Have Dog, Will Travel

“Seventeen, Maise Maise, seventeen!” I yell to the back seat where Maisie is — or more accurately, was — sleeping quietly. We have just crossed the state line from Indiana into Michigan, thereby bringing her to her 17th state. She has been with us for nearly nine months and we have been keeping a tally of her travels, starting with her first road trip down to Austin, Texas three short weeks after we adopted her. Ever since that first trip, she has been proving herself worthy to follow in her brother’s footsteps as a Great Travel Dog.

In case it may not yet be apparent to readers of the blog, I am a big proponent of dog companionship. Whether it is to get you outside, to keep you warm, to teach you how to love, or just to have someone to talk to when you work at home alone — day after day, with no structure, no other humans around, which really, you kind of prefer, except for those times when you would rather not go slightly crazy and become like that guy in the Oatmeal cartoon — a dog really is the ideal partner.

Of course, preaching about the boundless beauty dogs bring into your life to those who are not in the know (and actually, even to those in the know) can be a fruitless pursuit. But still I try. When I see someone who is perpetually sad, or someone who is in danger of becoming one with their couch, Netflix, and a cheap bottle of wine, or someone who has forgotten the joy of just going for a walk in the snow, I persist in nudging them towards dog ownership. I guess you could say I’m kind of a born-again dog owner, proselytizing to anyone and everyone who will listen, about how much I have been saved by my personal relationship with Dog.

There are so many reasons why people choose to forgo adopting a dog and I get it, I really do get it. Maisie is a time commitment. Dogs need walks and training and playtime and all of these things take time and energy, both of which are in short supply in too many people’s lives.

Easily, though, the biggest reason I hear for not getting a dog is this one: “I want to travel.” And that, dear readers, is the topic of this week’s blog. Because with the exception of those miserable five weeks in between Henry’s death and Maisie’s arrival, I have had a dog in my life for nearly 16 years. In that time, I have traveled to (or at the very least through) 48 states, plus British Columbia, France, Italy, Switzerland, England, and Ireland. The only places on that list a dog did not accompany me are Hawaii and the European countries.

This photo was not taken in Hawaii.
This photo was not taken in Hawaii.

So, if you are even remotely considering adopting a dog, but wonder if you will spend the rest of your days shackled to your home, fear not! I am a blue-highway-finding, dog-loving, gypsy soul and traveling troubadour, and here are my top ways to deal with the “I want to travel so I can’t have a dog” issue.

Bring the dog with you!! 

This solution is, hands down, my favorite. Just a day or two after I brought a seven week old Henry home, I plopped him in the back seat of my Subaru wagon to make the 50 mile drive from our home in Dolores, Colorado to Durango. About five minutes in, he got on the floor behind my seat and puked. After that first minor hiccup, though, he was an amazing travel dog and came with me nearly every where I went, including all but one of our tours (and that one was only a two-night jaunt). We eventually got to the point where we called our van his kennel-on-wheels.

And little Maisie is following suit. (Her first voyage was far more successful than Henry’s. She settled in on her bed, which was tucked between us and slept…all the way to Iowa City!)

Pet friendly hotels are growing more and more plentiful and are no longer just limited to Motel6 and Super8, though those are always great options if you are traveling on a budget. Henry and I once visited my sister when she was at a conference in Vancouver, BC. She does not travel on a budget and so Henry and I enjoyed one of the nicest hotels (four stars!) I’ve had the pleasure of staying in, dog or no. (To this day, I love the fact that my most-likely-inbred-mutt overnighted at such a fine establishment.)

Wood buckets also make excellent dog carriers.
Wood buckets also make excellent dog carriers.

I should note, however, that I do not advocate traveling by airplane with your dog unless your dog is small enough to bring in the cabin (and even little, tiny Maisie is too big for that). There are plenty of people who do fly with their dogs, but there would not be enough alcohol on the plane for me to survive the worry that would accompany Maisie being locked in cargo. This line of thinking, however, has helped me fall in love with the Art of the Road Trip and I have come to believe that it is far more enjoyable to take two days to get somewhere, and see this fantastic country along the way, then it will ever be to fly, with or without my dog. Let’s face it, flying kind of sucks these days. That said, there is always option two:

Leave the dog with a trusted dog-owning friend

In spite of my membership in the I-hate-to-fly club, I do realize there may be a time when I want to go somewhere in which flying will be necessary (for example, that European or Hawaiian vacation we would like to do sometime). My next favorite option is leaving the dog with her best dog buddy and their family. We had a friend in Seattle who would take Henry the few times we traveled without him. They lived on 40 acres and had another dog and lots of woods in which to wander. After that, I think Henry seriously questioned his human companions for choosing to live in our one bedroom, third floor apartment in the city.

For this reason, it is a good idea to establish a few best buddies for your pup and be willing to take turns with dog care. I view helping people out with their pets in the same manner that I view helping people move: jump at the opportunity to do either. Karma is a delightful thing that way (or conversely, it can be a bitch when you’ve been stingy with your willingness to help out). If your karma points are on the low side, or your dog is anti-social, or you just don’t have the dog network thing worked out yet, you can consider option three:

Leave the dog with a trusted friend (who deep down inside really, really wants a dog)

When we first adopted Maisie, I had several people, right out of the gate, offer to take her if we ever went away. It was lovely to know that she was that popular. These offers, of course, happened before we learned that she was, oh, how shall we say, a bit reactive. But her insanely cute face and exceptional indoor behavior have overridden that wee issue, and besides, she really has come a long, long way. Still, in the event that there is no one smart enough to take your dog, you can move on to option four:

Hire a house sitter

While I have taken this approach in the past, it is not my go-to, mostly because of the undue additional stress it puts on me when I am trying to get ready to leave for a trip. Hiring house sitters is the domain of people with cute and charming abodes (into which category our house falls) who also know how to keep a nice clean and tidy house (into which category I apparently do not fall).

My dining room table (or why I cannot have a house sitter)
My dining room table (or why I cannot have a house sitter)

This solution is probably also a good one for older dogs or dogs who might experience a little more anxiety when separated from their owner. (Henry once went to stay overnight with a friend who grew so weary of his wandering around the house and periodically plopping himself down with a heavy sigh like a petulant child, only to repeat the whole cycle, that the friend eventually packed up his sleeping bag and brought Henry back to our house so they both could get some sleep.) But if you’re less inclined to have someone stay at your house, for whatever reason, there is option five:

Board your dog

I swear, if I ever have to board a dog again, it might be worth the three-day trip all the way back to the Pacific Northwest so my dog can stay at the Bone-A-Fide Dog Ranch. Henry stayed there on my one and only trip to Hawaii and I have never seen him more exhausted, from the sheer amount of play he experienced, than when I picked him up. Seriously, go check out their site. You will wish you were a dog. (My favorite part of that experience, outside knowing how much fun he was going to have, was the envelope I noticed attached to his food bag when I picked him up. I feared it was a bill for some additional expense I missed, but no, it was a photo of Henry on Santa’s lap, with a bow on top of his head and the biggest damn smile I think I have ever seen him wearing.)

And, yes, even I realize how completely ridiculous it would be to travel clear across the country to board your dog (though, really, looking at Bone-A-Fide’s website makes me want to go and stay there), so that being said, there are many, many trustworthy and wonderful kennels in just about every part of the country.

There you have it: all the ways “I want to travel” and “I want a dog” are not mutually exclusive. Truth be told, though, I’m really not that interested in going anywhere without Maisie. We’re saving up for an RV so we can hit those blue highways in style. Let me know if you have one you want to donate.

Trying not to freeze our tails off on Lake Huron.
Trying not to freeze our tails off on Lake Huron.

* * * * *

So, dear readers, how do you find balance between the joy of living with your animal companions and a little bit of wanderlust? Are you content to stay at home? Or maybe you really do just prefer to go pet-free and see the world. Whatever your thoughts on the topic, I love to hear from you, so feel free to use the comment section below!

8 Replies to “Have Dog, Will Travel”

  1. We have a friend who stays at our house with Monkey when we go. (She ignores our mess and leaves all my dust where I left it)

    I laughed when you said Maisie was a bit “reactive”. Monkey is bat-shit crazy! He is now no longer welcome at the dog park, he bit the dog trainer we hired and got expelled from puppy manner school. He has bitten or tried to bite half of our neighbors…mind you he is only five pounds, but still….his surly personality makes him easy not to warm up to…

    But he still travels with us when we go somewhere he has not already burned his bridges (like my sister-in-laws house: he terrorized their cats)


    1. Kristina, that is hilarious! Of course, I realize it might not be so hilarious to live with, but still. You guys have hearts of gold and that must be so good for little Monkey! Maisie really is just loud and obnoxious when she barks. Much more “all bark and no bite.”


  2. I should say, in Monkey’s defense, his behavior has improved quite a bit since we got him. He was very troubled when we adopted him. But after almost two years, he seldom bites Neil more than once a day now.


    1. Oh, poor Neil! Poor little Monkey! Thank goodness for kind hearted souls willing to give a troubled rescue a good home (and friends willing to ignore a little dust in service of said dog!).


  3. Dogs should be allowed on commercial flights in the cabin. Just buy him/her a ticket and say he is a therapy dog that you must have or you yourself will go batshit crazy as soon as the landing gear goes up. Worth a try. It is not as if the airlines don’t allow animals in the cabin. I have seen cats and dogs and even a ferret or two being carried on.


    1. I’ve definitely thought about the “therapy dog” option, just not sure how well it will, um, fly. But yes, it is worth looking into. (Though, truthfully, I love road trips, soooo much more than flying!)


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