Arthur goes to Florida – Traveling with pets

This post is not for the faint of heart or queasy of stomach.

We decided to escape the frigid, snow-covered landscape of the Midwest and go to Florida for the first week in February to visit my sister Carol. (You might have seen the picture I posted.) We also decided that Arthur was ready for a big-time road trip. We travel to and from Columbus, Ohio with him, a two-hour drive, on a fairly regular basis. And last year Mark and I took him on a three hour trip to a cabin in Hocking Hills to try him out on the road. The Florida trip was a lot longer at almost exactly 1000 miles. We planned to do it in one long, eleven-hour day, and a second shorter five-hour or so day.

2014 - 02-03-Arthur in car-3
Arthur, all safely harnessed into his car seat on the way to Florida.

In honor of the event, I purchased a special car seat for Arthur complete with a suitcase for his supplies. The car seat sits on top of the suitcase in the car and raises Arthur’s head up high enough to see out the window. I read that this helps prevent pet car-sickness. More on that later.

I’m happy to say that Arthur made it down to Florida without any major catastrophes. Although he did spend almost the entire trip looking out the window. He did not sleep at all, which is his normal mode of operation at home.

2014 - 02-03-Arthur in car-2
That’s one mangy looking dog. Probably should have made a quick stop at the groomers before departure. . .

We stayed overnight at a pet-friendly LaQuinta. Not deluxe accomodations, by anyone’s stretch of the imagination, but which were adequate, especially once the owners of the dog across the hall returned and he quit his incessant barking. All-in-all it was fine. Mark went next door to a restaurant and brought us back dinner that we ate in the room.

We arrived in Siesta Key, Florida in the middle of the afternoon the next day and checked into our apartment at the pet-friendly Gumbo Limbo. The room we had was small, but adequate as long as Mark and I weren’t both trying to work in the kitchen at the same time. The bad thing about Siesta Key, which is probably a good thing for many people, is that pets aren’t allowed on the beach. We came to realize in short order, that Arthur was fine with that.

2014 - 02-07-03-Arthur at sunrise

We sneaked him onto the beach in this front-pack pet carrier that looks a mite too small for him even though it states it can accommodate up to a 20-lb animal and Arthur only weighs about 11 pounds. We were there early to see the sun rise. But it was an extremely chilly morning and the closer we got to the water, the colder it got, and the more Arthur was shaking. I think he was both cold and afraid of the ocean. Considering he is also afraid of many other things, like our refrigerator for example, this did not come as a big surprise.

Mark took him back to our room which was only a block away and returned to enjoy the sunrise.

2014 - 02-07-Sunrise

We did take Arthur to Myakka River State Park, where pets are welcome. And he enjoyed the walking and hiking there, but we had to keep a close watch on him as small dogs are considered bait for the many alligators that roam along the waters’ edges. I’ll show you the alligators next time.

Arthur takes in the sights upon our arrival at Myakka Park.
Arthur takes in the sights upon our arrival at Myakka Park.

But mostly Arthur just hung around the pool with us and visited at my sister’s house, which was the primary reason for the trip anyway.

Here’s where the queasy part comes in. When our week of fun in the sun was up, we packed ours and Arthur’s bags, and headed north. Arthur was doing his usual looking-out-the-window routine and completely disregarding any efforts I made to command him to lie down. He was looking tired and miserable. So I decided to hold him on my lap for a bit so he could sleep.

Thank goodness it was raining at our first stop.

We all got out, and Arthur got wet, so I got one of the beach towels, my favorite one to be exact, and placed it across my lap for Arthur to lie on. Shortly after we started moving again, Arthur started expelling all his bodily fluids.

First he threw up. But as we had withheld food that morning, all that came out was a clear foamy liquid. The towel caught it, and no harm was done. I folded the towel over and gave Arthur one of the pills for nausea I had asked the vet for before we left.

It wasn’t until I felt warmth on my forearm and looked down to see a large brown spot forming on my sweater that I realized we were in big shit, literally. Little Arthur was having a bout of diarrhea of major proportions, and it was happening in technicolor right in my lap. Thankfully the beach towel was catching most of it. And thankfully Mark didn’t lose his stomach from the stench that was now permeating the car. And thankfully we were only a few miles from an exit where Mark threw the beach towel in the trash and where I was able to change my clothes in a BP bathroom and clean Arthur’s long white hair on his tail, bottom, and lower legs using paper towels and a bottle of water.

We put our last beach towel over Arthur’s car seat, put him back in his harness there, and hoped for the best.

2014 - 02-09-Arthur in carbed-1

I think Arthur was probably completely humiliated. I shampooed Arthur when we arrived at the Knoxville LaQuinta for the night. The next day we made it home without further ado.

Suffice it to say, if Mark has his way, it will be a looooong time before Arthur takes an extended road trip again.

But if that ever does happen, here is the list of items I will be sure to bring.

1. Plenty of plastic bags (which we had)
2. Plenty of paper towels (which we really didn’t have)
3. A couple of gallons of water in case of a necessary roadside shower (nope)
4. Plenty of old towels (which we did not have)
5. A few changes of clothes for me within easy reach (I only had two pairs of long pants with me. Another unfortunate event and I would have looked like a beach bum in the snow.)
6. Medicine to help Arthur sleep. (When I called the vet, she asked me if I wanted medicine for nausea or to make him sleep. I took the nausea meds. That’s a mistake I won’t be making twice.)

So tell me. Have you taken your pets on a road trip? Any tips? (Not that we need them. . .)

22 thoughts on “Arthur goes to Florida – Traveling with pets”

  1. Oh, bless your heart–and Arthur’s and Mark! I know the challenges of traveling with pets, having moved with our dogs to three international locations. I need to come back and leave you the link to my post called “Jet Set Pets.” I think you might have heard the story before, but you will REALLY appreciate it now. Lordy, lordy!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

  2. Oh my….your story had me rolling in laughter. I have a white poodle about the size of Arthur. My husband was stationed in New Mexico & we would drive home to visit in New Orleans. It was a long 16 he drive and sometimes we wouldn’t stop. Once we stopped at a rest stop & our poodle, Putz (long story on how he got his name)…took a poop & let’s just say he needed grooming. His poop got stuck all in his hair & their was nothing we could do. We wrapped him in a blanket until we could get there. Other than that, Putz loved traveling…He never got car sick & we never withheld food or water or gave him sedatives. If we had groomed him it would have been a wonderful trip. Do you think maybe withholding food may be what made him.sick? It changed his body chemistry & very well could have caused committing & diarrhea.

    1. “Withholding” the food wasn’t as dramatic as it sounded. Arthur is a very picky eating and frequently skips meals. I don’t think he even noticed the fact that he didn’t eat breakfast. Car sickness might have ade him throw up, but I think the other problem was probably from stress. He probably needs doggy Prozac. 😉

  3. We are considering taking our Bichon Frise with us to Florida. We live in Arizona, so it will be an extended trip. We are expecting trouble, but we hate to leave her home. She is getting older and needs more hands-on care. Engaging story! Ha! Blessings to you…

  4. Tigger sat on a pillow on my lap from MD to FL, FL to MD, and MD to FL ~ 3,000 miles in the span of a month. Luckily, he didn’t treat me the way that Arthur treated you. 😉

    I’m glad you made it home without further mishap. Poor Arthur. and poor you and Mark.

  5. My daughter doesn’t like to leave her cats at home for more than a day or two, so sometimes she brings them in the car on trips of 3 or 4 hours. She’s too tenderhearted to lock them in a carrying cage, and you know cats: they do whatever they please. Sometimes, like Tigger, they sit on her lap; sometimes they roam. Waiting for her, I imagine all kinds of dangerous scenarios.

    1. Well it sounds like she and the cats do ok on the trips. Sometimes it’s just best not to think too closely about what is happending outside our control. Hopefully your daughter will stay safe.

  6. I loved my roadtrip but I don’t think it would have been as fun with my dog. (You’ve convinced me). But for me, once I saw the pic of Mark with the front pack pet carrier, all I could think of was me with my black lab in the carrier… she is now (much to the vet’s dismay) up to 69 pounds. Glad you’re home safe and sound and had fun (?) despite the messes.

  7. You have clearly shown WHY we don’t take our dogs on road trips. The last time we did, it was actually WORSE than you’ve written. The dogs are happy at home. The kids are here to care for them. They really don’t appreciate the joys of travel.

    1. It’s nice that your kids can take care of them. We are fresh out of kids here, and many of our trips are actually to go to see them, although the Florida trip was to see my sister. I’m pretty sure Arthur didn’t appreciate the joys of travel in the least.

  8. This is good to know. I’ve been wanting to take my dog Katie with me down to our lake house in Alabama. We live in Michigan, so it’s a two day trip. But the longest she’s ever gone is 4 hours down to Colubus OH to visit another sheltie friend. I also want to go to Arkansas with her to visit her sheltie boyfriend, and that would be a 2 day trip. So your tips on what to bring are very helpful. Also makes me think twice about even putting her through that.

    1. I think it really probably depends on the dog. Arthur is a bit skitzo about everything. He is a stressed little dog. I’m pretty sure the major incident was due to stress. I might be willing to try to take him somewhere again, but I will be better prepared, for sure. Let me know how it goes if you decide to take Katie on a road trip.

  9. It sounds like you could write the book on long-distance travel with a pet! Sorry you lost your favorite beach towel. Arthur looks handsome in his safety seat–what a great idea to help protect them. We had a good laugh that he’s afraid of the refrigerator. Obviously, his food doesn’t come out of there, or it would be his friend. Glad you had what you needed for clean up!


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