Ariel, our faithful companion of six years, has made several car trips with us. She went to Destin, Florida, a few years back. She rode 16 hours with our family to Bar Harbor, Maine, last summer. She’s never had a problem with traveling.
Unless you count the nervousness she had riding to work with me during the construction phase on I-75 a couple years ago. She really got anxious when the lanes would split and sometimes we would be driving in the area that would normally be a shoulder. Those rumble strips put her on edge (literally)!
Thankfully she has never experienced any car sickness. Just over-stimulation as she watches motorcycles pass. Especially the loud ones; those really excite her. As do any squirrels or other dogs that we might pass.
For several years now, our family of five has gone tent camping with some friends from church. Our friends have a camper, but our family has always slept in a tent. And since we are all boys (with the exception of my wife), the tent was just fine. Until last year, when as every good tent story goes, we put the tent up in the rain.
We put it up in the rain. We slept in puddles. We were damp and cold and miserable. Our tent-camping days were numbered. So we purchased a camper. We wanted something just a notch above a tent, but we did not get a pop-up. We had to have hard sides.
Our reasoning: Not only was Ariel going to be camping with us, but our oldest son had just purchased his first puppy at the beginning of summer. Camp Ferguson now consisted of five bipeds and two “walk on four feet” campers.
Camping with the dogs has been great. But it also has its challenges. We just got back from our third camping trip of the summer. All three places have been dog-friendly, but this latest excursion was the most pet-accommodating. They even had the nice pet waste stations with bags and a mini-trash can.
If you’re an early riser, like myself, waking up in the morning is the first challenge. Our dogs are used to being fed at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. As soon as I would wake up in our very tiny camper, both Ariel and Bailey were ready to go out for their morning constitutions and breakfast. Trying to get Bailey out of his crate and get leashes on both dogs without waking anybody up is daunting.
During their morning walks, trying to keep the leashes from two different dogs with independent thinking strategies from wrapping around your legs was the second challenge. Followed closely by trying to keep them quiet if they would see a squirrel or another dog. Lord knows I didn’t want to wake up the entire campground.
Next came wiping their dew-soaked feet and all the sand they collected off before letting them back in the camper. Which failed. We slept in a bed composed of sheets, wet dog fur and sand all weekend.
Do you remember how I mentioned that Ariel has fortunately never had car sickness? Not so for Bailey. However, he doesn’t have traditional car sickness where he drools and throws up. His is more of a stress colitis kind, where he has diarrhea for a couple days after his trip. Both ways. Two days after we got to the campground, and now two days after we got home.
Being a responsible pet owner and picking up after your dog’s waste is just common courtesy, whether at home or away. But how do you pick up stool that has the consistency of water? You don’t. Crap. Literally.
Walking the dogs around the campground or taking them on a hike was easy. But what do you do during that excursion to town when the whole family goes to get groceries or gas or to race go-karts?
We left Ariel and Bailey in the camper with the air-conditioner running. Bailey, not being fully house-trained yet, was in his crate. Ariel, being fully competent, was left free in the camper. Our biggest concern for her was barking. She is obsessively attached to my wife. Whenever Kristen is gone, Ariel is on high alert for her. She stares out the windows at home looking for Kristen or her van to come back. We didn’t want her to bother our camping neighbors while we were gone. Which is actually why we left the air-conditioner on; to drown out outside noises and dampen her sensitivity. Apparently it worked; we heard no complaints.
Traveling, pottying, keeping things somewhat cleanand not bothering our neighbors. These were our major concerns. Things weren’t always pretty, but we accomplished our objective of camping with the dogs. Success! I’ll keep you posted on our future adventures.
Dr. Adam Ferguson is owner of Baker Animal Hospital in Cridersville. He is not the rugged outdoorsman that may have been conveyed. He is more of a lake rat. Thankfully his sons have Kristen. She is one tough mother trucker.