Archive for October, 2011

Fall Road Trips

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Ever since I launched my first dog vacation business, my dogs have played the dual role of companions on the home front and doggie road warriors, up for any adventure, any time, anywhere.

And while their annual Canine Camp Getaway vacation may be their favorite trip, that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy all the little side trips we take throughout the year — to dog fairs like  Hounds on the Sound, dog charity fundraiser events like the Canine Companions for Independence DogFest and friends’ homes where they not only welcome my dogs, but would be disappointed if I showed up without them (in at least one friend’s case, I think she’d actually be less disappointed if the dogs showed up without me than the other way around!).

Last weekend we spent at Fido’s Festival in Woodstown, NJ, which is some of the most fun you can have if you’re a dog (according to Lexie), and not a bad time for humans either (despite the absence of the kettle corn guy, which I had to admit was a tiny bit of a disappointment).

For the dogs, they had dock diving, lure racing (an obstacle course that dogs run while chasing after a squeaky toy or “lure” that runs on a pully system on the ground — often referred to as “crack cocaine for dogs”), agility, games, treats, vendors and a costume parade. For the humans, there were educational sessions in the open air pavilion, hayrides, shopping galore, rescue booths with adoptable dogs, games, free samples, a food court filled with every type of food you can imagine (except for the aforementioned kettle corn…yes, I know I’m harping on it, but I’m STILL disappointed about that) and lots of fun dog people and dogs to hang out with.

It was, my dog and I agreed, a nearly perfect weekend (and could have edged into perfect territory if only there’d been less traffic on the way home. And a kettle corn booth).

Hounds on the Sound

Hounds on the Sound is another of our favorite dog festivals.

Still, it was one of those weekends that makes you love fall, even though it means summer is over and won’t be back for what seems like ages.

This weekend, we were hoping to make it out to Barktober Fest at Camp Bow Wow in Cherry Hill, NJ (another really cool event), but bad weather and a temperamental car but the kibosh on those plans. So instead, I’m sitting on my couch, wrapped in a blanket with a cat on my head and a dog on my feet, trying to keep warm while the temperatures drop as if Mother Nature got confused about which month it is (Note to Mother Nature: October is the month where you dress up and get candy. December is the one with the snow. They’re totally different months, even though they both end with “ber.” Or, in this case,”brrr!”).

It’s not that I mind a day curled up on the couch all cozy and warm, wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by pets and whatever sweatshirt/shoe/toy Lexie has decided to carry into the den in hopes of enticing me into a game of keep away. But it’s also not as much fun as a road trip on a sunny fall day, walking around with the dogs, enjoying the fresh air, seeing new places and meeting new friends.

Sadly, by next month, the outdoor dog events will peter out in the Northeast as winter begins to take hold. That means fewer road trips.

Oh, there’s Winter Woofstock in Toronto, which I’m told totally rocks, but I’m not convinced I can do 22 hours of driving in one weekend (especially since my car now knows I’m looking for a new car, which has made it testier and more temperamental than usual).

And of course there are always the various Pet Expos, but you can’t bring your dog, and my dogs have an issue with me attending dog events without them.

Do any of you road trip in the cold weather with your dog? Any great dog-friendly, cold-weather destinations you would recommend? Feel free to share!

Does Your Dog Get Car Sick? Try Home Baked Ginger Dog Biscuits!

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

I am fortunate enough to have two dogs who not only love to travel, but who view car travel much the way I might view a trip to any Club Med: If someone offers the opportunity, jump on it, and worry about where you’re going, exactly, later. I mean, there aren’t any bad Club Meds, right?

Some dogs love car travel. But if doggie motion sickness is ruining the trip for both of you, try baking up a batch of ginger dog biscuits to settle your pup's stomach.

Of course Club Med costs thousands of dollars, while a drive around town costs you a few bucks in gas. Fortunately my dogs don’t seem to get the difference. Even a short car trip to run errands is cause for celebration with them, and they are equally happy going to Hess (bonus points if they can scare the gas station guy with a good loud bark!), driving through Dairy Barn or just taking a run to my parents’ house. It’s about the journey, and a car journey is a wonderful thing in their world.

But not all dogs feel that way. Motion sickness seems to be an increasingly common ailment among dogs, and in recent weeks, I’ve spoken with three different friends whose dogs get car sick.

I feel for them, as it’s no fun traveling with a dog who throws up in the backseat.

But I probably have greater sympathy for the dogs, as I was one of those people who suffered from motion sickness for most of my childhood, and I know how awful it is.

Fortunately, motion sickness in dogs is generally easily treatable, just as it is in humans. In fact, many of the medications used for human motion sickness can also be prescribed for dogs. (I actually found this out when Lexie jumped six feet off the ground to snag a bottle of medicine from my top shelf, resulting in frantic calls to the vet. While she didn’t actually consume anything but the bottle, I learned from that particular call that my motion sickness medicine isn’t harmful to dogs, and may, in fact, be prescribed to treat dogs with similar problems).

However, before you go the drug route, you may be able to stave off motion sickness with something easily found in your spice rack: ginger.

Ginger is a great way to settle the stomach, and this is equally true for humans and canines. For years, I carried candied ginger in my purse for long drives, or trips on the LIRR where accidentally I ended up in one of the seats facing backwards.

While not all dogs will eat candied ginger, you can easily include this is a delicious home baked dog treat which may help settle your pup’s stomach for car trips. So if your car is making your dog sick, try baking up a batch of these and giving your pup a couple for the ride!

Delicious Ginger Dog Biscuits

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried ginger powder

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Mix oil and water in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, mil and ginger. Add the water mixture slowly to the mixed ingredients. Knead and roll out the dough on a flat surface. Cut with cookie cutters (you can find fun bone or dog-shaped cookie cutters in most craft stores or on Amazon). Bake for 30-35 minutes. Set out on cooking rack to cool, or leave them in the oven until they are dry for extra crunchiness. Enjoy!

In Search of a Dog-Friendly Vehicle

Monday, October 10th, 2011

There comes a time in every girl’s life when she has to accept certain inevitable truths. For me, this week’s inevitable truth was that my beloved Sebring convertible isn’t going to make it another year.

Now, I’ve never understood the suburban fascination with SUVs, being neither a soccer Mom nor a person who drives on rough terrain (unless you count the potholes on the Long Island Expressway). In my world, “the outback” is a steakhouse, not a place you drive; and while “all weather driving” is a lovely concept, I’m more of a “nice weather driver” who would more likely be home drinking hot chocolate during the kind of weather these “all-weather” vehicles are purportedly built for.

Also, I LIKE small cars and hate those gas-guzzling monstrosities that sit 10 feet above everyone else in traffic so you can’t see past them or even read your exit sign until it’s too late.

So why am I suddenly looking at SUVs?

The same reason I gave up my luxurious rain shower for the convenient but not nearly as luxurious handshower. The dogs, of course!

While I’ve tried to make due, the truth is, two large dogs don’t really fit in a convertible. And certainly two large dogs with dog accessories do not fit in a convertible. As that my dogs have a LOT of accessories — and neither one is particularly amenable to being left home when a trip is being planned — I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to upsize. Running Canine Camp Getaway of NY, my dog vacation business, means the dogs and I spend a lot of time on the road. So here I am, doing what I never thought I’d do — looking at SUVs and soccer-Mom-mobiles.

Now I know some people love car shopping. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. I’ve been riding in a friend’s car for the past five years and still can’t tell you what he drives, except that it’s white, and big enough to stuff two dogs in the back seat. So wading through car reviews, auto comparison Web sites, Consumer Reports and crash test ratings is about as appealing as watching the Guatemala news network. In Guatemalan.

I tried googling “dog-friendly cars” but I keep coming up with the Nissan cube, which is quite possibly the second ugliest car ever made, right after the PT Cruiser, and the Range Rover Supercharged, which has a base price that’s only slightly less than that of my house. Unless the dogs are planning their own reality series on a major network in which they can win a million dollars by beating out all the other reality-dog-star-wannabes, I don’t see this happening any time soon.

I did find an interesting site that focuses on dog-friendly cars. DogCars.com

The Nissan Cube is supposed to be a great vehicle for dogs -- but it's also one of the ugliest cars I've ever seen. I suspect even my less-than-fashion-conscious dogs would be embarrassed to be seen in this! (Photo courtesy of GAYOT.com)

looks at a variety of vehicles from the dog-friendliness perspective. They seemed hot on the Honda Element and the Toyota Venza. Unfortunately, the former could be confused with a hearse and the latter is pricey.

Expanding my search to friends who have dogs, I’ve gotten recommendations for the Ford Edge (cool looking, but lousy gas mileage), the Subaru Forester (which used to be a nice crossover SUV/Wagon/Drives More Like a Car Than a Monster Truck, but which has since been redesigned to be larger, which means I’d probably never ever be able to park it) and the Kia Rondo (which they don’t make anymore, replaced by another square, boxy looking SUV or a model which appears to only be available in a color called “alien.” While I’m not married to the idea of buying American, I certainly would like to keep my options to the known planet!).

I thought maybe I should consider a nice used car, but people keep warning me about getting stuck with “flood cars” which apparently are flooding the market, disguised so you don’t know you’ve bought a disaster until 30 seconds the warranty runs out.

Then there’s the whole insurance thing, which I didn’t even think about until a friend told me I’m better off with something classified as a “wagon” if I don’t want my car insurance to go up by $500 a year or so. And of course with gas at $3.79 a gallon, I have to worry about what kind of mileage per gallon I’ll be getting.

Honestly, I’ve barely started my search and I’m sick of car shopping already. I don’t want to keep looking at cars online, which does nothing but confuse me. I certainly don’t want to walk into a dealership, where they’ll smell my uncertainty like sharks sniffing out blood and move in for the kill.

I just want a nice, affordable vehicle that drives like a car, doesn’t guzzle gas and fits one girl, two dogs and luggage for three. Is that too much to ask for?

If you have any suggestions for dog-friendly vehicles, please feel free to share them!

And for more info about dog-friendly vehicles, check out this great article: