By Saba Poonawala*
I am always travelling on and around my birthday.
What better trip could I have asked for than to go to a cold hill station with my husband and my dog Theodore! Theo, as he’s fondly called, is a 4 year old Labrador Retriever we trained, and is quite a trooper. He’s used to travelling with me; we have visited several places in India like Lonavala, Mahabaleshwar, Velas, Goa, Pondicherry, and Mumbai to name a few.
I’d like to highlight in detail the travel checklist for a dog. For starters, if your dog is crate trained, then getting it a crate for the car is a wise decision. Theo however, doesn’t like to be restrained in the car, and has a habit of sitting on the floor of the car so this works in my favour.
First, you must consider the distance of the trip you’re travelling for. Make sure that if it’s a road trip, you don’t cross more than 8–9 hours a day. You will have to halt every two hours so that the dog can relieve itself and also have a short walk so that it gets a little tired and is more settled for the remaining journey. Short breaks are also essential as at every pit stop, you can hydrate your dog by giving it water. The dog generally gets dehydrated due to AC in a car, which we wouldn’t be able to do without.
Ensure that the dog has a light diet in the morning, so that chances of it throwing up aren’t there. The idea is a light travel and once you reach the destination, you can give the dog a full meal.
With Theodore, I gave him a light breakfast and we started off for the car journey towards Kodaikanal around 6 am. After a few stops and a beautiful drive, we reached our destination, which was a pet friendly air bnb in the heart of the city. Theo was given his full meal once we reached. I always take up places where I know I have access to freshly cooked food for him as well as for me. It’s just healthier! However, I also carry dry food like kibble and gravy sachets, just in case there is a problem with access to freshly cooked food.
At the air bnb, I requested the host to have his daily meals ready – unsalted boiled rice, accompanied with boiled chicken, and boiled carrots, sweet potato, green peas, yam, bottle gourd, cucumbers. Fruits include watermelon, papaya, and bananas. These are basics available at any place you go to.
Besides this, I ensured to carry his treats to keep him busy when I travel around the hill station with him. I generally keep these in my waist pouch. They include different meat and vegetarian flavoured treats.
Kodaikanal gets really cold at night, so to keep Theo warm, I carried his sweater as well as a double thick sheet for him to sleep on. I don’t carry any beds because they’re quite inconvenient. Along with this, there’s always a towel, his head collar – to avoid any pulling, an extra collar and leash set, his food and water bowl, a towel in case he gets wet, a few toys like a ball and rope toy, the poop scooper, and most importantly, his medical kit.
It’s hard to find a vet when you’re travelling to a remote place. So I always carried Theo’s medical kit that includes pain killers, anti allergy medication, an antiseptic ointment, shampoo, antiseptic disinfectant liquid, cotton, gauze, and medicine for loose motions, vomiting and a bad stomach or constipation.
On day one, we rested it out. And on day 2, we went across with Theo in the car to a few of the sightseeing places, which included Coakers walk, where we walked inside along with him. It was a nice long stretch where Theo got tired too. Not to forget, he enjoyed the view and loved being in the clouds more than us. After a nice hot cup of coffee, we decided to go out for lunch to a place called ‘Munchies,’ where they allowed Theo to come in with us.
What was amazing about the place was that they had the best cheese cake I have tasted in my life and are pet friendly too! Theo sat beside us while we enjoyed the yummy pizza as well. Post this, we headed back to our stay. Just before sunset and Theo’s dinner time, we played with him in the garden attached to the air bnb. This was the best time there, because it’s just a different joy to have your dog run around freely amongst the high trees, birds, and a beautiful overlooking horizon.
Theodore has been trained to stay for a while at home by himself without being destructive. So post his dinner meal, he was taken for a long walk, then got back to the stay, and he rested for the night – close to 8 pm. This is when we instructed the care taker to check on him once, while we were away for dinner. We came back to him being fast asleep and waking up early next morning.
The next day we changed our stay. My husband and I love to stay in exotic and unique places. One such experience is a luxury tent stay on a cliff overlooking the vastness of the earth. Here too, I ensured that Theo’s food was available. And it is basic food that he eats, so it wasn’t a problem. The beauty of the place was that it was attached to a farm as well and we had village style food cooked for us. One night there was a bon fire hosted for us, but I feel that it was Theodore who enjoyed this the most. He simply loved being cozy and by the fire – something that came as a surprise even to us.
The next day we visited different places like the Silver Cascade Falls, the Kodaikanal Lake, and went boating too. Although Theo wasn’t allowed to go boating with us, he accompanied us in the car and went for walks at all places. He would stay behind in the car with our driver.
This was our most memorable trip with Theo, because he was so happy to leave the hot city and be in the cold climate. I could see him be the happiest version of himself.
*Author is a Canine Cognitive Developer and Behaviourist; also the Co-founder of the Pune Chennai Dog Training Academy. You can reach her @9970371714