One month (and a bit) in…
Obviously I’m not a pro (yet) at travelling with a dog, but it has been a bit of a learning curve. I thought while everything is still fresh and shiny and new, I’d write down my experiences. Once I’m an “old hat” at travelling with Loki, things might seem more normal and I’ll forget to tell you about them.
I remember when I was planning this trip, right at the early stages, Isi was worried that he wouldn’t get enough motion (a cute Isi-ism for enough exercise). I didn’t necessarily share her fears, imagining most of our days spent walking and exploring. And for the most part, I’ve been right. I calculated the other day that since the beginning of September, we average 12.7km a day. If anything, I’ve found I need to schedule rest days in for Loki if we’ve been especially busy say, doing agility training, then a long hike, then a big swimming day… He gets tired just like we do! I think if my trip was different, if I was driving big distances every day or just visiting cities, then I would have to be careful of how much exercise he got. Lucky for both of us, I’m happiest out in nature – mountains, forests, lakes and rivers are our happy places, so getting enough motion isn’t an issue.
The Best Parts
Other than a really good reason to have to get out of the driver’s seat and go for a long walk, I have a constant companion. As I write this, his damp little head is resting on my lap, his body curled up close to me. He snuggles close when it’s cold at night and makes me laugh every single day (usually with his water obsession, or when he gets spunky and naughty and wants to play with the leash). I feel safer with him, knowing if I’m walking him alone in a town at night, I’m way less likely to get attacked as people are more cautious of a “big” dog. People think I’m local too, making me look less like a tourist and probably therefore less of a target for pick-pockets or whatever. He’s a useless guard dog in the van, but I guess the sight of him could deter someone. He did bark at a cat the other day though so I guess we won’t get attacked by cats any time soon…
(*Update! He has now barked at a cat, a wild pig, a dog and a pheasant. The animal kingdom better not try and rob us!!)
The Harder Parts
Not the worst parts. I am so overwhelmingly grateful that I have Loki here with me on this adventure. But some challenges perhaps. Most obviously, I’m always considering him in all my plans. Do we stay in some random parking lot next to a busy road? Probably not, because it means very strict supervision of him all the time. A small, quiet carpark by a lake? I’m comfortable leaving the van door open, knowing he’ll just relax on the bench seat. Is it sunny? Can I go to the supermarket, knowing I’ll have to leave him in the van? In a town, are dogs allowed in the shop I want to visit, or do I just skip it? Will he be allowed on the boat/cable car/whatever? (these last two points are much less of an issue here in Europe than back in Australia, though I still don’t tend to bring him into shops with me as I think it could be overwhelming for him and he’s happy to hang in the van). While staying at Isi’s 4th floor apartment, toilet breaks are carefully planned to make sure we don’t have to do those stairs too often. And that is something – Loki’s needs have to come before mine, in most cases. Even if it’s raining and cold outside and and I’m cosy and warm in the bed, he has to go out for a last toilet break before sleep.
Having a dog who is somewhat obsessed by going in water (thankfully not completely swimming unless I throw something) is a challenge as I’d rather not sleep on a wet bed. Navigating busy towns and cities can be interesting, as Loki has no sense of getting in people’s way and will randomly dart across in front of them to sniff something.
Finding good quality food has been a bit of a mission for us. I’m pretty picky about what I want him to eat. No grain, no corn, low amounts of chicken if possible as he seems to sometimes have a sensitive stomach and it seems to settle if I take cooked/dried chicken out of the equation… In the end I bought a huge bag of food online and had it delivered to Isi’s place. Storing a big bag of food in the van is also an interesting challenge… When Isi is visiting, we also have the issue of a not-quite-double-bed, two people, and a medium sized dog (who can take up literally ½ the bed when he’s in fine form. ) and how we’re all going to fit and still get a good night’s sleep.
The type of dog
I know I ended up writing more in the “harder parts” section, but they’re minor things compared with having him here. Really it just takes a bit more forward thinking than your average trip. I’m so lucky that he’s the easiest dog to travel with. He sleeps during the drive and is totally open to new experiences and explorations. On a boat the other day, he curled up on his mat and went to sleep. I think if he was some crazy, overactive, destructive or exuberant dog, travelling with him would be much more challenging… So considering whether your dog is suited to travel is also something really important if you’re thinking of taking them on an adventure with you.