Archive for Thursday, April 9, 2009

Proper planning can make traveling with pets more enjoyable

April 9, 2009

Taking a drive with your pet can be an enjoyable experience, or, for some, a nightmare. Let me entertain you with a experience and an observation.

Recently, I was preparing to return to work from my noon break when I noticed how dirty my dog Minnie looked. Having compassion and realizing it had been nearly all winter since her last bath, I scooped her up and placed her in my front passenger seat. But as I sat down, she scooted over to me. Like past dates with my beloved wife, she occupied the center console and began to wag her tail affectionately. The next thing I knew, she was licking my cheek with such excitement I nearly drove into a ditch.

I fended her off softly, and she moved over to the passenger side arm rest, rising up to look at the country scenery as we drove down Loring Road. All the sudden, I felt a rush of cool air. I looked over to Minnie, realizing she had placed her paw on the electronic window control and was inching her nose out the window as if it was all planned. She came back to rest her head on my arm. She then rolled over on her back, which is an invitation for me to gently rub and scratch her belly. She closed her eyes in ecstasy. Soon after I closed the window, she was back on the arm rest looking out through the closed window. Soon, she managed to roll the window down even more and nearly had her whole body outside the car as windsurfed near the side mirror. “What a talented little pooch,” I thought.

I love taking my dog(s) for drives and have noticed many love taking their cats for an outing, also. On a recent trip to Colorado, my wife and I saw two older folks driving down the interstate at 70 mph with a feline wrapped around their neck and shoulders. Once again, we are sharing that human-animal bound across the board.

I must play the devil’s advocate (although I don’t give the devil much credence, mind you) and admit animal restraints are an important consideration when you venture out. For cats, a small carrying case or box is of importance when considering safety. Like unsecured people in a car or truck, we all become speeding projectiles in the event of an accident. Most pet stores and online pet catalogs sell harnesses that safely secure pets in a passenger seat. I advise using either box or harness methods for restraint (even if I don’t follow my own advice at times).

A client once retold an episode in which his cat freaked out and attacked him while out for a cruise. I have lost dogs or had them jump out of a pickup bed before. Once I secured a dog to my spare tire, thinking all was well. But was soon informed by another motorist that my dog was swinging from a lead on the truck’s fender. Luckily, injuries were minimal. But be wise even if you are traveling a short distance with you pets.

When traveling long distances, one should consider the following need for your traveling pet companions.

• Get a carrier and one large enough to allow your pet to sleep comfortably.

• Request your vet prescribe a mild sedative if your pet gets car sick or anxious if going farther than the local vet’s office. These are very safe and inexpensive.

• Remember, just like people, pets need “potty” breaks, so bring a lead and secure collar so you can give your dog a short stroll and use the proper designated area when available.

• Bring pet food and a fresh water supply with the pet’s bowl. Let the pet have a chance to eat and drink. If it doesn’t, don’t worry just continue the same routine. Remember sedated pets might not eat and drink while under the influence.

A caution to pet owners about letting their dogs and cat hang out the window or along the side panel of a pickup. They are breathing in a megadose of pollens and potential airborne allergens. This is a sure way to get a known allergic dog itching. Be careful, or you may have to visit the animal doctor soon for treatment.

Fortunately, my dogs are not prone to allergies and enjoy hanging their heads out in the breeze. I enjoy seeing them doing this because it reminds me of riding with my head out of one stationwagon — what fun we had on those rides to nowhere as our parents let out the steam of a workday.

Driving with my pets is a real joy even at the age of 54. I get a childlike thrill from the experience and it seems my cares fly out the window. But as we enjoy the rides, remember safety first. Treat your pets like children — buckle up and box up and bring them back save and alive.

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