Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon and his wife, Jaye, love their dogs. • Athena, a 125-pound Great Dane, came to the family as a rescue puppy years ago but has grown into what Jaye Maddon calls a "gentle giant." • Winston Churchill — Winston for short — arrived in 2011 as a puppy after Joe became enamored with the English bulldogs owned by two of his players. He's artful with his facial expressions and swings between being completely frustrating to quietly cuddling up with his owners. • That love, however, took on new meaning when they decided to bring the dogs from their California home to their house in South Tampa. • The couple eschewed more conventional methods, instead purchasing a recreational vehicle and having Jaye drive them 2,500 miles with her two adult sons, Ryan and Dylan, in March while Joe was at spring training. • In a conversation with Times columnist Ernest Hooper, Jaye Maddon shared her thoughts about the cross country trip, how it turned into a fundraiser for St. Petersburg's Pet Pal Animal Shelter and why Winston has his own Twitter account, @winstoncmaddon.
What stands out about your cross country trip with your two sons and your two dogs?
We never had any of the famous lines you take with your family: "How many more miles? Are we there yet? How many more miles?" We all have technology and GPS. We were looking at the GPS. I think I made one of my sons say it just so we could have it. But there were no real complaints. When I was a child, we went on a three-week vacation in a motor home and we didn't have anything. No cellphones, no GPS. I think we had one or two cassette tapes and it wasn't even the kind of music we liked. We were left to playing games.
So GPS helped pass the time. Did having the dogs help pass the time?
What I did was I sent away for the traveling anxiety drops for the dogs. Athena was amazing because we had a table switched out with a couch, and that's where she was the whole time. Winston had a bed in front of the passenger seat. He kind of walked around a little bit, but he would crash out too. For the first three or four hours, they would just sleep. That would help that they weren't walking around. From that aspect, they weren't as much trouble as I thought they were going to be.
How did Winston end up with his own Twitter page?
I would look out on Twitter, but I didn't want to join myself. I don't really like putting out stuff about myself. I don't think people care about what I'm doing. But then I was seeing a lot of bulldogs and pictures of bulldogs, and they're comical. They do the funniest things. They just have this cute funny face or this gesture. Sometimes Winston gives me this look like a stink-eye. So I was seeing all these things on Twitter, and I thought I would try it out. I don't always put a bunch of stuff out there, but I try to capture the funny stuff he does: "I'm torturing my lady owner today."
How did you reach the decision to buy an RV and drive them cross country?
Athena has a history of bloat. In the larger, more chestier dogs, somehow their stomachs and intestines can turn and twist and they can die if it's not treated and caught in time. It's usually from doing a lot of major activity or a lot of stressful activity before or after they eat. So crating Athena on an airplane just wasn't an option for me. Winston, even though he flew out to us in cargo, when we picked him up in the cargo location . . . he seemed really scared when he got off. I couldn't take it if either one of them were down there in cargo. I think it's scary. I thought to myself, I have to transport them by car. That's the only way. We looked at renting an RV but no one would rent me one. The trouble was trying to rent an RV that was going across country one way. So Joe started looking on the Internet to buy a used one, but he didn't like the idea of me driving across the country in a 10-year-old vehicle with the dogs. He wanted to make sure it was safe. So then we started shopping around and it's almost kind of like buying a house.
What was the biggest challenge of the trip?
The biggest challenge? I didn't think Athena was going to do as well as she did. She's old, she has a pinched nerve, she has arthritis. The larger dogs always have hip problems. I thought she would have a tougher time, but I guess I planned for as much as possible in advance. And, I had a website on my iPad that would allow me to find all the pet-friendly hotels within 5 miles every 300 miles. I kind of planned out where we would stay. Aside from Athena, it was the weather. I was trying to avoid storms and one of Winston's Twitter followers — she's a huge Rays fan and she travels a lot — this one day she said, "Careful there's going to be some strong winds." Sure enough, I looked at the Weather Channel and I was like, "Whoa." We were going to have winds coming up from the gulf. That part was stressful because it was hard to keep the steering wheel straight. If a gust of wind comes you don't have much warning before it makes you drive like a crazy person.
What motivated you to go to such lengths?
I don't really have an answer for that other than I guess I don't want my animals in cargo. I guess some people who put them in the cargo area say it isn't that bad, it isn't totally harsh treatment. But I wouldn't feel right being in my seat and them being down in the cargo area with all the luggage. Especially Athena.
I guess it says how much you care for them.
Absolutely. They definitely bring a lot of fun and joy to our lives. Plus, when we incorporated the charity event drive-a-thon for Pet Pal Animal Shelter, that made it even cooler. We were able to help Winston and Athena and we were able to help a lot of other cats and dogs also. I knew I wanted to turn this into a charity event for Pet Pal. I just had to figure out how I was going to get this motor home. Once that was all squared away, I knew we could do it. I was just so happy Joe wanted to buy one.