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Dogs and camping

We’re going camping this weekend.  It’s our annual spring primitive camp out, and the dogs, as usual, get to go.  They are already excited, we practically had to pull our feist, Sissy, out of her travel crate in the van.  Red Dog, our big girl, was beside herself this evening after watching camping gear being stacked in the yard beside the van and then loaded.  She knows what those tent bags mean, and she also knows that she’s rarely been left behind when they have been loaded.

Our spring camp out means more freedom than usual for them both.  Sissy’s incessant barking is less of a problem there, as we don’t have outsiders walking past, along with bicycles, other dogs, rangers in their trucks, etc. to get her going.  That means we’re saying a lot less of “Sissy, shut up!”  For Red Dog, well trained at 9 years old, it means more off leash time as well as some swims in the creek near our campsite.  No alligators means more water time!  (The water is fast and cold, neither of which enthuse alligators about a creek.)

It means lounging by the camp fire and an opportunity to use her “psycho powers” to coax extra tidbits from the other campers too.  It also means sharing the tent and sleeping on the bed.  Long walks are right up their alley as we walk and explore the woods.  All of this adds up to a great time for them, and they look forward to these trips as much as we do.

But it means other things are important too.  We’ll be away from home, and that means making sure the dogs don’t get lost, as well as that they are carrying current identification tags and are up to date on their shots.  It also means traveling safely both to and from the camp site.

Traveling safely varies between dogs, but one rule should never be bent.  The drivers’ space should never include a dog!  That means even toy dogs, as having them on your lap, etc. is an excellent way to cause an accident as well as seriously or fatally injuring your pet.

There are harnesses designed to restrain your pet while traveling, as well as crates for traveling.  Restraining your pet inside the vehicle is a smart idea, after all, we wear safety belts don’t we?  I must confess though, I don’t strap in Red Dog.

Both dogs have been trained to load into the van on command…and to NOT exit the vehicle without another command, no matter what they want to do.  Sissy rides in a small wire crate to ensure her safety, as she is not as reliable about following the rules.  Red, the dog who has been with me the longest, has a long history of traveling with me, and performing standard security details.  Panhandlers and mischief makers  alike avoided me as a result of her poking out her head through the open door as they approached and giving them a silent “Colgate Grin.”  Apparently, 2″ fangs are greatly inhibiting to these people!    Red is a skilled actress–she puts on a very threatening (and convincing) act of wanting to shred people through the windows of the vehicle.  I have never had a vehicle damaged when she’s sitting inside of it, let alone a thief trying to take an object or the van itself.

So why do dogs love camping so much?  I think its because we are relaxed and happy, and that is contagious.  The dogs pick up on our happy state, and relax themselves.  Add in the interesting scents, the increase in quality time with us, and the fascinating change of routine to include walks and swims, and it’s as much a vacation for them as it is for us.

Camping with dogs is much like any other travel with them, but we do spend more time in camp than we would spend outdoors anywhere else.  As a result, be prepared to cope with their needs outdoors.

  1. Be able to secure the dog for outside lounging time.  Most parks require that dogs be on a 6 ft or shorter leash, which isn’t much room.  Typically, I’ll tie a rope around a tree trunk and thread it through a leash handle, allowing the dog to have a 6 ft radius around the tree.  Most parks do not allow you to leave your dog in camp and go elsewhere–someone has to stay and “dog sit.”
  2. Don’t forget food and water, as well as their dishes.  If your dog has a touchy stomach, bring water from home for them to drink.  It’s a great help to prevent diarrhea and stomach upsets.  Remember, when traveling you may encounter difficulties in obtaining your food, so bring enough along.  Don’t forget their treats–it helps keep the people food for the people!
  3. Bring along a copy of their vaccination history.  This may be required at some parks, and is always good to have along, just in case of a problem.
  4. Bring a toy or two if your dogs play with toys.  It helps occupy their time too.
  5. Have a spare leash.  Leashes often meet with strange damage problems, can be lost or broken, or simply mislaid.  A spare saves your sanity.
  6. Remember the weather. In warm weather, dogs can quickly overheat, whether in a vehicle or not.  Make sure they have shelter and protection from rain or wind, according to the season.  NEver leave a dog in a vehicle in warm weather.  (Typically, if we have to stop & shop when traveling with the dogs, one of us stays with the vehicle unless it is at night and then we’re quick.)  In cool weather, remember…if you need a jacket to be comfortable outside, so do they!

Most of all, have fun and enjoy your time with your pet.  That’s the most important part!

 

 

 

 

Paying attention on a budget

What are the best ways to ensure your pet’s health?

Pay attention!  Animals are essentially hard-wired to hide health problems, but for the observant pet owner, there are small hints that things may be going wrong.  Changes in behavior, especially in terms of eating habits, can signify serious problems.  Sleeping more can indicate other health problems.

Nutritional problems, as well as allergies/food intolerances show up often in the coat & skin.  Any sudden change is obviously a cue to pay attention.  Weight gains & losses can also be related to nutrition.  One useful tool in monitoring changes is to use photographs.

In this day & age of digital photography, it’s very easy to take many photographs.  Taking a monthly photograph at approximately the same distance & location and comparing them side by side can be a very useful tool.  Store them in a single file in your computer, labeled with the date, and it will be easier to track any changes.

Take note of changes, and to make it easier to let your veterinarian know, write them down and take the list of concerns & observations with you to the vet’s office for the appointment.  Just like when we visit the doctor, it is easy to forget details that you meant to mention (and that may be important clues for the veterinarian) while in the office.  A list makes up for that tendency.

Paying attention helps save money by catching problems early, before they become huge problems.  Often, minor issues such as the kinds related to the foods you are feeding your pet can be remedied before a veterinarian visit is required, but don’t wait too long!  If it is more than merely a food issue, it can escalate before you know it.

Comparing the photos regularly helps you know when that veterinarian visit is necessary, and can even help your veterinarian literally see what you are talking about–a great help in the diagnostic process.  It can quickly show changes in coat condition,weight, stance, and even be used to assess the seriousness of tumors and other growths that appear on our dogs, often minor disfigurements that appear with age.  Face it, our pets can’t talk and are hard wired to hide health problems, both of which make it much more difficult to diagnose problems.

Skipping veterinarian visits is not uncommon when our budgets are strained, it’s hard to justify a doctor visit for your pet when you can’t afford them for yourself either.  Don’t cut corners by avoiding vaccinations and annual exams on your pet!  These vaccinations can save your pet’s life and save you a lot of money compared to battling diseases such as distemper, parvo, etc.  Shop around for these vaccination and exam packages–there can often be a vast difference in prices even between clinics in the same general area.  It’s okay to price shop!

Doing the best we can for our pets is important, even when we are short on money.  Shopping around for vaccination packages is an excellent way to cut a corner without “doing without.”  Paying attention so that our visits to the veterinarian accomplish the most possible is another way to get the most out of our tight dollars, as accurate information can save you both time and money.

For your photographic record, try to position your pet in approximately the same position in the same location and get a profile view.  If there are areas of concern, taking a close up on a regular basis helps compare these particular spots too.  Making a habit of a top view regularly is also a good idea, and can show weight gain/loss dramatically.  Date each photo, and review them each month after you take your new set of photographs, but don’t look at them too frequently!  Examining them often will make it more difficult to truly see the changes over time.

Enjoy your pet!