nickname stuck, and today we use the names Newman and Hairball interchangeably!

Poor Newms with a close shave and poofy tail!

The gorgeous guy today!

And last, but certainly not least, we observe the three year mark since we lost our beloved hound dog extraordinaire, Hector, this Thursday, the 28th.  I have written so much about Hector in the years since he died, I don't really have much more to say, except that we both miss him every single day, even though we've got our hands full of canine and feline love around here with our other pets.  There was nobody else like Hector, and there never will be.  

Love hold my hand
Help me see you with the dawn
That those that have left
Are not gone

But they carry on
As stars looking down
As nature’s sons
And daughters of the heavens

You will not ever be forgotten by me
In the procession of the mighty stars
Your name is sung and tattooed now on my heart
Here I will carry, carry, carry you forever

You have touched my life
So that now
Cathedrals of sound are singing, are singing
The waves have come to walk with you
To where you will live in the land of you,
Land of you

You will not ever be forgotten by me
In the procession of the mighty stars
Your name is sung and tattooed now on my heart
Here I will carry, carry, carry you
Here I will carry, carry, carry you forever.

"Carry" by Tori Amos

Please note: k2k9 will be taking a short break from blogging and social media between now and the September 8th.  There may be intermittent posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but don't count on it :)!

See you in September!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

k2k9 Joins The Writing Process Tour

First, I'd like to give a big thank-you shout out to Christina Berry of The Lazy Pit Bull, who tagged me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour.  You can read about Christina's writing process, and see the blurb she posted about k2k9, here.  

Turns out I am one of the last pet bloggers (of our little, intimate group of which there are hundreds!) to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour.  It's been a very challenging period of time in our household lately, for reasons I am not at liberty to write about, and I'm even surprised I offered to join in.  Nevertheless, here I am; so here goes!

I'm supposed to tag three other bloggers who would be next on the blog tour.  Unfortunately, just about everyone I know has already participated in the event, so, I'm tagging just ONE blogger, Jessica Louise Handley of Waggy Tales blog!  How cool that I get to tag someone from merry ol' England, a place I have visited so many times, I have lost count!  Jessica blogs about her joyful adventures with her beloved pup, Lottie, a West Highland White Terrier.  Ok, Jessica, I invite you to join the Writing Process Tour!

Jessica and Lottie of Waggy Tales!

Now comes the boring part!

What am I working on?

I've recently started contributing again to DoggyLoot's blog, DoggyWoof after they took a brief hiatus to re-organize.  They've got me writing mainly about traveling with dogs, which goes along with my long-term goal of getting my new lifestyle blog, The Traveling Dog Lady up and running.  It's a work in progress.  I'm also still contributing to the e-zine Cape Women Online, and have an article coming out in their fall "Harvesting Your Passion" issue on the same theme.   I've got two books of essays partially written, and am combining them into one book.  After I took the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge in July, I realized I should just combine the work I did there with the essays I've been wanting to publish for many years.  So, stay tuned for that.  And, of course, I'm still slogging away (and making absolutely no progress!) on the final volume of Dad's letters from WWII.

Why do I write what I write?

I've been blogging for nearly 10 years now.  Folks that I know have often come to me for pet advice on everything from pet health and behavior issues, to how to re-home a dog or cat using shelter and rescue networks and social media connections.  My partner, another friend, and one of my childhood friends kept telling me they really enjoyed my writing and that I needed to put it out there for others to read.  It was their encouragement, along with folks coming to me for advice about their pets, that got me started on the road to blogging.   My beloved dogs, Hobie and Hector, were my original inspiration, and continue to be today, despite the fact that Hector is now gone, and Hobie is very old.  They own my heart, those two hounds.

How does my writing process work?

My free time is in the morning, because I work at my regular (accounting) job on an odd shift that starts at noon and ends between 7 and 9 p.m., depending on the time of year.  After I've taken care of the dogs, cats and humans in the household, I grab a cup of coffee and head upstairs to the computer usually after 8 a.m.  I usually have to do a few things related to my regular job, even in the morning; and then I either write for my blog, or an outside assignment, or post relevant pet-related stuff to social media sites. I like taking pictures of my pets, and do so almost every day -- I like to share them on Twitter and Instagram.

On the beach in Gloucester, Mass. with Charlie Brown and Cooper on their birthday!

I don't pre-schedule or pre-write posts, and I've been criticized for that at least once. (I just don't deal with that person anymore!).  I write "by the seat of my pants" with the exception of assignments from outside organizations like DoggyLoot, Cape Women Online or CBS Local (for whom I'm currently not contributing).  But even under those circumstances, I work best under pressure, and will usually procrastinate until the very last minute before sending them the next article or blog post.  I write "in my head" while lying in bed, or driving in the car, or (best place!) in the shower.  Here's a good quote related to that process, and it's so true:

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” 
― Saul Bellow
I don't take notes in a notebook or anything, I just remember what I wanted to write about, sit down, and write.  J.D. Salinger said he wrote for himself and for his own pleasure, or something like that.  I try to stick to that, too, because all the fame and fortune (especially surrounding the internet and social media) isn't all it's cracked up to be!  Just write!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Morning dog walk

Senior dogs are the BEST!  This morning, Hobie took me to a place we have never been before.  We have been coming here 10 years, and this morning I just let him lead me where he wanted to go.  I mean, he may never come here again... I have to indulge what he wants.  So many years I dragged him home in a hurry because I had so much to do!  I think about that now, and realize "How silly."  Here are some pictures of our ride to the beach, and today's walk.  Keep it simple.

Road trip!!

Our cottage on the super-safe road.  Road was washed away by erosion many years ago.

"Mo-om! There are some great smells around here!"


Morning stroll!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Happy gotcha day!

Five years ago today, we adopted two motherless kittens who were NOT from the same litter!

Cali (a.k.a. "Lady Kitty" because she's the only female pet); and Tux (a.k.a. "Bullet" because he flies through the air, really fast,  without touching the ground) joined our pack on August 1st, 2009.

Introducing them to Hobie and Hector, at the time, was quite the challenge, even though the dogs had grown up with cats their whole lives.  At one point, Hobie tried to eat Tux.  Blood was drawn.  It wasn't Tux's blood!  Hobie could have lost an eye, or something.  The scrapping didn't last long.  It was clear that Tux was in charge.

Today, Tux cuddles with Hobie all the time, and they have a wonderful friendship.

This morning, Cali joined Charlie Brown and me on our walk to the lake and back.  She hasn't done that for a while, so I figure she must have known it was our anniversary!

They look full-grown here, but they were just little kittens -- approximately 3 months old.
This is the first photo I took of them when I brought them home.

 I'll be writing a post next week for DoggyLoot, about how to introduce a new cat to a home where dogs already live.  Keep your green eyes open for that!

Cali, relaxing in the shade after our walk this morning!
Happy Gotcha Day, Cali-co!
(I'll add a picture of Tux after he comes out of hiding!)

We are so lucky to live on an extremely-safe (no-traffic) dirt road.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

National Mutt Day, July 31, 2014

Today is National Mutt Day!  If you don't know what that is, it's a day observed twice a year (next is December 2nd) to bring awareness that most shelter dogs are mixed-up mutts like Hobie, Hector, Charlie and Cooper, with the goal of getting shelter mutts adopted.

The observance was started by Colleen Paige who is a pet lifestyle expert and animal behaviorist, among other things.  Her aim is to bring awareness to the fact that mixed breed dogs populate shelters throughout the United States, and to make the public aware that millions of mixed-breed dogs are stuck in shelters awaiting homes (or worse, will be killed, for no good reason other than over-population).

Yes, that's right, I said millions.

Colleen's heroic efforts will attempt to save 10,000 dogs on both observance days, a mere 20,000 dogs in what she describes as a "sea of mixed breed dogs" will be adopted, or sponsored, in observance of National Mutt Day.

Adopting a mutt from a shelter is the best way to help.  If you want to help, and can't adopt, make a donation, or volunteer at your local shelter; share this post (and others) about National Mutt Day, and use the hashtag #nationalmuttday.  Follow National Mutt Day on Facebook and other social media outlets.

I can't tell you the joy and happiness I've experienced over the last decade-and-a-half with our four dogs Hobie, Hector, Charlie Brown and Cooper.  All four of them are mixed-up mutts, "Heinz 57", one-of-a-kind animals.

To commemorate National Mutt Day, here are some photos of our boys, including the late, great Hector.  Observing this day would not be complete without including Timba.  We're not really sure if she was a mixed breed or a purebred Lab, but I'm including her anyway!

The three!  A rare occurrence to get them all in one photo.

My love, Hobie... a Lab/Shepherd/Chinook/Black Mouth Cur mix.

Cooper, when he still had 4 legs.  Hound/Collie mix.

Charlie Brown, Cooper's brother, hound/collie mix.

The three together another time!  How lucky!

Hector and Hobie.  Today, this is one of my favorite photos, but it was taken at an extremely stressful moment.
They had gotten loose at my friend's house at the beach, and I managed to catch up to them.
This picture was taken once we all calmed down. 

I toldja I'm bad at selfies!  Here I am with Hector.  Hector was also a hound-mix.  We think Hound/Lab/Border Collie, but we are not exactly sure.  Heinz 57, or as I like to say "A one-of-a-kind dog"!

Timba, who was either a purebred Lab or some kind of undeterminable mix!

How I spent most of my time with Hobie and Hector over the years.
All three of us on the loveseat.
This is NOT a full-size couch and they each weighed 80 pounds!

Another of my favorite pics of Hector and Hobie

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vacationing with a senior dog

A few weeks ago, when I thought I was going to be spending some time on the Jersey Shore with some girl friends, I realized I had to come up with a better plan for care for Hobie while I am on vacation.  I had it all set up to board him at the 24/7 vet that saved his life (twice) last year.  I did have to bring him back to the regular vet to get a bordetella vaccine, as we had skipped that earlier in the spring when he got his rabies booster.  We figured we would not be boarding him anymore, but then it occurred to me... wait a minute!... I can't expect my pet sitter, or even a family member, to do what I do with Hobie (carry him up and down stairs, take him outside in the middle of the night a few times, sometimes hold the food and water bowls up so he can eat and drink, etc.).

The last time a sitter stayed with him, just a few weeks ago, she misunderstood his middle-of-the-night cues, and his need for (ahem) "privacy", and she went back to bed after carrying him outside where he only urinated.  Five minutes later, he pooped in the kitchen, and she spent the rest of the night washing the kitchen floor (which, by the way, she did not need to do... cleaning up just that one spot would've been sufficient -- and it's what I would have done myself!).  I positively could NOT put her through that again.  The fact is, no one other than me knows his needs.  We are so closely connected, we communicate all day long with non-verbal communications.  So, I called the 24/7 vet which is also a "pet retreat".  They have a medical boarding feature which is a great solution for folks like us.  A vet is on duty 24/7, and the senior or special needs pet is given correct meds and monitored, assisted outdoors and everything else that's required.  It would be a perfect solution, and in fact I may do it later this summer, because, alas, my girl friends cancelled the trip to NJ.

I was planning to sneak away to Cape Cod for a "beach day" last Saturday, and I got this crazy idea.  Why not take Hobie with me and leave the twins at home with their "daddy", and I get to spend a long weekend instead of just going for the day?!  Gil thought it was a great idea, too.  So, off Hobie and I went on Saturday morning, at the crack of dawn, so as to avoid traveling in the heat, AND Saturday Cape Cod traffic (i.e., nightmare!).

Walking about in the yard

On one of the hotter days... sleeping with tongue sticking out!
What a goofball!
It was not the easiest road trip ever.  First, I had to get him into the car without the twins finding out.  Not easy, but I did it.  However, Hobie kind of didn't really "do his business" fully that morning.  So, about 90 minutes into the trip, he started pacing and panting in the way-back of the Subaru where I had him safely confined.  Thankfully, I had taken a wrong turn a few weeks prior, on the same route when I was looking for a bathroom break for myself... I found this little place that was kind of icky, but would be a safe place to take him out of the car to do his thing.  We found the area with no problem, just off the highway.  I carried him out of the car, put on a leash, and we walked around until he did what he had to do.  Back in the car we went.  But not for long!  About 5 minutes later, he started huffing and puffing again.  I realized he probably wanted water.  I pulled into a rest area, and poured water in his bowl, and he refused to drink it!  Ugh!  Then, I realized, this is a modified version of his old traveling habits -- he wanted to be up front with me.  In the old days, he would just hop over the seat!  Can't do that anymore.   I kept driving.  We made it to the house just as traffic started getting bad, and temps were rising.

I have to say that this idea to bring him with me, without the twins, "Just the two of us", is one of the best ideas I've ever had.  It's the number one nicest thing I have ever done, for anybody.  He is thriving here, really enjoying himself, relaxed, cool, getting lots of sleep.  Yet still having trouble seeing, hearing, eating and drinking.  I have to carry him out the ONE step (yay!  our house back at home has nothing BUT stairs).  We walk the yard together, and have a lovely time.  If I go out on errands, or to the beach, I have to make it quick, as I have come back to find him pacing and "moaning" (he can no longer bark), looking for me.  It is sad to see him needing me so much, not being able to see me, sometimes when I am in the same room.  The other night, he wanted to sit outside and observe the Super Moon.  So, we did.  He laid in the sand in the back yard, by the old picnic table, just like he used to do with Hector on summer nights after dinner.  I was so happy to see him doing that again.  I sat beside him in the lawn chair, and we both experienced the moonrise.

That little dot is the "super" moon ha ha.
 We were supposed to go home today, but I had an opportunity to extend a few days, and, with a little help from my "It Takes A Village" crew back home, and a lot of unnecessary tears, I managed to get it done.  We will be here until Friday, so we accidentally got an entire week vacation together.  A gift I will treasure always.  Today, it is very cool outside, and Hobie is really doing well.  He does SO well in the cooler weather.  The TV weather reports always say "Cooler on the Cape", and that is why it's good for him to be here in mid-July, instead of at home where it can be up to 10 degrees warmer.

Cooler On the Cape!

When Hobie was a little puppy, he used to take showers with me!  I would be in the shower, and he would just walk in!  I would laugh my fool head off.  He has not done it in years, but he always accompanies me in the bathroom every morning.  He is My Bathroom Buddy.  This morning, I turned on the shower, and walked in, and he walked in behind me, just like he used to do all those years ago. I laughed and laughed until my stomach hurt!  Everything happens for a reason, I do believe, and the reason we didn't go home today was so we could enjoy that silly moment together!

Water dog!!  "Hey, it smells like wet dog in here!"

I will treasure the memory of this vacation for the rest of my days.  I know the end is getting nearer and nearer for Hobie on this Earth.  But he is my heart, and will always be with me.  So will the memory of this week on Cape Cod, and all the other times we spent here as well.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tips for Traveling with Your Dog This Summer

I'm working in collaboration with Kendra Thornton on this post.  This is not a paid post, it is just a sharing of information.  Kendra is a Chicago-based TV personality and travel expert, who has made regular appearances on several networks including "the big three" as well as FOX and the CW.  You can check out Kendra's website, here, and her accompanying post about traveling with dogs on planes appears at the end of this post!  Thanks Kendra!  

Road Trip! Traveling By Car With Your Dog
by K.S. Mueller

My dogs and I travel frequently from the hilly farmlands of central Massachusetts, to the shores of Cape Cod – about a 3-hour trip in each direction.  We’ve got it down to a routine now, after nearly a decade of making the same trip many times a year – yes, even in winter!  One of our (my) major conundrums is traveling with multiple dogs (we have three at the moment); and the other is traveling without another human companion for assistance.  Things can get tricky when it’s time for a pit stop, for instance.  Here are some tips for traveling by car with your dog, no matter what the season!

Make Sure Everyone Is Comfortable and Secure With Supplies on Hand

When traveling long-distance with multiple dogs, it’s important that every hound has his or her own space to stretch out and sleep, a water bowl, and a harness, crate or confined area of the car for themselves.  Some dogs love to cuddle together, and if they’re small enough that’s great, but my guys are big, so each one gets his own section of the car.  Charlie Brown rides in the “way back” of the station wagon, and he is secured safely in that confined area.  He is a very big dog, so a crate for him would be unaffordable, and wouldn’t fit in the car anyway.  Hobie (14) and Cooper (3-legs) each being handicapped, have their own seat and a harness attached to the seatbelt.  Hobie gets the back seat of the car all to himself.  Though not ideal, Cooper gets the passenger seat up front if we’re traveling with all three dogs.  He curls up in a little ball, and is also harnessed. Each dog has his own portable water bowl.   Always have a leash for each dog, plus one extra per dog.  I have so many leashes in my car, I could open a leash store!  You never know when someone is going to slip a collar or run after a squirrel.  Be prepared with extra leashes and a pocket full of treats.  Don’t forget the poop bags!

Bring A Human Companion or Helper

Since I don’t have kids, and I have no family members close by, and my spouse dislikes road trips, I always travel solo with the dogs.  This can be a huge undertaking just getting the dogs into and (especially) out of the car (when we arrive at our vacation home).  The town we visit is a touristy, beachy community, and very crowded, but with “wide-open spaces” and lots of wildlife.  A dog can get lost, or injured, very easily. There has to be orderliness and rules for getting out of the car when we arrive, and back in when it’s time to return home.  Not to mention bathroom breaks for me (see below).

Consider Leaving A Pet At Home

Not everyone can do this, but I will suggest it anyway:  if you have multiple dogs, try traveling with just one, instead of bringing the entire pack.  It gives you and that dog a break from the others, and it gives the rest of the pack a break from you.  Obviously, you have to have human helpers back at home to accommodate this arrangement.  Sometimes having a spouse who doesn’t like road trips has its advantages! Make this trip a special time for bonding with just one dog.  Take turns and change it up. Charlie gets to go one time.  Cooper goes the next.  Then, maybe the third time both dogs will travel.  Hobie now stays home, as his car travel days are over, but some of my most special memories are the few times I took off with him to Cape Cod “just the two of us”.  Create special memories with each dog, and bust stress at the same time.  It’s a lot easier traveling with just one dog.

Hobie in the back, during a recent trip to the vet.

Travel At Sunrise or Sunset in the Summer

There’s a lot of focus on the internet lately about dogs being left in hot cars in the summer while the owner runs errands or takes a bathroom break, or worse, does a full week’s shopping!  This should never occur, obviously.  One way I avoid this problem, because, as stated before, I travel without human companionship, is to travel very early in the morning, or very late in the afternoon/evening.  By doing so, I am able to stop for a bathroom break without fearing that my dogs will bake inside the car.  When you gotta go, you gotta go!  Here are some pictures of Charlie during a recent trip.  The ideal situation would be to be able to bring our dogs with us inside of bathrooms at rest areas or convenience stores.  Sigh.  Maybe some day.  Until then, I am seriously considering buying a box of "Depends" for my trips!  Remember that what I write here is my personal opinion, and we are all different.  What works for me, may not work for you, particularly if you are traveling in a high-crime area.

Charlie in the back of the car while I pumped gas.
Mid-morning, under a gas station canopy, sunroof open wide.

Charlie can put his nose out, but can't jump out. 
From the drivers' seat just before driving away.  Notice the open sunroof, and gentle, soft panting.
Run Your Errands Ahead of Time, Without Your Dog

In keeping with the theme of leaving at dawn, I will run my necessary pre-travel errands the night before, without a dog.  Fill the car with gas, get an iced coffee and keep it in the fridge for the morning (just add more ice and you’re good to go!), go to the ATM and get money on the way home from work.  If I absolutely must have coffee or food on the road, I always choose the drive-thru.  Bonus:  most drive-thru personnel like to give out treats if they see a doggie traveling companion!

Above all:  safety first, have FUN, and take lots of pictures!

Dogs on Planes and Other Things Not To Do When Traveling
by Kendra Thornton
My extended family is heading on an adventure to Chicago next month, and this time they are making sure that their furry friend is invited. I always plan a little bit early to ensure that whenever families come to visit that they have a great time. Adding a dog to the mix makes it a bit trickier but I’ve shared some tips and tricks that I use, with them. Here are some tricks that I've picked up over the years.
The Right Kind of Crate
While I'm not a fan of the crate all the time, it is one of the best things to bring with you on vacations because pets need a comfortable place to relax and sleep. If you plan any activities where you have to leave the dog alone, a create is also the best idea and will ensure that she is comfortable. I take her out before and after she goes into the crate as well so she burns off some energy.
Try Road Trips Instead
A road trip is the best way to travel with your pup because she stays in a familiar place and gets to smell lots of places along the way. It's also known that dogs just do not do well with airplanes. Dogs have to travel in crates in cargo on airplanes, which can be kind of frightening for any animal or person. I think if you are going to travel try to avoid an airplane at all costs. A car may take longer but your dog will feel much more safe and secure and will love you for it!
Safety on the Water
Even though dogs are great swimmers, they do get tired like the rest of us. I make sure that my pup has an approved life vest on at all times when we are on the boat. You never know what my excited or startle her, and I definitely want to make sure that she stays on the boat with us, and if she does jump in, she has a floating device to ensure that she's okay.
Pick a Better Hotel
I looked for a few different hotel options in Chicago for them that had pet-friendly policies. I know that most hotels allow pets, but are they really pet-friendly? I found a few hotels with doggy day care, dog parks and even free breakfast for dogs that make it easy and fun to bring along your pet. Downtown Chicago will offer my extended family great hotel options that are even close to all the sites!
I hope these tips and tricks help you and your family. I know when we’ve implemented them, everyone has a better time, relaxing and enjoying the sun together.