Dan suggested I write a post introducing the dogs. "Excellent!" I thought—and promptly spent the next two hours sitting in view of both a messy kitchen and half-packed living room...looking through photos of Maya and Charlie (pictured above, respectively).
My pre-trip checklist is 30 percent done, but it's hard to pull myself away from these two.
We met them at PAWS Chicago four years ago and tested the waters by fostering them for a few weeks. Within hours, we fell in love. Then, on my birthday, Dan gifted me the adoption papers. (He still asks if I'd rather have the cash instead.) Charlie and Maya were ours.
Quickly we learned that Maya—a husky/terrier mix—was her own woman. She can run five miles without warning or training, catches any piece of food thrown in her general direction, and cannot be deterred once she picks up a scent.
Charlie, meanwhile, prefers belly rubs and nap times. A black lab/basset hound/corgi/dachshund/"?" mix, Charlie will flop down at your feet like a deformed little pig or lay on the couch for hours of snuggles, provided he can make his way up there. Because he's so calm, I went through therapy dog training with him at Sit Stay Read, a literacy organization that brings dogs into Chicago Public Schools to motivate kids as they learn to read.
It's powerful to see the kids' reading skills improve even after a few weeks of reading to Charlie, who tends to drift off during story time and then snap to attention at the mention of "treats." He and I have missed these sessions as I've had to spend more time prepping for our trip.
Charlie and Maya are by no means perfectly behaved dogs, though. Since that day we welcomed them into our home in 2011, they have:
- jumped on every single person who has ever entered our home
- ransacked the kitchen and bathroom garbage cans monthly
- clawed the bottom half of a bedroom door to shreds (Maya)
- eaten an entire chocolate bar called "Maya Gold" (Maya)
- paralyzed a rat (Maya)
- proudly carried home multiple dead birds (Maya)
- contracted 6 urinary tract infections (Maya)
- had parts of a leaf stuck in the depths of her left ear (Maya)
- ingested an entire bottle of vitamin d (probably Maya, but Charlie got to enjoy that ER experience, too)
- nearly assassinated a cat of whose house they were a guest (Charlie)
- peed on Dan's motorcycle (Charlie)
Some of these are normal dog things. Some of them are smart dog things. But they're all things that make me worry about leaving them alone, even for a few minutes, in our travel trailer.
Charlie and Maya love car rides, letting their ears flap in the breeze and riding their noses over passing wind currents. And Dan's brother gave us a no-spill dog water bowl for the bumpy roads. So I'm not worried about that part of our travels.
Rather, we're trying to think of ways to keep the dogs safe and busy (and our RV out of harm's way) when Dan and I run to the grocery store.
We already have a good track record with a couple of dog toys. Maya lives for a hot date night with an Everlasting Treat. Additionally, she and Charlie each have a bone that we load up with peanut butter before we leave for longer periods of time.
But we're going to need more than distractions. Dan's mom swears by pheromone sprays as a calming agent for anxious dogs, and our friend Nicolette, a dog behavior specialist, recommends pheromone collars for a more constant calm.
We're also going to invest in Plexiglass and Velcro to cover the screens on the windows and door. "It's the screens, not the walls, they will terrorize. Our dog tore the heck out of ours and ripped screens out of windows. Plexiglass is awesome," another friend told us.
But Charlie and Maya won't always be locked inside. After four years living in a garden apartment, we're planning plenty of hikes and picnics so these furry rebels can experience the world. We've stocked up on their flea and tick medication, which they haven't had to use in the city. As a wedding gift, our friend Gina hooked us up with Night Ize light-up collars and a travel food/water bottle.
And in case of emergency, we printed their medical records to have on hand wherever we are...but they may need updating tomorrow. Maya is headed to the vet for what we suspect is another UTI—or as we call it, a "U-T-Mai."
Any tips for on-the-road vet care or dog necessities? We're all ears.