One of the great things about traveling with a dog — if you are a fellow passenger, that is — is that you’ve got a co-conspirator to help coerce even the most die-hard road warrior to stop at the next rest stop. No one cares if their human passengers’ eyeballs are floating and they’ve lost all feeling in the lower extremities, but just murmur the words, “I think the dog needs to go out,” and you’ll be hanging on to the dash while the pilot is screeching into the next rest area on two wheels and executing a bootlegger’s turn into a parking space.
Wait a moment, until all four, or six, or however many wheels you’re riding on come to rest on the ground and the smoke clears. While you’re waiting, you can clip the dog’s leash onto his collar and release him from the seat harness or uncrate him and prepare for your mutual escape from the rolling prison.
As you make your exit, enjoy every micron of stretch in your muscles while you scope out the area and look for the designated pet walking area. Head straight for it, after checking for oncoming traffic, of course, and making sure there’s plenty of space for you to walk him without running into other dogs who might not be social butterflies. It’s not a bad idea to do a quick check for cats, either. More and more people are traveling with their feline companions and will walk them on leashes in the pet area as well.
It’s not a major faux pas if your dog urinates before getting to the pet area, and sometimes that happens, especially after a lot of miles and the excitement of stunt parking.
It is, however, a great breach if said urination takes place on the tires of another rest-seeker’s vehicle. If there’s a motorcycle club parked in the same area between you and the pet walk site, and you see lots of skulls and lurid depictions of bloody daggers or venomous vipers ready to strike emblazoned on jackets and skin you might want to consider an alternative route to the doggy grass.
It is a major breach of rest stop area etiquette if your doggy dumps before reaching the right part of the grass. If that happens, though, don’t panic. Go back to the vehicle and, without getting in and giving your by now chafing at the bit to get back on the road driver a chance to pull out again, retrieve that doody bag you thought you weren’t going to need, and go back and pick up after your dog.
By this time your driver is standing by the vehicle, glaring at you and looking at his watch. You have to make a judgment call based on how well you know your driver. Is he likely to jump into the driver’s seat, blow the horn once, count to ten, and burn rubber back to the highway whether you’re back or not? If so, you probably should always take the precaution of removing one of the spark plug wires and taking it with you, perhaps even camouflaging it as a decorative accessory around the dog’s neck.
Walk a little more to get the kinks out. If there are people around who are looking at your dog curiously, be sure to saunter by and let them engage you in conversation about your dog. Only then do you start to make your way back to your vehicle. As you walk, take time to enjoy the changing of colors in your driver’s face and neck. Notice how the red becomes deeper the slower you walk and the rhythm of that vein in his forehead pulses every time you pause to let the dog sniff something increases. Stop and remove that decorative band from around your buddy’s neck and stick it in your pocket, being careful not to bend it.
When you reach the vehicle, approach on the driver’s side, and, before your companion can utter the first word, hold the leash out to him and say, “here, finish walking the dog for me while I go have my turn in the restroom since you’ve already had a chance to go and so has the dog.” If you listen closely, you’ll be able to hear his blood boiling as you meander back across the parking lot and up the path to the visitors’ center.
Enjoy your freedom. It will be the last you get — until the dog has to go potty again.
Brought to you by Linda Sherwinn.