Rules of the Road
Twelve-month old Audie is travelling with us on his first extended road trip. Twelve hundred miles door to door, right through the middle of the country on I-35. We’re off to the 2008 IACP conference to attend workshops put on by Brian Kilcommons, Kayce Cover, Stanley Coren and others on a wide variety of dog-related themes.
My young fellow has been on several short trips, but none of them involved long stays in motels or visits to big city areas (unless Dubuque, IA counts as a big city?) Zip, now three years old, is a veteran of such trips. And even though she’s a neurotic bundle of obsessive-compulsive energy Kelpie, she manages it quite well.
Riding in the van was mostly uneventful. As they usually do, Audie and Zip rode together in a size XXXL crate behind the front seat. It’s cushy and comfy and cozy and rather spacious. Audie whined a bit the first day (he is quite a vocal boy), but he rode without a fuss all day today.
Potty breaks went well. We managed to find nice areas for the dogs to stretch their legs near the gas stations we stopped at to refuel. A newly mowed hay field behind a station in Iowa; an enormous expanse of lawn between a hotel and a Harley-Davidson dealership behind a gas station in Missouri; a strip of shady grass between a truck stop and a Baptist church in Oklahoma and a long evening walk through a quiet, shady medical office complex in Wichita.
When I can, I really do like to let them stretch their legs. Both dogs got a chance to romp briefly off-leash in all these areas. Don’t panic – we were safe. I realize that most people don’t (and probably shouldn’t) let their dogs go off-leash far from home or in urban areas. I suppose that you could say that this is one of those “this stunt was performed by a professional, do NOT try it at home!” situations. The dogs need to run and well, I’m lazy. So I let them off lead for a bit. I’m also too lazy to bring toys so I take the three-foot leather belt leads I use to walk the dogs, tie them in knots and toss them to be fetched. Being dogs, Zip and Audie don’t care. Their motto is “if it moves and Mom says FETCH – CHASE IT and race back to her with it!”
Audie has stayed in motels a few times before and seems to know the drill. Walk politely next to Mom in the hallway and lobby, sit politely to wait for and ride in the elevator and BE QUIET inside. On this trip I decided to start teaching him to sit-stay outside the breakfast area while I go in to get my coffee. Did I mention that I’m lazy? Much too lazy to make two trips to the lobby (one to get the coffee and another to take the dog out for a potty break!) When we got to the lobby the breakfast area was filled with businessmen milling about and seated at tables eating the free breakfast. Perfect. Even though it was crowded, the people there hardly noticed a quiet dog sitting by himself in the lobby. Chalk one up for my boy – he stayed beautifully, even though I dawdled a bit over the baked goods.
Zip’s turn was next. I needed a refill (it takes a LOT of java to get me moving before 8 am!), so we headed back to the lobby. The crowd in the lobby had cleared a bit since my last visit, and now a few families with small children were mixed in with the business types. I sat Zip down and went to top off my cup. I returned to find that a woman with a baby who was sitting near zip was making silly faces and barking at my dog. Zip was even more horried by it than I was. Still exactly where I left her, she sat stock still with her head averted from the woman and a completely horrified look on her face.
I rescued my poor girl and took her outside. She ‘did her business’ like the veteran traveller she is (quickly, discreetly and without a fuss) and we went back inside to finish packing. As we stood waiting for the elevator, the daft woman from the lobby stuck her head into the hall — and started making faces and barking at my dog again. Zip gave her a look of utter disdain and growled softly. Even though I completely agreed with her assessment of the woman’s character, I gave her a quick ‘leave it’ and hustled her into the elevator to avoid the annoying dimwit.
Tonight we’re in a dog-friendly hotel in Round Rock, TX (not the conference hotel, it was already booked when we made the last-minute decision to come). There are dogs in the rooms on both sides of us and across the hall. If these imbeciles their owners typify the manners of most of the dog-owning public — doG help us. Two of the nasty little beasts have tried to lunge out the door after us, and the whining and barking hasn’t stopped since we got here HOURS ago. As they lunge past Zip and Audie stare at them as if to say “Don’t you have any manners?”