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Dog Friendly Summers

When I was a kid, our family traveled by car from southwestern Connecticut each summer to spend a week or so with my grandparents who had a wonderful old rambling farmhouse in the northwest part of Massachusetts, right below the Vermont border. To save money, we often took our little Volkswagen bug and of course, we took our dog Patches, an energetic mixed breed we thought to be part terrier of some kind and part Beagle. Mom and Dad sat in front, my two brothers and I sat in back and Patches rode behind us in a small area behind the back seat we called the “way back”. In the early 1960s, air conditioning was almost unheard of in homes or in cars and Patches soon grew hot as the car's back window was right over her with the sun beaming down on her. Soon, my brothers and I were getting our shoulders and necks wet as she panted. By the time we arrived at Grammie and Grampy's house almost 3 hours later, the three of us were pretty well drenched with dog saliva.The interesting thing about Patches was that throughout her life, whenever she had the chance to break out of our house and go on a follow-the-scent adventure, she did, with tremendous gusto. But she never did this when we were packing the car to leave for our summer vacation. Instead she would run out the back door, up the path toward the garage and hop in the car and wait for us to join her. It was as if she was saying, “Now I know you're busy with all those suitcases and the food, but please don't forget me!”

As a pet sitter for over 25 years, I know how emotionally difficult and even agonizing it can be for many dogs when their owners leave them to go away. I have seen dogs who wouldn't eat, some who shook like a leaf and those who literally vomited. So, if you have the chance to take your dog with you on vacation, she will be delighted! You can easily go online to find motels that welcome pets and today, there are even many camps for dogs and their owners where the two of you can spend each day doing activities specifically designed to enhance your time together. Some, for example, are very specialized like those that feature agility or herding. Don't forget boating, camping or hiking trips either – we are so fortunate in the US to have a huge array of large and small national and local parks – there is bound to be one or even several within easy driving distance that you and your dog can visit. Just type “dog friendly vacations” into your search engine for pages of ideas that you and your 4-legged friend can check out.

Some tips for traveling with your dog:

  • Make sure your dog has enough room in your car to easily stand, turn around and lie down. If it's not too hot or windy, open the window a bit to let some fresh air in and if you stop to eat, always leave the window open enough to keep your dog physically comfortable. Better yet, find a shady parking space and adjust the windows so your dog is neither too hot nor too cool. Be sure never to leave your dog in a hot car for more than a couple of minutes. 
  • Pack your dog's water and food bowls (always have fresh, cool water available for your dog in the car and offer it when you stop for a travel break) along with his leash, treats, food, any medications and poop bags. There are also booster seats for smaller traveling dogs so they can look out the window, harnesses for the back seat that act like doggie seat belts, collapsible lightweight water bowls for your backpack and a myriad of other neat gadgets that make hitting the road with your dog easier and more fun. 
  • Many airlines now offer special travel accommodations for your pet if you decide  to fly – check with the airlines beforehand. I recommend those that will allow your well-behaved dog on board and not in the baggage compartment of the plane – it can get warm and lonely in there.
  • If you do stay in a motel, bring your dog's blanket and an article of clothing that smells like you for the times when you cannot take your dog with you. It may also be a good idea to take a portable folding crate too, as that often has a calming effect on dogs who think of it as their den. Place the blanket, some toys, a couple of teats and your clothing in the crate and tell your dog you'll be back soon.

Though our dog Patches never had the benefit of attending a dog camp, she loved her vacation time up at the “Farm” as we called it. She spent many happy days outside, running around, eagerly sniffing everything in complete safety – she truly was a happy camper! Plan a vacation with your dog and enjoy that special memory-making time you'll have together, whether it's at a park, by the water or at one of the many specialty places that cater to creating dog/human fun.


Debbie Dobson, FizzNiche Staff Writer