My favorite time of the year has arrived – school is out and it is the start of summer vacation. I should be preparing for a trip, but I am not. Since acquiring my Min Pin crew, traveling has taken a back seat. It’s not that we can’t take a trip, but it would not be worth the aggravation and stress that would be packed along with our luggage.
Reactive dogs change the way you live. Things that were once simple, such as a neighborhood stroll, become more complicated than you can imagine. Things that you did with little thought now require careful planning with every detail micro managed. I love my dogs, but miss the life I used to have. Traveling is one of the things that I miss the most. For many years, a summer trip was on the agenda. Bob and I traveled all over the country, with our choice destinations being California and Colorado.
When the crew was about seven months old, we took them with us on a trip to Colorado. The vacation had been planned shortly after bringing the pups home. Including our dogs on a vacation seemed perfectly normal to us since our first Min Pin, Twinkie, went everywhere with us. Two months prior to the trip, the girls began showing signs of reactivity. I was not worried because I figured that once school was out, I would have a couple of weeks to train them and get them under control before the trip.
Well, my head sure must have been in the clouds! It is now six years later and the girls are still running the show. Sure, there have been improvements, but I am consistently challenged by their reactive behavior. If I knew then what I know now, I would have laughed out loud at my naivety. We are talking about multiple dogs with pack mentality. Each dog would need to be trained individually before training in pairs, and finally as a group. Due to Quest’s hyper-reactivity, we have yet to reach the group phase!
I was extremely nervous the day of our departure. As the plane taxied down the runway, I remember thinking, “This may have been a really bad idea. We are taking a trio of reactive puppies on a vacation!” Aspen and Vail were two of the towns we would be visiting, and having been to both before, we knew that it was not going to be easy to avoid seeing dogs.
Since the girls were still puppies, we brought along a stroller for crowded areas and when a lot of walking was planned.
We tried our best to avoid dog sightings, but were not always successful. A barking frenzy would erupt anytime a dog was spotted, much to our embarrassment. The girls did have romps in local parks, but only after we scouted them first to be sure we would not have any unexpected meetings with fellow canines.
Early morning walks was another way to avoid seeing too many dogs. Rising at the crack of dawn (while Bob slept in!), I would take one girl at a time for her morning walk. This was a practice that I began back home once the reactivity seemed to be here for the duration. I quickly learned that one reactive dog is easier to handle than three.
In addition to walks, the girls also needed time to run and play leash-free. Bob and I came up with some creative solutions that gave the girls a chance to have fun on their vacation. Isolated tennis courts and empty soccer fields became playgrounds for the girls.
Bob and I were able to have puppy-free time in the evenings. Since the girls were crate-trained, we could leave them at the hotel for short periods of time while we went out to dinner. The girls were usually exhausted by the end of the day and probably happy to rest in their crate.
One of the biggest vacation disappointments was not being able to participate in a Race for the Cure event in which we were registered. Months earlier, when I realized that we would be in Aspen while it was taking place, I signed us up for the dog walk portion of the event. Wearing our Race for the Cure shirts and with the girls each sporting a pink ribbon bandanna we arrived at the location. We had the girls in the stroller, but planned to take them out and let them walk. Well, we weren’t there for five minutes before all hell broke loose. As soon as our girls spotted a couple of dogs, the barking and shrieking began. Of course, everyone turned to see the cause of the commotion. Red-faced, Bob and I made a hasty retreat before our girls completely lost their minds. So, knowing that the crew is dog-reactive, why did I sign us up for a walk where they would see multiple dogs? Wishful thinking, maybe? I really wanted to participate in the event and hoped that things would go smoothly. You would think that a lesson would have been learned here, but in the past six years I have really had too many wishful thoughts!
To my surprise, the trip did not turn out to be a total nightmare. The girls were well-behaved at the airport, on the plane, in the rental car, and at the hotels. Walking around and seeing the sights (the whole point of a vacation) was where we had trouble. It is not very relaxing when you are constantly scanning for canines or when people are staring at you because you appear to have no control over your dogs.
Although I have traveled with one dog at a time since the trip to Colorado, Bob and I have yet to take another vacation with the entire crew.
So, the end of a school year is now bittersweet. We are no longer able to hit the road when the last bell rings as we had in the past. It doesn’t seem to affect Bob the same way it does me. My sense of wanderlust is hard-wired and cannot simply be cast aside. For now, I will remain in a holding pattern until we are sure that our next trip will not turn into another barkation.