I woke up this morning with a sense of dread — not uncommon, I admit, but this dread had a specific source. I’m planning to leave on Wednesday for San Diego to attend the surf dog festival and I’m worried about the drive with Frankie.

I'm ready to ditch the desert!
I'm ready to ditch the desert!

It’s not a terribly long trip from Tucson, about 7 to 7.5 hours depending on the traffic as I near San Diego. The southern Arizona segment tends to be a breeze,  with long stretches of pristine desert and little traffic. The speed limit is 75mph for the most part and there are no speed traps (at least last time I went) so I generally cruise at about 90mph. The California segment is a lot more congested, but there are stretches through the mountains that are gorgeous.

So what’s the problem?

  • Frankie hates car rides.

Many dogs are eager to hit the road as soon as they hear the sound of rattling car keys, but Frankie shakes, salivates, and stands upright in his harness for hours, on red alert. I tried everything: taking him on short trips to nice places (as opposed to the vet); keeping the window open rather than using the a/c; buying a booster seat so he could look out; even playing soothing music (which I hated, so maybe he picked up the bad vibes). His comparative serenity in the mid-size car I rented when my Hyundai was in the shop made me wonder if Frankie just needs a smoother ride, but I draw the line at buying an Escalade for him.

(Of course, I got the Hyundai before I got Frankie. Who knows what I might do if — shameless self promotion alert (SSPA) — AM I BORING MY DOG become a best-seller and I can afford to upgrade my wheels? According to a study by the American Kennel Club, some 47 percent of dog owners take their pooches into account when buying an automobile. See the reviews on Dogcars.com if you’re among them.)

At least Frankie doesn’t throw up out of nervousness, as some dogs do. The lingering smell of dog vomit in the backseat can really put a crimp in a vacation.

  • I’m still feeling guilty about having given Frankie azepromine (Ace) on the last trip

I know, this blog is supposed to provide a guilt-free zone for good dog owners, but I can’t get over my bad feelings about having done that. Let me backtrack.

In order to calm Frankie down I tried botanicals like Rescue Remedy and lavender oil. Neither did a thing for Frankie.  Dramamine didn’t work at the vet’s recommended dosage; neither did Benadryl.  Valium, also prescribed, turned Frankie into a little love machine. He licked my face with even more abandon than he usually does and velcroed himself to me. That woudn’t have been such a problem if, when I took a test drive with him, he hadn’t tried to disengage himself from his harness to leap into the front seat with me.

Then the vet suggested Ace. My friend Karyn warned me that she heard about bad side effects, but she has a greyhound. My online research didn’t indicate any problems with small dogs. Frankie seemed great, more relaxed than I’d ever seen him through the trip. It wasn’t until much later, when I was researching (SSPA:) AM I BORING, that I discovered Ace just masks the symptoms, leaving your dog still fearful but immobilized.

  • Peeing presents difficulties

My peeing, that is, and it’s not a urinary tract issue but a logistical one. Frankie has no problem with al fresco relief of course. But I can’t leave him in the car when I go inside to relieve myself, not at this time of year. Even with a window cracked, it can take only a minute or so for a car to reach a fatal temperature. Dogs don’t have efficient self-cooling systems.

Some three hours or so into my last trip to San Diego, I discovered that I needed to go desperately. After driving for miles through the desert without seeing a rest stop, I finally came to a gas station and convenience store. According to the big thermometer display, the mercury had hit 110 deg. F.

I looked around outside. No bathrooms. Okay, I figured they must be inside the store. Hoping to pass him off as couture, I put Frankie into a tasteful leopard-print carrier and went in. We were stopped immediately by the clerk, who said that, because the store sold food, Frankie was a health violation. (Have you ever eaten a convenience store burrito? Now there’s a health violation.)

I explained that if I peed outside the front door it would also be a violation — one that the clerk would have to mop up. The crazy lady alert went off, and Frankie was permitted to stay with me. As I drove away, relieved, I contemplated how unfair it is that women can’t share the public urination experience with their dogs. I’m certain it’s a source of man-and-dog bonding.


So, for all these reasons and others too boring to go into, I booked a ticket on Southwest, which newly started accepting pets. I haven’t paid for it yet. See my next post for why I’m obsessing over this decision.

Update: As my friend Karyn suggested, I posted on Craigslist for a ride share. And, as my friend Sharon advised, I can scope out the rest stops in advance on line, heading off the problem, as it were. I’m still weighing my options though. Stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “Car travel, Part 4: Maybe I should fly?”

  1. I know what you mean about the car travel. When it’s 110 degrees which it could be in Arizona, dogs don’t even want to put their paws on the hot ground.

    Ideally, it’s better to travel with a friend who can do guard duty. Maybe you can find someone on Craig’s List who wants a ride to San Diego and back?

    Perhaps you can have two sets of keys and leave the car and A/C running. Lock the car. And run in the store and do your business ASAP.

    1. I like the Craig’s list idea. I’m a little wary of it — and of a stranger’s company, says the grouch — but it’s a possibility.

      Unfortunately the car is modern enough to not allow me to lock the door with the key in the ignition and the a/c running; good for not locking yourself out of the car, bad for dog passenges.

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