Oh, Winston, you know I love you but I gotta get this out there - you’re not the easiest to travel with! Winston is my one and only dependent on this road trip across the USA. He is a mixed breed, yorkie/westie, adorable and scared of life. I found him at a pet shop in Brooklyn, New York last year. He had been there for four months, in his cage, fully grown and could barely stand up because he was so scared. I don’t know the circumstances of why no one had bothered to purchase him but as soon as I learned that he was there for that long in that cage I knew he’d be coming home with me. And so he did and now I have a cute dog who will travel with me until we can't any longer.
I’m sure he wasn’t keen on this trip. We had moved to two apartments prior to me deciding to do this and within a span of four months at that. For a shaky dog that’s a lot of moving around.
So what’s it like to travel across the country with a dog in tow? It can be hectic but also rewarding. On a tight budget, I’ve found that hotel and airbnb pet fees can really add up, especially when I’m on the road staying at different hotels for a few nights straight. Keeping extra water and food in the car is a must. Different climates that we enter day to day can shift pretty dramatically so leaving him in the car at rest stops for a few minutes while I refill up on gas and caffeine can be challenging. Making sure he is safe in every situation. Just getting him out of the car at a gas station becomes a major task at times as I don’t really want him walking through oil and gas on that road. I also don’t want him stepping on glass or whatever other disgusting things that can end up on the side of the roadways. He also doesn’t like to sit in the backseat even with a dog seatbelt. He just chokes himself, even with the aid of Benadryl, trying to get to my lap. I end up having to hold him for sometimes ten hours straight in the passenger seat. If it’s not me then it’s Michele while I drive.
I also have to take care of his mental wellbeing along with my own. Each new place we end up in can make Winston jittery or excited and he has to resettle in each hotel or home or apartment in which we find ourselves. I have to walk him alone at night in weird, and sometimes, deserted hotel parking lots. It can be late depending on the time we arrive in each location. I have to think about other people’s furniture, maintain and take care of it as my dog may come in from the rain with dirty, muddy paws. I have to make sure I have enough food for him as I never know when I’ll find another pet store on the road. I have extra bowls packed just in case - hotels really don’t cater to your dog so you have to have at least two bowls, one for water and one for his or her dinner.
There are also the wildlife hazards that can be encountered. Winston likes to chase other animals being a terrier and all so I have to keep him in sight at all times (not that he isn’t usually anyway it’s just a different level of attention). In New Mexico I had to make sure he didn’t get ahold of a scorpion, keep him away from Prairie Dogs as they can carry the Bubonic Plague, watch out for Mountain Lions while hiking, make sure he didn’t eat or step in droppings and get poisoned or sick. In Breckenridge, he had to stay a few extra hours in the hotel alone. Many hotels have a policy that you’re not ever allowed to leave your animal alone in the room and our Breckenridge stay was one of these. He couldn’t go fly fishing with us, I just didn’t know if he could handle being outside in the cold for that many hours and I just wasn’t properly prepared for him to be out there with us. I can’t let him off leash with my supervision and didn’t know if there would be a spot to tie up his long leash for a few hours. He was fine in the hotel room but I was worried that he’d bark too much and animal control would pull him out of the room!
In Portland, we didn’t have a fully closed in yard so he had to be leashed again. In Montana, we have black bears coming in the yard at night so I have to take extra precautions when walking him at night here. He cannot come to some of the state parks that we’ve visited because of wildlife conservation efforts therefore, his presence has made us have to quickly change plans on the fly.
There’s a lot to consider here but I’ve also watched him become a more open and less shaky pup. This pup has seen 17 states! He has learned how to swim and has gotten to swim in the Rio Grande River, Columbia River, Mt Hood River and the Pacific Ocean so far. He has seen many more types of people, cowboy hats will never scare him that’s for sure! He’s hiked some of the most amazing trails in the USA keeping him in shape mentally and physically. The car doesn’t scare him any longer. He now sees the car as his home, the only thing that ever stays consistent and he hops in happily. Speaking of happiness, Winston has become a happy, healthier and stronger animal and just those things alone outweigh every single challenge I’ve faced or hotel fee I’ve paid on this trip. Dogs don’t live long and so I want his life to be spectacular.
Has your dog traveled with you? Do you have any tips on road tripping or air travel with them?