Lessons Learned From Traveling With My Dogs

This post is part of our Saturday Editorial Series.  Normally, we let the dogs do all the talking! Join rescue dogs Peanut Butter Brickle and Digby Pancake every weekday for their take on life!  

When we invite dogs into our lives, we already know a few things. First, we know that it is our responsibility to protect them, to feed them, to take care of them.  We also may feel like it is our responsibility to teach them.  But in all of the “tricks” and failed obedience lessons later, I have learned a few things.  That dogs are much better teachers.  And dogs will always, yes always, lead us to where we need to be in our lives.

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Following our blog for the past two and a half years since we made the leap into full-time travel has probably made you think twice about traveling with your dogs!  Why?  The breakdowns, the long days, getting caught in freezing weather, running from fires, hurricanes and the expenses incurred with this lifestyle.  Maybe.  But even with all of those problems, traveling with my dogs has taught me lessons that I never would have learned otherwise.  I thought I knew what was important.  But I didn’t know how important.

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When I look back on our travels, many times it is not the specific destinations that we visited, but the people we met at the rescues and shelters, how Brickle and Digby liked the place, or great food we had.  So many times, people ask me what my favorite place was on our travels.  And I always say the same thing…where Brickle and Digby were the happiest.

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Our dogs mean everything to us.  I am quite sure that you feel like this if you read our blog.  We want people to know how much you can change the world and make it a better place when you rescue.  We also want people to know that when you try to give your pet the best life possible, that you will live your best life.  I have.  Being on the road has, without question, changed me forever, whether I stopped doing it today or ten years from now.  I will never be the same.

Lessons I Have Learned From Traveling With My Dogs

  1.  Time. The first lesson I learned from traveling with my dogs was that before this lifestyle change, I had spent a lot of time away from them.  There were things I could not help, like my work schedule and other responsibilities.  Time went by so fast during my first years with them.  Sometimes I wonder if we all had a clock right in front of us with the minutes and seconds counting down, would we waste that time?  If our circumstances allow, take this lesson.  Make time for your dog.  Take a little longer walk.  If you don’t have to work extra hours, don’t. Make your dog feel special.  Cuddle five minutes longer.  You can’t get it back.
  2.  Adjustments.  One of the great things about traveling with your dogs is that every day can be different.  You can wake up in a different place every week if you want to.  Some places you may not like the moment you get there.  But your dog will always get excited over that first walk there, those first smells.  They will be excited at adventure and new things to do! Take this cue from your dogs. Give the place a chance.  And this has carried over into my life.  I used to think I had everything figured out.  My career path, where I wanted to live.  And none of that happened as I thought.  I could have let disappointments in life paralyze me.  Or I could simply give this path a chance.  Make adjustments.
  3.  Life is more than stuff.  This may seem shocking.  But your dog has no idea what money is.  We all need it.  We all have to have it to even take care of our dogs.  But I will never second guess our decision to do these trips in our house on wheels.  It probably was not the best monetary decision.  Let me just be upfront about that.  But is anything in life ever guaranteed? I could have waited for the “best time” to do this.  But waiting may have meant that Brickle and Digby would not be able to enjoy it.
  4.  You need more in your life than your dog.  When we first started on the path to full-time travel, we had the goals of visiting 48 states and 48 rescues.  We were focused, determined, tired.  I forgot about missing my friends and my family.  I had a job to do.  But as the time went on and we reached our goals, I felt that I began to put too much pressure on my dogs to be everything to me.  They could not fulfill every person’s role I was missing in my life.  So set time aside for those phone calls, those texts.  Make time if you can for visits.  Full-time travel can get lonely.  And my dogs are everything to me.  Just don’t put every pressure on them.
  5.  Realize that you aren’t perfect, and your dog is not either.  There are many things about traveling with your dogs that people don’t tell you.  What if your dog doesn’t like other dogs, or is very protective?  How can dogs like this enjoy travel?  What if your dog isn’t the most “well-behaved” or has anxiety?  Guess what.  Our dogs have some of these problems.  And guess what.  So do I.  Traveling with dogs can be more work for some of us, but making necessary precautions can make it work!  Don’t think that everyone’s else’s dog you see traveling is picture perfect.  None of us are.  But all of us deserve to do what we enjoy.

Even above any lesson that I could have learned from my dogs, I learned that I did not know it was possible to love so deeply.  I look into their eyes, I take a breath of their fur, yep, dirty fur, and I try to take it all in.  I will never take for granted the time I have had with them.  If I have done one thing right in my life…just one…It was that I tried to do all I could to show Brickle and Digby how much they mattered.  They weren’t just two dogs at a shelter.  They were two individuals.

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Travel may mean for us that we have less money in our pockets.  It may mean that we are going to have harder days than others.  It may mean that life is not as predictable and “safe” as it once was.  But when I look at my dogs enjoying each and every day, I don’t care about anything else.

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We have no idea where our life is going to take us. But I know that if I listen to Brickle and Digby they will lead us where we need to go.  It’s just up to us to listen.  So listen to your dog and ask the question, “Where do you want to go today?”  Then.  Go!

-Rachael Johnson, Owner and Girl Person of 2 Traveling Dogs and Your Dog’s Diner

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A Staple, Dead Battery And Destroyed Radio, Part Two

This is Sheriff Peanut Butter Brickle. Sometimes, it is better to tell on yourself. I always say, let the punishment fit the crime. So if you tell on yourself, does it make the crime less awful? Or if you were, let’s say, Deputy Digby Pancake, would you wait till you were found out? I will let you decide.

If you read part one of the issues of the week on yesterday’s blog, you may have been waiting for the conclusion today. Well, some things are worth waiting for, although I am not sure this is one of them. In fact, I would have been just fine not typing this and reliving this and resmelling this. But part of my job as a Sheriff is to inform. And so you are being informed. Sit back, relax and hold on to your radios. If you haven’t ate yet today too, you may want to wait on that.

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So yesterday, Digby told you about the dead battery. Digby told you about Girl Person and her flip flops and the mountain and yes, the staple. But he didn’t tell you what happened later in the day. After he choked. During our walk. And then. The next day.

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You see, after Digby’s choking episode, Girl Person was feeling all smooshy with Digby. Loving on him and still trying to make sure he was ok. Although he still wasn’t feeling the best, that did not stop him from something he had been trying to do for days. He knew and I knew, that deep in the bushes by one of the campsites, a family had left there two days before. And before they left, they decided to throw hotdogs everywhere. If you like hotdogs, oh you like like hotdogs. And if you are a vegetarian like Girl Person, the thought makes you want to never eat again. But for us, it is heaven. And for Digby, the longer they had sat there, and the harder Girl Person tried to pull him away, he felt more determined to get them. Even with a staple in his mouth. And as you can imagine, the hot dogs didn’t know they should fear for their lives, so they just laid there. Until Girl Person turned her back, Digby yanked as hard as he could, Girl Person almost lost her arm, and a hot dog lost its life right in one big, squishy, old gulp.

If you know Girl Person, you know that she has a weak stomach. She still needed to look for whatever was in Digby’s mouth, and with that old hot dog breath, she just kept asking herself why. Why. Why. It had been a bad day. Well, a not so convenient one. And sometimes, you just have to cut your losses, figure at least he didn’t eat two hot dogs, and that tomorrow was another day. And it sure, sure was.

Digby seemed to get better as the night went on, but his stomach noises started. Then they stopped. So the persons thought he was ok. They had to run an errand thing, and told us that they would be back in two hours. They put on some lovely, classical music for us, gave us some treats without hot dogs or staples in them, and told us to take a nap.

Now, usually, you don’t have to tell Digby to take a nap. He just takes it without asking. And this afternoon he was feeling pretty obliged to grab one on the persons’ bed. The only place in the whole RV we weren’t allowed to jump up on. At least this week. And yet, about an hour after they left, I heard it. Above the classical music and the thoughts of me becoming a professional pianist, I heard it. Digby. He ran out of that bedroom like a hotdog with hot mustard on it.

He ran out of there like a bun without a burger. He ran out of there like he wasn’t lazy. In other words, not like Digby.

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First he looked at me. Could I open the door? There was a problem. A very big problem. Now, I don’t have thumbs, and I don’t want them, so opening the door was not an option. But his stomach was not taking no for an answer. There was no choice in Digby’s eyes. He had to go. And he had to go now. No staples were gonna pull this together. He figured that the farthest place he could go, so as not to be found out, was the farthest place in the RV. Yes, you would have thought the bed. And as he started to go, he realized he had an opportunity. When they found this, it would be pretty bad. But possibly, he could save the bigger mess for somewhere else. And maybe that would not be found at all.

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So it happened. I happened to look away, and then…the persons came home. They did their usual apologies and lovey dovey stuff. They said they were sorry. Oh, they would never leave us again. They took us for a walk, and Digby just wasn’t himself. He knew it was going to be bad. Real bad. He sat up on the couch to face the music. The classical music that was still on. Have I mentioned? He. Hates. Classical. Music. Y’all.

They started putting away our food and presents. Girl Person said she was going to change clothes and she went into the bedroom. Digby knew it was coming, and as the music on the radio got louder and faster and more dramatic, I felt it coming…here it came…

“Oh, no! We have a problem.”

If you know Boy Person, he doesn’t like surprises. He peeked his head around the corner, which in the RV is not very far, and he said, “whaaaaatttt?”. All Girl Person could do was point. She concluded that the sheets and the comforter were goners. She dry heaved, she wanted to run out the door, but they pulled it together and said, well, it could have been worse. Poor guy. Poor Digby. And as Digby sat on the couch looking happy with himself, I wanted to tell them right then. Run for the hills. Run back up that mountain. Let your battery die again. Yes, even wear those flip flops again and feel the pain. Because what is about to happen to you in five minutes ain’t gonna be pretty.

Girl Person started bagging up the sheets and the comforter.  She changed her clothes, went to shut the closet…and….the horror. The horror of all horrors. If I could explain it one way, I would choose another to soften the blow. Because as she looked at the wall above where her pillow was, where the radio was…there on top of it did not sit a pile of gold. No. On top of that radio did not sit a pile of pancakes. Or potpourri. All you could hear for miles around was, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?”

She ran out of the bedroom laughing so hard, Boy Person tried to push past her, and she said no. He could not go in there. She told him if he went in there, he would never be the same again. She said they could never look at each other again if they had to clean that up. She said it was in their best interests to just leave the RV on that mountain and make a new life for ourselves.

But he didn’t listen. She begged him not to scar himself. She begged him to run away. But as he looked in the room, there on top of the radio was a pile of the after effects of old hotdogs in the bushes and staples and whatever else a Deputy Digby Pancake eats in two days. No one can out eat Digby.

And as Digby looked at everyone running around, and gagging and laughing and crying and freaking out, Boy Person ran in the room in a hazmat suit, took that radio off the wall, apologized to anyone who had been aired on it that day, and looked at Digby as he tried to carry it out the door without dropping it. Girl Person breathed a sigh of relief as the radio made it out, and then Boy Person wondered what would he do with it? After all, he couldn’t just throw it away…you had to recycle it. Girl Person gave up. Everyone had lost their minds in this place. Including her. Now, they had no sheets. Now, they had a very Dirty Digby sitting on the couch.  Already asleep again.  He had forgotten what was even going on.

I couldn’t keep up writing the arrest report. And this had been a day of days. A week of weeks. And yet, somehow, the laughing continued. But so did the cleaning. I think they are still cleaning.

You would know that there were a few lessons to be learned these days.  First. Don’t leave your lights on a working on top of a mountain in flip flops.  Don’t drop your chicken on the ground and then eat it with a staple on it.  Also, don’t eat old hotdogs thrown in the bushes.  Also, don’t ever leave your dogs listening to classical music and expect everything to be ok.  When it comes down to it, even days with a destroyed radio make you wonder how your life would be different without those you love in it.  Because even on the days that those ones make you work a little harder, hold your nose, or gag till you can’t gag no more, life would be no fun without them.  Life is more fun however without a radio that will never be the same.  Does anyone know where we can recycle that?

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So the question I posed at the beginning still begs to be answered.  If you tell on yourself, does it make the crime less awful? Or if you were, let’s say, Deputy Digby Pancake, would you wait till you were found out? What would you have done?  Your answer will determine your punishment, but for Digby, his only punishment was that dinner was a bit late after that.  And yes, he ate it.

-In other news, we are going to try and make it back to the Blue Ridge Parkway today! No storm is going to stop our path!  Stay tuned for real time updates on our Facebook page!

-Sheriff Peanut Butter Brickle

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