“I love the Orvis microfiber seat protectors! They are comfortable and so easy to wash. I like the style of this cover — just a nice, simple seat protector and it’s easy to see the dog in the back. Our Lab loves riding in both cars with the comfortable Orvis covers!” – Bevie from Tampa Bay
I’m sure many of you have heard of the 2001 Drew Barrymore film Riding in Cars with Boys, chronicling the tale of a young single mother with aspirations of becoming a writer.
My family and I have co-opted the catchy title, reworking it to fit our own particular story. Each time we load up the elderly Toyota Camry for one of our two-day journeys from New York City to America’s heartland to visit relatives, the final step is to cozy up the pups in the backseat, along with our ever-growing children.
Piglet, our Bedlington Terrier, goes on the bench between the kids. Mo, our ancient Schnoodle, travels in a dog donut in the footwell on our son’s side of the car. “Riding in Cars with Dogs,” we all say, sighing and shaking our heads as the dogs fuss and circle before settling down for the trip. What can I say? We’re pet people.
Piglet is an intrepid traveler, indoctrinated from puppyhood. His first journey was at the tender age of fourteen weeks, when we claimed him from our lovely and reputable breeder’s lush Hudson Valley manse. In a fool’s errand, we had prepared the backseat with a makeshift car-seat cover, fashioned from my grandmother’s afghan. Our then seven-pound puppy never set foot on it. I recall holding his body on my lap, my hands cradling his fragile bony limbs light as bird bones, and caressing his precious fat puppy belly. On high alert, he alternated staring out the windshield and at my face, panting. In an effort to soothe and reassure him as we lumbered over bumps, and rounded steep mountain curves, I kissed him repeatedly on the snout, breathing in his sour, meaty (yet oddly pleasing) puppy breath.
Over the next five or so years, we often weekended in Woodstock with our friends Michael and Suzanna, and Piglet was a welcome guest in their home. By now, we’d splashed out for a real car seat protector, hoping to preserve the sheen of the leather seats in our spanky late-model car. Invariably, we’d set Piglet up back there before we pulled out of our Manhattan parking garage. He had his squeaky toys, his rawhide, and an untippable bowl of water on the floor. It was rare that we made it through the tunnel before our Bedlington was squeezing between the bucket seats, and establishing himself in my lap. Sure, I enjoyed the closeness and the company, but for the nearly two years I was pregnant with my children, I have to say, I would have appreciated not having a bony dog’s rump pressing on my abdomen. Piglet was single-handedly (pawedly?) responsible for doubling the number of required pit stops.
“To a dog, motoring isn’t just a way of getting from here to there, it’s also a thrill and an adventure. The mere jingle of car keys is enough to send most any dog into a whimpering, tail-wagging frenzy.” —Jon Winokur.
Michael and Suzanna’s dog Glory, a Rottweiler/Lab/Boxer mix, was a different kind of passenger altogether. Whereas Piglet eventually settled down, Glory seemed to see each trip as a marathon of conversation. She whined with enthusiasm, inquiring regularly about where we were going, and if we were there yet. Suzanna and Michael, like most dog people I know, were indulgent. They never bothered with a backseat protector for their large dog. One of their cars was simply designated as Glory’s.
They were fierce with their dog love. I kid you not when I tell you they’d ask me to move so Glory could have her “side” of the car, and that I once froze on a wintry trip from The Catskills to Maine because Glory “needed the window cracked so she could smell the air.” I always emerged from our shared compartment damp with slobber and covered in a thousand black hairs. Glory, whom I thought of as my niece, is gone now. I’m sure you’ll understand when I say I’d happily freeze and ruin my outfit for one more road trip with that old girl.
These days, our aging Camry is packed to the hilt since the addition of our rescue dog to our family. During the intense adoption process, we were asked many questions and had to pass many tests, as is right and proper. We were also given the chance to ask questions. We didn’t even think to ask if Mo traveled well, but we lucked out. He handles our long road trips like a champ, provided he’s given shade, a soft place to lay his old bones, and plenty of boosts in and out for relief breaks at the state rest stops.
Would it be easier to drive for 12 hours without two dogs? Without question. Do we struggle to find hotels that will accept not one, but two pooches without a substantial “cleaning fee” attached to the bill? You bet. Does stopping to water and walk two extra creatures along the way add time to the trip. Of course.
Would we want to spend a week someplace without our two dogs?
Not a chance.