Traveling Dog Lady: July 2014

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.