We meet people everyday that tell us we are “living the dream.” While I know how fortunate we are to be full-time travelers with our two rescue dogs, Peanut Butter Brickle and Digby Pancake, I often want to tell them that if this dream includes a lot of dog hair, dirt, and mishaps, then yes. Yes. We are definitely “living the dream!”
Although it wasn’t in our life’s plans to have a house on wheels, the freedom of being full-time travelers has proven to us that home is definitely where your heart is, and your dogs. Our RV has also shown us that often, the best path is one that we didn’t know we needed all along. I would not give up this experience of traveling with my family for the past two and a half years for any house without wheels, because our memories, experiences and life changing observations wouldn’t fit anywhere but our RV.
When we decided to sell our home and purchase an RV to travel to the 48 contiguous states highlighting animal rescues and shelters across the country, we prepared as much as we could. Our main concerns and priorities centered around Brickle and Digby. Although we had moved long distances in the past, living in an RV was definitely going to present new challenges! We found out from the first day of breakdowns, getting lost, and not being able to find a gas station, that there were going to be many things out of our control. But we had to control how we reacted to the challenges in order to make travel fun! Going with the flow became a key part to stressless travel with our dogs. We also realized that keeping up even small routines like walk times and dinner times were essential to their well-being. Our pets look to us for protection and stability. We found that even if our house moved every day, we could still provide this while providing adventure, fun and exercise. Yes, this was the life!
When traveling, most of us have a predetermined schedule in mind. We mapped out our journeys every week and set a time table to get there. And at the beginning of our new adventure, we found out pretty quickly that we were way too ambitious with our expectations. This was not a race. Our house wasn’t going anywhere without us in it! Brickle and Digby needed to go outside for breaks usually every two to three hours. And we realized that this was best for us too. Stopping at pet and RV friendly city or county parks or uncrowded, grassy rest areas made our breaks more enjoyable. Give them time to be dogs by finding off leash areas or dog parks. We learned to watch our dogs for clues on how they were enjoying the trip that day.
We have to remember that as much as our personality differs from someone else, our dogs are individuals too. We can’t expect all dogs to be what we consider well behaved in every situation. They have likes, dislikes and preferences just like we do. It is up to us to adapt for these differences. Not putting an unsocial dog around strangers or expecting every dog to want to be approached is reality. It is up to us as their caregivers to not put them in harm’s way. Every dog can enjoy traveling, but not in the same way. And this is ok!
We try to approach every destination with a tourist’s eye and a dog’s eye! Vacation is a mindset and our dogs are on vacation every day. But having a pet with you does make for extra preparation. There are many dog friendly National Parks and historic sites, but often, dogs are not allowed everywhere in these areas. We make it a habit to not only research the rules of each specific destination, but we ask the rules once again when we get there. If we want these places to keep welcoming dogs, it is our responsibility to follow the rules in order not to have this privilege taken away.
When we visited Yellowstone National Park, we knew that dogs were only allowed in parking areas and in just a handful of spots located within the park. Imagine our horror when we saw another dog owner letting their dog off leash to chase Bison! This was not acceptable to anyone involved, and we can only hope, as Sheriff Brickle would say, that they were arrested.
Traveling with dogs doesn’t have to be complicated. If we remember to keep up a basic routine, make distances short, and pack necessary medications, vet records and yes, treats, you are on the right path! But don’t overthink everything that can go wrong. Because there will be many things that do go wrong. I should have remembered this as we almost ran out of fuel in New York City, then again in Kansas…then again in California.
If we lose the fun aspect of travel, our dogs will lose it too. When our dogs are happy, we will be happy. Traveling with pets is not without challenges, but the rewards of living our best lives and including an animal that needs us is beyond measure. Each of us has our own definition of family. My family has taught me that there is no destination more important than where we are together. And being able to change that destination where the wind blows is a privilege not everyone will get to enjoy, but should. For our family, we choose to use our traveling way of life to call attention to the plight of homeless animals across our country and the awesome people out there making a difference.
So yes, our dream is a reality in our house on wheels. And I hope that we can continue to live it together for many years to come with our dogs who changed our lives, and who continue to inspire us to keep on the path to living our best life.