The Constant Companion: Travelling with your Dog

July 31, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Keanu on BreakKeanu on Break All Images ©CarolSheppardPhotography.com

The Constant Companion

Whether out in the field for business or pleasure, loneliness can sometimes intrude on the serenity of watching life unfold from behind my camera. A firm supporter of dogs in the workplace, my pets have always been able to accompany me to my own office and keep me company in my home office as well. They remind me to take frequent breaks and keep me from getting immersed too far into my work that I forget to quit after a reasonable amount of time.

Three years ago, when I relocated across the country, it was only natural that I would be accompanied by my animal companion, Keanu. Driving a 14-foot truck holding many of my most valued possessions, we set out on a journey mapped out for us by AAA, designated as “scenic.” The only stipulations I had provided were that the stops had to include Mt. Rushmore, Nauvoo, IL, and Yellowstone National Park. I had no set timeframe, but a general idea that the journey should be completed in no more than 21 days.

Taking a pet on a cross-country trip has its own share of risks and responsibilities. Planning is essential. But having Keanu as my co-pilot gave me a comfort I didn’t know would exist as I ventured forth into places I’d never been before.

1. Know the rules and follow them. There are many fine establishments that are pet-friendly; seek out those places and follow their rules in order to keep them pet-friendly. La Quinta Inn is one place in particular that greeted us with treats for Keanu and a comfortable, relaxing place to lay our heads at the end of a long day.  Our responsibility back to them is to ensure our pets are clean, well-behaved and non-destructive while on their premises.

2. Meal times require special planning. If you cannot find a restaurant with an outdoor patio that allows pets, you can always pick up food to take out and find a park or other peaceful spot to stop.  Do not EVER leave your dog in a hot car; even a moderately warm one will heat up fast once you are stopped.

3. Attend to the needs of your pet. They will need breaks to relieve themselves, stretch their legs, or get some water. Your pets meal breaks can coincide with your own. Save rewards for random hand-outs; you don’t want to train your dog to crave constant stops.

4. Reward positive behavior. Praise your companion with lots of touch and only an occasional treat. They are in enforced inactivity, so don’t overfeed them to compensate for the long car rides and confined spaces of hotels.

5. Bring some of their favorite toys and make sure they always have a comfort object with them. Ours was a Curious George dog bed and, of all things, a stuffed moose. To this day, my dog still snuggles with that moose when we ride in the car. He positions it from spot to spot, and sometimes show it a bit of (ahem) unaccountable affection. The dog bed was appropriated by his rescue dog cousin, who often bunches it up underneath him and sucks on the edges. Go figure.

6. Make sure that your dogs have been properly socialized before beginning to take them out into the world. There are loud noises and strangers to be encountered at many places; allow your pet to get comfortable on an individual basis with some of these things before overwhelming them with new sights and sounds and a multitude of new individuals. Instruct children (and even some adults) gently in how your pet likes to be approached. Thank them for doing it in a manner that is sensitive to your pet.

7. Many parks, especially Federal parks, have rules and restrictions regarding pets. Frustrating, yes, but probably put in place for safety of your pet and others. Sometimes my dog is better behaved than many individuals that I observe in the parks and public monument sites. The Bottom Line: try to respect them. A No-Brainer: Always clean up after your pet and properly dispose of the waste. I carry plastic bags in everything—pockets, purses, camera bags, glove box—for just this purpose.

8.Carry towels, a blanket, and an extra leash tucked into your car somewhere. Keep a collapsible water bowl handy, or even a small container from a consumable food (make sure it is squeaky clean first, please!).

With only one occasion where Keanu jumped from the window of the truck at a gas station in order to greet another dog, we made it to our destination without incident, with many great memories and, of course, images, to commemorate the trip. The caveat is that traveling with your pet should not give you a false sense of security, but will provide you with the rich rewards of companionship if you are willing to put the effort in to accommodate your 4-legged companion. Carol Sheppard is a free-lance Nature, Event and Lifestyle photographer and educator in photography, art, and solo travelling. She has made her home in Bellingham, Washington since 2012.

A strong proponent of pet adoption, she is often accompanied in the field by her own rescue dog, Keanu. Her work is available for viewing and purchase at CarolSheppardPhotograhy.com.


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