Vacation Time!

We love road trips as a family

We are just back from a wonderful vacation. When we go on vacations, we insist on taking Nishi. Now that we have Tigger with us, it was a cozy family of 4 that headed out. Over the years we have picked up some useful tips & tricks along the way that make vacations that much easier. I thought this would be a good time to share those, while it’s fresh in my memory.

Preparations

There are no dearth of dog-friendly resorts these days. But there is a dearth of resorts that actually know what dog friendly means. It’s a good idea to get a first hand recommendation and then call and confirm that they are still dog friendly and will be ok with your dog. One of the resorts we went to a few years ago has suddenly turned non-dog friendly. The owner of the resort was never really a dog-person. I guess that was bound to happen. Another 5-star chain suddenly changed it’s policy to accommodate only dogs under 5kgs. What is that? A dog-cat? In any case…first hand recommendation and verification saves us from possible disappointment.
The second part of the preparation, and this should have started much sooner than the expected vacation dates itself – preparing the dog for car rides. With Nishi, we never had trouble. She was born for road trips and just loves it. But Tigger is different. She gets very car sick and starts vomiting in the car. When she came to us, understandably, she was also terrified of cars. We took 2 months to get her used to the car. We took her to places that she might like – parks, pet shops, to houses of friends who have dogs…generally convincing her that car rides are good. Today she jumps into the car herself or asks politely to be picked up and put in. Nice! Meanwhile we figured out how to deal with her vomiting. We just don’t feed her for a few hours before the drive and try to drive steady and smooth.
On the day of the vacation, it’s a really good idea to stick to your daily routine till the doggies have finished their morning business. We learned this the hard way. On Nishi’s first vacation, we were so excited that when we got up I started packing.  She immediately sensed that something was up, got excited and did not poop. And…the whole drive was…traumatic! She kept farting, but would not poop at any of the stops because the whole thing was too exciting for her. What was supposed to be a 7hr drive became a 9hr drive 🙂 Nowadays we wake up, try our best to pretend everything is normal, she goes out for a walk, she poops and THEN all the excitement starts. 
Dogs will need their own little bag packed. Let me try to create a nice little check list below.

Medicines

First come the standard generic medicines – pain killers, anti allergic and antacid. Pet vacations are usually amidst wilderness. One needs to be prepared for dust, stings, bites, thorns, ticks etc…I pack some eye drops, tweezers, cotton and NS (saline solution). We discovered that most of these places don’t have vets or pet pharmas and even if they do the focus is on big farm animals. No one has a clue what to do with a dog. As a precaution, we always have our vet on speed dial and also let him know that we are going on vacation. We often squeeze in a health check up before we leave, get any prescription medicine needed, describe to him the place we are heading to and get last minute advice from him, if any. Sometimes we try preventive tick and flea medicine. But we have now given up on that. One of my friends gave a brilliant recipie to fix the issue when we return and I think that works just fine for me. Here is the recipe. Thanks Chinthana 🙂
  1/2 bottle Apple Cider Vinegar
  1/2 bottle water
  1 tbsp neem oil
  Few drops of detergent
  Shake well – spray on dog or massage in – brush after dry

Bedding

We let Nishi & Tigger on our bed. However, not all hotel & resort owners are ok with that. We found that carrying her bed was comforting to resort staff. When we went on our first vacation, we stuffed a soft donut bed in the back seat and Nishi managed to sleep on it during the drive. When we got off, the resort owner saw the bed and I think I saw a look of relief on his face. 
Nishi’s first donut bed that went with her on her first vacation
Donut bed or no bed, our dogs politely request to get on the bed and I just can’t say no. But resorts insist on white sheets, not exactly ideal for snuggling with a furry creature on. In order to ensure our vacation is perfect in every way, we first get rid of any resort fleece & quilt as soon as we go, cover the entire bed with our own spread, that we carry from home and take back any vacation paw prints our dogs bring in for us, as momento from our vacation 🙂 It’s our dogs mess and we keep it.
Now, back to our first vacation, where we were not as wise. We did not carry a bedspread. It was during Diwali & the crackers scared Nishi. Come morning, to our horror, we discovered Nishi curled up near our feet, on the bed, looking happy to be there and the bed linen looked…well like a wet muddy dog and rolled in it. What can I say? Well…we went up to the resort owner and told him that our dog had stepped on the bedsheet and that we would be happy to pick up the cost of replacing the bedsheet. After all, we don’t want to be the idiots who got pets kicked out of there, making the option unavailable for all of you. Plus, we ourselves would want to go back again.

Leashes, Tethers, Collars & Harnesses

This is critical. Pet vacations tend to be in wilderness where there IS a risk of elephants, boars, bison, leopards & people. Erm…what I mean is…there is also the added dimension of other guests who do not like dogs. Keeping our pet out of the way of all of these “creatures” while still ensuring a good time for our pets is important if we have to have a pleasant vacation and be allowed to go back. 
We carry 1 retractable leash for Nishi, that is with us at ALL times. Retractables give us the flexibility

of how much we want to restrict her movement depending on the situation. On one vacation, we tuned a bend and saw bison! Yup! We had to quietly pull Nishi back, put her on the leash and move back. On another occasion a horse decided to chase her. Things happen! Yes, vacation with pets are definitely  quite adventurous.  

A leash is no use without something to strap it to. We have Nishi on a body-belt or breast-belt or harness at ALL times! We never take it off. But trouble is that Nishi just loves to swim. At the sight of any water body, she plonks herself in it. And we end up with a soaking, muddy harness. We cannot rule out rain either. Having an additional one can be handy.
Ground peg and 15mtr long tether
We also carry a 15mtr long tether. We put this down in the dining area where we tend to spend several hours during our vacation. Not all guests will appreciate a dog roaming around. To avoid unpleasant situations, when other guests trickle in and are eating, we keep the dogstethered. It’s also useful to keep her in sight after sun down. We don’t want her becoming a meal to some wild animal. We were told, on our first vacation that leopards found dogs particularly enticing and the locals had named them “Naayi Chirate”, meaning “Dog Cheetah”. Our routine when on vacation: we wake up when the sun is up, get as much of time in the sunlight. After sundown, she is put on a long tether till we finish dinner and drinks and we retire to the room.
I have seen a shorter version of this at Paws. The long one, with the peg is available at  Shreenidhi Vet Pharma, No. 49, Opposite to Veterinary College, Bellary Road, Ganganagar, Bangalore – 24. Ph: 23533238
Short Tether
A short tether is a nice to have, for road-site stops during the drive. Often we stop to get coffee or breakfast. We pick places with outdoor seating, where we can get the dogs out and tether them close by. But given these are highway eateries, a 15mtr tether will give her room to run on to the highway. A shorter tether is more convenient for these stops. But it’s not that hard to manage without it as well. The retractable will work too.
I have seen these occasionally at Glenands and Paws, the pet store.

Food

Most resorts that are pet friendly and have dogs of their own have been more than happy to feed our dogs too. But we still carry our own kibble, for a few reasons:
  1. Not all resorts oblige and we don’t want to be caught stealing food for our dog
  2. On several vacations, Nishi has been so excited that she has been unable to eat and just crashes at night. She then wakes up in the middle of the night and asks for food. We just leave a bowl of kibble in the room, with “Laksman Rekha” around it, for Nishi’s midnight repast.
  3. The food the resort serves might not always agree with our dog

We also carry a few additional bowls for water. One in our room and one kept near the dining area, where we spend a lot of time. It also reinforces in our dogs that this is the place to come back to when you are tired and done romping around.

Miscellaneous

Towels:  As I mentioned, Nishi loves to swim. On one vacation, she came back with a fungal growth

from these swims. Now, as a precaution, at the end of each day, she gets a fresh water bath. No soaps and chemicals. Just fresh water to get rid of the mud and anything else on her, and get her ready to climb into bed with us without covering us in slush. NO resort, however dog-friendly, will provide a towel for a dog, even in case of rain. Consequently we carry our own. The Furminator towel is a bit expensive but well worth it’s money. It’s so good that I went and bought one for myself to use at the gym. But now I cannot tell what is their towel and what is mine. I have given up using Furminator on myself. Paws & Dogspot sell the product online, while Glenands & Paws have it in store, in Bangalore.

Furminator Towel available at leading pet stores
Poop Scoop: Some resorts are in complete wilderness and have several dogs, cattle etc of their own. In such places, we have not found it necessary to clean up after her. But some others are more…how do I put this…upscale! In such places, we always clean up if our dogs poop. Afterall, we don’t want to be the ones who got the resort to change their pet policy 🙂
Etiquette: We have found that not all pet-friendly resorts are similar. Their level of comfort with dogs vary widely. Those that have dogs of their own tend to be more tolerent, but don’t count on it. Hence, we follow some ground rules. Even if they are pet-friendly, we don’t want guests to complain and get the resort management in trouble. Guests tend to be sensitive about dogs in dining areas. As a courtesy to such guests, when they are eating, dogs always go on leashes. If there are kids around, the dogs are kept on a leash and released ONLY if the parents tell us we can do so. Other than our own room, the dogs do not get into any other building without confirming that it’s ok. This goes for dining areas and common rooms as well. If those places are not dog-friendly, then we eat outside the area, where our dogs are allowed. Our room is kept as clean as possible – no paw prints on bedsheets, fleece, walls etc…No poop left on lawns, pathways, flooring etc…You get the drift…We are super cautious and sensitive to possible objections others might have. Even if we think it’s not justified, we are not in a majority and we don’t want to push our luck.

Off Leash Play: One of the main reasons we go on vacation is so that we can take the dogs off leash and let them run around like mad puppies. But off-leash play comes with it’s element of risk and we find it our responsibility to evaluate the risk and mitigate it. On Nishi’s first vacation, we tried it for short periods, taking her off the leash in bright day light, after having excersized her sufficiently, ensuring that she is not bursting with energy.  Whenever she disappeared out of site, we would call her and and walk in the opposite direction, teaching her that she needs to check on us regularly if she needs to know where we intend to go. We also have a conversation with the resort management about the size of the perimeter, wild animals if any, safe timings and possible electric fence timings. Last thing we want is for our dog to get electrocuted right. We ask the hosts if there is a large open space or maidan where we can take the mutts and let them off leash to run around. If the resort has dogs of it’s own, that Nishi manages to befriend, that is a good thing. We take that dog along on our walks. The host-dog knows it’s way around well and will usually guide Nishi back to the resort even if she gets lost. We also found that Nishi had a tendency to follow any human who decided to take a walk. Not all humans know how to handle Nishi. To avoid such situations, when we are in the room, Nishi is required to stay in the room with us. But if she runs around enough in the maidan, she is happy to relax in the room when we are relaxing. We have gradually built confidence to give her more freedom on these trips and she has proven to be a good wise girl, guiding her little sister as well.

Swimming:All dogs can swim. But most don’t know they can. Dogs don’t need to be taught to swim. They just need to be given confidence that they can. Once they gain the confidence they can enjoy it a lot. Our situation compelled us to teach Nishi that, as she needed it for physiotherapy. Vacations are good times to do that, but forcing a dog into water can be very traumatic for a dog and definitely not their idea of vacation. While Nishi jumps into water like she was born to swim, Tigger is currently not there yet. But I will be teaching her soon. Once I do, I’ll video it and write another blog on how I did it. Subscribe to my blog and watch this space for that how-to.

And Finally

Nishi never stops on vacations
Don’t bother with photos. I mean it! I tried very hard on our first vacation and failed miserably. Vacations are so exciting for Nishi that the only times I manage to get a picture is when she is passed out. Not much of a picture right? Now, we only shoot videos. It’s the only thing that manages to caputre the sheer energy and joy of a family vacation with pets. But a word of caution. The camera can be quite distracting. I pull it out only when I know that we are fully in the clear – no guests around, no cows & horses around, no main road in the vicinity etc…Then out comes the camera and I end up with hours of footage of pure madness and sheer joy. I can watch those videos a million times and each time it lifts my spirits and fills my heart with pristine. It’s all worth it and I recommend pet-vacations to everyone. Just do it!
Check out our vacation video and visit Nishi’s YouTube Channel for more vacation videos
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