Dogs in the car [photo by John d'Addario]Enlarge Photo
A couple of months ago, as summer arrived, I put together a checklist of things to consider before taking a vacation with your pets. Of course, millions of folks prefer to leave their furry friends in the care of a kennel or trusted friend -- and that's just fine -- but for me, bringing the pets along is the only way to go.
However, taking a road trip with cats and dogs is a far, far cry from taking them to the vet or the city park. It requires a great deal of planning and forethought. Skip the strategizing, and the stress you'll encounter down the road will turn your "vacation" into real work.
My partner and I have four dogs, ranging in size from fairly old (12 years) to fairly young (1.5 years), and from very small (10 pounds) to very large (120+). As an added bonus, the youngest also happens to be the biggest. And in some wacky joke from the universe, he's also deaf.
This year, we decided to take all four of them with us on our vacation to Cape Cod -- which wouldn't be a big deal, except that we live in New Orleans, meaning 3,300 miles round-trip, or six long days of driving. We'd traveled shorter distances with The Hounds (as we call them, Monty Burns-style), but never anything this long. How would they do? And, more importantly, how would my partner and I do?
I'm happy to report that we all survived and that I picked up a few new tips along the way:
1. Restrain your pets: If you're traveling with a cat, this is a no-brainer: as great as cats can be, they're pretty iffy when it comes to spoken commands, so keeping them in a traveling cage will make things far simpler for all parties. But where dogs are concerned, people are a bit more lax. Ideally, you should crate your dogs during travel, but if that's not an option, consider harnessing them, or at the very least, creating a barrier between the back seat and the front. A recent study indicated that 65% of dog-owners had been distracted by their pets while traveling, and we all know what distracted driving can lead to. Be safe, not sorry.
2. Keep the leashes on: There are probably a number of veterinary surveys that say this is a bad idea, but chances are those vets don't have "bolters" in their pack. We do, and on more than one occasion, the only thing that's kept him from darting out into the parking area of a rest stop has been my superhuman ability to nab his bright orange leash. I'm sure some will worry that keeping leashes on could be uncomfortable, but once the dogs settle down, they're likely to spend most of the road trip snoozing. As long as the leash isn't caught in the door or on something else that restricts their movement, they should be fine.