By Jon and Elizabeth Eckert, F276712
We live in Panama City, Fla., and we have four Australian shepherds that are with us always. They are extraordinary pets.
To "earn their keep,” we show them in conformation, obedience and agility shows throughout the United States and Canada. It keeps us and them in shape.
Our dogs are not the pros you see on TV. They're amateurs who do it for the fun of it. As a result, we do quite a bit traveling to various shows. Here are some of our experiences.
First, we cannot start to pack our Class A motorhome without the dogs detecting that a trip is coming up; they start getting antsy. The day of departure from home finally starts the traveling routine. They know that we have drunk too much coffee and will stop at the first rest stop. I’ll swear they can read the blue rest stop sign because they are all up and alert. We always turn on the generator when we enter the rest stop, and then the dogs really know this is a for-real stop.
At the rest stop, the dogs are walked two at a time and then we are back on the road. Now that they have gotten the first stop under their paws, they can go to sleep for several hours. But when the generator kicks on again, that’s the signal that it's time for another stop.
The dogs have plenty of room in our motorhome. However, they each have their places: in the easy chair, on the floor, on the couch, and on the copilot's seat, depending on where Elizabeth is. They don't move around much while traveling — we do not crate our dogs.
Recently, while we were building our “RV Retreat,” we lived at a campground for six months with our dogs. This situation was good for us in that the dogs woke us up for the morning constitutional and coffee at the recreation center. The campground offered several areas for good walks and places to keep the dogs' interest up.
I should note that we've been on the road for as long as six months and never have been turned away from a campground, although there are some we have avoided because their write-ups make it clear that dogs are not welcome under any circumstances.
At some campgrounds, often we have been told of a "secret pasture" where the dogs can run off excess energy. We have found that a daily entertainment routing keeps the dogs settled. We seldom walk the whole bunch at one time, so most campers don't even notice how many dogs we have.
At campsites, we place a grooming table outside next to our motorhome's entry door. We put the dogs on the table to wipe dirty feet and brush their hair. We trained them at an early age to get on the table so we can work on them without breaking our backs. We even use the table to wash them. Most campgrounds let us use an empty site to bathe the dogs. We set up the table near a hose and dry them on a picnic bench.
I guess there are two ways of looking at crating. By not crating our dogs, in case of an accident, the could get loose outside the coach. They each have a microchip implant and collar, so there is some hope we'd get them back.
I would not want the dogs trapped in a crate, even though they may suffer more injuries uncrated. Just in case our dogs get annoying in the cockpit, we have made a barrier out of the PVC picket fencing. We secure it to the headrest with elastic cords and it works like a champ.
Soon, we are getting a puppy offspring of one of our dogs and he'll have to be crated until he learns the ropes.
Food delivery, auto-start generator
I could ramble on for days about traveling with the Aussies, but two final notes and then I’ll sign off. First, we get our dog food by mail order. It has never been a problem to get 40 pounds of food delivered to the campground in a timely fashion.
Second, since we travel in the South in high temperatures quite a bit, we have an automatic starter on our generator. When it senses a loss of power, the generator starts so that we don't lose the air conditioning. We have returned to the motorhome to find it running a couple of times.
We probably have hundreds of stories about our 10 years of RVing with four, and sometimes five, dogs and would be glad to share our experiences with other pet lovers. Our e-mail address is [email protected].
Do you travel with pets? Send your tips, ideas, memories or stories to [email protected].