RV Travel with Giant Breed Dogs Like Mastiffs and Great Danes

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Before we left for our big trip, I googled for information on RV traveling with Really Huge dogs, and didn’t find anything. I’m much wiser now, and I thought I would write something up to share with others who are thinking of doing this. Excuse me a minute while I deal with the messy SEO business. So we’re talking about huge breeds like English mastiff, St. Bernard, Newfoundland, Great Dane, Bernese Mountain Dog, Dogue Des Bordeaux, and other Molosser breeds. You can take these dogs camping in a travel trailer like an Airstream or a motor home almost as easily as a smaller dog, but there are a few extra considerations.

The first thing to remember is that traveling is stressful to dogs, especially extended travel. I think the ideal traveling dog would be a big, dopey, happy-go-lucky Labrador. There’s a reason Labs are such a popular breed of dog. They are extremely adaptable and most are mellow. Giant breed dogs, on the other hand, do have a tendency to shyness and sensitivity. Even Chewie, who is an exceptionally outgoing, well-adjusted, stable mastiff showed signs of significant stress while we traveled. I felt guilty, but rationalized that they would be even more stressed by an extended stay in a kennel where they won’t know if we’re ever coming back.

Because travel is stressful, it will tend to exacerbate any behavior problems or issues your dog may have. It’s important to make allowances for that in your dog’s care and routine while you’re on the road. As well, if your dog has severe behavior problems, or is very fearful, RV travel simply may not be a good idea. Below are some tips for helping your family and your humongous dog survive a big RV trip.

Vet Check–Before we left, I took the dogs in for a bordatella vaccine, because we thought we might use a boarding kennel or dog day care on the road, and many of them require bordatella. (Bordatella is otherwise a silly and useless vaccine, being as how the vaccine is not very effective, and the disease pretty similar to a mild cold in humans.) I actually wish I had spent the extra $37 each for an exam for each dogs. While we were getting the vaccine, the tech reminded us they were overdue for a fecal exam. I took the dogs outside and luckily obtained the necessary material. I thought it was great they’d thought of this so I could produce proof that the dogs had clean fecal exams. I never expected that one of them would have worms. In fact, Chewie came up positive for hook worms AND round worms! So we had to administer worm medicine (for both dogs) once a week while we were on the road. If I had spent the extra money on an exam, I could have also had Chewie’s toenail looked at. He tore it right before we left, and it turned out to be a bad one that oozed and pained him the whole time we traveled. Bottom line, if you’re going on a long trip, it’s not a bad idea to get your dog looked at by a vet. You don’t want to have something come up on the road, and your dog just might be full of worms! (Egad.) You should also ask the vet to prescribe some sedatives, in case your dog gets agitated while you need to be driving. I considered them for Courage. I never thought the dog that would cause problems in the car would be Chewie. (More on that below.)

Tasty Food–Both dogs ate poorly at times on the road, especially at high altitudes. Next time we go, I will stock up on extra-palatable food to make sure they keep eating. At one point, I stopped at a gas station and bought a pack of hot dogs. I fed five of them to Chewie and three to Courage. I felt bad giving them salt- and nitrate-laden crap, but neither dog had eaten a bite in more than thirty-six hours.

Altitude–As I mentioned, our mastiffs seemed to suffer from altitude sickness. The care and treatment is pretty similar to that of humans. They should rest and stay hydrated. If your dog doesn’t seem to be getting enough fluids, or is really unusually punky, get him off that mountain! I don’t know if it’s genetic, but I think it’s very suggestive that both of my unrelated mastiffs had altitude sickness, and I think it may be more common among the giant breeds (except for the mountain breeds, I’m sure). They really perked up when we got them back to sea level.

Dog Barriers–We used a tension-mounted dog barrier to keep the dogs in the cargo area of our Chevy Suburban. Chewie is an excessively loyal dog, and he viewed the barrier as an unacceptable separation from his humans. Remember how I said that travel stress exacerbates behavior problems? Well, Chewie is a near-perfectly behaved dog, but he is extremely loyal and very intelligent. The barrier turned out to be Chewie’s Waterloo–and ours. He systematically destroyed it. Here is where you separate the Corgis from the Corsos. If you have a dog that is 150 lbs, 200 lbs, or more, you need to invest in a very solid containment system. Chewie’s attacks on the barrier created an unsafe situation, and we had to pull off the road many times to re-secure him, sometimes even on the side of the highway with high speed traffic zooming by. I recommend the Acme Velociraptor Special, available through any major chain pet store. The solution we ended up cobbling together was to rig up the X-pen with bungees, attach Chewie’s collar to the vehicle with a rope to keep him away from it, and then drug Chewie with benedryl to make him sleep.

X-pen–One of the best pieces of equipment we had for the dogs was an exercise pen. In fact, we actually had two of them that we connected together. It’s sort of a portable “dog corral,” and it’s really a lifesaver. We put them in there for feedings and any time we needed to get them out from underfoot in the trailer. They also enjoyed the sights and sounds of the outdoors. I picked this idea up from a Newfoundland dog show. There were many RVs parked around the grounds, each with its own round exercise pen filled with huge dogs.

Crate–Neither our home nor our vehicle will accommodate crates for our big guys, but if you can fit them in, do consider using it. Because we spent so many hours driving, Courage identified strongly with the Suburban as his den, which was cute and useful at times. Unfortunately, we couldn’t always accommodate his desire to hang out in there, because the inside of a car can heat up dangerously in the sun. If we had a crate, we could have moved it to a shady spot.

In and Out–On long trips, your dog will have to get in and out of the vehicle. If he has trouble, you may need to invest in a ramp or a set of portable stairs. We were lucky in that one of our dogs is a good jumper and has no problem leaping up into the back of the Suburban. The other dog can climb in if we help him. We think of it as power lifting.

Records–Make sure to get all of your dog’s vaccination records from your veterinarian. In the unlikely event that he bites someone, you will need proof of rabies vaccination for legal reasons. Those records will also be handy if you need to use a boarding kennel. Even if you haven’t planned to do so, some emergency may arise which will force you to board your dog while you deal with it.

Supervision–When you are traveling and exhausted, it can be easy to let your attention lapse and lose track of your dog. This happened to us once, when both dogs got away from us while we were setting up camp and got involved in a minor, bloodless fight with another dog at a campground. The whole incident was massively embarrassing, but it was an important lesson learned. Even if your dogs are behaving well and would never normally fight, they are under stress and in an unfamiliar situation, and their reactions may be unpredictable. Later, at that same campground, we saw the same thing happen at another campsite, where an poorly-supervised dog slipped away from his owner during camp set up and came charging at our leashed dogs. Even if you are really, super tired, take time to make sure your dogs are secure while you are setting up and packing up.

Dog Friendly Campgrounds–We mostly had no problems finding campgrounds that welcomed our dogs. However, some only allow small dogs, and some forbid “aggressive breeds.” At one campground, we were asked if our dogs were an “aggressive breed.” I was baffled because I had no idea what breeds they considered aggressive. At that campground, we established that mastiffs were fine, but they were expressly forbidden at a Provo, Utah-area KOA that we checked out. You unfortunately always have to check the camp rules when you’re traveling with the big guys.

National Parks and other attractions–Dogs are not allowed on hiking trails at most National Parks. There are exceptions, but it’s determined on a park-by-park basis. Serious hiking was not on our agenda, so that worked out well for us, but it’s something to check before you commit to a trip. Some attractions also offer dog kennels. There are kennels at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (we visited the North Rim). Sea World San Diego also has inexpensive kennels that visitors can use.

Leaving your dog alone–You should never leave a dog alone in a hot car. We figured since we had air conditioning in our trailer, that wouldn’t be a problem. However, traveling through areas where the temperature was well over 100, we didn’t have any safe place to leave the dogs if we wanted to eat a restaurant or something, and even if we had a power hookup on the road, it would take hours to cool the trailer in those conditions, if we could do it at all. The only option was to keep everyone in the car with the air conditioning, and keep the car on the road (so that the engine wouldn’t overheat). That’s not a very comfortable situation and I don’t recommend it. My advice would be to minimize your travel in and through dangerously hot conditions if you are traveling with any pet. We did find that in moderately warm temperatures, up to say 90 degrees, that it was fine to put our dogs inside the Airstream trailer. I don’t know about other models of trailer, but the Airstream is insulated and does not heat up excessively in the sun. It basically doesn’t get any worse than the outdoor temperature, so if the temperature outdoors was reasonable, we felt safe sticking the dogs in the trailer while we went inside stores and restaurants. The Airstream, basically, was like a giant rolling dog kennel. I am wary, however, of leaving dogs in air conditioned trailers for extended periods–like all day, because the unit may malfunction or the power may go out. I would only do this if I felt the outdoor temperature was safe. Most campgrounds do not want you to leave your dog alone outside for any length of time, and I don’t blame them. Anything could happen.

Admirers–This is usually the fun part of traveling with giant breed dogs. Because they are eye catching and unusual, many people will approach and want to meet them. That’s usually ok, but if your dog is having a bad day, you may have to assert yourself and insist that strangers give your dog some space. It’s great that so many people love huge dogs and believe them to be perfect angels, but they are dogs and dogs under stress can bite. If you have any reason to believe that your dog may be feeling threatened by strange people or dogs, it’s your job to control the situation. Fortunately, our dogs very much enjoyed the adulation of their many fans.

Colorado and Mole

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We made it to Colorado in time to spend an evening with my sister and her new dog and meet her new boyfriend. They had been dating long enough that it was about the right time to do family introductions, and that all went quite well.

Meeting the new dog didn’t go as well. Chewie made friends immediately, but Courage showed every sign of wanting to eat the dog–a cute, fluffy, American Eskimo. The problem was that the new dog is a shy, fearful dog, much like Courage himself. He normally does ok with strange dogs, but having the little white fluffy dog show fear of him brought out the worst in Courage. I’m not sure what his intentions were, but we had to restrain him numerous times from chasing her. Ugh.

We camped in the boyfriend’s driveway, which was a nice change from campgrounds all the time. Unfortunately, we were in a heavy cattle ranching area of the state, and the occasional clouds of eye-watering manure odor that wafted through were overwhelming to me. When I was awakened in the morning by one such cloud, I knew we had to go. Maggie was heading back to her home to prepare for work, anyway. So we said our goodbyes and hit the road again.

We finally had a good day of driving. Usually some crisis or recurring problem prevents us from covering a decent amount of miles. But with mechanical problems resolved, humans settling into an efficient routine, and troublesome canines drugged out the wazoo, we covered more than 500 miles and camped near Des Moines.

Sadly, we missed out on eating at a restaurant in Omaha that my dad recommended. It’s called Anthony’s steakhouse, and he said he had the best steak of his life, there. However, when we arrived, the restaurant was closed, apparently because it was Sunday. Because why would you want to make thousands of dollars from people eating out after church when you could be at home watering the lawn or something, eh?

The next day, Monday, was more driving driving driving. That was a work day for me, once again. I sorted of dreaded doing the mobile office thing once more, after a solid week of vacation, but once I got started it was quite pleasant. I keep forgetting–I have a great job that I love! And fortunately, I have not been troubled by motion sickness as I feared.

We listened to an audiobook–Watership Down–and the miles passed quickly. WD is such a beautifully written book that we all quickly became engrossed in the fluffy adventures of Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and the other tough bunnies of the Down.

We made good progress, but there was one hiccup in our day. We stopped at a rest station in Illinois. While Brent was walking the dogs, he suddenly called out to me. I ran over, anticipating some kind of injury. Instead, the problem was the Courage had caught a mole and wouldn’t give it up. He has a habit of digging at holes he finds in the ground, and this time he was rewarded with a really huge, fat mole.

The effect was made more horrifying by the cute mole paws hanging out of his mouth. The big paddly feet were the size of a silver dollar with long claws. The whole animal was the size of a soft ball. And Courage was not going to let us have it. We tried offering him tasty tidbits in exchange, but it didn’t work.

See, getting a dog to “give” or “drop” something is mostly a matter of convincing them they’ll get something better in exchange. But there’s nothing better in the whole world than a dead mole. We failed at prying his mouth open. Mastiff jaw pressure is over 500 psi, so if they don’t want to open it, they really don’t have to. We finally gave up and threw him in the back of the Suburban, with his mole.

We hadn’t had lunch, but we were all feeling kind of sick at this point. Courage was happily sucking on his mole as we drove to a gas station. I bought a stick of beef jerky, which Courage loves. But when I offered it to him in exchange for the mole, he started growling at me. Not his cute, playful growl, but a real, serious coyote-crazy growl. Chewie was right next to him, and when he heard this, he went, “Oh hell, no! You don’t growl at humans!” and attacked Courage. A dog fight ensued. In the back of my Suburban as we were parked at the gas pump.

My first priority was to get Glen out of the way. Glen was trying to break things up, and I wanted him safe. Brent, however, had the presence of mind to GRAB THE MOLE and get rid of it while the dogs were fighting.

Fortunately, our dogs don’t bite to draw blood, so no dog as injured. When it was over, Courage looked around desperately for his mole. I really felt sorry for him. He would not accept any jerky, either. The rest of the day, there were many mole jokes. Glen, particularly, got a lot of mileage out of it. We soon found we were hungry after all. We threw the dogs in the trailer and had a leisurely dinner at Red Lobster before hitting the road again.

By 10 PM, we reached Brent’s mother’s house in Battle Creek. When we took the dogs out of the car, they were overjoyed to be back in home territory. They frolicked around the yard and property, returning to us frequently in tail-waggy happiness, as if to say, “Hey, did you know we’re at Gramma’s house?” By then, Courage had forgotten and forgiven the whole mole thing. Thank goodness for short memories.

Although I do believe the trailer and the trip was a success, it was a great relief to sleep in a real bed and have some semblance of privacy for the first time in 3.5 weeks. Phew!

Airstream Go Big or Go Home Edition

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The next day’s driving brought us to Lemoncove, California, where we camped in order to see Sequoia National Forest. We set up in a hot, dusty campground about 40 miles from the park entrance. This would be our last sightseeing stop before heading back to Michigan.

We took the dogs with us, because they seem to enjoy the scenery, and although we have air conditioning in the trailer, I don’t trust it not to go off and cook the dogs. The temperature there was 100 degrees every day.

We got to see the giant sequoias, which are not to be confused with coastal redwoods. We saw the world’s largest tree–truly an impressive piece of foliage, and checked out their museum. We were up in the mountains again, and it was wonderfully cool. However, we were at 7000 or 8000 feet. Much as I enjoyed it, others in our group don’t do well at high altitudes, including the dogs, so we didn’t linger overly long.

We attempted to get a “giant dog pees on giant tree” type photo, but our dogs apparently had more respect for the trees than we ourselves did, and would not take a tinkle for a photo opp.

We headed back down into the heat. Much of the trip seemed to involve this sort of Catch-22, where you can have a comfortable temperature, or a comfortable altitude, but not both. Fortunately, we did have A/C, so we spent a lot of time inside the trailer.

Lemoncove gave us the opportunity to get some laundry done and even relax a little. I enjoyed the pool, even if I had no swim suit. (Mine mysteriously disappeared the day before we left.) (I swam in some yoga clothes.)

With Sequoia checked off the list, it was time to start heading back East. We drove into the desert.

I think we all pretty much hate the desert. I don’t understand why anyone lives there. By the time we got to Baker, California, the thermometer was reading 116 degrees. I always wondered what that might feel like. Honestly, I think you simply redline your “how hot is it” meter, and the difference becomes not how hot you feel, but how rapidly the environment sucks moisture from your body.

Traveling through territory like that with dogs is difficult. We can’t leave the dogs in the unairconditioned car for even a nanosecond. Usually, we can leave them in the trailer, which is insulated and does not heat up dangerously like a car. But when the outside temperature is 116, the uninsulated trailer is not safe for them, either. Sometimes we leave the car running with A/C on while we go inside restaurants, etc., but a car idling with A/C on will start to overheat. The hotter it is, the faster that happens.

We also couldn’t set up camp in that kind of heat. The A/C unit struggles to cool the trailer when it’s 100 degrees and dark. But 110 or 116 in the full sun would not work.

So the whole day was pretty much driving like hell and making very quick stops for fast food. We camped in St. George, Utah, where the temperature was a fairly civilized 99. There, we saw an Airstream motor home we’d seen before, in Malibu. Such things seem to happen on the road quite frequently.

Courage Meets the Ocean and Does Not Approve

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Friday was the beginning of official vacation for me. We decided to take the dogs to a dog beach. There are many in San Diego, but we settled on Coronado, which seemed to have the features we were looking for. (Dogs off leash, safe for human swimming.)

The beach was lovely, and as soon as we got to the official dog area, Brent let Chewie off the leash to do his thing. He began working the crowd, introducing himself to dogs and people and playing in the surf. He loved it!

Courage can be reactive on-leash, so I wanted to make sure he was in off-leash mode before I unhooked him. Several dogs ran up and butts were sniffed, so I took him off the leash and invited him to play. He began moving up the beach with a worried look on his face, but I didn’t figure out right away what was going on. I followed behind him as he moved farther away from the water. He began to trot.

I called him, and he cast a glance over his shoulder at me and speeded up. I realized he was running for the car. He did not like the beach and wanted to get to his safe spot! To get there, he’d go down a gauntlet of leashed dogs, and with horror I imagined him venting his anxiety on some small, helpless silky chihuahua or something. I put on a burst of speed and closed the gap.

In my mind, it was an epic run. I was like FloJo sprinting down the beach after my fleet-footed hound. In reality, this is a mastiff I was chasing. I don’t think he even broke into a gallop, so it was maybe not as epic a run as it felt. Nonetheless, I sprinted! I caught up with him, lunged desperately for the collar, missed, fell, tumbled into the sand, and somehow caught the collar on a second grab. Success! My mouth, hair and clothes were full of sand, but I had averted disaster.

Breathing hard, I walked Courage back to where the rest of the family was. He stayed on leash for the duration. I tried showing him that the scary ocean was made of water, and he met many friendly dogs, but he became increasingly anxious and grouchy, until he began snapping at dogs that wanted to meet him. At that point, he was taken back to the beach blanket and kept there by one of us until it was time to go.

Lesson learned: Courage does not like beaches, especially dog beaches.

Now Chewie, on the other hand, was in his glory. He had the most fun of his life. He took it upon himself to greet every single dog and human. He also met several of his favorite kind of dog—the small white fluffy kind. It was cute to see him excitedly smelling and following the little white fluffy ones, some of whom were mildly alarmed by the attention. He also got to see a small white fluffy dog wearing a shirt. Dogs wearing clothes is his other big fascination. It’s like a friend, INSIDE of a stuffed animal toy.

I walked him off-leash all the way down to the end, near the naval station, and he stayed with me obediently the whole way. Chewie is a wonderful dog to take to the beach. We did find the limits of his loyalty, however. I got him out into the surf about to where it started to lift him up, and he called it quits, with a distinct look of regret, like, “Sorry, Mom, I love you,
but this I ridiculous.”

Chewie reclaimed the good dog crown from Courage that day.

So Glen and I did some body surfing sans dog. A couple of retrievers were out there having a ball. It was funny to see them leaping into the waves as they broke.

All around, it was fun to be at the beach with dogs and dog lovers. Next time will leave Courage at home.

On the way out of the beach, down the dog gauntlet, I had trouble restraining Courage. He was absolutely OVER the whole beach thing and in a rotten mood. While waiting for the hose to rinse ourselves and the dogs off, he went after a Bernese Mountain Dog. I had a firm hand on his collar and pulled back. Heedless, he went for it anyway, dragging me across the ground. I
stopped him, but ended up with a road rash on one leg. Sheesh.

Here’s a bonus picture of Glen in the zoo with both dogs.

The zoo

Dog barrier, ur doin it rong

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We hit the road out of Grand Canyon around 4 PM local time, but our progress was hampered by a new trick Chewie was inventing. He was absolutely desperate to join us in the passenger area, rather than riding in the cargo area like a dog. He pushed and bent and warped the barrier, squeezing his whole body through impossibly small gaps. I had to dismantle the barrier to pull him out of the situation above. Every time we got him untangled and got back on the road, his head would appear through/over/under the barrier like some kind of inexorable force of nature. We must have stopped six or seven times before I finally put a leash on him and secured it to the side of the vehicle.

We pushed on into the night through Utah again and into Nevada. There was a decent-sounding state campground in a park called Valley of Fire that was 18 miles off the interstate. So at the appropriate exit, we turned off and drove into the dark and the sand.

We got glimpses of mountains on the horizon and sand and shrubs and jackrabbits darting about, but we couldn’t see much. The temperature through the entire ride hovered around 100 degrees, even though it was well after dark.

After what seemed like an impossibly long time for just 18 miles we arrived at the campground. It is the nicest campground we’ve used yet, with nice pull-through sites and hookups and clean bathrooms with real flush toilets. With relief, we parked the trailer and began shifting into the trailer. I hiked over to the ranger station to pay our fee. It was longer than I expected, and I suddenly realized I was alone in the hot darkness with the scorpions, rattle snakes, jackrabbits, serial killers, and whatnot. I couldn’t wait to get back to the trailer which I expected would already be cooling down from the air conditioning.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found it just as hot and stuffy as the outdoors. Brent had plugged it in, and something went BZZZT! and there was no electricity.

I begin to feel like my life has turned into an episode of Stargate: Universe. We are a million miles from home, and every episode involves fixing something that has broken or never worked in our vehicle. We took turns scrutinizing the owner’s manual and repair manual to figure out where the circuit breaker was.

“What do you think the ancients meant by ‘rear roadside wardrobe?'” I asked. We could not decode the mysterious writings of the 1973 era.

We finally found the circuit breaker, flipped it, and with immense relief collapsed into our beds. I don’t know what time it was, because we had traveled back and forth between mountain and pacific and I was terminally confused. It was bed time. That was enough.

In the morning, as I had thought, we woke to the breathtaking vistas of the Valley of Fire. The Valley is named for huge fiery red rock formations. As we got ready to go, we each spent some time exploring the area around the campsite. We were thrilled to discover a prickly pear cactus. I puzzled over some small holes in the sand, and hoped aloud that they were not scorpion holes. (Later, I saw a chipmunk and was relieved.)

I have been trying to be aware of dangerous wildlife like rattlesnakes and scorpions. As I walked back from the bathroom, I noted some large red ants. Ants, ants…there was something I was supposed to remember about ants. Something important….no, it’s gone. Oh, well.

Later, Brent mentioned that there were killer bees flying around the water hookup area and the bathrooms. I am not usually worried about bees, so I had ignored them. I also ignored the huge, yellow sign posted right on the mirrors in every bathroom saying that there are killer bees in the park, that they will be hanging around the water, and to let the rangers know if you find a hive. So I was belatedly alarmed when I finally read the sign and realized those weren’t ordinary bees. Every time I used the drinking fountain, a killer bee would fly out of it and dive bomb my face. We were not, however, killed by the killer bees.

And right. It’s fire ants! Remember not to get bitten by fire ants! It’s unpleasant.

I’m glad we stayed in the Valley of Fire overnight, but it’s no place to hang out during the day. We packed up and left, enjoying the glory of the scenery. We headed west once more, taking a detour for a driving tour of the Las Vegas strip, and were welcomed to California by produce inspectors who confiscated our corn and cherries and inspected the undercarriage of our trailer for gypsy moth eggs. We are all looking forward to getting out of the desert. Very pretty, but not habitable for humans.

Heading West!

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The whole weekend was filled with endless tedious chores and errands to get ourselves and the trailer ready for the trip. I compiled a huge, four-page check list that I had been following religiously throughout the packing process. It seemed like the chores and packing would never end. We had planned to leave for our first stop, Battle Creek, Monday morning. However, before we did that, we were going to install the draperies and a few other odd jobs on the list. However, Sunday afternoon, as we labored in the trailer as it sat, unpowered and unair conditioned in the storage lot, we decided to pack up, haul it to Brent’s mother’s house, and finish the work where we could have electricity.

Packing took all day, and when we finally pulled out of the driveway, we were drenched with sweat and exhausted. We arrived in Battle Creek around 10 PM. The next day I worked the day job while Brent finished up the maintenance. After work, I joined in.

One thing I had been concerned about was introducing the dogs to the trailer. I should not have worried. They both hopped right in and made themselves at home. Chewie is loyal to a fault, so he insisted on being in the trailer the whole time we were working on it.

Courage is a dog’s dog, and the only place he likes better than a back porch is underneath a back porch. He found a shady spot where he could keep an eye on the action.

We were finally ready to leave Tuesday morning. The trailer had plenty of storage space, so we had no problem fitting all of our clothes and camping items and dog supplies. The dogs, by then, definitely knew something was afoot. When the time came, they both leapt into the back of the Suburban. For Chewie, that was quite impressive, as he is normally not a jumper.

We made it to the Mississippi river the first day. I made myself at home in the back seat of the Suburban to work on the road. The back seat has tinted windows, which makes it easier to look at the screen. I sometimes get carsick when I read or do close work in a car, so I took two dramamine. That turned out to be a mistake, as it is difficult for me to do my work while sleeping. We stopped at a rest stop, and I went inside to get something caffeinated to drink. There I found perhaps the only vending machine in the world that was completely filled with non-caffeinated soda. No kidding. It had 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, Root Beer, etc. No Coke, Pepsi, or Mountain Dew.

I soldiered onward. Walking the dogs helped to refresh me, and I finished my day’s work in good time.

Setting up camp for the first time was exciting. The dogs were quite manageable because they had already had several walks that day. We set up our X-pen on the grass. Its like a collapsable cage with no floor or ceiling. We bought two and we link them together to make a good-sized pen for the dogs.

True to form, Courage enjoyed hanging out in the X pen, and Chewie insisted on being inside the trailer with his humans.

The trailer is fully functional except for the water system. It works when hooked up to outside water, but the pump won’t bring water up from the tank. This campground, an Army Corps of Engineers facility right on the Mississippi River, had electric hookup, but not water. So that first night we had to shlep to the pump like common tent campers.

Everyone slept well, including the dogs. Except for the train. See, there were railroad tracks about a hundred yards from our site. Shortly after I fell asleep, a train came through, startling most of us awake. It was as loud as you would expect a train to be, if you were trying to sleep right next to it. It happened three or four times in the night. Although the campground was lovely and clean, I would not stay there again, obviously.

In spite of the train, we all slept well, and set off again in the morning. As I type this, we are an hour or so west of Des Moines. I do believe I’m having fun.