Have you ever moved long-distance with dogs? I did.
Last July my husband Roger, myself, and our three senior rescue dogs moved across the country from Arizona back home to the East Coast. We had no idea what to expect, but if you’re pet parents like us, your dogs never get left behind.
Weeks before our trek across the country I had some sleepless nights, tossing and turning. “What if we couldn’t find a motel that would take the dogs?” I wondered. “What if during a potty break, one of the dogs escaped and ran into the highway?” I’m still sick to my stomach thinking about that one. “What if one of the dogs had an accident in the motel?” or “What if we broke down on the highway in 100-degree heat?” I drove myself nuts.
As a journalist, I found the best place to start was with some research to create a well-thought-out plan for Desi (poodle mix), Oliver (border collie), and Malcolm (German shepherd). We knew there would be some barking, lots of hair and maybe a potty accident. But like a pro, I got prepared.
Prior to the day we left, my husband and I went to AAA to map out our route to New York and learn about dog-friendly motels. We estimated the entire road trip with nightly stopovers to be five days driving, six to eight hours a day. The good news: Motel 6 and La Quinta are pet-friendly.
We shipped our vehicles ahead the week before and rented a large minivan for the trip. I decided dog crates were safest for our pack. We planned for frequent stops so the dogs could stretch, drink water and go potty.
Here’s a list of things we bought and took along that you can keep in mind:
- A fresh bag of your dogs’ regular food
- An airtight dog food container
- Dog treats
- Collapsible water bowls and bottles
- Bottled drinking water
- A doggy first aid kit
- Poop bags
- Paper towels and nontoxic cleaner
- Dog shampoo
- Medications or supplements (if applicable)
- Lint brushes
- Small car vacuum
- Trash bags
We visited our vet before moving not only to say goodbye but to ensure our dogs were in good health. Since our dog Oliver gets very stressed, we worried he might freak out a bit, so the vet prescribed a mild medication just in case. And, if Oliver didn’t use it, maybe I would, depending on how the trip went. ????
More online research pointed me to laws regarding bringing animals across state lines. For instance, New York requires a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, which I obtained from our vet. MyMove was invaluable, as it provides all the information for each state.
All our dogs wear collars with tags and ID, and they are microchipped, so I made calls to update the information. It’s better to be paranoid than sorry.
My friend advised that we invest in harnesses for the dogs to prevent them from slipping their collars and darting out into traffic after opening a door at a rest stop. Yikes! One of my nightmares. We bought strong yet comfortable harnesses, which they wear to this day.
It was time to hit the road.
My husband and I were frantically running through our empty house that last day, making sure everything was packed. Our dogs just stared at us looking confused and maybe a bit worried. What was going on?
We had no idea how the dogs would be on this adventure. I also worried about the 122-degree heat: “Please, let us not break down in the desert—not with three dogs in the minivan.”
As we drove out of Arizona, we hit a scary thunderstorm. The skies turned dark and the wind and rain hit the windshield so hard that we barely could see. I thought we’d get blown off the road. I kept turning around to check on the dogs. There was a look of terror on Oliver’s face because he hates thunder. However, since they could see us, they seemed OK. Me, not so much. “We’re going to die!” I thought.
But the storm passed and we arrived late at a small town in New Mexico. Luckily, we found a local motel that accepted our dogs, no charge. Surprisingly, the dogs did great. They didn’t bark, they ate their dinner, and they passed out. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought.
On our second night when my husband left the hotel room, Malcolm got between the curtain and the window, barked at everyone who walked by and stared at my husband until he came back inside. You’d have to be a fool to break into our room. He’s a typical German shepherd—always in protection mode.
Heavy rains flooded an Ohio highway and it was washed out and closed. That left us in bumper-to-bumper traffic backed up for miles. We crawled at a literal snail’s pace. We sat there for five hours! Interestingly enough, it didn’t faze the dogs. However, my husband and I were at each other’s throats. It was hot, it was muggy, we were hungry, it smelled like wet dog. We were cramped and we weren’t moving. “Stop yelling. You’re upsetting the dogs,” I said. “I’m not yelling; you’re yelling,” Roger said. And so on as the dogs slept.
Other weather delays and heavy traffic added a sixth day to our trip. When we finally arrived at my sister-in-law’s place in New York, we were exhausted. The dogs had cabin fever and just wanted out of their crates so they could stretch. But we were home, safe and sound, and I was so proud of our dogs.
Fast forward to our first winter back home and the first snowfall. Our dogs had never seen snow before. I loved watching them play in the magical white stuff. I guess there really is no place like home…with dogs, of course.
- Plan ahead
- Buy what your dog(s) need ahead of time.
- Take frequent stops go a long way.
- Crates are a safe bet.
- It helps to have a human partner along.
- Never leave dogs alone in a hot car.
- Attach your dog’s leash to his collar or harness, hold on tight, and then open the crate door so he doesn’t have a chance to dart.
- Ensure the leash hooks on securely and that the harness is not too tight or too loose.
- Schedules change when you’re with dogs so be flexible.
- Ensure you make enough stops so the dogs can stretch.
- Motel 6 and La Quinta are great but not necessarily in every town. AAA books list phone numbers for motels in the area and you can call ahead while on the road.
- Be aware: Rest stops have lots of garbage and old food left on the ground. Malcolm almost picked up a piece of food with a nail embedded in it.
- Bring your dogs inside their new home while on leashes, let them smell everything and get used to their new place before letting them loose.
- Find out where to license your dog in your new city/state and find a new vet, groomer, etc. once you’ve arrived.
The adventure was not as bad as I thought, and if you plan in advance, you’ll get through it, too.