Over the past few years, there has been untold kilometres (or miles for my American friends) pass under the tires of my car, all with my faithful mutts happily snoring away in the backseat. Yes it paints an idyllic image doesn’t it: open roads, some happy song wafting out the windows as we merrily make our to some exciting locale that will welcome the wayward travellers with open arms, and hopefully a steaming cup of java.
If only that were the case. Here are a few of the things that no one can prepare you for when you road trip alone with your dogs. In no particular order…
- Not everyone likes dogs. It’s crazy I know. I have had people literally run across the street to avoid the dogs. Children scream and parents yank them close to get them away my slavering brood. I get it: some places have packs of feral dogs that can and will attack people so I can understand the deep-seated and very rational fear of some that grew up in a place like that. Someone born and raised here I find a little harder to cope with. Now before anyone starts with the “they may have been attacked as a child”, I almost lost an eye to a dog bite, I’m covered in scars from bites and nail gouges, and my brother has a very obvious bite scar on his face. That is all I will say about it.
- A lot of people love dogs. For every person that’s scared of dogs, there are probably fifty that aren’t and a dozen that LOVE them. It can take us a long time to walk a very short distance because so many people want to visit with the dogs. There are very few times that I have ever minded though because…
- Dogs are great for breaking the ice. First it starts with the dogs they had growing up or the ones they couldn’t bring with them and the next thing you know, you’re finding out about great places to eat or amazing hikes or must-see sights. Approaching a couple or a group is a bit harder, but one woman with her pack is a little less intimidating. There’s also the emotional impact that they can have. I watched a woman break down into tears because she had just put her dog down and my dogs gave her a bit of the love that she missed. I was wiping away tears when she walked away…because I got fur in my eye…yeah that’s it…
- Forget about meals with tablecloths. If, and it’s a big if, you can find a restaurant with a dog-friendly patio, they are usually not high-dining establishments. That’s not to say they won’t have delicious food, they just aren’t likely to have proper silverware and cloth napkins.
- Learn how to pee like a champ. You figure out how to answer nature’s call faster than you thought possible, either because you left your dogs tied up outside or because they are in the car. Pee breaks are usually scheduled around my walnut-sized bladder so the dogs get lots of short walks and water. Sometimes the occasional game of tug breaks out.
- Cities become harder to navigate. Not the driving part because that will always be a drag. I’m talking about walking down the sidewalk with your pack. It seems that just letting a single person pass by on the sidewalk is hard enough but for some reason there’s this tendency to just keep walking at me. Is it like a game of chicken? Is it being territorial? Is it “why should I move for you?” I won’t lie: there have been a few times when someone has been really ignorant and I have walked right into them. Sweetie, if you want to play games I will put on my big girl pants if I have to. Then if there’s a small shop where I want to run in and grab a coffee or a snack (remember we always support small local businesses), it can be tricky to find a sturdy place to tie them up that won’t block the door or interfere with anyone on the sidewalk. Oh and forget about doing any touristy stuff like museums or shopping.
- Everyone will judge you. They will judge you for walking your dogs, not walking your dogs, leaving them in the car, tying them up outside, eating a meal on a patio when it’s hot, giving them tiny bits of your food. You will be judged for everything and anything.
- The Secret Service could take lessons on protection. No one gets near without me knowing it and as a solo woman traveller, it’s nice to know they always have my back. The dogs aren’t aggressive about it and they just assume that if someone is getting close, then it’s to give them the loving that they deserve. Good luck to anyone who wants to try to pick my pocket.
- It gets a lot harder to find a place to stay. Hotels love to charge pet fees or put ridiculous restrictions on the size and number of pets per room. Since all hotels that are part of a chain are individually owned and operated, you can’t just assume that they will all accept your dogs. Forget about third party apps like Expedia having accurate information too. Camping is often a way to get around the rising cost of hotels but even some places, like the state parks in New York State, restrict the number of dogs per site (it’s two by the way and they require proof of rabies vaccinations).
- You will never find better travelling companions. Even with not being able to be a tourist or eat at any restaurant that I want or go to a museum or not be gouged to stay in a hotel, there is no one that I would rather travel with than my dogs. They are up for whatever adventure I can think of, they never complain, and they are always happy to see where the road takes us.