Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Traveling with Dogs

Greetings from Floyd Street
Travels with a Chihuahua
By Ellen Jo Roberts

Dozens of airplane trips.
13 states.
Two countries.
Eleven years.
5 pounds of Chihuahua.

    We are those crazy people who take our dogs with us wherever we go. They're our family and we can't leave them behind. Bringing dogs along always makes for extra planning, expenses and hassles, but in the end their presence adds so much to the experiences that it's always worth it. Floyd, at 11, is the eldest of our canine pack and has enjoyed the most adventures.

Floyd was born on a Verde Valley ranch in 2003. He was a tiny puppy when I first met him, in a cardboard box with his siblings, for sale at a local horse tack and feed store in Cottonwood. After seeing a roadside sign that read, “Chihuahuas for sale” I pulled a quick u-turn and headed back to have a look. Soon we were proud owners of a handsome and feisty Chihuahua. Others have since added on to our “pack”, but Floyd was the first. Despite his tiny physical size, his personality is the largest.

   We have four dogs now: two Chihuahuas, a "Chiweenie" (Chihuaha-Dachshund mix) and a Boston Terrier. Because they're all small they're easy to travel with and combined they only add up to the size of one "regular" dog. Despite this they are each separate beings and often times try to head in different directions. I hook their leashes to my belt with carabiners and the very moment forward momentum stops I am converted to a human maypole, my legs tangled in brightly colored straps.In addition to being knotted up, there are other hassles when it comes to traveling with pets. We must plan locations that are pet-friendly.Motels, campsites, hiking trails all must allow dogs. Rental cars must allow them. Airplane flights must be booked well in advance with special additional reservations in place for the pets who join us, in carry-on travel cases stashed under our seats.

In his 11 years, Floyd has traveled from coast to coast, from deepest valley to highest mountains.
He’s slept in cabins, boats, tents and historic hotels. And on our laps. Lots of lap naps.
He’s been to ghost towns and mansions. He’s cruised storied roads like Route 66 and Highway 1.
Floyd’s set foot in the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, the Sea of Cortez and the Great Lakes, and most of the rivers throughout the desert southwest. He’s been to the Southernmost Point of the United States, in Key West Florida,  closer to Cuba than to Miami. He’s visited his Mexican heritage south-of-the-border, touring the state of Sonora, and he’s also had his photo taken in front of the White House in Washington D.C. However, his very favorite places to travel are within our home state of Arizona. The amazing variety of landscape and ecosystems make Arizona a lifetime's worth of adventure. The dramatic rock formations and big skies can only seem even more impressive to a little guy who stands 12 inches off the ground!

 Arizona is rich with public lands, affording us many great camping, hiking and day-trip opportunities. Though there is an ever present fear of Floyd getting carried off by a hawk or eagle, he is truly a wilderness Chihuahua and a fan of hikes in Arizona's bounty of state parks and national forests. He also enjoys joining us on raft floats along the Verde River, along the Verde River Greenway and along the Lower TAPCO River Access Park, now called "Verde River @ Clarkdale". He's an excellent co-pilot.

In general, national parks are not overly pet-friendly. Most don't allow dogs off the pavement. In Arizona, dogs cannot go below the rim of the Grand Canyon. There are many exceptions to this however-- many Arizona national monuments and more remote parks are pet-friendly. Tuzigoot, Montezuma's Castle (and the nearby Montezuma Well) and Petrified Forest National Park are some that allow leashed pets on the trails.

 Most Arizona state parks, with the exception of historic buildings like Riordan Mansion and Jerome State Historic Park, allow leashed dogs. Red Rock State Park in Sedona is one park that does not allow dogs, though the neighboring Red Rock Crossing provides a nearby alternative. Dogs can deter wildlife viewing, and this is the reason they are sometimes not welcome, leashed or not. Dead Horse Ranch in Cottonwood is a great place to hike with dogs, and also offers great river access points and fun sandy beaches.

National Forest trails throughout Arizona's National Forests allow leashed pets, so Floyd's wandered the aspen forests of the San Francisco Peaks and the red maples of Oak Creek Canyon's West Fork.


Arizona is a fun place to travel with your pets. Here are some tips to help your dogs enjoy a visit to the Grand Canyon State:

Excessive heat can be deadly to dogs. Dogs don't sweat and their only means of cooling off is transpiring heat through panting. We never leave the dogs in a parked car unattended. We always carry lots of water for both ourselves and the dogs no matter the season. We try to coordinate summer hiking along water sources, so we can soak the dogs now and then to keep them cool. Sun-baked sandy trails can burn the pads of their feet, so we minimize midday hiking in the heat.

Travel Crates and Bedding.
We have several varieties of travel carriers and crates. We have one that pops up like a tent that makes a handy place to stash pets in comfort while we break down camp. In addition to their own bowls and food the dogs also have their own blankets and bedding.

On the Road.
Dogs should be secured safely in cars, just as we are. Allowing them to wander freely can be a dangerous distraction to the driver as well as a risk to the animal should you get into a fender bender. Ours travel in their comfy airplane carriers when we take longer road trips. In addition to providing them calm, safe places to sack out, this method also prevents them from shedding all over us and the interior of the car.  

Always make sure your pets are up to date on current vaccinations. We've never been asked about them, traveling within Arizona, but most dog parks request pets be current on vaccinations, and to fly on planes the airlines do require rabies vaccine be current.

Pets are not welcome in many places, but you'd be surprised how many places do welcome your furry friends. Restaurants with outdoor decks and patios often allow your dog to lay at your feet during your lunch. Crema in Old Town Cottonwood welcomes your furry friend in their courtyard. Historic lodging like La Posada in Winslow, and the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook allow dogs and do not charge any additional pet fee. Always get permission. Call, ask the extra fees (if any), tell the desk clerk you are traveling with pets. Some properties have rooms dedicated to those traveling with pets. Campgrounds generally always allow pets, and primitive camping in the National Forest is also a great, pet-friendly option.

Another reason dogs are not allowed: poop. We always carry poop bags and no matter where we are or what a hassle it may be, pick it up and pack it out. The more dog owners that do this, the more venues will become pet friendly.  

Just like anywhere, Arizona has some creatures that can be a danger to your pets if you're not paying attention. Coyotes have been known to eat small dogs and cats. Skunks can spray. Rattlesnakes can bite with deadly results; Scorpions and spiders as well.  Javelina, with their poor eyesight, tend to go on the offensive and can gore a dog easily. Bear and mountain lions are top of the food chain in the wilds of Arizona. And as mentioned, raptors such as hawks, eagles and owls can easily steal your tiny dog right from your own back yard! Most wild animals are elusive and will avoid you, but the key is simply being aware and respectful of native creatures.

Our lives would probably be easier without all these animals underfoot, pestering us for treats and getting their fur on everything… But it would certainly be quite a deal less amusing.

One thing we’ve realized in our years of traveling with Floyd is that no matter where we go, he is home as long as he is with us. No matter how different the landscape or the temperature, or the duration of the expedition, he is game for any location as long as we together. As we’re packing for a trip I often times find him curled up in my suitcase, nestled among my clothes as if to say, “You’re not leaving without me.”

Another thing we’ve learned in our years traveling with Floyd: No matter the location, big city street or dusty wilderness trail people will always smile at a tiny Chihuahua walking past.

Perhaps some day you will see Floyd strolling the streets of your town!

Floyd is the founding member and president of the Clarkdale Chihuahua Club.
He shares his space with Ivan, a Boston Terrier, Hazel, a Chihuahua-Mix, Simon, his young mini-me, and Ned, a big frisky house-cat and the largest of the bunch.
 As always, for more Floyd travel fun, visit....