Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Other Pet Travel Necessities

Besides our travel crate, pet travel bag, and water bottle/bowl, the following are other things I have forgotten to bring in the past. Now that I have a list, I'll be more organized:

1. Pet medical and immunization records - I asked my vet for a copy of Seymour's records in case I needed them for an emergency or needed to board him for some reason. I carry two copies and highlighted the immunizations. The only issue is that if you did need to board your dog, the regulations for how often a dog needs a rabies vaccine or other immunizations is different around the country. Its even different between the 2 adjoining counties near my home.

2. At least 2 sizes of bungee cords. I have had to hook Seymour to a railing outside of a restaurant while I ordered a take-out meal. When I do, I make sure he is within my sight the whole time. I usually don't try the "pet purse" trick in restaurants - usually. I've also tied his leash to a tree while I've set up camp.

3. Just like a child, Seymour has his favorite stuffed animal and blankets that come with us. I put his stuffed animal in his crate at night (when he's not sleeping with me) and in the morning, he gently picks it up and takes it out of the crate showing me that they are both ready to start their day - this melts my heart which I'm sure also lowers my blood pressure! I'm "in" to natural remedies and what is more natural than a pet?

4. Seymour is picky about his treats - he only eats Chicken Tender Strips so I always bring lots of those. Even if he doesn't eat his dog food, I know he can't resist a couple of those treats each day.

5. An extra doggie bowl and his food are obviously a must.

6. A necessity to me includes bringing a few of his outfits - like his raincoat, and a sweater or shirt, depending on the temperature. This isn't really frivolous because people are more friendly to us when Seymour is dressed in his finest. This often leads Seymour to a new butt to smell (the dogs, not the owners), tips on places to visit that are dog-friendly, and just general pleasant conversations. So, the clothes are pretty much a necessity. The one thing I will never do is wear a matching outfit with Seymour. Neither of us is in to that sort of thing.

We were finally ready for our first trip.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pet Travel Bag

The next thing I knew I needed was a travel bag for Seymour to hide - I mean - ride in. This is a "don't ask, don't tell" necessity. Some places are very pet-friendly and some are neutral; many are anti-pet and I hope to make a dent in that group.

It is well known that pets can improve our health and the health of those who come in contact with them. Think about therapy dogs, nursing homes that have resident dogs or cats and just the calmness that comes over us when petting or resting with our own animals. It's a great natural remedy for what ails us.

When I was in Europe I was struck by how pet-friendly it was. I took a picture of a dog in a meat market (not in the case) in Italy, dogs in a hair salon in France and dogs in the department stores in England. All were happily attached to their humans. I wish that Seymour could experience that freedom here.

But, until that day comes, he could experience a little more liberty through the front mesh window of his travel bag. This bag has also been very helpful to me when I have no choice but to bring him with me. For example, most highway rest stops have an area where dogs can walk and do what they need to do, but they can't come with us into the restrooms. If the temperature is over 100 degrees, there is no way I am leaving him in the car for even 5 minutes, even with the windows cracked.

I can't see why he cannot accompany me into a stall if he is enclosed in his carrier. He's happy being with me and I'm happy to not have to do the 100 yard dash. I think there should at least be permission to allow a pet into certain places if they are in an enclosed carrier.

There are all kinds of pet travel bags. The one I found has a zippered opening in the side and on the top so Seymour can stick his head out and enjoy the breezes. There is plenty of room for him to lay down in it. The nice thing is that it has straps that can easily and comfortably be used as a shoulder bag. The only little problem is that when he wants to, Seymour can push up and basically unzip the top with his head. I have been "caught" on occasion when I was leisurely strolling through a shop and suddenly a dog head pops out of my purse!

Once I was tersely told "I have to ask you to leave". People around me who hadn't seen Seymour's head but heard that comment probably thought I'd been caught shoplifting. As I begin to write about our travels, I will be naming names of pet-friendly and not so friendly places. This place will definitely be named. I often pass it when I'm on the road, but will never go in again, even if Seymour isn't with me.

So, except for a few other basic necessities, this was all Seymour needed to be comfortable during our trips. I'll share the other necessities we bring next time.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

One of my favorite travel items

I'm a bit lazy and sometimes a little scattered in my approach to travel. I want to quickly gather what I need for Seymour and the items need to be simple and convenient to use. I'm the type of person who never checks a bag on a plane because I can fit everything I need into a carry-on and a back pack - even if I'm going to Europe for 2 weeks. So, when traveling in the States with my dog, I try to travel the same way.

This is not to say that I don't succumb to gadgets and cuteness. Seymour does have a wardrobe of clothes but my reasoning is that chihuahuas can get cold and need the warmth of a sweater or pea coat. And he can't take a walk on Halloween without wearing his costume or a muscle tee shirt on the beach. Did I mention that my children are all out of the house? OK, I digress.

So, I found a great water bottle with a folding trough that I've been using and loving for over a year. I won't go on a trip without it. There are many companies that make these bottles but the one I have it called the Gulpy Pet Water Dispenser. I got it at REI for under $10. By the way, I am not selling or profiting from any item I mention.

When I'm traveling by car, I keep it handy in a car seat pocket. I've read reviews of similar items and one complaint is that they leak. I have never had that problem. There is a flip trough attached to a water bottle and the only time water comes out is when you unhinge the trough and squeeze the bottle. Seymour loves to drink out of it. I continue to squeeze as he is drinking so he almost thinks he is drinking from a running faucet - or a dripping faucet. Seymour is a picky eater and drinker so finding something that encourages him to keep hydrated was a relief.

I do have a couple of small complaints with the Gulpy. First, it is quite a big bottle for Seymour. We could easily use one 1/2 the size and it would be more convenient to carry around. The one I have holds 20 ounces of water. But I have read reviews from people with large dogs who say it is too small - so maybe they need to make 3 sizes.

The other problem is when I take Seymour for a walk and clip the bottle to my jeans, it soon looks like I have a quacking duck bill (not the body) attached to me. The trough opens and closes and twists to my body movements. Now, I'm not a "sashay-er"; the hips make the normal movement of a well over 6 pound body, so I'm pretty sure the product design is the problem. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm thinking that wrapping a wide rubber band around both the bottle and trough should keep it from quacking.

The problems are minor compared to the convenience of having an easy-to-use one piece water/bowl. I like it so much that I plan to buy another, just in case this one breaks or gets lost.

Seymour was well on his way toward having the perfect and necessary travel accessories - and stylish travel wardrobe.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I wanted Seymour to travel with style so I started looking for more travel accessories. I found this perfect case that unfolded to show the two doggie bowls. It has a little bone on the front - how cute is that? I felt that this would make it easy to give him food and water on the road, and I would be proud to carry it around. Yes it's red but he's male enough to handle that.

On our first trip, we got to the hotel and I filled his bowls, waiting in anticipation for him to start eating. As soon as he started, I noticed that he was dropping bits of dog food into his water bowl - not on purpose but because he is a messy eater - and the bowls are pretty close together. It wasn't an appetizing site for me (and not picture worthy) but he didn't seem to mind.

As the trip went on, it started being a bit of a pain to open the case when we would stop at rest stops and I just needed to give him some water. With frequent opening and closing, the case lost a hinge and then the clip that holds it closed fell off. It was beginning to look like something I picked up out of the trash, especially when I had to put a large rubber band around it to keep it closed.

I still think it's cute but it probably wasn't made for extensive use - or I just got a defective case. I saved the bowls but finally disposed of the case.

Next time I'll show you Seymour's best travel item that we both can't do without.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Keeping Seymour Safe

After giving up on the doggie car seat, I looked around for other ways to keep Seymour safe. I found what I thought was a great idea. It's a portable travel crate that folds up to the size of the round window shades you put in your car. (I don't have a picture of it since I left it at a friend's house.)

There were a couple of problems with it from the start. First, once I unfolded it, I could never figure out how to get it back into that little circle shape. So that means I couldn't get it back into the cute little zippered case, which was one of the reasons I bought it in the first place - a nice compact case! It was also so unstable in the car that when I stopped the first time, Seymour rolled around in the crate like he was going down Niagara Falls in a barrel. Luckily he was in the back seat and didn't go very far. I still think that it is a good sleeping crate if we are going to visit friends or relatives for a night. As a car crate - we (both Seymour and I) decided to pass.

I then found a crate called Port-a-Crate. It has a good metal frame on a lightweight nylon-type fabric. Seymour immediately loved it and once he went in he didn't want to come out. It could be easily seat-belted in the back seat. As much as Seymour liked being in it, he liked more having the choice of when he came out of it. The crate has a zipper and can lock with just a clip.
The first time I tried it, I was in the house. I zipped him in and by the time I walked about 5 steps away, he had already unzipped it and was prancing happily by my side. I then decided to lock him in when he was riding in the car. It took a little longer than the unzipping but before I had gone very far, he had chewed his way through the mesh on the door and found his way to his favorite lumbar position behind my back. (I have to remember to have better posture when driving!)

Seymour is not normally a chewer - all of his stuffed animals look like new - but he's never had to find his way through a stuffed animal to freedom.
It was pretty easy to sew up the crate door (and you can see my handy-work in the picture above) so I still zip it when necessary - I just decided to give him the freedom of choice - no lock.

We were beginning to collect the doggie travel necessities that worked for us.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My First Travel Purchase

Being new to having a dog, I googled everything I could about traveling with pets. What was missing was honest information about pet products and issues with actually bringing a pet with you when you travel all in one easy to find location. So, I gleaned what I could and am learning the rest through trial and error.

My first "trial" was figuring out how to keep my dog safe in the car on a long trip. I finally bought a doggie car seat. I put it in the front passenger seat, which I now realize was probably not the safest place for it if the air bag went off. But on the other hand, I think having him beside me probably saved his life. I put him in the seat and hooked the short leash-like seat connection to his collar.

As you can see in the picture, he wasn't real sure about this seat or maybe he was thinking I was taking him to get those dreaded fast-growing nails clipped. Within about 15 minutes of leaving the house, he had circled so many times in his seat that I had to pull over and undo the hook so that he didn't choke. I got better at untangling him as I was driving but it wasn't a relaxing trip for either of us. He just couldn't settle down and curl up like a normal dog. I do have to explain that even when he poops he circles for about 3 minutes before his butt finds the exact position to do it's job. So, I guess the circling was to be expected.

That seat lasted only one trip. I know some people whose dogs love those seats - but Seymour isn't one of them. He could care less about looking out the window. Give him a dark small space to curl up and he's content.

Once I got rid of the seat, I decided to let him just find his own comfortable place to ride in the car. Unfortunately, his favorite place to ride was in the small space between my back and my seat. He happily became my lumbar support. This is even less safe than the doggie seat since he weighs about 6 pounds and I weigh - - - more than 6 pounds. I didn't even want to imagine how flat he would be if we had to make a quick stop. But you know that spot on your back that you can't reach no matter how contorted you get? That's where Seymour liked to sleep!

I finally coaxed him up to my shoulder where he thought that playing a mink was the second most comfortable place in the car. After repeatedly moving him from my body and directing him to his blanket, he got the message. And I got the message that good posture behind the wheel meant no doggie behind the back.

I needed to find another way for him to ride safely.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How It All Started

I'll admit it - I'm a born-again dog lover. I don't know why or what made me do it, but almost three years ago, I suddenly had the urge to adopt a dog. I hadn't owned a dog in over 20 years and I travel in my job but my fervor had no bounds - or sense - I wanted a dog.
Just before Christmas 2006 I found a sickly chihuahua in an animal shelter - and with some fear of realizing I was making a life time commitment, I picked him. He was so skinny that I immediately started saying to myself "feed me Seymour" and so Seymour was his name -o.

For the first month of our co-habitation, we both just looked at each other. Actually I looked at him and he ignored me. Here I was in a life time relationship and it didn't look like we had anything in common. Divorce was not an option. He didn't really like to eat much and wasn't thrilled with his new owner who was hell-bent to try to keep him quiet for 3 months while he went through heart worm treatment. Not a good start.

Finally my newly healthy dog was able to go on walks and to my delight, he wanted to take rides with me in the car. He was beginning to tolerate his new servant (me) and once he started looking me in the eyes and started to relax around me, we both knew we were in it for the long haul.

Our car rides turned into road trips which turned into lessons on how to travel with Seymour.

My goal for this blog is to share travel stories, travel tips, names of pet friendly places and not so friendly places and reviews of travel products we have used.

This blog will be updated at least once a week - usually on Sundays. All comments are welcome.