Busing with a Dog

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We have 1 dog, an almost 2 year old terrier mutt, named Finn. While we were building the bus he presented a challenge, a lovable challenge but a challenge none the less,  in a few different ways-1. space is very limited and he needs a crate (he was crate trained when we adopted him, it was one of the few things he knew, and he likes having his own little space to go to when he’s alone or feeling scared); 2. where he should stay while we are in motion; and 3. he’s pretty vocal and campgrounds and RV parks might be dicey.

During the first layout of the bus we put in a long desk/work space for Mike and I down one side of the living area. We both quasi work from home so that, we thought, would be a necessity. That left an empty space between the end of the kitchen counter and the back of the driver’s seat so that space is where we had Finn’s crate set up. It was his huge one we had in the apartment, very nice but very massive and he is a small dog. After doing a couple of test runs living in the bus (a few days here and there) we realized that the desk space was just not going to work and that we really needed a sofa instead. But we still needed a desk. And a crate. Oh dear.

We decided to combine the desk and the crate into one thing. We really only use it when we are going out and leaving him all by himself. If we don’t crate him he runs up and down the length of the bus (or wherever we are) barking and whining like mad. Once we tell him to “go to your house” he plops right on in, munches on his special crate treats, snuggles his partially unstuffed alligator, and falls asleep. So much better for all parties involved.

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Mike built a box that would fit Finn’s favorite bed (making sure that he had enough space to stand up and move around) and cut a piece of sturdy plywood to be his desktop and that fleshed out the crate too. He added a little shelf for his keyboard so that his feet aren’t in Finn’s bed while he’s working. We took one of the doors from his old crate that we pop on when we’re gone and we make sure he has a fan so that he’s getting enough air. Otherwise, the door stays off and Finn can go in and out at his leisure. The frame will get painted white and the table top will be stained so it blends in with our counter top but that’s a weekend project for another weekend. Challenge #1 = resolved.

We learned the hard way that Finn has a love/hate relationship with cars. He LOVES going for rides. He HATES anything that approaches the car or moves outside of it. Old lady crossing the street? Clearly the devil. The wind blew and a leaf moved and he saw it? The devil. A motorcyclist is next to us in traffic? OMG THE END IS NIGH, SOUND THE ALARMS. However, if he rides up front with us (not the safest place for a dog to ride in the car) he is way calmer. He’ll snuggle, discontentedly growl or bark at the aforementioned threats but it’s much easier to get him to stop before he whips himself up into a frenzy. I’m guessing that he’s trying to guard us in the car and when he’s up front and not alone in the backseat his guarding compulsions are not as strong (we are clearly there and can protect him rather than him needing to warn us of something we may not see). Maybe? So keeping all that in mind, and considering that we plan on being very mobile in the bus and have some longer trips planned, we thought that Finn would be better off up front with us rather than in his crate in the back of the bus. We had originally planned on 2 captain’s chairs, ala a regular RV, but decided to go with a bench seat so that Finn could sit up front. We went to the junkyard and grabbed one out of a 2004 Chevy Trailblazer, leather and in great condition. We got a doggy seat belt  for Finn and popped him into the middle seat.

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He loved it! Our first trip was from Florida to Texas and he did great. We stopped pretty frequently (Mike and I are very slow road-trippers to begin with) and every time he got to go out, sniff around, stretch and then he was ready for another stretch of driving. Challenge #2 =  resolved.

Our last concern with Finn was how he would do at campgrounds, RV parks, and parking lots when we overnight during a trip. He’s a very vocal dog and pretty reactive to sound and movement (yay young terriers!). So far, he’s been doing better than expected. When we stopped during our road-trip we slept in Love’s parking lots. We don’t have a generator or solar power yet so we opened the windows and hatches to get some air flow. This meant that he could hear everything but, luckily for us, he has a hard time sleeping soundly while we are driving (the windows are open and it’s pretty loud and fairly bumpy) so he was exhausted and passed right out. Too tired to be bothered with all of the sounds and people at a truck stop. Excellent. Now campgrounds and RV parks are a little bit of a different story. He’s not totally exhausted and it’s more of his normal routine during the day. During the day we turn off the AC and open up the windows and hatches. Our area of Texas is fairly windy so we are getting a great cross-breeze and it’s not nearly as humid as Central Florida so it’s doesn’t feel as gross. While the windows are open we’ve learned to keep the bedroom windows and curtains closed because that’s where we were having a problem with Finn. He’s at equal height with the windows (our bed is raised so that we have storage underneath) and he can see and hear everything. And it drives him nuts. Which drives our neighbors nuts. Which drives us nuts. We rarely need to be back there during the day (it’s literally just the bed and closets) so that stays closed, Finn doesn’t get wound up, and we are all happier. Up front he can’t really get high enough to see directly out of the windows so that’s fine. Once it’s evening, ie: when everyone and their mother walks their dogs, we shut everything up and turn the air on. It’s loud enough so that he can’t hear the herd of dogs outside and once the curtains are shut he can’t see anything so he stays fairly calm. He gets several walks during the day and we really like staying places with off-leash dog areas because he loves to play and is super friendly with other dogs. So there he can socialize and run around and have a grand ole time without going bananas. Challenge #3 = okay, still have some moments of general insanity but it’s manageable.

Overall, he’s doing far better than expected. Finn is officially a bus dog 🙂

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