Sounds romantic, doesn't it? Yeah, not so fast.
There's a reason we are renting a house so far away from civilization and it has little to do with romance. It has to do with our crazy dog.
Traveling with Bella can be a test of patience and fortitude. She is highly reactive in the car, afraid of all things new and, while crate-trained, not super-cool about being locked in her crate left by herself in a strange place. (She's a "run and hide" kind of girl and views the crate more as a trap than a treasure.)
Planning a vacation with a scared-y dog - and let's face it, we can't really plan a vacation without her - starts early and requires more than a modest amount of planning and effort.
First, we choose the locale. Since Bella will be joining us, we have to be able to drive to our destination and the search is limited by travel time. I usually pick a nearby state we haven't visited (or haven't visited recently) and begin digging deeper into various areas to explore.
This year I boiled it down to Maine or Vermont. I love Vermont but we've been there recently and Jan has never been to Maine so Maine it is. Now, we not only have to accommodate the crazy dog in our travels, we have to please the humans as well and Jan and I, while having much in common, are also more than a little dissimilar in our vacationing tastes.
"I'm a little bit country, he's a little bit" city-boy.
Jan loves to peruse art museums and antique shops. I prefer hiking and beautiful, natural vistas.
Luckily we both love to eat so as long as I can find a really good foodie culture with a few art galleries and a lake or ocean view, we're good to go.
This year Camden, Maine looks like it will fit the bill nicely.
Or rather Hope, Maine since Camden will be busy with people and tourists and other dogs and we want to survive this vacation. So we're staying in Hope, Maine.
Never heard of it? Good, that's the point.
Bella will have her own private yard with a private dock and a large pond to play in. Jan will have antique tools to browse and I'll have the natural beauty that is Mid-Coast Maine at my disposal all while enjoying an exciting, locally-focused culinary jewel.
|Did someone say "Food"?|
So that's the effort that goes into planning where we'll go. Getting there and being there offer their own adventures in organizational dexterity.
Some of the other preparations I have planned include:
- Before we leave for the 3-hour drive up, we'll take our crazy beast for a nice long walk near home so she should be good and tired when we pull into town somewhere around Ogunquit, Maine to grab some lunch.
- I've already found a few 'clam shacks' on the drive where we can get good old-fashioned New England take-out and sit on the rocks by the ocean with the pupper safely tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist scene.
- Once we do arrive at our destination, I've taken GoPetFriendly.com's advice and prepared a zip-line for Bella that we'll hook up between the house and the pond so she can explore to her heart's content without us having to dig her out of the bushes every 5 minutes.
- We've been crate-training Bella since March and she's doing well but not great. But I've still got a few tricks up my sleeve to help make her crate feel more like home than the couch in the home she'll be staying in. Lots of Kongs and my famous "Peanut Butter and 0% Fat Yogurt" stuffing are on the packing list as is our homemade chicken jerky.
- And I'm making sure her stuff smells like her stuff for the trip. No lilac-scented bedding here - I want her bed to smell like home. HER home. Which means I'm not washing her bed before we leave. I did that a few weeks ago and now it's just sitting there soaking up all those good Bella smells to hopefully make her stay a little less stressful.
The house we'll be staying in is secluded and private but we do intend to take Bella into town with us and on some scenic drives but we'll do so with treats at the ready to distract her from anything that spooks her. We've also put up sun shades in the trusty old Subaru to help lessen her visual stimulation.
While we're on the subject of car travel, Bella wears an EzyDog harness that is securely fitted to the car's seat belt system and we also have a front-seat barrier to keep her safely in the back seat away from the driver.
We're planning to spend a day in Acadia National Park and will take Bella with us when we do. Again, we'll seek out less popular trails and empty beaches on the quieter side of the island. And I've found a kennel on the island that will provide Bella a private, quiet place to rest if Jan and I decide to lunch on our own. (I see this as highly, HIGHLY unlikely but you never know.)
It's funny, as I was planning this vacation, I realized we don't, in fact, search for "dog-friendly" places - too many dogs visit those spots. Instead we look for the "road less traveled" when traveling with Bella. It's easier and more enjoyable for everyone that way.