Sum sum summer time

Summertime is here and it’s time for getting out and away. When I moved to Palm Springs in 2003, where the temperature can get as high as 115 or worse during June, July and August, I promised my Golden Retriever companion, Willy, that we would escape the searing heat and head for Cape Cod or San Francisco and we’ve been doing it ever since. This year’s escape is north to the city by the bay.

As our pets have become full-fledged members of our families, traveling with them has become easier. More than 14,000 AAA approved hotels and campgrounds from coast to coast are pet friendly.

Here are four rules that AAA recommends when deciding if your pet should travel.

Rule 1: Pets who are very young, very old, pregnant, sick, injured, prone to biting or excessive vocalizing, or who cannot follow basic commands should not travel.

Even a well-travelled dog or cat might not be ready for the activities you have planned. No pet is going to be happy or safe cooped up in a car or hotel room. Things a dog likes to do may not give pleasure to your cat. Putting some thought toward your pet’s needs and safety will pay off.

I took my Willy to the Grand Canyon once and I will never do it again. I was foolish. It’s a dangerous place and he didn’t enjoy it. The trail is narrow and slippery. I’m lucky nothing happened. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.

Rule 2: If your pet can’t actively participate in the trip, she should stay home.

This mostly refers to those who own a bird, hamster, pig, ferret, lizard or some other exotic creature. Also, be aware that unusual animals are not always accepted as readily as more conventional pets. Always specify the type of pet you have when making arrangements.

Rule 3: Be specific when making travel plans that include the needs of your pet. Nobody wants unpleasant surprises on vacation.

This means if you’re leaving Fido behind – family, friends and neighbors make good pet-sitters especially if they already know the animal and can care for him in your home. Provide detailed instructions for feeding, medication and exercise, as well as phone numbers for your destination, your vet, and your local animal emergency clinic.

Here are some other precise details to consider.

1. Your dog’s usual food: Some dogs get an upset stomach if you change their chow, so be sure to pack plenty of your dog’s usual food for his stay. For dry food, a Tupperware container works best and you can leave wet food in the can. Just make sure you have packed enough for your entire stay, and perhaps a little bit extra just in case.

2. Any medications or supplements that Fido may need. New environments may trigger existing ailments, so even if your pet doesn’t need his medication all the time, it’s better to have it on hand to be safe. And be certain to include instructions on how to administer the medication, from vet directions to your own “what works.”

3. Instructions: Take the time to write a short list of any special instructions you may have for your pet host regarding feeding times, portions for food, the phone number of your local vet, and where you can be reached etc. And as always make sure Fido’s collar fits him properly and that all tags are up-to-date with your cell phone number and address.

4. Pack Two Leashes: It’s always a good idea to pack more than one leash just in case your host loses one. You can pack a short leash and one that has an extendable line for areas where your dog might want to get some exercise.

5. Favorites: You definitely want to take the time to pack your dog’s bed and favorite toys so that they have some comforts from home; you might want to avoid squeaky toys just so Fido doesn’t drive his weekend host crazy. An old t-shirt that smells like you can also make for a great cuddle toy for your dog while you are apart.

However, if you are not comfortable with traditional boarding, you might want to check out DogVacay, a website that sets up owners and host families for a fee, in which the host families will treat your dog as you do (with no cages or kennels involved.) I’ve never used them.

Rule 4: Never leave your pet with someone you don’t trust.

Rule 5: Never leave an animal in a parked car, even if the windows are partially open.


The Strongest Swimmer


There’s been a few heartbreaking stories in the news   lately about humans attempting to rescue their dogs from turbulent ocean waves only to be swept away and drowned. Shortly after Thanksgiving a family and their dog were walking along a beach up in Eureka when a wave suddenly swept their dog out to sea. Their 16-year-old son went into the breaking surf to attempt to rescue the dog. When he got in trouble both parents rushed into the water to save him. The dog made it safely back to shore unharmed. The mother, father and son did not.

A month later, a Bay Area man died attempting to save his dog from the surf at Point Reyes National Seashore. Two weeks later a 32 -year old woman was walking her dog along the coast at Shelter Cove, when a sneaker wave carried her out to sea.

At least seven people have died in northern California since 2008 while attempting to rescue their dogs from the ocean. In all but one case, the dogs made it safely back to shore without any human intervention.

The simple truth is that dogs are better swimmers than their two-legged masters. According to army veterinarian Capt Lynn Miller, “Compared to their human counterparts, many dog breeds have a compact center of mass in relation to their long d limbs and an elevated head and neck, which makes them good swimmers in calm water.”

If you take your four-legged buddy to the beach, keep a few safety tips in mind. Vigilance and prevention needs to be foremost on all dog owners’ mind to protect themselves. Dogs that weigh less than 40 pounds should not be allowed to run off leash near the surf zone.

“Even the fittest canine athlete isn’t made for pounding surf. And dogs should be discouraged from going near rough water and rocky areas. Remember a small wave that comes up to your dogs elbow is equivalent to a bigger wave that comes up to a human’s knee.

If your dog is swept away, simply give him or her an opportunity to swim back to shore. “Dogs are far better equipped to “go with the flow” and get themselves to shore than are humans.”

Lindquist also advises that dog owners make sure their pets have microchips and wears a collar with ID tags. This will help you and your dog be reunited more quickly if he comes ashore a long distance from where you are.

Having lived in Northern California I can attest to the dangerous ocean surf. But even in Southern California the ocean can be a dangerous place. Once when I was swimming and body surfing in Laguna Beach I got caught in an undertow and was dragged out into the ocean. Luckily, I didn’t panic and swam parallel to the shore. For the last few years I’ve gone to the dog beach in Malibu and there have been some days when the crashing surf was so big and so loud that I kept my dog safely onshore. Here’s how I see it – dogs are like kids. You wouldn’t let your kids close to the roaring, crashing surf so don’t let your dogs.

Always make sure you and your dog have plenty of fresh drinking water. Salt water is not good for a dog’s intestines and stomach. After his swim, rinse off your dog’s coat with fresh water to remove salt and prevent skin irritation. And also so your house won’t get sand in it.

Finally, as a sensible safety precaution, any dog that enters open water. Whether beach or riding on a boat) should be fitted with a life vest, regardless of his size.

Remaining onshore when you think your best friend is in trouble is not an easy thing to do.

Though this article focuses on the ocean, any body of water, be it a river, a lake, or a back yard pool, do not leave your pet unattended for even a moment. Like children, a dog can drown in a pool. A river can have unexpected rapids.

I was walking along the bank of the Russian River once in the winter time. It’s the rainy season and the river was high and flowing strongly. I had no intention of letting Willy into it. As we walked along, the bank curved and there was an unexpected trail leading right down to the water. Willy, off leash, bolted. He leaped into the water and began to be carried down stream. I ran along the edge coaxing him toward shore. Little by little he got closer until he was against the bank of the river and I helped him out. I learned my lesson that day that even well-trained dogs can suddenly do unexpected things.

Here’s another safety tip – don’t talk on your cell phone when you’re walking at the beach. It only takes a second for a dog or human to get into trouble. That extra minute on the cell phone can mean the difference between a fun day and a catastrophe.