ALASKA 106

 

Even when far away from home, a dog needs as many of her usual routines as possible, a chance to retrieve, familiar food, sleeping in the bed with her partner, a little work, a little play, a lot of walking and exploring.  The more a dog is socialized, the more places a dog gets to go, the better that dog will do traveling away from home, away from what is familiar.  This is true for any dog, but all the more true for a service dog who, despite the fact that you are on vacation, has to keep her mind on her job.  I have never found this to be a problem.  Instead, I find that while away from the usual surroundings, service dogs are even more attentive, that their sense of responsibility is heightened.  This does not mean that service dogs don’t like to travel or that they don’t enjoy exploring new places, new smells, new sights.  Mine have all loved it, both the sense they seem to have that they need to be more alert than usual and the wonderful chance to smell and see new things.

When I went on book tour with my first service dog, Dexter, he was in awe of cactus.  Since it was new and strange, totally out of his experience and obviously not like any other plant he had ever seen, he kept alternating smelling the cacti and urinating on them, happy as a lark as he did so, pulling me along from one to the next.

The first time I took a dog on a boat was in San Francisco and Flash, my second service dog, loved being on the water.  I have found since then that all my dogs feel happy on a boat, even on the Zodiak whale tour we took in Nova Scotia.  Despite getting wet, Sky seemed content as the boat rose and fell with the waves, the water coming over the edge every time we splashed down.  Monk went so crazy on the swamp tour we took in New Orleans, he appeared to want to jump in and swim with the alligators.  We held tight!

When we travel, we change the dogs’ eating habits, offering the same food, as best we can, that they eat at home, but feeding only once a day instead of twice.  To make things easier for them, I switch to the once a day feeding, with just a snack in the morning, a week or so before we leave.  I take extra hikes with them, to get myself ready for all the walking done on vacation, and since we often go to wilder places than New York City, we usually take the dogs to the zoo a week before leaving so they get to see creatures they do not usually bump into in the city.  We do lots of extra brushing, often a bath and check with our veterinarian to see what sort of protection the dogs might need where we are going, heartworm pills for New Orleans, Frontline for Alaska.  I always give the dogs’ training a little tune-up before leaving.  While vacation often means hiking in a national park, it also means navigating a crowded airport, so tightening up their work is a good idea.

For me, apart from the fact that I need my dog with me, the pleasure of traveling is immensely increased by having my dog along.  Even when the change I experience is stressful, that crowded airport, for example, I feel safe and secure when I look down the leash and see Sky navigating to our gate or looking back at me to make sure I am okay.  Traveling with a service dog means more conversations with locals and other travelers, friendlier service in restaurants, nicer stays in hotels.

If you are lucky enough not to need a service dog, many of the pleasures of traveling with a dog are still open to you.  In France, you can take your dog with you when you go out to eat.  In many places, motels or hotels are dog friendly.  Walking around a city or hiking in the country, having a dog along and seeing the world through her eyes adds immeasurable pleasure to the joy of traveling.  And there’s always a field, a park, a plaza where you can toss a stick and show your dog that traveling is as much fun as staying home, only moreso.

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