How to Be Happy with 2 pointers, 4 Humans in One Land Cruiser
Contributed by Susan Lam

Pure-bred pointers Blue and Katie are not what you call petite. Weighing in at approximately 35 to 45 pounds and standing about 30 inches in height, these canine road warriors are half the height of owner Susan Lam. Nonetheless, these rambunctious pets enjoy many car vacations with the Lam family, and their antics become part of the journey itself.

Before you decide to take Rover, be aware of the pros and cons of pet travel. According to Susan, on the positive side, you save on kennel and dog sitter fees, which can range from $25 to $45 per day, depending on the size of the dog. Your pets can serve as faithful watchdogs when you are camping in remote locations. Plus, they are fun companions on walks.

However, she stresses, "They always need to be fed, watered and walked, so you can't get away from them. They depend on you, so like it or not, you have to take care of them. But I'm sure you wouldn't have it any other way."

Here are the Susan's top 12 guidelines for safe and sane dog travel.

1. Make sure your dogs are licensed with up-to-date rabies vaccinations . Why? Because licensing is mandated by state and city Law. I keep a picture of the dogs and a photocopy of their current license and vaccination records in the glove compartment. These items may be useful if you plan to travel out of state and come across any situation where you have to show proof of rabies vaccination.

2. Your dog should wear a collar , primarily so you can attach a leash to it when you take your dog out of the car and reduce the likelihood that he/she will run off and get lost or, worse, get hit by oncoming traffic. (Bring an extra leash or a sturdy rope to keep on hand.)

3. Display your dog's license tag and rabies tag . Both are issued by your local animal control department or humane society. These should be attached to the collar. License tags identify owners of lost animals and list the animal control phone number. We also attach an additional tag that shows our dog's name and our city/state and phone number. Owners can create their own I.D. tags for about $6.00 at do-it-yourself kiosks at local pet supply stores. The tag should display dog's name, city/state, and your cell phone number, which is more practical nowadays.

4. Put up a pet vehicle barrier to block access to the front of the car . This allows the dogs to stand, sit or lie down on the floor behind the passenger seats. We prefer to travel with the dogs in the back of our SUV. Disadvantage: you lose valuable cargo space for packing luggage. Advantage: air circulates, so the dogs won't get overheated. We installed a roof cargo carrier to store food and other camping gear. Don't put temptation in your dog's path! With the barrier in place, we don't have to worry about the dogs trying to jump onto our laps while we're driving. For smaller cars, owners can buy seat belts or harnesses designed to restrain pets and keep them safe.

5 . Consider purchasing a dog crate . Our dogs are "crate-trained," so they are used to being transported this way. The trick is to create pleasant associations so the animal is willing to jump in and not protest being in there. Our dogs know that when they hear the command, "Kennel!" that it means fun times are ahead.

With a crate, dogs stay put when you need to open the back window and door of the vehicle during rest breaks. Since the crates become their portable bedrooms, it's important that the crates are roomy enough for the animal to sit up, lie down, or turn around. Our dogs are more comfortable since we line their boxy spaces with an old pillow or a mattress pad and towels. It's essential when packing that you don't block all the vents. Leave space so air can circulate.

6. Bring a familiar item from home . Dogs are homebodies by nature. An old shirt or toy with familiar scents lessens the stress of being in new surroundings. We also bring along old towels in case they decide to go for a swim and need drying off.

7. Pack fresh water, dry dog food, their dishes . No need to buy anything fancy; we save our supermarket juice jugs for that purpose. Afterwards, any grungy dishes and jugs can be discarded.

8. Prepare for carsickness . Our dogs don't get carsick, but others may not be so fortunate. We found this product by Nutri-Vet called "Pet-Ease to Go," chewable tablets with chamomile that can be used to relax a stressed animal. It's only 99 cents for a package of three. Better yet, check with your vet about your own pet.

9. Don't travel for hours on end . Make frequent stops about every 2 to 3 hours, so everyone, including the dogs, can get out and stretch. Attach leashes to collars before taking the dogs out of their crates. Next, provide fresh water and feed them lightly. Most gas stations and state rest stops have a grassy or dirt area that you can use to walk the dogs. Be courteous to your fellow travelers; bring plastic bags to pick up after your dog.

10. Be sensitive when camping with others . Select a site slightly away from all the activity so your dogs don't get over-excited or anxious with all the new faces. Park in the shade. Know your dogs' personalities. Our dogs prefer to run and explore, and tend to keep to themselves. Another family's dog just loves being surrounded by kids. We tell others in advance about our dogs and always keep them on leash while in camp. When we are away from the campsite, the dogs are put back in their crates in the truck, and we open the windows for ventilation.

11. Do not blur the line between 'people' food and 'dog' food . At home, we put their food in their dog dish. Treats also go into their dish. When we're out camping, we keep the same routine. Food is off limits unless and until it's in their dish.

12. Take extra precautions when leaving them in the car . Find shady spots to park; don't leave dogs in car for long periods. To keep the car cool, use removable baby sunshades with suction cups that you can attach to windows. If you have a small car, consider purchasing a dog car window barrier that provides safe ventilation for pets. Ones by Pooch Canada Pet Supplies, Calgary Alberta, look like small cross-hatch gates that you expand and install on a partially- opened window.

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CONTACT INFORMATION:

For rabies vaccinations:
Humane Society Silicon Valley - Vaccination Clinic
Lafayette Street, Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 727-3383 OR www.hssv.org
Cost: $14.00

To license your Pet:
San Jose and Milpitas: (408) 501-2134 or www.ci.san-jose.ca.us/prns/animalsvc.htm
Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos,
Monte Sereno, Santa Clara & Saratoga: (408) 764-0344 or www.svaca.com
Sunnyvale: (408) 730-7178
Unincorporated Areas: (408) 779-4791

Pet supplies:

Dog crates, pet carriers, dog seat belts, pet barriers can be purchased at local pet supply stores such as PetSmart, PetCo, An-Jan Feed and Supply, etc.

Universal Wire Vehicle Barrier from Kennel-Aire: Approximately $60, this versatile Wire Vehicle Barrier adjusts to fit most makes and models of SUV's, mini-vans and station wagons. It is constructed of heavy-gauge, electroplated, 2-inch mesh welded steel, with heavyweight steel hardware for added strength. The top edge is coated with Plastisol to protect the vehicle's headliner.

Dog Car Window Barrier: Listing at $19.95, the barrier is easy to install and remove and folds to fit into the glove compartment. Availalbe at Pooch Canada Pet Supplies, 408/708-1732.

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