Lowcountry Dogs Abroad

14 Oct

OK, so I thought it might be fun to tie together my two current writing ventures- Thomas, Party of 4 and Lowcountry Dog Magazine– to change things up a bit.  So you already know that I write three weekly stories for the publication, usually dealing with training and health issues, but a few times a month, I do a ‘fun, Max and Dulcie-centered column,’ affectionately named, Lowcountry Dogs Abroad.  So here’s the latest…Enjoy!  Oh, and in before I forget, Sunday is John’s birthday- my husband’s turning 28!- and I know he’d love some Happy Birthdays from home!  (ThomasJohnC@hotmail.com)  We’ll be celebrating in Amsterdam! 🙂

Published in Lowcountry Dog, October 14, 2010:

Greetings, once again, from Germany, y’all! I can’t believe that we’re already into our third month here- you know what they say about time flying! Well, it’s true! Thomas, Party of 4 is having a blast! We’ve been galavanting all over Europe, soaking up the different cultures, different languages, different lifestyles…And while it’s always such an exhilarating experience, it’s also quite challenging. Heck, at times, it’s downright tough!

Which got me thinking: If it’s difficult for us humans to adjust to these changes, just imagine how it must be for our pups! Amazingly, Max and Dulcie have done BEAUTIFULLY! First, they pleasantly surprised me with how well they did crossing the pond, and then it’s been one pleasant surprise after another ever since! And I shouldn’t even say ‘surprise’ because I think I always knew in the back of my head that they’d be just fine- that what matters most to them is simply being with us. And I was right.

So what exactly do I mean when I say that they’ve ‘adapted’ well to every curveball our travels have thrown at them? Well, since my last update, we’ve had some pretty unique adventures, two of which really stand out to me…

The first was our weekend in the Swiss Alps. Now, when you picture the Swiss Alps, you may envision jagged, snow-covered mountains, plush, green valleys, thin air and frigid temperatures…And you’d be right! What a fabulous place- sights that you’ve only seen in the glossy pages of National Geographic. It’s breathtaking how beautiful it is. Of course, I did some research before we went just to make sure that the pups would be safe at such a high altitude (we did the recommended slower ascent with fairly frequent stops just to be safe!), but once we reached the summit, they were happy as clams! Here I was, worrying about my Southern born-and-raised ‘babies’ in the unfamiliar snow and what do you know? They LOVED it. Yes, they’ve seen small amounts of snow (think the few inches we got in Charleston last winter) a handful of times in the past, but nothing like this! It took them less than two minutes to get their (slippery) footing and that was all she wrote! What a wonderful time spent at the Top of Europe.

Thomas, Party of 4, at the top of the Swiss Alps...

The second trip that stands out to me is our most recent, our Venetian adventure. Now, if you’ve ever been to Venice, Italy- or even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard about it!- you know that it’s a city of water with buildings that rise up from the sea. There aren’t any roads, only canals. And no crosswalks, only bridges. Well, this was definitely one time where being from the coast worked to our advantage. We’re a boating family- we all, including Max and Dulcie, boat every weekend of the summer- so when I read horror stories online about folks who had brought their pups to Venice only to have them a nervous wreck on and around the boats, I just knew that wouldn’t be us. And again, I was right! Our pups took one look at that water taxi (to take us into the city) and jumped on board themselves, no hesitation! Then they spent the entire ride propped up on the back watching all the passersby. (And yes, when the boat stopped, they were ready for swim time, but that’s another post!)

Lowcountry Dogs in Venice...

I will say that one thing you may not think about when you think of Venice, though, is that there’s no grass! And I don’t just mean that it’s limited- I mean that there’s NONE! This was definitely a challenge for us, Max especially. Neither of our pups have any experience pottying on any surface other than grass, and Max generally takes it a step further by preferring the privacy and inconspicuousness of shrub beds, wooded retreats, etc. But in Venice, the options were only concrete or cobblestone. Needless to say, the first night involved a lot of ‘holding it.’ The next morning was more of a ‘I don’t like this one bit, but I’ve gotta go, so…’ By the second night? They were old pros! We found a few secluded alleyways off the beaten path, Max traded his preferred shrubs for a small pile of crumpled newspaper (Dulcie always follows her big brother’s lead) and what do you know, all was right in the world again!

After doing some research, I’ve learned that our pups aren’t necessarily rare success stories when it comes to adaptation. Dogs are very adaptive creatures, especially those that are confident and well-socialized from an early age. Yes, they thrive on routine and habit, so it’s really important to keep the ‘basics’ constant in the midst of change. For us, we leash walk and feed at the same times every single day, regardless of where we are. Our bedtime routine is also unchanged, even when we’re traveling. It’s also important to always incorporate the familiar into change. For example, we travel with the pups’ food bowls, a few toys and blankets (not only do they have their scents on them, but they also smell like ‘home.’) The bottom line is what I suspected all along: pups just want to feel secure and loved. They just want to be with you as much as possible, so if you take some simple, educated steps to make that happen, you’ll all be happier for it!

This weekend, we’re off on our final adventure as we’re set to come home in just a few weeks. Thomas, Party of 4 is headed to Amsterdam and while yes, it’s another ‘water city,’ supposedly it has some of the nicest parks and green spaces in all of Europe, so we’re super-excited to get out and enjoy some play time!

Want to hear more about our adventures and see all the pictures? Please visit our travel blog at http://ThomasPartyof4.wordpress.com. We always love making new friends!

Erin Thomas is the owner of Summerville’s own Lowcountry Pet Sitters, the area’s premier in-your-home pet care service. For more information, please visit www.LCPetSitters.com or call 843-327-7487.

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