Archive for November, 2011

A Dog’s First Car Ride

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

When you’re a dog, a car ride is pretty magical. It can be pretty magical for a human, too, especially when it’s the first car ride with a new four-legged best friend.

I had the opportunity to share that first car ride recently when my friend Bob adopted his new dog. We’d spent several days visiting shelters before finding her — a beautiful two-year-old black lab mix — at North Shore Animal League.

Shadow Dog

Newly adopted dog Shadow enjoyed her first car ride!

The adoption process can be stressful for a shelter pet, but she was surprisingly calm, as if she’d already realized that she was going to a great home and had nothing to worry about.

Shadow (as she would later be named) got into the car happily enough, and immediately curled up on the back seat with a sigh; she might not know where home was yet, but she seemed content to be taking the ride.

Unlike my still-insane lab mix — who thinks car rides are about sticking her head out the window, rubbing her body against every part of the car she can reach in case there’s a Shedding Olympics she’s inadvertently been entered in, jumping from front seat to back seat to the compartment where the convertible top folds down, and occasionally gnawing on a seatbelt — Shadow seemed a natural for car rides. She sat quietly, moving her nose just enough to nuzzle Bob’s hand when he reached back to pat her.

No barking, no whining, just a quiet sigh, almost too soft to hear. As if she, too, knew that this first car ride was special, something to be savored.

She’ll have plenty more car rides in her future. Dog parks, vet trips, pet store visits, meetups, holidays with friends and relatives, and of course her annual dog vacation as a staff dog at Canine Camp Getaway of NY.

She’ll probably stuff her head out the window at some point to take in the scents, whine in excitement as she develops and recognizes new favorite places, poke Bob looking for a pat, or maybe even scoot up to the front seat looking for a taste of some drive-through dinner one night. She’ll grow more confident each day, and with each trip, more bonded to her human buddy, more excited about getting into a car that will take her to extraordinary places, places that will help her experience all the joys of life as a traveling dog.

But nothing will ever be the same as that first trip.

When we adopt a rescue dog, it’s an act of faith. We don’t really know about the dog’s past, or what the future will hold. We don’t know the dog’s quirks, or if there are latent behavioral or medical issues. We don’t know if the bond will “take.”

But we rarely realize how much more of a leap of faith it is for the dog. The dog doesn’t know she’s being “rescued.” She follows the person on the other end of the leash, hoping that she will end up someplace safe, where they will feed her, shelter her, care for her. She hopes that the person who picked her out from hundreds of other dogs won’t grow tired of her. She hopes someone in her new home will play with her…exercise her…cherish her. And keep her safe forever.

Even though her having been dumped in a shelter in the first place probably means someone already failed to live up to that trust.

Thankfully, Shadow is one of the lucky ones.

But watching her on that first car ride to her new home, it was clear she already knew that.

Five Travel Products Your Pet Doesn’t Need

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

I am the world’s worst packer. Despite more than two decades of business trips, I can still never figure out what I really need when I’m going on a trip, which means I always end up packing five more pairs of shoes than I will actually wear (yet invariably still won’t have the right shoes for whatever I’m doing).

In theory, packing for my dogs should be easier. They don’t need shoes (despite Lexie’s obsession with my Croc boots), and fashion is the least of their concerns when it comes to travel. In fact, if you asked them, they’d tell you they really only need three things: food, Bully Sticks and tennis balls.

I, of course, can quickly fill up a suitcase or three with backup leashes, travel harnesses, duplicate vet paperwork, travel bowls, a placemat for the bowls, bottled water (in case we somehow end up getting lost on our way to Connecticut and end up in Mexico), a Flip camera (because they might do something cute that’s endemic to wherever we’re going, which needs to be immediately captured on film so I can share it with all my equally dog-obsessed friends on Facebook), roll up dog beds (which they will step over as they jump onto my bed), a first aid kit, a squeaky Cuz, a backup squeaky Cuz in case someone de-squeaks the first one, extra toys, extra treats, just-in-case dog towels and a few dozen other things I probably don’t really need.

But as bad as I am with the packing thing, I’ve recently realized that for some pet parents, this packing thing has gotten totally out of control — and pet product manufacturers are taking advantage of this, trying to convince them that they need to spend ridiculous amounts of money on pet “travel necessities” that no pet in the history of the world has ever wanted or needed.

Even I know that there’s such a thing as taking it to extremes. And in the spirit of that, I’d like to share my top five list of things your dog really DOESN’T need for travel.

1.  A $60 “specially molded” plastic travel water container designed to ward off heat, snake attacks and nuclear explosions.
The first time I saw one of these, I thought it was a joke. But apparently some people will pay top dollar for one of these special, “pet designed” water containers. I love my dog, too, but seriously, consider this for a minute. “Specially molded plastic” may sound impressive at first glance, but in reality, it’s just a catch phrase for “cheap material made in China.” And the water doesn’t taste any different coming out of these containers. Besides which, given the opportunity, your dog would probably drink out of the toilet. Trust me when I tell you that your dog doesn’t need a $60 travel water container. Want to keep Fido’s water cold on the trip? Buy a $6 plastic thermos and be done with it.

2.  A car seat “hammock.”
If your dog is anything like mine, she can sleep in a moving vehicle, in a bathtub, under a table, or sprawled in the four inches of space between the couch and the coffee table with her paws sticking out of the side. She doesn’t need a hammock. Honest. And if she’s anything like my younger dog, she’ll just view a hammock as an opportunity to bounce herself, trampoline-like, right into the front seat with you where she can change the radio station and wreak doggie havoc on the roads. If you don’t crate your dog on trips, throw a sheet over the back seat and be done with it.

Dogs do not melt in the rain. And bright yellow rain slickers just look silly on dogs (and on people, for that matter!).

3.  A bright yellow rain slicker and rain hat.
Dogs do not melt in the rain. They’re dogs. They can get wet. They’ll dry off. Even if you don’t have a special, hand-embroidered towel with their name on it to rub them down with. Yellow rain slickers just look silly on dogs, and if your dog is wearing one, chances are, all the other dogs are laughing at him. Additionally, studies show that 27% of all dog bites are caused by dogs embarrassed to the point of violence by silly dog outfits. Help your dog stay in the 73%.

4.  Little booties.
As I’ve been telling Lexie for years (trying to get her to understand the whole “the Croc boots are mine, not yours” thing), dogs have paws, not feet. They were designed to walk on their feet. Therefore, they do not need shoes. Unless they have an injury, or you are walking them somewhere with broken glass, forget the silly little booties and let them walk the way God intended them to. Trust me, if dogs really needed shoes…Croc would have already come out them.

If dogs were meant to wear shoes...Croc would already be selling them.

5.  Designer carry bags with names like Coach, Versace or Gucci.
Here’s the thing: Dogs can’t read labels. So that $6,000 designer carry bag you put them in isn’t impressing them, or their little four-legged friends, for that matter. Sure, if you got a nice bacon-scented carry bag, you could make your dog the envy of all his doggie buddies. But putting your dog in the latest fashion statement carry all is not going to transform him into a furry fashionista who’ll peruse Vogue with you and obsess over who’s getting kicked off Project Runway this week. If your dog travels in a carry bag, practical, comfortable and waterproof are all your dog really needs.

Got a silly pet travel product you’d like to tell us about? Share it in the comments below!