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Crossing the country with a big fluffy labradoodle

When happy, bouncy Lola is told she can’t come with, she turns into this sad, pathetic creature.

Courtesy of Mike Ewald

When happy, bouncy Lola is told she can’t come with, she turns into this sad, pathetic creature.

Traveling across the country in a car is a challenge; traveling across the country in a car with a large, fluffy labradoodle named Lola in the backseat is something to write about.

When my older son was transferred from Charlotte, N.C., to Los Angeles, his company moved all of his stuff.

Well, all of his stuff except Lola. They would have shipped her via pet freight. My son just couldn't bring himself to do that to her.

His wife flew out early because she also had to start a new job, and their belongings went ahead in a moving van. That left him and Lola. He asked me to come along on the long drive to their new home. Who could resist such an offer?

So, I flew to Charlotte and we clambered aboard the SUV for the 3 1/2-day ride that seemed to take us to every dog park between the Atlantic and Pacific.

Surprisingly, it wasn't so bad, helped in part by some preliminary legwork on tips from people who know more about dogs than we do. This is what they recommended:

• Take your dog for a few short rides before your trip so she gets accustomed to the car.

Check. Lola's not only accustomed to car rides, she loves them. At least I assume that's the reason she mows me over to be first in line to get into the car. Dog park or veterinarian, she doesn't care. She just wants to roll.

• Pets should ride in carriers or harnesses to prevent behavior problems, which can be dangerous while driving.

Great idea, in theory. Unfortunately, such encumbrances would keep Lola from her favorite car game: using her jaws to heave her ball a la James Shields from the backseat to the front. Kids play "I spy" on road trips; Lola plays catch. In fact, we played that game (my son was driving so I was the designated catcher) through Tennessee, Arkansas and half of Oklahoma, where, unfortunately (wink-wink), that darn ball got lost in a dog park.

• Try not to let your dog ride with her head out of the window because dirt and debris could get in her eyes or ears.

This wouldn't be a problem with Lola. She doesn't hang her head out the window long enough to get dirt or debris in her eyes or ears. Like a passenger on a tour bus, she can never decide which side has a better view so she races back and forth across the backseat from one window to the other lest she miss some landmark, or fellow creature, she wants to see.

• Feed your pet only lightly before getting in the car — pets can become carsick. Once you've stopped driving for the day, feed normally.

And, until you stop driving, feed continuously. It's just like having a toddler in the backseat. Remember reaching into that bag of Cheerios to hand your child one at a time on long car rides? Well, I had a bag of teeny little dog treats I similarly doled out to Lola when she started getting fidgety.

• Stop every three to four hours so you can take your dog for a walk on a leash.

I don't know about your dog, but if Lola were trapped in the backseat of a car for four hours (regardless of how much of that time was taken up playing catch, hanging her head out the window or munching on dog treats), she would pull your arm out of its socket as you opened the door. It's probably best to stop much more frequently at places where she can bound out of the car.

• Research where you will stay along your route. Not every hotel is dog-friendly.

We did that but we found out that "dog-friendly" doesn't necessarily mean that the hotel in any way, shape or form considers a dog its friend. Yes, they can stay there, but beyond that, many do little to accommodate them. In one hotel, there was absolutely no grassy area anywhere in sight; in another, we were put in a room on the first floor in a high traffic area near the entrance. The ever-vigilant Lola barked every single time she heard people walking down the hall.

Needless to say, as in every where-there's-a-will-there's-a-way scenario, we did get to the West Coast intact, and Lola and I are now lifelong buds.

Let's just hope my son doesn't get transferred back, because Lola now has a brother — a wiry, little white rescue dog.

Double the trouble, for sure.

Patti Ewald can be reached at pewald@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8746.

Crossing the country with a big fluffy labradoodle 09/26/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 2:28pm]
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