Creature Feature: On the road with Simone

7 Jul

A version of this was originally published June 16, 2010, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

When traveling with a dog, it’s a given that you’ll need to stop every two or three hours to let him stretch his legs and have a potty break. Depending on where you stop, this can be pleasant or stressful.

My dog, Simone, and I recently took a two-day car trip that involved being on the road about eight hours each day. So we had several stops, some more enjoyable than others.

One of our more pleasant breaks was at this Colorado rest stop, which had plenty of grassy areas as well as rocks for Simone to explore. (2010/RO)

Truck stops and gas stations, we learned, are just fine for people but not so good for pets. Wide expenses of concrete, diesel and gasoline fumes, and tractor-trailer rigs roaring in and out of the parking lot distract and may scare small dogs like Simone, a not easily intimidated Pomeranian. Dogs not bothered by the noise and activity can still be distracted from doing their business.

Also, at these places, there’s usually only a strip of weed-dotted dirt next to the parking lot that’s suitable (barely) for walking a dog. Much of the time, the area is littered with trash or animal waste left by other travelers.

Government-maintained rest stops present the possibility for more pleasurable breaks in interstate driving. Most have large grassy areas, with space marked specifically for walking dogs. There are also covered picnic areas where you can set out water and food bowls away from the parking lot and other travelers.

At rest stops, you’ll encounter all kinds of people. Some like dogs, some don’t. As a courtesy — and for your dog’s safety — keep your dog on a leash. It’s tempting to let your dog run free after he’s been cooped up in the car, but don’t. No matter how well trained a dog is, he may not be able to resist dashing after any critter he may see. Squirrel! Or he might run off when spooked by a loud noise such as the roar of a diesel engine.    

Of course you packed plenty of plastic bags for picking up after your dog during rest stops. Use them. It’s rude, not to mention unsanitary, to leave a mess.

Don’t force your dog on other dogs or people. And if you have a large-breed dog, please keep it at a distance from small and toy dogs, who can be intimidated by the presence of a larger animal. Or vice versa. People with children should do their best to make sure the kids don’t rush up to an animal and startle it.

If you’re taking a long trip, you may have to stop and spend the night at a motel or hotel. Fortunately, more and more motels welcome pets. Most charge a pet fee of $10-$20 above the standard room rate, although a few let pets stay for free. Some charge a $10-$15 fee per night per pet. Therefore, it’s a good idea to do some research before you hit the road.

The website can help you find pet-friendly accommodations, plus you can check out the websites of specific motel/hotel chains to learn their policies. But even if a chain accepts pets, it’s advisable to contact the motel at which you plan to stay to verify its policy. Motel managers can set policy for individual establishments and some prohibit pets.
    ★ ★ ★

Whether driving across town, state or country, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says the primary rule of travel is “never leave your pet alone in a parked car.” An animal can suffer heatstroke in a matter of minutes.

“It only takes 10 minutes on an 85-degree day for the inside of your car to reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit, even if the windows have been left open an inch or two,” the ASPCA warns.

Even on a mild 70-degree day, the interior temperature of a vehicle can become as much as 20 degrees hotter as the outside.

Wishing you all safe and happy journeys.

Creature Feature appears each Wednesday in the Arkansas Democrat.


One Response to “Creature Feature: On the road with Simone”

  1. Brian Loucks July 7, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Sage advice. We travel a lot with two 60lb “chillen” who are excellent travelers and well mannered. We watch for children, always have our charges, (on leashes) “sit” or “down” when they or other pets approach. Rest stops are the best pit stops, followed by fast food places which usually have grassy areas, outdoor tables where critters are allowed, plus snacks and treats are handy as well as being easy off, easy on to the highway.

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