By Mriganka Chandra*
A Road Trip with your doggo!
My dear fellow dog parents, what are the first things that spring to your mind when you hear that? – Excitement, entertainment, adventure, and tons of cute pictures to post and cherish! Initially, even I had similar ideas while planning my first long road trip with my dog.
Being from an army background, hopping from one place to another every other year had certainly become a part and parcel of life for us, a family of five, me, my parents, my younger brother, and our youngest member – Panzer, our four-year-old Rottweiler. With my father not accompanying us as he used to be on duty, our transit times before this journey were from Lucknow to Dehradun and from Dehradun to Delhi, so we usually decided to travel by train. But this time, we had to travel from New Delhi to reach a small town called Mhow, near Indore in Madhya Pradesh. My father planned a two-day road journey with a night halt at Jaipur in between. All the other requirements were being looked after by my parents and I had the responsibility of Panzer.
Let me give you a small introduction to my fiercely loyal Rottweiler. Panzer was a dream dog since his puppy days. With no demands, no complaints, and absolutely no incidents of chewed shoes, furniture and other items, he was our dream first dog. (Trust me, I truly have no idea how he was so well behaved) He was raised as a family dog, surrounded by a bunch of other people, with perpetual pampering and was super friendly and affectionate by nature. (Am I really talking about a Rottweiler? Yes, I am.) He preferred being comfortable at home, disliked being left alone, lived to eat and hog on whatever he could get his paws on, was skeptical of new places, and was calm till he spotted a rat.
We own an Innova that we purchased solely because of the large space behind to make long distance travelling comfortable for our big dog. Unlike my crazy joyful golden retriever, Panzer hated being in the car as he associated it with dreading veterinary visits and hence our first goal was to make him comfortable being in the car. The task was accomplished by taking him on short drives to remove the stigma out of his head, make him used to the constant noise of traffic, and to let him get comfortable with the idea of sleeping/resting in a moving car. After three weeks of this technique, we were confident that Panzer was ready for the journey.
We had to commence our journey on Monday and with two days in hand I formulated a travel check list for my doggo so that I don’t skip on anything essential; the list was as follows:
1. A spare collar and leash – with the strength of a Rottweiler, it is obligatory to be prepared beforehand.
2. Food and water bowls – I bought steal bowls, swapping the ceramic bowls that I use at home, as they are easier to clean and durable during a journey.
3. Two sets of sheets/blankets – we were travelling in the month of October and Panzer liked being cozy.
4. A set of towels
5. A pet first-aid kit – extremely necessary for any kind of pet related emergencies and a ‘must have’ while travelling with your pet.
6. A spray bottle – it is convenient to use it to clean his paws with water before entering the vehicle after every break.
7. Toy bone – toys play a prominent role in keeping pets busy while travelling (make sure to keep an old toy that the pet is familiar with)
8. Treats – well, this doesn’t need any reason. We all know of the wonders these tiny things do.
9. Poop scooper and tissues – one can never be sure of where our pets choose to leave their mark and hence this comes in handy to clean the accidents at unwanted places.
10. Home-made dog food for two days.
The next day began with a quick veterinary check up to make sure Panzer was in good health to travel. I retired to bed with mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement for our journey the next day.
Our journey began with a euphoric mood. Panzer and I were comfortably settled at the back. Time was on our side, so we made it a point to take breaks after every hour to get Panzer down, serve him water to keep him hydrated and let him handle his business. It became troublous when for 4 hours he refused to drink/eat anything and simply wanted to rush back into the car as soon as I got him out. Panzer refusing food? Well, that never happened in the last 4 years. It took me a while to comprehend that he was probably anxious about us leaving him behind. Poor dog! To assure him, I urged everyone to step outside the car at our next stop. We stopped at a local dhaba for lunch and I was relieved to see Panzer eat his food, post which he finally started following my commands to pee and poop as he was relaxed and understood the travel pattern.
Our next milestone was making him cozy at the guest rooms. (Our guest rooms were pet-friendly as most of the army families travel with their pets, so that was not a concern) We had two rooms, one for my brother and I, and the other for my parents. His discomfort of being at an unknown place was quite evident. He would relentlessly search for my parents and whine while being with us in our room. He wanted the family to be together, at one place, like we were in the car. Panzer was the kind of dog who would wait patiently till the last member came home. Being confined to either of the rooms continued bothering him. The night turned into a struggle as he made us parade from one room to the other and would not settle or sleep with either one of us. Ultimately, it came to an end when we placed our mattresses in our parent’s room where Panzer breathed a sigh of relief and went off to sleep beside us.
The next day’s journey was longer in distance but surprisingly, Panzer was quite relaxed. I assume he had an idea of what was happening by now. He had a whale of a time gazing out of the window and by casually barking at the cattle passing by. With the darkness setting in, the trouble began with Panzer’s restlessness as he could not see anything outside the window and refused to sit down. It was a herculean task for my dad as he had to drive extremely slow to keep Panzer from falling. This is when the chew toy came to our rescue; he was distracted by it for the next hour and slept comfortably after that. We reached our destination at around 10 in the night and thanked our stars for keeping the intensity of this roller coaster road trip on the lower end for us.
With the experience of this trip in hand, we were well prepared for our next road journey with Panzer. Unfortunately, it was Panzer’s last long road trip. He was 8 and a half, when last year in April we lost him to a kidney failure. To say that we were fortunate to have him would be an understatement.
In the loving memory of my first dog, Panzer!
*Author is a 23 year old political science graduate, a teacher, a passionate dog parent and a content writer, who finds solace in being surrounded by dogs and books at all times in life. Her blog ‘Paint it Olive Green’ represents her personal life experiences in the military surroundings, as a student and a dog parent. For any guidance on dog parenting, she can be reached on her dog blogging account on Instagram @dogistaan