As those who have been following our exploits these past few weeks on social media can attest, a big part of the fun on our inaugural road trip has been having our four-legged companion, Little Daisy, along for the ride. (Visit Daisy’s Facebook page here).
Daisy is a small Pekingese and rat terrier mix who has been part of our family for over 12 years. We were smitten the instant we saw her at the dog pound (who could have ever let that sweet little face out of their life?!), and she has been a delight ever since. Now that “the girl” is almost 15 years old, she has some special needs that, while they aren’t totally debilitating, definitely could impact the quality of her daily life if we didn’t make accommodations at home. Given that, we were curious as to how things would work out on this extended trip, and we’re happy to say, having her along has been just wonderful!
Daisy has always been a great road tripper. Her first lengthy trip in the car was with me – Minnesota back to Michigan for a visit. She settled right into the front seat and was sound asleep within a few minutes, awakening for stops. Now that she is elderly, Daisy is into extreme napping during the day. And her personality, while always friendly and happy, is considerably more mellow now. Like many of us, she may get around more slowly and tentatively, especially in new places because her vision and hearing are now impaired, but she wants to be along for the ride.
Some tips for you as you travel with an older dog by car for extended periods:
1. Keeping up might be hard. Small dogs like Daisy have to take 3 times as many steps to keep up with their humans. Hot sidewalks or rugged terrain will be difficult for extended periods. Extreme temperatures – it’s been in excess of 90 degrees throughout Wyoming and Montana while we’ve been here, for example, except at higher altitudes – will accelerate fatigue. Plan your stops and activities accordingly.
2. Make a familiar, comfortable place in the vehicle. We’re using Daisy’s bed from home in the back seat of the car, which can go into the hotel room with her at the end of the driving day. Daisy travels on the passenger side in the back seat with her own tote bag close at hand. We recommend investing in a roll-up perforated window shade like you would have for a baby’s carseat area. Invariably, as the sun travels through the sky on longer driving days, it will quickly bake passengers on the dog’s side of the car. Several of our friends have recommended some sort of restraining/seat belt system for her, but we have yet to purchase one. I admit the thought of a car accident injuring the dog is distressing, but I also know that it would be hard for her to rest comfortably, too, depending upon the system we’d select. Without her sight, she wouldn’t be able to tell what we were doing by restraining her.
3. Daisy’s tote bag has her leash, nail clippers (nails grow fast on an older dog who doesn’t get as much exercise), travel dishes with lids, brush (Daisy can produce an incredible amount of hair for someone who is so small), water bottle and treats. Keeping your dog’s stuff in one place might seem like an obvious tip, but it has saved us time and frustration, so it’s a good reminder. I also brought along a lint roller to remove dog hair from the car seats and clothing.
4. When making travel arrangements, look for pet-friendly accommodations. PassingThru Travel’s search capabilities has made this easy. What we’ve generally done is decide one or two days ahead of time where we’ll be, punched in the location, and modified the search function to include “pets allowed.” On one occasion the search result was at odds with the hotel’s actual policy. No worries! We just signed on to PassingThru Travel and via live chat with a real person who made all the alternative arrangements, we were set. Sometimes hotels or motels will have a daily fee for pets. While Daisy is small enough to “sneak into” places that don’t allow pets (she fits quite nicely in the average tote bag!), out of consideration for other guests I don’t make a habit of flaunting pet policy.
The best welcome Daisy has ever had was at the House of Blues Hotel in downtown Chicago, where my query about kenneling was firmly countered with, “Oh no, we LOVE pets at the House of Blues!” The staff went on to greet and treat Daisy as a VIP, calling her by name upon arrival and sending up a silver bowl (yes!) of special treats to the room prior to her arrival. I was chopped liver by comparison, let me tell you. She even got to sit at the bar for Happy Hour!
5. Leaving pets unattended is risky. Daisy’s personality is so relaxed that she can be left alone while we go out for a meal or take in an attraction. However, in the extreme heat, we can’t leave her in the car in the sun, even for a minute. Instead, we seek a shaded parking spot and leave the windows open. We also have the option to shield the sunroof, which can make a 5 to 10 degree difference in the car’s temperature. Many hotels would like you to kennel your dog or not leave it in the hotel room at all when you are going to be out. Only you know what your dog’s personality is like; if they will be anxious while you are gone, figure out what your alternatives are rather than inconvenience other guests or hotel staff.
6. Know your pet’s potty routines and signals. Away from home can impact potty routines. Keeping feeding schedules and the pet’s food consistent with home goes a long way toward predictability. Even so, you need to be flexible. Take the opportunity to offer water at every potty stop to keep your dog properly hydrated, and take advantage of places like rest areas and gas stations to let the dog potty. Plastic bags for poop disposal come on easy to dispense rolls and should be tucked into your purse or in a leash attachment.
7. Take advantage of the attention your dog will get from other dog lovers. Daisy never fails to make new friends wherever we are. Lots of folks mistake her for a puppy because of her size. Many want to hold her and have a photo op. We’ve decided to take advantage of this natural icebreaker and have had lots of wonderful encounters with other travelers.
8. General health issues. Daisy is vision- and hearing-impaired, but otherwise her health is generally good. Her vaccinations are up to date and a PDF copy of her immunization record is on my computer in case of emergency needs. I have generally noticed a vet clinic wherever we have stayed for the night. Smartphones will locate the nearest clinic in case you need one, too. But the best policy we’ve used is to refrain from activities or anticipate situations where you can make good decisions with the dog’s safety in mind. That means no hiking over rough terrain, judicious oversight in high altitude pull-outs, etc. We look after the dog as we would a small child.
There is no better companion on the road than a canine friend who has been part of your life for so long. Using these simple parameters has been easy to make Little Daisy’s experience traveling with us positive and happy. It’s exactly where we all want her to be for as long as she can.
Feel free to share any other tips you find helpful in traveling with pets (elderly or not)! Thanks, as always, for sharing the journey.