Traveling with your dog is going to be a pain in the ass.
Then again, traveling with kids is not as easy as doing it as a young couple, just as two people sharing a space is not as easy as a bachelor with every decision left to his momentary whim. Like all things in life, it comes down to whether or not you both want to and can do what it takes to make it happen.
I won’t get into my personal feelings on dogs here. I mean, I love them in their unique role as companions to humans, and I have no innate contempt toward them. But I think that animals are born to be wild, and civilization is a curse humanity has brought upon itself; no need to inflict it upon canines. Wait, I think I said I’d leave personal feelings about dog slavery out of this, so let’s just get to the facts, eh (besides, that’s kind of my dog in the photo…)?
Dog Friendly Accommodations
If you’ve done any traveling with a pet, you’ll know that your choices are often greatly narrowed by requiring “pet friendly” accommodations. While most RV parks and campgrounds are happy to allow dogs on their property, such is not the case with all hotels and vacation rentals. Particularly the nicer, better-located ones.
So, if you’re traveling with a dog or cat and living out of your RV, you probably won’t have much trouble finding a spot. We don’t even ask if pets are welcome when we arrive at RV parks, they almost always are. When they’re not, it’s typically made very clear over the phone or on the reservations website.
If you’re looking at hotels or B&Bs or cute little cabins nestled among the Douglas Firs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, though, chances are anything on four legs isn’t going to be welcome. You will give up your ability to find the place you want, and end up searching for the place you can get.
Again, no hatred towards pets, just a fact of travel.
Places You Want to Go
Did you know that dogs aren’t allowed on trails in nearly every national park? Were you thinking that a trip to Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, or the Smoky Mountains might be fun? Probably will be, but how good will it be for Fido locked up in your RV all day, every day.
And believe me, once you start living this life, you’ll want to get out and explore those kinds of places, almost every day. You can’t leave dogs tied up outside at most RV parks, and certainly not state and national parks. So, ol’ Fido becomes an inside dog. And just like humans, living a life of sitting around makes one fat, lazy, and eventually old before our time. Maybe little dogs can live this way, but I don’t think it’s a life for pitbulls, labs, or anything larger.
Unless, you’re willing to walk them, and take them out with you at least once a day. If you’re a city dweller, this probably isn’t foreign to you. Walking your big ol’ dog in the city is just part of having a dog in your particular pack. These are not words of discouragement, but of reality.
Are you sure that, after hiking through some beautiful mountain all day, without your dog, you’ll have the energy and time to come back and give him a run around the park or a jaunt through the neighborhood? This applies to staying in small towns and big cities, too. Some places, like Austin, Texas for example, are ridiculously dog-friendly. Your well-behaved dog can sit at your feet for hours while you sip a beer and swallow a burger on their patio. Other towns, it seems like entire states, will be certain to let you know that animals are a violation of health codes and are not welcome anywhere nearby. Except contained inside your steamy car, I suppose.
Things to think about.
Leaving Dogs in Cars, RVs and Hotel Rooms
As mentioned above, if you have a dog, you will need to keep them locked up in one way or another at times. If this is a quick 30 minute lunch in a stopover city, that’s not typically an issue. Pooch can hang in the car with the windows cracked sufficiently while you explore. But if you think you can walk your dog around town and still go into all of those little boutique shops and grab a coffee every other corner, you may find yourself strictly window shopping. That may help your bottom line, but quite frankly is the reality.
Even leaving your dog inside of a well air-conditioned or heated RV, if you’ve got a barker, can prove issue. Our dog is the model of a modern major general, but we’ve had at least one instance where an RV park owner has hunted us down in town during a family pizza night to tell us that dear old doggie is barking non-stop. Just like people, dogs can react strangely at times, particularly cooped up alone for many days at a time on the road. They’re pack animals, and if you’re going to get pizza on a regular basis, they probably know about it.
And wonder why they’re not invited. Same goes for hotel rooms, except when Spot goes apewild tearing apart the furniture in some rented space, you pay more than top dollar to get it all replaced.
These can be a lifesaver for those dog owners who have really well behaved companions but occasionally want to stay in hotspots not available to four-legged types. You may very well, as we do, find that having your dog live in your RV with you is not that much of a hassle. You can hike with them in state parks, walk them around neighborhoods on a leash, and the small spaces that living in RVs naturally provide makes them feel more or less comfortable with their position in your particular pack.
But now and then you’ll want to stay downtown Whereversburg and the spot on the river overlooking the old town where all of the really good restaurants are just doesn’t allow pets. Depending on your dogs personality, a few days spent with fellow bone-biters might be a vacation of their own. And guess who gets to look the hero when you come back to free them from that puppy prison?
Shit will happen. You’ll blow a tire, lose a credit card, get lost, whatever. At some point you’re going to find yourself in a situation that requires a whole lot of effort, often equal amounts of money, and sorting out of things in general. I will tell you shortly, sweetly and simply: these are the moments that dogs are the most frustrating.
“Well, we’re broke down on the highway and need a lift to the nearest Motel 6,” you’ll tell the cabby, after spending two hours finding a tow truck that can’t come until the day after next. Their reply?
“Okay well as long as there’s no dog involved, I can pick you up.”
Four hours of walking later, you wonder if Spike is really worth the $50 pet fee on your $65 / night motel room.
Okay I Lied
Remember when I said I wouldn’t get all preachy about my perceptions on animals? Yeah, I lied a little. I’ve already given you the realities of pet ownership on the road as I’ve experienced it, but here’s what I really think.
If you’re a trainhopping young guy with no quarrels over sleeping outside most nights and wherever the wind blows you tomorrow is your new destination, by all means, have a dog. I hear about people complaining over how on earth street kids can be so cruel as to put their dogs through homelessness, and it cracks me up.
Dogs are, like all of nature, meant to be homeless. They’re animals. So if you’re living the kind of life where you’re walking miles every day and living huddled up next to your particular man’s best friend, you’re doing it right.
But if you think that having a pet that you keep locked inside of an RV or hotel room all the day long while you explore the world, a planet generally not accepting either of dogs indoors or those chained up outside for long periods of time, then you may want to reconsider whether you’ve got a dog for the idea of it, or because you care for the animal. I’m not saying take said Fidos, Spots and Spikes out to the farm and give them the old yeller, but certainly, realize that if you want to travel with an animal, it’s just like doing so with a young child. You wouldn’t just leave your kid alone all day long while you experienced the world, you have to make adjustments in your life to suit them. Same thing goes with a dog on the road. Be good to those bastards, they’re ridiculously loyal to us.
Cats, on the other hand, well I’m pretty sure you can stuff one in a glove box full of yarn and be good to go for at least a month.