Category Archives: Animals! Animals! Animals!

Off the Cliff

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The Man and I and Jerico the dog took my New Mexico State Parks Pass and went camping at Bluewater Lake State Park between Gallup and Grants, New Mexico. We were staying in the Canyonside Campground near the trailhead for the Canyonside Trail.

Tall, tree-covered canyon walls in the distance. Shallow creek in the foreground.
Bluewater Creek down below

As you may have guessed from the name of the campground and the trail, we were camped on the side of a canyon. Specifically, we were camped above the canyon, but trees and vegetation blocked the view of Bluewater Creek down below. It was easy to forget the land dropped dropped dropped right across from where the van was parked.

It was late September, late in the camping season, so we had the campground loop mostly to ourselves. Some folks in a popup camper were in the area when we arrived on Saturday, but they left late the next day. An elderly couple camped catacorner and across the road from the site we had chosen, but they moved to a spot with a shade cover in a different part of the park after a couple of days when the weather forecast called for rain.

Because the area was underpopulated, The Man felt comfortable throwing the ball for Jerico. He threw the ball away from other campers and kept it pretty close to home.

As I’ve written before, Jerico loves to play ball. He loves for us to pet him, he loves Rachael Ray dog food and any sort of yummy treat, but most of all, he loves to play ball. In the last year, it has become possible to throw the ball enough to wear Jerico out. After fifteen to twenty minutes of chasing and retrieving the ball (depending on the temperature outside) he has to lie down and rest, but in another fifteen or twenty minutes, he’s raring to chase and retrieve the ball again.

A man and dog stand on a rock overhang. Both look down into a green canyon.
Jerico and The Man look down into the canyon.

The Man has thrown the ball for Jerico for countless hours in the last seven or so years. He’s usually very careful to never throw the ball anywhere dangerous because Jerico doesn’t have the sense to stay away from danger. All Jerico cares about is the ball. Jerico focuses entirely on the ball. He doesn’t think about where the ball is going or the relative safety or danger of going after it. Once the ball is thrown, he simply takes off after it.

The Man is usually very careful about where he throws the ball, but this day something went wrong. Whether he was distracted and didn’t think about where he was aiming the ball or if the ball bounced and went off in the wrong direction, I don’t know. Suddenly I heard The Man yelling No! and Stay!

I’m sure you’ve guessed what happened. The ball went toward the canyon and Jerico was not going to hesitate to follow it. Luckily, The Man intervened in time and kept Jerico from blindly giving chase.

The Man put Jerico in the van and searched the area around the drop off in hopes of finding the ball stopped by a large rock or fallen tree branch. No such luck. The ball was gone. No doubt it had rolled and bounced its way down to the canyon floor.

Jerico was not happy about the loss of his ball. He looked at The Man expectantly and barked.

In the past, when the Man was done playing, he sometimes took the ball away from Jerico and put it out of his reach. I think that’s what Jerico thought had happened. He settled down after about ten minutes of barking and expectant looks. However, later in the day, he got more insistent inhis looks and barks. We knew the signs. He was ready to chase the ball again.

A dog plays with a popped soccer ball that's bigger than his head.
Oliver will chase and retrieve any ball, even if he’s popped it, even if it’s bigger than his head.

The Man usually travels with a supply of the blue racquetballs Jerico likes to chase. (Of course, Jerico will chase and retrieve any ball, but the racquetballs are light enough for him to bounce off his nose and catch in midair.) The Man looked all over the van and couldn’t find a single blue racquetball. He realized he’d left the extras in his van which we’d stored in a friend’s backyard over 300 miles away.

Jerico grew more insistent. He really wanted to play ball.

Look dude, The Man said to him, we’re not going 30 miles to Wal-Mart just to get balls.

Jerico obviously didn’t understand.

We had to keep a close eye on the dog. He kept trying to go near the drop off to sniff around. He’s part beagle, so I have no doubt he could have picked up its scent. We were still concerned he would jump off the cliff fof the ball with no concern for his safety.

A dog in an orange harness stands among rocks and tree.

By the next morning, Jerico was being a huge pain in the neck. He would look at us and bark, toss his head, and prance around. We knew what he wanted, but had not way of giving it to him. The barking just went on and on.

I guess we’re going to have to go to Wal-Mart, The Man grumbled.

We had some things to do at the public library in Grants, then The man and I had a lunch date at the local Pizza Hut. It was mid-afternoon by the time we arrived at Wal-Mart. We made a beeline to the sporting goods department, only to find there wasn’t a single racquetball to be found. There wasn’t even an empty space on the shelf where racquetballs should have been.

The Man said we’d have to get tennis ball, but we couldn’t find any of those either.

The Man went to the nearby toy department and asked for help, but the associate he brought back to sporting goods with him couldn’t find racquet or tennis balls either. She shrugged, said she was new, and wandered back to the boxes of toys she’d been unpacking.

Another worker we cornered said to look for tennis balls in the pet department. We found some there, which we purchased, but we wondered where the tennis and racquetball players of Grants get their balls.

Once back at our camp at the state park, The man pulled out one of the new especially-for-dog tennis balls out of the package and played a game of fetch with Jerico. You can bet he was super careful to throw the ball well away from the canyon.

Caterwauling

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It was our very first evening at Rockhound State Park near Deming, NM, using our brand new New Mexico State Parks annual camping passes. On our way to the shower house, I saw a cat sitting on a rock just outside the campground.

Silhouette of Cat Under Orange Sunset

Is that a cat? I asked, pointing, and The Man confirmed that it was.

It must belong to a camper, I said. My friend Coyote Sue travels with her cat who is allowed to leave the RV and explore the area, so I assumed the cat I saw was a traveling pet.

The Man said he thought the cat had once been a pet who had gotten away from its people and now lived wild in the park.

I didn’t give the cat much thought until we got back to our campsite and The Man suggested we put away the dishes, pots, and utensils we’d left out to dry after washing up after dinner. He said he didn’t want critters scampering over our clean dishware, and he mentioned the cat. I was still convinced the cat belonged to someone camping, so I didn’t think we needed to worry about it sullying our cooking gear. I did think we might need to be concerned about mice or raccoons, so I helped put things away.

We hung out in my van until the sun set, then The Man went off to his minivan to go to bed. He muttered something about the cat as he was getting into his rig, but I didn’t know what he was talking about until i went outside to brush my teeth. From out of the darkness, I heard not just a dainty meow, but loud feline moaning. The cat was close and it was loud. Its call sounded something like this: mmmmROWRrrrr! Of course, it didn’t make this sound once, but several times in succession.mmmmROWRrrrr! mmmmROWRrrrr! mmmmROWRrrrr!

I looked around on our campsite and out in the darkness saw two glowing green eyes. The situation freaked me out. This cat sound was creepy, and the creature was close. What if it were rabid? What if it decided to attack me? I took a step toward the eyes to find out if the cat would move, and it dashed deeper into the darkness. I felt better when the cat showed fear, but I wasn’t pleased when it continued to moan just out of my sight. I stood in the doorway of my van and brushed my teeth really quick. I was glad when my teeth were clean, and I could go inside the van and shut the door behind me.

In the morning we found no sign of the cat. There was no indication it had climbed up on our picnic table or tried to gain access to our cooler or any of our kitchen tubs. We didn’t see or hear the cat at all during the day, but shortly after dark we heard it again. mmmmROWRrrrr! mmmmROWRrrrr! mmmmROWRrrrr!

We thought it was checking our area for food scraps or begging for a handout. The Man thought other campers probably fed it. Between meeting our own needs and caring for Jerico the dog, we had just about all the responsibilities we could handle. Neither of us suggested we try to take in a stray cat.

The cat must have been discouraged by our lack of food offerings, or maybe it was opposed to the three dogs (and their people) that camped next door to us for nearly a week. In any case, it didn’t come around every night. We heard it a few nights during our two-week stay, but it was not a permanent fixture in our area.

The weather was awful on our last night at Rockhound State Park. The wind blew relentlessly all day, and by three o’clock in the afternoon (before we could even begin to prepare dinner), snow began to fall. Around 5pm, The Man braved the elements to cook four grilled cheese sandwiches on our Coleman stove that sat on the picnic table. I was grateful to have something rather than nothing in my belly, but it wasn’t the dinner I’d been hoping for. I wasn’t happy with the cold or the snow, and I was glad to settle down under my blankets when The Man said he was ready to go to his own bed.

Just like the narrator in “The Night Before Christmas,” I had settled down for “for a long winter’s nap” when something disturbed my slumber. I don’t know what time it was when The Man threw open my van’s side door, but i was in a deep sleep when it happened. His voice woke me right up when he asked loudly, Are you ok?

I sat up, was blinded by the light of his headlamp, and asked, What’s happening?

He continued to ask if I was ok. I’m sure my eyes were huge with surprise and confusion.

Once I stopped asking him what was happening, I began to assure him I was ok. Why did he think something was wrong?

He said he’d heard me making strange noises. He said he though I was having a heart attack or otherwise dying.

I was dreaming, I told him as I woke up a little more and remembered. My dream wasn’t scary, so I don’t think I would have been screaming or making other noises of distress. I wondered what kind of noises I could have been making that were loud enough for him to hear but not loud enough to wake me up.

You were in your van and you heard me making noises while I was in my van? I asked him. He said yes, which seemed unlikely to me, but I didn’t want to argue. I only wanted to go back to sleep. I assured him I was fine, and he went back to his minivan, leaving me to snuggle under my blankets once again.

In the morning light, The Man admitted that maybe it wasn’t me he had heard in the night. Maybe it was the cat he’d heard.

It didn’t sound like the cat normally sounds, he explained. Maybe the cat was upset about the weather, The Man conjectured. Maybe the cat was vocally protesting the cold and the snow. I thought a protesting feline was a likely cause of noise loud enough to disturb The Man while he inside his van. I doubted he would be able to hear any noise less than screaming coming from my van when he was inside his.

We packed up our gear and loaded both vans that morning. By afternoon, we were at a new state park where no half-wild felines caterwauled in the night.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-art-backlight-backlit-219958/.

Replacement

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Several years ago, I stayed in an Airbnb rental for about three weeks while working a temp job. The job paid well enough that I could afford to stay somewhere other than my van, which was good because the city in the Southwest where I was working was already getting hot in April. In the Airbnb, I could sleep in cool comfort, shower as often as I wanted, and cook in a real kitchen.

At $16 per night, the Airbnb was cheaper than even one of the meth motels downtown. The rate was inexpensive because the homeowners lived in the house too, and I shared a bathroom with the family’s teenage son. Basically, I rented a room in the family home, but all the payments were handled through the Airbnb website.

The family members were friendly and kind. I suspect they were Mormon. The father/husband worked from home. The mother/wife had a job outside the home in the medical field. The daughter of the family had gone off to college, and I slept in her old room. The teenage son was in high school, and he cleaned up after himself in our shared bathroom. The family had a guest room they also rented out via Airbnb. It had a private bath, so it cost more. A couple of short-term renters stayed in that room during my time in the house.

The other member of the family was a fluffy white dog. He was on the large end of the small dog spectrum; I would guess he weighed about 20 pounds. I don’t remember his name, so let’s just call him Fido.

Fido was a friendly and curious dog. He may have barked at me a bit when I first arrived, but as soon as the father/husband told him I was ok, Fido accepted me. He followed me into my room and sniffed around, then went about his life elsewhere in the house. When I’d come home from work, he’d be at the front door, checking out who was there. He’d greet me with a wagging tail, and I’d greet him with a few kind words and some petting. Our relationship was friendly, but not close.

One evening during the last week of my stay, I came out of my room after work and passed through the living room on my way to the kitchen. The father/husband was sitting on the couch. He stopped me and told me Fido had had a seizure earlier that day. The dog seemed to be fine now, the father/husband said, and he had an appointment with the vet in the next couple of days. The father/husband wanted to warn me so I wouldn’t be surprised or freaked out if I witnessed Fido having another seizure. I thanked him for telling me, then expressed my concern for Fido and my hope for his quick recovery. I’d known other dogs who were prone to seizures and took medication to control the situation. I hoped medication would help Fido too.

Over the next couple of days, Fido had more seizures, although I never witnessed one. When I did see him, he seemed ok, tail wagging and happy. Then one afternoon, I came home from work, and the father/husband told me that Fido had passed away. I offered my condolences and talked about what a nice dog Fido had been. I said I was sure the family would miss him.

The father/husband was somber. Yes, Fido had been a good dog, he agreed. Then he seemed to perk up a bit. They were already looking for a new dog, he told me.

I tried to hide my surprise. Well, that was fast, I thought, but kept my mouth shut and tried to keep my expression neutral. It wasn’t my place to judge how these strangers handled the loss of their loved one.

After a day or two, the father/husband told me they’d been looking online at dogs ready for adoption. They’d found one that seemed to be a good match, and the family would be able to meet it soon. He hoped the new dog would be living with them shortly.

I expressed general positivity–Oh that would be nice, or something along those lines. Again, I knew it was not my place to judge how other people grieved (or didn’t), but damn! Poor little Fido hadn’t been dead a week and already his family was working fast to line up a replacement. I wondered why they were in such a rush to get another dog in the house. I also wondered (uncharitably, I know) if one of the spouses died suddenly if the survivor would remarry in a matter of a few short months. I’m not saying don’t ever get another dog, but maybe give yourself some time to mourn, people. Of course, I kept all these thoughts to myself, as I was just a stranger renting a room after all.

My job ended, and I left before I could meet Fido’s replacement.

Campground Mystery

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The Man and I arrived at Bluewater Lake State Park late on a Saturday morning. We were going to stay there for a while using my New Mexico State Parks Pass.

We drove through all the campground loops looking for the right spot for us. We were disappointed to see most sites did not have any shade covers. Although it was late September and the temperatures were mild, we didn’t want the sun beating down on us for hours a day.

Sky is blue with puffy white clouds. Bluewater Lake is in the foreground.
Bluewater Lake, New Mexico

We finally found a suitable site in the Canyonside Campground. While there was no metal shade cover on the site, a tree growing next to the picnic table offered some relief from the afternoon sun. Unfortunately, an older couple was already camped on the site next door.

Usually we wouldn’t camp so close to other people, especially when there were plenty of empty spaces throughout the park. However, we’d been through all the developed camping areas, and the site with the tree was the best spot we found in regards to shade, flatness, and proximity to restrooms, so we took it.

The folks next door had a popup camper set up on the asphalt parking spur. Our van was on our site’s asphalt parking spur. We parked with our side doors facing our picnic table. Basically our van had its back to the site next door, offering us and our neighbors some privacy.

Dam at Bluewater Lake State Park
The dam at Bluewater Lake

Early Sunday afternoon, the people next door were still there but where obviously packing up. The Man and I took Jerico the dog for a walk. We went to a lookout area and saw the dam and the lake. It was a beautiful day.

When we got back to our campsite, Jerico made a beeline to a large rock just off the asphalt in front of the van.The rock was definitely on our campsite, and I’d leaned my two folding tables against it when I’d taken them out of the van to give us a little more elbow room. Why in the world would the dog be interested in that rock?

I’ll tell you why: a hamburger. An unwrapped, homemade 3/4 of a hamburger complete with bun was lying on the ground right up against the side of that rock. Jerico was immediately trying to munch it down. While The Man does sometimes give Jerico small bites of people food, he doesn’t let the pup ground score items of unknown origin.

We ushered Jerico away from the burger, picked it up and deposited in the trash, all the while wondering where it had come from. It certainly hadn’t been there the night before, so it hadn’t been left behind by the last people who camped on the site. I would have seen it when I leaned the tables against the rock, and had the hamburger been there the entire time, Lord knows Jerico would have tried to get at it at some point in the last 24 hours.

Someone came onto our campsite while we were gone and put that hamburger there, I whispered to The Man.

Who would do that? he asked. And why?

He suggested maybe someone was eating the hamburger while walking on the road that looped through the camping area. The person had enough of the hamburger and instead of carrying it back to their own camp or depositing it in one of the nearby trashcans, the person randomly tossed the hamburger and it landed next to the rock on our site.

This idea was no less absurd than the thought of someone tiptoeing onto our site while we were away and gently placing 3/4 of a hamburger next to the rock. In the first place, who’s going to toss a large portion of a hamburger into a camping area, even it it’s mostly empty? Secondly there was another campsite between us and the road. The hypothetical person munching a hamburger while walking through the campground would have to be a champion in hamburger distance tossing to have gotten that hamburger across the vacant campsite and onto ours. Of course, the person would also have to be a champion in hamburger precision tossing to get it so close to that rock. The hamburger was lying there so neatly when Jerico found it, the buns still lined up precisely. That burger had been placed, not tossed.

This led us back to the question of who would do such a thing. I cast a suspicious eye on the couple in the popup camper. Was the hamburger some sort of weird retaliation for parking next to them when so much of the campground was empty? Of course, I didn’t walk over and question them–I’m much too Southern for such a thing.

Let’s suppose someone did carefully place the remains of the hamburger next to the rock. Who does such a thing and why? If they had a leftover hamburger and thought it would be a nice treat for Jerico, why not come over and offer it? I don’t think it’s a good idea to give food to dogs (or kids) without getting approval from the responsible adult first. What if the dog (or kid) can’t have certain foods because of allergies or other health concerns? What if the responsible adult doesn’t think it’s a good idea to let the dog (or kid) eat food provided by strangers?

If someone wanted to give the remains of the burger to Jerico but had to get if off their campsite immediately, while we were away, why not put it on a napkin or paper plate and leave it with a note on our picnic table? Why leave a well-meant offering on the ground beside a rock?

Some people would say I’m making much ado about nothing, but this is the sort of little mystery my mind keeps going back to. Who did it? Why? Why did this seem like a good idea to someone? Was it an accident or on purpose? Why on our campsite? Was it some kind of prank? Was it a harmless gesture or did someone have nefarious intentions?

I have no hope of learning the truth. I’ll take these questions to my grave.

Baby Bovine

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I was alone in my van, driving up from Babylon after two nights, a full day, and a morning in the heat. I was tired because the heat had kept me from getting good rest.  It was early afternoon, full daylight, and although my van is a lumbering beast, I was making good time up the mountain.

Most of the road was well-lit by the sun, but where tree branches hung over the asphalt, shadows darkened the edge of the road. With my sunglasses on, it was sometimes difficult to see what was lurking in those shadows.

Crews were out felling hazard trees. The tree cutting had been going on for almost two months, and still there were dead and dying trees for the crews to take down. I slowed to a crawl when I saw workers on the side of the road and obeyed the signs demanding “slow” or “stop.”

I’m generally a cautious driver, and I tend to be even more careful on mountain roads. However, I almost had big trouble that afternoon.

I was taking a curve, and the road immediately ahead of me was deep in shadows. I was maybe going a little faster than I should have been. Maybe I had looked off to my left, or maybe I was daydreaming a little. I don’t remember what I was doing before I realized something was lurking in the shadows, but I do remember the panic and fear I felt when I realized something was out there.

Brown Cow in Green Leaf Grass during DaytimeIt was a calf, and it bolted. Instinct caused me to swerve into the other lane to miss hitting it. At first I didn’t think I had swerved fa r enough, and I worried I might hit the calf with the back of my van. Then I saw the calf running in the direction I was going and knew it was ok. I stayed in the wrong lane long enough to bypass the calf, then swung the van back into my lane.

Once I was away from the calf, I thought about the way I had swerved the van into the other lane without even looking to see if another vehicle was there. Luckily there wasn’t a vehicle in that lane, but what if there had been? What if someone had been coming from the opposite direction and had plowed into me because they were traveling too fast to stop?

I silenced my worried thoughts. It wouldn’t do any good to work myself into a panic over something that was finished. Just be more careful, I reminded myself.

What really mystified me was why that calf was alone. The bovines in that area usually hung out in groups of half a dozen or more. I occasionally saw a grown cow alone, but never a baby. I think I would have seen a grown cow more easily in the shadows. I certainly would have been going slower had I seen a cluster of cows on the road or by its side. In any case, the baby’s mamma was not there doing her job, and she and I both nearly paid the price.

I listened to my own advice and was more careful the rest of the way back to my campground. I especially slowed down and took a good look any time my side of the road was cloaked in shadow.

Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-cow-in-green-leaf-grass-during-daytime-51950/.

My First Raccoon

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To be honest, it wasn’t the first raccoon I’d ever seen in real life, but it was the first raccoon I’d seen on the mountain.

The other raccoons I’d seen had been spotted in Texas. On several occasions, raccoons tried to break into a house animal, raccoon, whiskerswhere I was staying, and one time while sitting on the back patio of a coffee shop in a major city, I saw a lumbering raccoon bigger than the biggest cat I’d ever laid eyes on. That sucker was huge. I guess everything really is bigger in Texas!

In the first three seasons I’d worked in campgrounds on the mountain, I’d never seen a raccoon, never heard one break into the garbage cans, never received a complaint from a camper who’d been the victim of raccoon crime. I’d occasionally wondered about the lack of raccoons, but since I knew about their persistence in the acquisition of food, I certainly didn’t wish for any of these critters in the campgrounds where I stayed.

During my second summer as a camp host, I’d asked my coworker about the lack of raccoons. He’d lived in the area for nearly 20 years, so he was my main source of information about local flora and fauna. He postulated that a lack of water kept the creatures off the top of the mountain. That seemed like a logical explanation to me, but the next year was wetter with still no sign of raccoons.

The raccoon made its appearance during the last week of July of my fourth season on the mountain. It first showed up in the campground where the Mercantile is located. Sandra the camp host told me on the night it arrived, it went from campsite to campsite, scavenging. On site #1, the raccoon stole a cheeseburger off the table while the camping family sat there eating dinner. It was certainly a bold creature!

The Man had come back to work a part-time maintenance job which required no dealing with money, paperwork, or the general public. Of course, Jerico the dog had come back with him. We were all staying at the group campground together. Maybe a week after the cheeseburger incident, the raccoon made an appearance on our campsite.

We’d been to civilization that day and come back with plenty of supplies. The Man had loaded all his food into his minivan but hadn’t yet put away a 15 pound bag of dog food which was leaning on a stump outside the van.

The Man had come over to my rig but left Jerico in his van. It had grown dark while we lay in my bed talking. Suddenly from the other van we heard Jerico start barking, and he didn’t stop. There were campers on the other end of the campground, and I thought one of them had approached our camp.

When Jerico started barking, The Man jumped out of my van and went over to his to see what the commotion was about. In less than a minute, he was hollering, Honey! Honey! Bring me my headlamp!

There’d been a raccoon out there, and now it was in the tree! Jerico had treed a ‘coon from inside the minivan! What a hound!

The raccoon was still moving up the tree when I got outside, so I threw a couple of pine cones at the tree for good measure.

Don’t hurt it! The Man said, but I had no intention (or ability) to hit it. I just wanted it to find the environment of our campsite inhospitable.

It might have rabies! The Man said, which was possible, but unlikely if it was content to slowly climb a tree. I heard a terrifying story on This American Life once about a woman attacked by a rabid raccoon and that motherfucker was aggressively going after the woman, not trying to take refuge in a tree. Our raccoon was obviously trying to practice avoidance.

With the light from my Luci lamp, I could just make out the raccoon’s glowing eyes high above the ground. With The Man’s bright headlamp, we could see the raccoon splayed out on a branch ten or twelve feet up. This one was much smaller than the lumbering beast I’d seen at the coffee shop in Texas.

The Man put the dog food in his van, and we made sure there was no food left outside to entice the raccoon. We all went to bed and didn’t hear from the raccoon again.

A couple of days later in the Mercantile, I heard about the further exploits of what must have been the same critter.

Two young men were in the Mercantile early on Sunday morning. They reported they’d seen a raccoon in the campground the night before. They’d actually seen the raccoon on their very own campsite. In fact, the raccoon had stolen a bag holding the swimsuit and towel belonging to one of the guys. It had been too dark to find the bag right after it was stolen, but he’d found it that morning in the bushes. The raccoon had ripped the bag trying to get to the contents. We joked about the raccoon being sad after it discovered that the bag it had just grabbed contained the worst snack ever.

I wondered aloud why, after three and a half seasons of seeing no raccoons, this one had suddenly appeared. The other young man said the raccoon must have been pushed out of its territory, and now had to find a new home. I suspect the young man was right. Maybe a wildfire had pushed the raccoon out, or maybe it reached maturity and had to leave the territory of its birth. I spent the rest of my time on the mountain doing my best to put food away so the raccoon wouldn’t try again to make my territory its territory.

Photos courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-whiskers-raccoon-16605/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/zoo-bear-raccoon-saeugentier-54602/.

Tips on Grooming Your Vandwelling Dog (Guest Post)

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Today’s guest post is by dog lover Adam Conrad of the Shih Tzu Expert website. Adam is going to tell you how to groom your dog on the road. Whether you typically boondock far from professional groomers or you want to save money by grooming your pup yourself, Adam’s tips will keep your pooch looking and feeling good wherever the road takes the two of you.

You and your furry dog are on-the-go living a life of adventure. Part of reaping the joys and benefits of that beautiful life means ensuring that your pet is healthy and safe at all times.

One of the easiest ways you can be a good pet owner is to ensure that your dog is healthy with some basic hygiene and grooming tips.  It’s easy to forget about some of these basicdaily routines, but doing these things habitually not only keeps your dog healthy and clean, but also makes grooming easier.

When you’re regularly brushing its hair and teeth, your dog won’t fight these behaviors because they become a part of its routine.  Here are some of the most effective and common ways that you can affordably and easily maintain your dog’s grooming needs.

adorable, animal, animal portraitBrush Before Bathing Your Dog

Your dog lives for life on the road and adventure. That means that he or she will require some extra hair care maintenance to undo tangles and knots. It’s recommended that dogs be bathed once every three months, but this number will increase if your pet spends time outdoors.

First, start with a good slick, metal pin brush that will really get through the strands of the hair, removing all dead hair and dirt. This is the key to keeping the dog’s hair clean. If your dog has tangles, you can use corn starch in the hair to help alleviate the knots quickly and affordably.

Try to keep your dog standing when you brush him, and do it as regularly as you can. Getting him used to this behavior will allow him to become conditioned to all other grooming habits.

Next, set your dog in a few inches of lukewarm water. If you don’t have a hose, you can use a pitcher to wet your dog. You’ll want to make sure that you’re using a high quality shampoo on your furry friend.

Take care not to spray the shampoo into your dog’s ears, nose, and eyes. You can protect your dog’s ears easily by gently placing cotton balls in the entrance of his ears, so that no excess water or shampoo gets inside. Gently massage the shampoo into the hair all over.

If you’re bathing your dog in you’re rig’s sink or shower, you won’t want to clog your drains. Make sure to use a adorable, animal, breedhair plug to protect your drain from clogging.

Minimize and Maintain Shedding

Shedding is a completely normal and healthy part of a dog’s life. Depending on the dog’s breed, the size of the animal, the time of year, and many other factors, shedding may be more prevalent. One of the easiest ways you can minimize shedding is by brushing your dog’s hair regularly. The more your brush, the more dead hair will be removed and caught in the brush and not spread all over your  living space.

Use a plastic bristle brush to break up the knots. You might also consider using a slicker brush to remove loose hairs.

One of the best indicators of a healthy coat is the kind of food your pet is eating. A high-quality food source with a good amount of protein will help your dog’s coat stay healthy and minimize shedding.

If your dog is larger and the shedding seems to be unruly at times, you might consider covering your furniture to protect your living space. Vacuuming often is another way to minimize dog hair in your living space. You might also consider picking up a special hair pick-up roller that is made for removing dog hair from furniture and fabric easily.

White and Grey Long Coat DogSafely Cut and Shave Your Dog

After you’ve freshly brushed and cleaned your dog, you might want to cut its hair. If so, please make sure that your dog is safely standing on a table so that you can easily access all areas of the fur. (For more ideas on where to place your dog for grooming, see the article on the Wag! website on How to Groom a Dog Without a Grooming Table.)

You might invest in grooming shears so that you can most effectively execute the cut.

It’s best to begin cutting your animal’s hair when it’s dry, unlike human hair. You’ll want to use the sharp tip of the scissors to trim your dog’s body, specifically the more delicate parts like the face and tail.

When trimming the ears, be very careful to have the hand not holding the scissors on the hair being trimmed to ensure that you’re never cutting your animal and inflicting pain. You wouldn’t want to hurt your best furry friend! Of course, it would be easier and safer to have a friend hold the dog while you’re working on the ears. Trimming the hair around the ears is tricky even for professional groomers, who usually use restraints.

If you’re looking to shave your dog, make sure to find a quiet and open space where your dog won’t get startled. Again, make sure the dog’s hair is clean and dry. Keep the blade flat against the skin, starting from the neck and move along the various parts of the dog’s body.

Be careful where the skin is thin on your animal, like its thighs and hips. Also, make sure to use a special blade for the dog’s face and to check that the blade is not getting too hot or burning your dog’s skin.

Trim Those Nails and Protect Those Paws

How can you even tell if your pet needs its nails trimmed? As a general rule, the dog’s nails will slightly rub the Two Person With Rings on Ring Fingersground when he or she moves. If your pet’s nails are making louder noises on hard floors or getting caught on carpet, it is time to trim your pet’s nails.

Before you even think of using dog clippers or grinding down dog’s nails, first try introducing the louder noise that the tool makes. This will help your dog not to get spooked when you’re actually cutting.

If your dog has white nails, it will be easier to cut its nails until you get closer to a light pinkish portion of the nail. Dogs with black nails don’t have an easily discernible quick, which makes it a bit more challenging to do. If your dog has black nails, try your best to cut slowly until you see a full portion of the nail that is black. If you do accidentally cut into the quick, you can use styptic powder or corn starch to stop any bleeding.

Make sure that you’re clipping the nails quickly and with force. If you use dull clippers and move slowly, the nail might not clip cleanly, leaving sharp edges, or it may actually chip and split.

Your dog’s paws will require different care in the summer and winter. In warm weather, your dog is probably active and spending a lot of time running on various terrain outdoors. In the winter, your dog might be running on pavement that has been treated with chemicals and salt after snow. You’ll want to make sure your dog’s paws are cleaned so that he isn’t ingesting any of those chemicals; also check to be sure his paws aren’t chafing or cracking from the cold weather. Apply coconut oil to dry paws or consider buying an affordable pair of winter booties for your pet. (To help you pick the right winter booties for your active pooch, the American Kennel Club website has an article on the Top 10 Dog Boots for Winter & Cold Weather.)

Since your dog is spending a great deal of time outside and then coming back into your rig’s small living space, you’ll want to take extra care to clean your dog’s paws. Cleaning wipes are critical. Try to make a habit of wiping down your dog’s paws after running around outside. Remember that purchasing dog-specific wipes is important, since almost everything you put on your dog will end up in its mouth. Doing this will ensure that your dog isn’t ingesting any harmful chemicals or ingredients, and will keep your pet safe, fresh, and clean. (The Top Dog Tips website lists the Top 10 Best Dog Wipes for Light Grooming to help you decide which ones to use on your canine companion.)

Natural Ways to Keep Your Dog’s Coat and Skin Healthy

There are a plethora of easy-to-find products that are healthy for your dog and help maintain grooming. One of the most important ways to maintain your dog’s grooming is by taking care of its coat. A healthy coat is a happy dog!

Fish oil and flaxseed oil are two products that are easy to find, safe for your dog, and help maintain a beautiful coat. These oils are rich in the essential fatty acids that help promote a healthy coat for your dog from the inside out. Another great oil for dogs is salmon oil. You can drizzle these oils on your dog’s kibble or on a chew toy for your pup to safely ingest.

Does your dog happen to have a dry, scaly nose or paw pads? Maybe they simply need more water. If your dog is Close-Up Photography of a Dog's Snoutproperly hydrated and this dry, scaly skin is still persistent, try picking up some coconut oil. A little dab rubbed into the scaly nose and paw pads should create moisture and alleviate the dryness.

We’ve only scratched the surface on some of the most important DIY grooming tips for your vandwelling dog. Remember that proper and regular grooming of your furry friend is one of the most effective ways to keep your animal clean, healthy, and safe. Maintenance is key! That means that the more you keep up with it, the easier it will be. Plus, your dog will get into the habit of regular grooming and not put up a fight to let you brush it, trim its nails, or any other critical grooming technique. Happy grooming!

Adam Conrad is a dad of 5 Shih Tzu pups and the creator of Shih Tzu Expert. His passion for helping people in all aspects of dog care flows through in the coverage he provides about dog health issues like Parvo, CDV (Canine Distemper Virus), pet containment systems, dog grooming tools and techniques, and best food for dogs with specific dietary requirements. In his spare time he is an avid scuba diver and a trail runner. 

Remember, you are responsible for yourself and your dog(s). Neither Blaize Sun nor Adam Conrad are responsible for you or your pup(s). Use common sense depending on the regulations and conditions of your location.

You can read about the real-life dog grooming experiences of part-time vandweller who travels with dogs at DIY Grooming Tips for the Vandwelling Dog.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/adorable-animal-animal-portrait-blur-422212/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adorable-animal-breed-canine-356378/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-dog-pet-53564/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/two-person-with-rings-on-ring-fingers-792775/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-cold-cute-dog-434113/.

How to Train Your Dog to Live The Vanlife (Guest Post)

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Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

The dog days of summer are over, but at the Rubber Tramp Artist blog, we’re still sharing information about vandwelling with dogs.

I was absolutely pleased when the good folks at Gnomad Home reached out to me with an offer to write a guest post I could share with my readers. I jumped at the chance, as I love a good guest post. I was especially pleased to find out Jayme and John had lots of experience vandewlling with pups. Their expertise fits right in with the content I want to share with my readers. 

Today Jayme and John tell you how they trained their doggies to share their van life. Whether you’re transitioning a house dog into a road dog or bringing a brand new pup into your rig, these training tips can help keep your nomadic pooch safe and happy.

Once you make the jump from dreaming about vanlife to actually making it happen, all the big, scary steps you imagined seem to become easier and easier to manage. Selling your items stressed you out at first, but now you have no problem accepting $20 for that trinket your aunt gave you for your 13th birthday. Many of these transitions become more exciting than nerve-wracking, and mentally, you are more and more ready to just take off and hit the road. But of course, you can’t leave without your best furry friend! As it turns out, dogs need time to transition just as much as you do, and a well-trained dog makes for a very fun and easy life on the road.

We are currently traveling around with our two pups Nymeria (3) and Delilah (7), but believe it or not, there was a time when the dogs in our van outnumbered the humans! We recently had to put down our girl Crow (#CrowtoriousDOG) who was just shy of 17. We gave her one hell of a final year out on the road, letting her stick her paws in all kinds of waters from the Atlantic to the Pacific!

Needless to say, we know quite a bit about packing your pups and hitting the road. Here’s all of the tips and tricks that helped us get our domesticated dogs ready to live out in the wild!

Re-establish Basic Training Skills

This is easily the most important step of them all. Maybe you can get your dog to sit and stay because they know you’re about to toss them a treat while you guys are comfortably hanging out in your living room.But do they know how to sit and stay in a large vehicle when there are other automobiles whizzing around and you are trying to unload the groceries from the shopping cart into your fridge without your dog taking off down the road after a squirrel that emerged from the bushes? That’s why honing these basic training skills is essential.

The main commands we drilled into our dogs’ heads before beginning our adventure were, “Stay,” “Come,” and “In the van.” We practiced these commands in multiple situations, not just in our backyard. We would go out to the woods to practice, we would begin training in the middle of dog parks…anytime we found ourselves in a situation that was new to them, we would find time for some training.

Living on the road is rarely equivalent to hanging out in someone’s living room or fenced-in backyard. There are always distractions, noises, movements, creatures, and more going on around you at all times – that’s why it was very important to us that our dogs were familiar with responding as we expected under any circumstances.

“Stay” is probably our most used command. This helps when the doors of the van are open, when they are about to get into something we want them to stay away from, if they see a creature we don’t want them getting involved with, and more.

“Come” is perfect for when we allow them to run around off leash (which we do a lot of the time). We are always responsible about when and how we allow them to galavant off leash, which means we certainly don’t allow it in Walmart parking lots or National Parks.

But there are some areas where we do trust them off leash: when we are on BLM (Bureau of Lang Management) land or we find ourselves in National Forests – and if the area and conditions seem acceptable to our standards – we let them free! They LOVE getting to explore all of the scents and different terrains we find ourselves in. It’s almost as if you can see heaven glowing in their eyes as they leap over fallen trees and jump at the sight of a bug they’ve never seen before.

Unfortunately they can’t be off leash 24/7, and we need them to return to us from time to time. That’s when “Come” truly comes in handy. If a hiker walks near our spot and seems uneasy about the dogs, calling for them to return (and knowing that they will) makes for an easy pass on a potentially confrontational situation. Or if we are ready to roll to the next location, we just have to give a little holler and they come running back to the van, ready for the next adventure.

“In the van” is just a great, simple command for them to know. Whether we want them to seek shelter from an incoming storm, get ready to hit the road, or whatever the case may be – if we tell them, “in the van,” they hop right on in!

Build Trust with Your Dog and Let Them Run Around Off Leash

This one is VERY important to us. Our dogs have a lot of energy, and a trail run on a leash is not enough exercise for them to burn all of their juice. However, you can’t just take the leash off of your dog and expect all to go well on the first try

This is a practice that took time for us. We started training Nymeria to behave off leash when she was a puppy. There was a wooded area not too far from our house that not too many people frequented, and we were able to practice with her there. We would have her on a leash for a little bit, then let her off. Anytime she would come back to us we would make a very big deal about it, with excessive praise and even a few treats (we don’t normally give our dogs treats, but we do when we want something to be a BIG deal).

When we took in Delilah, she was a Stage Five RUNNER! If a door was even slightly cracked, she would bust right on through it and be gone in a second. In the end, what it came down to was that she was just dying to explore and check out her surroundings. After we took her in, we let her off leash in the same area where we trained Nymeria as a puppy. Naturally, Deliliah took off, and it actually took about 15 minutes for her to return. Yes, it made us nervous,but this is part of the trust. Our dogs don’t want to be away from us forever – they just want to explore. When Delilah returned, we showered her with praise and treats!

The second time we let her off leash, she still ran off to explore, but when we called her name, she immediately sprinted back to us, tail wagging and excited for a treat and some praise (granted, she is a very food driven creature!).

Shortly after this second time of off-leash exploring, we were at John’s parents house. The front door opened, Delilah began to run out, and we called her to come back. She immediately stopped, turned around and sprinted back to us! Now, anytime we go into the woods and let her off leash, she tends to stay within ear shot. Delilah and Nymeria never adventure too far, we can typically see or hear them (they each have a bear bell on their collars, as well as lights that can be turned on to a solid or flashing light), and the second we call for them they happily trot on back to us.

Enjoy Exploring the World with Your Pup!

Establishing a strong and trusting relationship with your dog is essential for an easier life on the road with your furry bestie. Nothing about living a nomadic life is 100% easy, but these tips and tricks should help make the transition from domesticated life to living in the wild simpler for you and your four-legged buddies to handle!

Jayme and John from Gnomad Home live out of their 1996 Chevy Express van they built into a tiny home with their two pups Nymeria (3) and Delilah (7). They now create free content for others wishing to pursue a lifestyle on the road whether it be full-time travel or part-time travel. They have been living nomadically since the Spring of 2017.

Remember, you are responsible for yourself and your dog(s). Neither Blaize Sun nor Jayme and John from Gnomad Home are responsible for you or your pup(s). Use common sense depending on the regulations and conditions of your location.

First two photos coutesy of the authors. Other imags courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/landscape-clouds-mountain-dog-65867/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-of-dog-248273/.

10 Things to Consider Before Adding a Dog to Your Van Life

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Last week I wrote about living my van life with dogs. Today I’ll share 10 things I think vandwellers should consider before bringing a dog into their van life or deciding to move into a van with a dog they already have.

animal, dalmatian, dog#1 Breed     Some breeds have a bad reputation because they are perceived as aggressive and are not welcome in certain campgrounds. Some breeds tend to develop specific physical ailments. Be prepared to deal with a breed’s special needs before you bring a dog of that breed into your life or decide to take it on the road.

#2 Size     Big dogs eat more, take up more space, and tend to need more exercise. It may also be more difficult to restrain a big dog or carry it if it’s sick or injured. Be sure your physical abilities match what you may be required to do for a big dog. Be sure you have the space for a big dog in your rig.

Small dogs are still dogs, not toys. Little dogs still need exercise, vet visits, and healthy food. Small dogs still need to socialize with other dogs, so be sure you have a plan for how your little dog will be able to play with other canines.

#3 Demeanor     Of course, individual dogs have different personalities. I’ve met sweet and mellow pit bulls and mean-as-hell miniature dashounds. If you’re considering adopting a dog, try to get a feel for its demeanor before you make a commitment. If I were getting a dog, I’d want an easy-going dog that wasn’t overly nervous, scared, aggressive, or headstrong and was smart enough to train without too much struggle. Chihuahua Lying on White Textile

If you’re thinking of adopting a stray, consider the phenomenon a woman I know with decades of dog rescue experience calls “better is badder.” This catchphrase just means that sometimes a dog that’s hungry and thirsty and perhaps has parasites or other health problems may seem calm and low-key, but it’s really just not feeling well. Once the dog is healthier (“better”), it’s not exactly that the dog is bad, but it may be more energetic and mischievous than it first seemed.

If you’re thinking about moving a dog you already have into van life, consider its personality. Is the dog too nervous or excited to live in a van? Does it have more energy than a van can contain? How does it feel about riding in a moving vehicle? Does it thrive under a strict routine? Truly consider what’s best for the dog before you uproot it into van life.

#4 Activity level     If you’re still working, how is a dog going to deal with being cooped up all day in your van? A highly active dog may be able to handle spending many consecutive hours in the van if you play with it strenuously before and after work, but a less active dog may be better suited to van life.

#5 Cost     Can you afford a dog? Some of the costs you will incur when you are responsible for a dog include food, treats, leash, harness, collar, poop bags, nametag, toys, food and water bowls, registration, vaccinations, heart worm tests and preventative, flea and tick preventative,  and emergency vet services.

Some of these items you may be able to get cheap (bowls and toys) or improvise (poop bags), but you shouldn’t skimp on nutritious food or health care.

#6 Vet visits     Road dogs still need to see the vet for routine health care, vaccinations, and medical emergencies. When and where will your traveling companion see the vet? Can you afford vet visits? Can you afford emergency vet care if your dog gets injured or sick? Can you take care of vet visits at your home base, or will you have to find vets on the road?adorable, animal, animal portrait

In her wonderful guest post on living on the road with a cat, Devan Winters of XsyntrikNomad makes suggestions about pet health care that applies to dogs too.

…on the road…you [can] use a nationwide veterinary chain like Banfield (inside most PetSmart stores)…

Banfield even offers pet insurance to cover some care, if you can afford (and want to pay) the monthly expense. There is also a line of credit called Care Credit you can take out specifically for veterinary costs.

Beware: I once had a heartworm test done on a dog in Kentucky and was assured that when the heartworm preventative ran out, we could get more at any veterinary clinic. Surprise! No vet in whatever state we were in at the time would prescribe the preventative without doing (and charging for) another test for heartworms. My advice to folks who travel vet to vet is to get a year’s supply of whatever preventative your dog needs whenever possible.

Also, be aware that veterinarians follow different laws in different states.

adorable, animal photography, canine#7 Spay and Neuter     If you’re getting a puppy, where will you get it spayed or neutered? Sometimes the adoption fee includes spaying or neutering the animal when the time comes, but will you be in the appropriate place at the appropriate time? Will you be able to afford to have your dog spayed or neutered? Will you be able to give your dog the post-op care it needs?

What if you decide not to get your dog spayed or neutered? Will you be able to deal with the inconvenience of your female dog being in heat in the small space of your rig? What will you do if your female dog gets pregnant? Are you willing to deal with the aggression of an intact male dog? In some states, it cost a lot more to register an intact animal. Are you willing and able to pay the added expense?

#8 Stealth     If your goal is to stealth park in cities, how will a dog affect your ability to live that way? A barking dog is not stealthy.  Even though a barking dog in a dark van doesn’t necessarily mean a person’s in there with the dog, it may draw attention you don’t want.

What are you going to do if nature calls your dog in the middle of the night? You probably won’t be able to train it to go in a bucket, and exiting your van with your dog in tow is not stealthy. Even if your dog doesn’t usually need to go out at the night, it could get sick and need to go at unusual times.

#9 Sickness     Who’s going to care for your dog if you’re sick or injured and unable to follow the dog’s routine? Is there someone in your life who’s willing to foster your dog until you’re back on your feet? How will you get your dog to the person willing to care for it?

#10 Grooming     Where will you wash the dog? What will you do if the dog gets too dirty to jump into the van animal, cute, dogand you’re not prepared to give it a bath? Perhaps you don’t want a breed that needs to be clipped, or if you do have a fur ball, you can save time and money by learning to clip it yourself. If the dog needs its nails trimmed, will it allow you to do it, or does it need to be sedated for the procedure?

Many pet store chains offer grooming services onsite, so start there if you’re on the road and your dog needs grooming you can’t handle.

I’m not trying to discourage vandwellers from having dog companions. I just want people to consider carefully what dog ownership entails BEFORE taking on responsibility for another living creature.

Blaize Sun has lived in two different vans with two different dogs, so she knows a thing or two about being responsible for another living creature. She is not currently living with a canine companion. Sometimes she sees a cute doggie and experiences a bought of puppy love, but then she thinks about never being able to spend a hot summer day in an air conditioned coffee shop, and she moves on.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-dog-fur-view-36436/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-short-coat-dog-36477/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adorable-animal-canine-chihuahua-191353/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adorable-animal-animal-portrait-animal-world-451854/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/playing-hidden-backyard-small-animal-69371/.

Road Dogs: Living Nomadically with a Canine Companion

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A topic I’ve seen come up repeatedly on Facebook pages dedicated to vandwelling is that of living on the road with pets. The folks with questions usually fall into two categories. The first group wants to know how they can help animals they already have adjust to life on the road. The second group wants to know if they should get a dog with whom they can travel and share road life.

I’ve traveled with dogs. About a year into full-time vandwelling with the man who was then my boyfriend (let’s call him WHN, short for “What’s His Name), we got a puppy. The Man had six-year-old Jerico when I met him; the three of us traveled together in my van for most of 2017. I think these experiences with dogs on the road qualify me to tell you what you may be able to expect if you decide to bring a dog into your life and rig.

I don’t feel qualified to give advice on how to acclimate a house pet to road life. WHN and I actually got our puppy from traveling kids, so the puppy had been on the road almost his whole life. At six, Jerico was a seasoned road dog when I met him. He’d hitchhiked with The Man and done urban-stealth tent camping with The Man, and lived and traveled with The Man in a small sports car. When the time came, Jerico jumped right into my van and didn’t have to adjust to anything.

What I can tell you is how my life changed when dogs moved into my van.

Before dogs, I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. If I wanted to sit in a coffee shop for eight or more hours a day, I could. If WHN and I wanted to go to a music festival, we didn’t have to give it a second thought. WHN and I could go to a movie or the grocery store together in the middle of the day if we wanted. Like a couple with no children, we didn’t have to worry about anyone but ourselves.

Then we got the puppy.

Close-up of Black DogWe got the puppy in winter. We were in the Southwest United States, so the winter wasn’t brutal, and we could leave little Bruno in the van while we did other things. He never had an accident and only chewed a couple of things, so we didn’t worry about leaving him in the van until the seasons changed and spring moved into summer. Of course, life got hotter for us all, and leaving Bruno in the van became dangerous.

According to PeTA,

On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 100 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 109 degrees in less than 10 minutes.

Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting.

I’ve seen several different wannabe or soon-to-be vandwellers ask in Facebook groups how to make a van safe for a dog to stay in it during the daytime in the summer while the person is off doing other things, usually working. I’ve never seen a fully satisfactory answer. There is always a faction up in arms over the idea of a dog being left in a van during the summer who tells the writer of the post how dangerous it is to leave a dog in a vehicle in hot weather.  (The writer of the post knows it’s dangerous to leave a dog in a van in the summer, that’s why s/he is asking how to do it safely.) Another faction gives advice like leave the windows rolled down or install a ceiling vent, but I’ve never seen anyone lay out a step-by-step plan for making a van summer-safe for a dog staying in there alone for several hours at a time.

Last summer The Man and I worked at a campground store in a remote mountain location. We usually went to civilization once a week, sometimes only every two weeks. We had one vehicle (my high-top conversion van) between us so 95% of the time, we went to town together. The Man was sleeping in a tent, and he knew if left to his own devices for six or seven or eight while we were in town, Jerico—a Houdini of a dog—would have escaped from the tent, possibly through a hole of his own creation or via a zipper he busted with his snout. We had no choice but to take Jerico with us.

It was warm on the mountain, but it was scorching down in the valley. As the summer progressed, the temperature soared. Early in the season, we’d leave Jerico in the van with all the windows open and a bowl of water. Jerico takes his job as a guard dog seriously, so we never worried about anyone getting into the van through the open windows to steal anything while he was inside.

By mid-July, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone in the van, even when he crawled under the bed for the coolest, shadiest spot he could find. The Man and I started taking turns going into stores so someone could always keep an eye on Jerico. When it was my turn to stay in the van, I’d usually sit in the driver’s seat holding the door open with my foot and wishing I could crawl into a cool and shady spot.

The following are things you’ll probably never be able to do in the summer if you’re a van or car dweller with a dog: Relax in a cool movie theater during the hottest part of the day. Splash in a public pool or water park. Enjoy the air conditioning in a museum or mall. Sit in a coffee shop sipping iced lattes until the heat lets up after dark.

The other thing you may not be able to do in the summer with a dog in your rig is work. Most employers aren’t going to let you run out to your van every hour or two to make sure your dog has water and hasn’t disabled any cooling system you’ve rigged up.

Often camp host is give as an example of a good job for nomads with dogs. Being a camp host can be a good choice for people with dogs, depending on where the job is located and what the duties are.

The company The Man and I worked for last summer does allow hosts and other workers living on site to have dogs. My boss told me once that because the company is based in California, he is not allowed to ask potential employees if they plan to have a dog with them. However, if a camp host has a dog, the dog still has to be somewhere while the host is working. If it were too hot for a dog to sit in the van, a quiet, nonaggressive one could be tied up outside a restroom while its person was inside cleaning toilets, but if Bruno or Jerico had found himself in such a situation, the barking would have been incessant and woe unto anyone who approached the restrooms while one of these guys considered himself on duty.

If you’re looking for a doggy companion to share your vandwelling life and you think you might want to work as a camp host, consider what traits you want and don’t want the dog to have. If I found myself in such a situation, I’d choose a dog that didn’t bark much and certainly one without the propensity to bite. I’d want an obedient dog that could wait calmly while I completed my tasks. backlit, beach, clouds

The Man was not a camp host last summer. He and I were both clerks in a campground store. We worked the same hours on the same days, so Jerico spent his days in the van. Luckily, we could park the van outside the store where we could see it from the front door, and we had the freedom to check on him throughout the day when we didn’t have customers.

For the first month of the 2018 camping season, The Man worked as a camp host and collected access fees at the parking lot of a very busy trailhead. Jerico mostly stayed in The Man’s minivan while The Man performed his work duties. Most days were not yet hot then, so Jerico was comfortable (although bored) in the minivan with a bowl of water and the windows open.

Boredom is an important factor to consider. Even if you work in a mild climate or you can rig a cooling system in your van so your dog is safe while you’re at work, the dog is still going to be bored. If your dog mostly sleeps all day anyway, it will probably be ok in your van, but if the dog has a lot of energy and likes to run and play all day, what’s going to happen when you stick it in the van during your eight hour shift? Decrease the chances of your dog destroying your precious possessions by picking up any items you don’t want your dog to chew and give it appropriate chew toys to keep it occupied while you are gone. If you have a very energetic dog, make time to take it for a long, vigorous walk or fetch session after work and again in the morning before work in hopes of wearing the dog out so it will sleep while you’re away.

Some folks think if they order a service dog certificate and vest off the internet, they’ll then be able to take their dog wherever they go. I think more and more businesses are catching onto people pulling this trick, and I’ve seen signs (literal paper signs on the doors of businesses) prohibiting people from bringing in dogs that are not trained to perform specific tasks. I think it’s going to get more difficult to pass off a pet as a service animal.

If you want to be a nomad primarily to see the natural beauty of the U.S.A., consider that many National Parks prohibit pets on their trails. When The Man and I visited Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, we had to pay $10 to leave Jerico in an onsite kennel, which was little more than a bunch of wire cages in a storage room. Pets are allowed at the Grand Canyon only the South Rim. If you’re traveling with a dog, you might find yourself relegated to national forests and BLM land.

If you’re more into the music scene, please note that dogs are not allowed at many festivals. (Chochella doesn’t allow non-service animals in the campground. Boneroo also bans pets. Oregon County Fair does not allow pets on site.) After WHN and I got Bruno, we scrutinized the website of any music festival we wanted to attend before we bought tickets. If we didn’t see an announcement specifically stating dogs were welcome, I called and confirmed canine acceptance before we confirmed our tickets. It wasn’t just a matter of I don’t go anywhere my dog isn’t welcome; we didn’t have anywhere to leave him, so if Bruno couldn’t go, neither could we.

Bruno could be a pain in the neck even in places where he was welcome. He was super sweet when he was alone with WHN and me, but in public he barked incessantly at everyone we encountered. He never bit anyone, but we lived in fear of a kid approaching him while we were distracted and getting nipped. I didn’t know how to train him and WHN wasn’t interested in doing any kind of work, so it became easier to just leave Bruno in the van if we were somewhere cool enough. If it wasn’t cool enough to leave hem, one of us stayed with him. Of course, isolating him didn’t solve any of his socialization problems. Dog Looking Away

Every so often, The Man tells me I should get a dog. You’d love it and Jerico needs someone to play with, he says. I keep telling him no. As long as I spend even half a year living in my van, I can’t see trying to fit my life around a dog’s needs. I’d have to give up too much of myself, and the dog would probably suffer too.

Of course, I’m not telling folks not to get a dog or move their dog into a van. I’m just suggesting people think long and hard about how they will meet the dog’s needs, especially the need for a cool place to hang out in the summer. If your life is not complete without your dog and van life isn’t right for your dog, van life may not be right for you.

Blaize Sun has lived in two different vans with two different dogs, so she knows a thing or two about being responsible for another living creature. She is not currently living with a canine companion. Sometimes she sees a cute doggie and experiences a bought of puppy love, but then she thinks about never being able to spend a hot summer day in an air conditioned coffee shop, and she moves on.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/photography-of-three-dogs-looking-up-850602/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-short-coated-tri-color-dog-879788/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-of-black-dog-257519/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-short-coated-dog-drinking-water-160740/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-canine-cloudy-container-218825/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/backlit-beach-clouds-dawn-531089/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/tricolor-bernese-mountain-dog-132665/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/dog-looking-away-257570/.