We're all going on a Summer Holiday !

by Sally Wallis,
Zande Basenjis

(First published in The Basenji Companion, USA. May/June 1997)

The longest journeys commence with but a single step... In this case a decision: are we going to take the dogs with us, leave them at home with a sitter or put them into kennels ? Others are welcome to take up the last two options, but I am going to assume that the doggies are coming along with the rest of the family, that we are going by car, and will be staying in a variety of accommodation. A further assumption is that the intended holiday is not a long series of museum visits and that dogs will fit nicely into the itinerary.

Deedles on Watch

Deedles & Donner loved to cruise on the Shannon - here is Donner on watch while Deedles relaxes. The bicycle on the foredeck is used for collecting groceries and newspapers

On any long car journey, comfort and relaxation are of the essence. There is no fun for some members of the party if others are stressed out, fretful or just plain unhappy. So, as a very first step, make sure that the dogs are content to be in a crate in the car, by working with them over short journeys. If necessary, there are some excellent herbal calmatives which can be given to the dog the night before and again on the morning before setting out.

The crate is going to become the symbol of home and security for the dog(s), the one place in an ever changing environment when they can feel safe and at ease. So make sure it is big enough. An uncrated Basenji on a long car-journey is a loose cannon which can explode out of a door or window at the first stop - and get lost. It can send the driver mad because it is not in one fixed spot and it can be a danger to other road users if, Heaven forbid, you do have an accident and one gets lose and runs off. One thing in its favour though - it will not constantly be asking 'are we nearly there, Daddy?'

Zan in the Bag

Zan trying his (now obviously far too small for him) Sherpa bag. Strange to think he fitted neatly into it just a few months ago !

When packing their accoutrements, make sure you take enough dry or canned food to last them or are certain that you can buy them further supplies wherever you are going. Dogs are creatures of habit and as you are turning their routines upside down, it is wise to keep as much as you can homely and reliable. Relief ! food tastes like it did before the world went mad ! Spare collars and leads in a variety of lengths are a good idea. We have long ones for walks in open spaces and short ones for those quick excursions along narrow sidewalks, in crowds or in strange territory among strange dogs. Spare bedding, a cover to go over the crate to keep them warm or shaded from the sun, their own food dishes (more familiar things), chews, toys and anything they are accustomed to find in their crates or beds at home.

Pack everything you may need for the dogs during the journey and at your destination handy and make sure everyone in the party knows where to put hand to it. And yes, make sure you have a large bottle of cold water for the dogs in the car with you. And a drinking bowl. If they are used to having boiled or bottled water at home, take enough of the same brand with you - at least for the journey.

Most dogs will sleep while the car is moving and wake up, anxious to get out stretch their legs, as soon as you stop. They should have a collar on in their car-crates, something to grab them by at need - and a very important procedure which should be obvious but is often overlooked : always have the leads firmly around your own wrist before opening the crate. Take hold of the collar and snap the lead to it. If you have the lead loosely in one hand, an energetic dog can burst out of that crate and be away before you have time to draw breath. Make sure that if it does, it is attached to you. If you have two dogs travelling together, know which one will burst forth first and have someone to assist you.

Ready to tavel

Merlin has to travel in his crate but it'd take a very big one for Rusty !

During the daytime, we always stop at least every two hours, although after dark at the end of a long day, even those canines who prefer to sit up and watch the world go by will be sleeping and there is not the need for so frequent a chance to make themselves comfortable.

As soon as you arrive at your hotel, motel, caravan site, elderly aunt or a self-catering villa, it is a good idea to feed and walk the dogs and make sure they are settled. Then the family can relax.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I assume you have checked in advance that the Hilton, motel or Auntie Mabel will accept dogs. And that they will be welcome (if subject to discipline) on a camp or caravan site.

I'll sleep well here

Shani tries the mattress - she likes a firm one

We always take a crate into the hotel or motel first and erect it close to a radiator but away from any furnishing which could be pulled through the bars. Then we remove the waste-paper bucket to a high spot, check for electrical wires, make sure kettles are not plugged in and are far enough back from edges, and try to ensure the room is pretty bomb proof. Then we bring the dogs in and feed them, leaving a water bowl down permanently, in the bathroom. While one member of the party takes them for a walk, the others can be unloading the car and unpacking.

It is safer to leave the dogs crated if they are on their own at all. If you have taken a picnic (which we do on one-night stands) they can share, of course ! but while you go out for a much needed and relaxing meal, leave them secured in strange surroundings with the TV or radio on quietly and the crate placed so they can see it.

It depends on what they are used to at home but I often find it easier to carry them on staircases and at least while entering and leaving elevators. That old lady coming up as you and the pack are charging down the stairs has a right to a relaxed holiday too !

Bed Dog Boomer

Boomer snuggles in - all cosy

For me, in an hotel ALL dogs become bed dogs... they have been crated all day in the car and they deserve and need the comfort of a bed with a chin to curl up under. Don't be upset if you are woken at night and made to take a chilly and sleepy excursion outside. If the dogs have not taken as much liquid on board as they normally do at home you have, I hope, made their first evening meal a tad wetter.

The hotel-room will be their home for a while, even if it is only overnight. Impose parameters at once so the dogs know what is permitted behaviour. Ours are used to hotels and love staying in them. Mirrors are a great source of amusement - first sight of ALL THOSE STRANGE doggies which don't have any smell.

If you are staying on a camp or caravan site, it is likely that dogs must be kept on a leash at all times. When we arrive, we go through the same procedure of feeding, watering and walking the dogs at once and then return them to the crate while the awning goes up on the 'van. When everything is unpacked, and the gin & tonic poured, they can join us in the 'van and get used to it, all over again, each time we park !

We leave the crate erected in the awning so that we have a safe place for the dogs while I am preparing food and cooking. It is only too easy for the pack to climb up on the seats and thence reach the work-surfaces and cooker. We are aware of their thieving natures so the discipline extends to the humans of the family and nothing is left where it can be grabbed. We also fit a screen on one side of the cooker so that there is no danger to exploring noses from the gas, and no risk of spilled, boiling, pans. Apart from this, the dogs stay loose in the van, sleeping in the sun, sharing our beds at night, and enjoying long, long walks in the daytime. We also take heavy metal corkscrew-like hitches which are screwed into the ground and to which long leads can be attached. Move them around so the dogs have a choice of sun or shade and place the water bowl so everyone can reach it. A touring 'van is highly recommended for an active family with dogs.

Have fun and remember - it is their holiday too ! -

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Sally & Marvin Wallis
Zande Basenjis
Email : zandebasenjis@btopenworld.com