I thought I had it all figured out. I was planning our first post-pandemic family vacation, a weekend on Virginia’s Northern Neck near the Chesapeake Bay. I was crowing to my wife about the luxuries of the hotel where we would be staying, the activities we would be doing, and the details of what we would be eating at their two restaurants when she put up a hand.
"But is it pet-friendly?" she asked.
My jaw dropped in shock embarrassment. Like countless American families, we recently got a pandemic pup, an affectionate and exuberant Australian labradoodle we dubbed Tuuli Waffles. (If you’re wondering, her first name rhymes with Julie and means "wind" in Finnish.) She was definitely going to be a part of our excursion. Thankfully, the Tides Inn in Irvington, where we were headed, does allow dogs. Disaster averted!
That clarifying moment was the first of many reminders that for new dog owners travelling with their pets, trip planning and time away from home needs to be approached with a completely new perspective. After determining a hotel does allow furry friends, read its pet policy’s fine print. There may be a fee, vaccinations and name tags might be required, certain areas of the hotel may be out of bounds, and other stipulations may apply. It is likely that dog owners will need to sign a release of liability, and potentially a waiver stipulating you understand the house rules and agree to abide by them.
It is best to have your dog fully vaccinated before you head out into the world to ensure it is as protected as possible from other animals and new environments. Make sure to bring copies of your dog’s vaccination record and any other necessary medical paperwork. I recommend your dog wear a collar tagged with its name and your contact information. If your dog has a microchip, make sure all your information is correct and up to date.
Since we were driving down to the hotel, we needed to familiarize Tuuli with being in the car — a must for anyone who wants to road trip with their canine companion. This acclimatization started two months earlier, as soon as we got her as an eight-week-old pup. At every opportunity, we brought her with us. Initially, she was uncomfortable with the experience. After the first week though, she became a calm passenger, usually shifting into nap mode soon after we hit the road.
It was helpful to have a travel carrier with a shoulder strap. My wife purchased one made by Sherpa, which clicks into the car to prevent shifting, and we could bring it up to our hotel room. This way, we could keep her crated when she was alone (which a hotel may require).
Upon our arrival, Tuuli found herself in heaven. Our room was decked out with a large pet bed for her to lounge on, bowls for food and water, a chew toy and a fully loaded pet waste bag dispenser. The staff was probably more excited to see her than they were her human companions — not that I blame them. I was glad Tuuli has a loving disposition and is taking to her training well. When people came up to her, she happily reveled in their attention.
For all the planning and preparing for the trip, the one element I wasn’t prepared for was the number of people we met because of Tuuli. Whether we were passing through the lobby or taking her for a walk out on the lawn overlooking the marina, people seemed attracted to her. They would stop to ask her name or breed. Some crouched down to give her a friendly pat. Others bemoaned that their own pooch was at home. The most moving interactions were with folks who recently lost a pet and seemed to find some comfort by having a moment with Tuuli.
By the end of our vacay on Sunday, we were sun-kissed and stress-free. Tuuli was in good spirits, full of joyful energy and angling for as many tummy tickles as we were willing to give her. Clearly, she enjoyed her time by the water. As we began the journey back and were recounting our favorite moments from the trip, she lay down in her carrier and promptly went to sleep.
— The Washington Post