The first quarter of a new year is typically teeming with new projects, pitches and plans, but these first three months of 2013 take the cake for high-octane business adventures. In just the past few weeks, Chris and I have traveled from the UK to Las Vegas and everywhere in between - which presents unique challenges as both parents and pet owners.
While it is somewhat simple to pack up our son and have him tag along on our trips (keeping him entertained is another matter), we must be much more industrious when it comes to traveling with Wellington and Montgomery.
Our most recent adventure put us on the open road with our pets, and opened our eyes to just how far the country has come in accommodating canine companions. Hitting the road with Rover has never been easier, thanks to car manufacturers designing for dog, an abundance of pet-friendly hotels in every port (and for every budget!) and even dog runs at interstate rest stops.
That said, there are still some things pet parents should prepare to make cruising the country with four-legged friends as safe and seamless as possible.
Travel with a Paper Trail
You may feel like you can't cram one more thing in the car, but if you've neglected to bring your pet's vet information, you're leaving a lot up to chance. Fill a folder with your dog's microchip information, vaccine certificates and info about any ongoing medical conditions to have on-hand in the event of emergency. You should also write down the names and numbers of vet practices and emergency clinics along the way, just in case. If the car really is too crowded, consider downloading an app to your smartphone that will help you keep all of your dog's vital information in one easy-to-access spot, right in your pocket.
Buckle Up, Little Pup
You would never dream of letting your little one climb all over the back seat unbelted, and your insistence on seat belts should extend to your pets. Wellington is large enough to wear a harness that attaches to the car's standard seat belt for safety, but Monty is still so small that he travels by crate. While they may not be able to hang their heads out the window and feel the wind in their hair, the boys are much safer - not to mention more law-abiding - belted into the back seat.
Practice Pit Stop Smarts
If you're driving the highway with kids and pets, pit stops are going to be par for the course. For long days of constant cruising, make sure to carve out some time to take the whole family for a walk at least once or twice during the day. Exercise will do everyone a world of good, and will help your dog burn off pent up energy. Give him an extra shot of action by having ten-minute training sessions during potty breaks, or occupy his mind with a puzzle toy while you break for lunch. Adding a bit of mental stimulation in with physical activity will help you make the most of pit stops, and keep everyone entertained along the way.
Comfort is Key
Keeping your dog physically comfortable is important, of course, but don't forget that the unfamiliar can be stressful for a pet's psyche, and be sensitive to signals that he's feeling insecure. If he's normally outgoing but shies away from attention on your trip, do not try to force him to tolerate petting from strangers. Bring a blanket and a favorite toy that smell like home, and be open to bending the "no dogs in bed" rule for just a night or two if you're staying in hotels or motels along the way. Consider keeping the air conditioner, tv or radio on overnight to help dampen the din of neighbor noise, and be sure to shower your pet with lots of praise to help make your journey a positive experience.
Finally, there are a few things you probably already know not to do, but are worth mentioning anyway. NEVER leave your dog locked in a hot car - even if the windows are cracked, even if it is not that hot outside. Do not let your dog off-leash during your trip. Refrain from leaving him alone in a hotel room, and don't feed him anything that's not part of his normal diet. In fact, be sure to bring a bag of his regular food with you in case it is not readily available in other parts of the country. A road trip is a bad time for tummy troubles!
Traveling with pets can enrich your experience and make wonderful memories for your entire pack. Happy trails - and happy tails! - to you.