As you are likely aware, dogs can be real assholes. They pee on lots of things, bark at everything else, and chew stuff that doesn’t belong to them. Sometimes, though, you find a real cute one. You are blinded by his powerful puppy stare, the panting tongue-wagging smile, and promise of unconditional love. You temporarily forget the bad stuff and all of the sudden you’re a dog owner. At least that’s what happened to me with my little man, Stanley. He’s incredible looking—almost handsome and cute at the same time, you know? He’s also a pretty aggressive cuddler, which is a delight 75% of the time.
Anyway, should you be a person who, like me, overlooked a dog’s shortcomings and took one as a pet (or if you just happen to be one of those other people who loves animals and therefore has a dog), you know that travel can be mighty difficult. Somehow these little creatures burrow a hole into our hearts and now we can’t go anywhere without them.
“I can’t leave Sparky home during the holidays, he’ll miss all the fun!”
“But it’s not vacation without all the family members. Of course Pickles has to come to Disney.”
“Ella’s feeding schedule is pretty complicated, I’m not sure I trust just anyone to take care of her. Make it a honeymoon for three.”
These are all valid points. Also, pet sitters are expensive. So what do you do when you have to take your pooch on the road? Well, dogs can’t go on buses or trains and I’ve heard flying is crazy complicated. It looks like you only have one choice: find yourself a minivan and continue reading. It’s time to get ready to road trip with your canine.
Throw the dog and a bag of food in the car and you’re done. You don’t have to worry about anything else until you get to where you’re going, right? There are bound to be bowls when you get there and the dog can go a few hours without water, right?
It’s best if you just start thinking of your dog as a child—a permanent child. It’s cool if you forget to pack your own toothbrush, but if one thing is absent from that dog bag, you better feel some shame because you’ve already ruined the trip. A cranky dog makes for a cranky car.
You’re going to need:
1. Food and a bottle of water. Yes, your dog can go hours at a time without both at home, but once you put him in the car, all bets are off. Time is a different beast in a minivan—it’s like all bodily processes speed up and there’s no telling what might happen, which is why you also need
2. Poop bags handy. Oh, Fido usually only goes twice a day? Well he’s going to be spreading his nervous car-tummy all down the highway and everyone hates those people who don’t pick up after their dogs. Now that I think of it, wet wipes are pretty essential for this whole thing too. You’ll see.
3. Toys for when you get there. He’s going to need to occupy himself while the grown-ups catch-up.
4. Lint roller. Car-tummy isn’t the only side effect of travel—your dog is going to shed like a son of a bitch.
I guess that’s it. But every piece of the puzzle is essential.
If you’re particularly forgetful, pack the dog’s bag a day or so in advance and put it with your other luggage. Your dog will be so excited that all his stuff has been gathered into one place that he’ll also try to get into the bag. He will continue to try to fit into the bag until it’s time to go. And boom: there’s the dog and his bag right where you need them. Trust me, the only thing worse than forgetting a dog toy is forgetting the dog.
Once everyone is in the car, take some time to put your pup at ease, put that key in the ignition and get on the road. Fingers-crossed it won’t be raining when you do because windshield wipers are extremely confusing and disconcerting. At least, for Stanley they are. Once he gets going it’s like being trapped in an echo chamber with a crazy person who can only communicate through high-pitched bursts of noise directly in your ear. Then you’ll start to lose your shit and the driver can’t concentrate and everyone is angry and scared.
It’s possible that’s not a fear for all dogs, and Stanley usually settles down after an hour or so. It’s fine; don’t worry about it too much.
Just remember that rain can complicate things.
Rest stops are essential when you have a dog in the car. You’re definitely going to want to stretch your legs and maybe get some sweet fast food and your dog is going to appreciate the opportunity to bark at strangers. Why not let the other weirdos traveling Route 95 get a taste of what you’ve been dealing with for the past two States?
Eventually you’ll arrive at your destination, a little harried, but secure in the fact that your dog won’t miss any fun, he is a member of the family after all, and now his nutrition isn’t in question, thank God.
In conclusion, here are takeaways for when you travel with a dog: bring all of his stuff, hope that you don’t encounter inclement weather, and everyone loves a rest stop. I hope this top secret insider information will make your next trip with the dog an enjoyable one!